Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret, with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
Take time to be holy, let Him be thy Guide;
And run not before Him, whatever betide.
In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord,
And, looking to Jesus, still trust in His Word.
Take time to be holy, be calm in thy soul,
Each thought and each motive beneath His control.
Thus led by His Spirit to fountains of love,
Thou soon shalt be fitted for service above.
Words by William Longstaff, 1882
Music by George Stebbins, 1890
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
1 Peter 15 – 16
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.”
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
They say that the longer a couple is married the more they become alike. I have been married for more that 22 years and I am not sure I see it. I suppose, however, that if you look at who my wife and I were before compared to now you would see that there have definitely been changes in each of us making us more alike.
Of course, even if you’re not married, you may have heard your mother warn you about the people you choose to spend time with. It is simply human nature that we begin to adopt behaviors of those we spend time with. This is why Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians 15:33 that “Bad company corrupts good character.” Yes, we do change to become like those we spend time with and this is the theme of William Longstaff’s hymn, “Take Time To Be Holy.”
In the hymn, Longstaff emphasizes the need to intentionally set aside time to be spent with God. Each verse begins with the words of the title, “Take time to be holy.” This echoes the call of Leviticus 11:44 and 20:26 and repeated in 1 Peter 1:16, “Be holy, because I am holy.” As followers of Christ, we are to be set apart from the ways of the world, set apart for God’s purpose. We are to be holy.
And so the hymn begins to layout what is involved in being holy. It tells us to “Abide in Him always.” Echoing the words of John 15:4, “Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” To be holy like God, we must remain in Him. We can think that we can live our lives apart from His presence and think that we will be like him. And one of the best ways to spend time with Him is in His word, and this is why the hymn continues, “and feed on His Word.” When we spend time in His word and seek to know it, we will hide His word in hearts to keep us from stumbling.” (Psalm 119:11)
The hymn continues with yet another important par of being holy as God is holy. It reads, “Make friends of God’s children.” This brings us back to 1 Corinthians 15:33. The morals of those we associate with will rub off on us. So are we surrounding ourselves with other who are striving to be holy, or those who scoff at the notion.
The first verse ends with the call to “ help those who are weak.” You see, we can study the word as much as we want and we can spend time with as many Christians as we want, but if we are not living it out in our daily lives, then we have failed in our striving to be holy. It is this living out holiness that James speaks of in 1:27 when he writes, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The hymn continues to reiterate the need to spend time “with Jesus alone”, devoid of distractions that we might focus on him in all we do. It then reminds us that as we travel along, we cannot set ourselves out as the lead, but rather “In joy or in sorrow, still follow the Lord.”
Yes we are called to be holy just as God is holy. But with the business of life we sometime forget that Holiness is not something that just happens, it is something that takes time and intention. So when we take time to be holy, when we strive to be like Jesus we “shalt be fitted for service above.”
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