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When Holiness Is Attractive

Photo of Bob RussellBob Russell | Bio

Bob Russell

During his senior year of high school Bob realized a desire in his heart to enter the ministry. Soon thereafter, he enrolled in Cincinnati Bible Seminary where he graduated in 1965. At just twenty-two years of age, Bob became the pastor of Southeast Christian Church. That small congregation of 120 members became one of the largest churches in America, with 18,000 people attending the three worship services every weekend in 2006 when Bob retired. Now through Bob Russell Ministries, Bob continues to preach at churches and conferences throughout the United States, provide guidance for church leadership, mentor other ministers and author Bible study videos for use in small groups. An accomplished author, Bob has written over one-dozen books. Bob and his wife Judy of 52 have two married sons and seven grandchildren with whom they enjoy spending their time. Bob also enjoys playing golf and is an avid University of Louisville football and basketball fan. 

Jesus warned in the last days there would be such an increase of wickedness that the world would resemble the total decadence of the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Christ-followers are instructed not to get sucked into the declining values but to live distinctively holy lives.

“Since everything is going to be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming…” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

We normally think of holiness in terms of what a person doesn’t do. A holy person doesn’t get drunk, do drugs, commit adultery, use profanity, become violent, be dishonest, etc.

But holiness is much more than refraining from evil. Holiness is imitating the characteristics of God, who is described in Scripture as loving, patient, generous, kind, just, faithful, gentle, and understanding. Holiness is being like Jesus, whose goodness drew people to Himself like a magnet.

The Apostle Paul encourages us to “in every way make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).

I’ve recently witnessed some impressive examples of winsome holiness.

A few days ago, I conducted a funeral service for Jim Neat, a friend who served as an elder at Southeast Christian for thirty years during my ministry there. I learned that a decade ago, when he was in his early eighties, Jim had gallbladder surgery.

When he came out from under anesthesia, the first thing he did was to invite the nurse in his room to visit his church sometime.

She was astonished that a man in that condition would first talk about the Lord and His church. Normally a patient’s initial reaction after surgery is to complain of discomfort. That nurse happened to be in a troubled spot in her life, so she accepted Jim’s invitation. Nearly every Sunday since that day, she joined Jim and his wife Mildred in their Sunday School class.

That’s an attractive holiness- being like God in His unselfish passion for lost people.

Andy Potts spent this past Christmas like every other day in 2019…caring for his wife Yvonne, who has severe dementia. That sounds like a melancholy Christmas for an 83-year-old man. But Andy didn’t have a pity party.

He explained philosophically, “That’s what I promised to do when we got married.”

Andy still works part-time as a funeral director. On Christmas Eve, he made over fifty telephone calls to people he had served this past year who now have an empty chair in their home.

“I know the Christmas season is probably difficult and just wanted you to know I’m thinking of you and praying for you,” he would say. “I just wanted to remind you that you are not alone.”

The response to all those telephone calls was overwhelmingly appreciative. That’s an attractive holiness – imitating Jesus’ compassion for the lonely and hurting. And it’s not surprising that Andy has a lot of friends.

YouTube recently carried the winsome story of Chris Ellis, a businessman in Wichita, Kansas, who gave a car to Vicki Anderson, a 60-year old McDonald’s waitress whose car had broken down. Ellis handed her the car keys and told her it was hers one morning shortly after learning she had been left without transportation.

He explained, “Your smile lifts my spirits every morning when I come in here for breakfast. I want to do something for you. That car is yours!”

That’s imitating God who so loved He gave “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.”

Probably the best example of holiness I’ve witnessed in a long time occurred in a courtroom in October. Brandt Jean, a fellow-believer who is mature beyond his 18 years of age, forgave the policewoman who accidentally shot and killed his beloved older brother. The woman thought she was entering her own apartment but was one floor off. She wrongly concluded the guy in the apartment was an intruder and, in a moment of panic, impulsively shot him.

Brandt Jean used his impact statement in court to tell the policewoman in spite of what she had taken from his family he forgives her and wants the best for her.

Then he told her his main desire wasn’t for her to go to jail but to “Give your life to Christ.” Fighting back his emotions, Brandt asked the judge. “I don’t know if this is possible, but can I give her a hug, please?” As the two embraced in tears, the courtroom was largely silent except for the sound of sobbing.” That’s genuine holiness, forgiving one who has deeply wounded you.

Most people in this secular age aren’t much impressed with our church buildings, our doctrine, or our preaching.

But even the most irreligious can’t help but take notice when they see Christian people imitating the holiness of God.

That’s why Simon Peter wrote,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Peter 2:12).

(For more from Bob, visit Used with permission.)