There may be no other word used in the Bible that congers up more confusion and misunderstanding than the word holiness. Sometimes when we think of holiness, we see visions of a stern and stoic group of people, living under harsh rules and regulations, devoid of laughter and mirth.
Many of us grew up with a skewed view of what holiness is, and many think being holy will cause so much discomfort that they choose to avoid getting to close to churches that espouse to be a holiness church.
I am hopeful we can shed some light on what exactly it means to be holy and why it will bring joyful exuberance to your life; more than you ever could have imagined!
The Bible reveals how very important holiness is; without it, we are in trouble!
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord.
In light of this, it is important to understand what this means, so much depends on it! The word used for “holiness” is this:
Hagiasmos hag-ee-as-mos‘ – purification, a state of purity; to be consecrated, sanctification
When the Hebrews established a system of sacrificing to God, they built a large temple in Jerusalem. All of the temple equipment went through a ritual of cleansing and was consecrated to God; that ceremonial cleansing, made those objects, holy unto the Lord. All of that equipment was declared to be “set apart” different from other items, because they were dedicated, and consecrated to God and His use.
Remember, God is Holy and CANNOT be in the presence of sin; to be in God’s service, holiness is NOT OPTIONAL! To be Holy unto the Lord, is to be set apart for God and for His purposes ONLY.
Holiness is a product of Grace; none of us did anything to become holy. In and of ourselves there is nothing holy about us; but by faith, through grace, we came to Christ . . . and He declared us holy!
God’s greatest desire is that we would enjoy close friendship with Him. He wants us to “hang out with Him” and He wants us to share His nature too. When we come to Christ, we were, as the Bible declares . . .
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves . . .
We were rescued from a life of darkness and brought into a new place; the Kingdom of the Son. We are a part of a new family and the way this family operates is very different from the way we used to do things. God wants us to get to know Him and to become more like Him, and He is holy.
There is a great deal of confusion over what true holiness is and we can easily get caught up in what we often refer to as legalism. I define legalism as “legislated righteousness.”
When we lay down a bunch of rules and regulations, declaring that holiness is granted, according to our obedience to these rules, insisting they be followed; that is legalism.
Jesus alone declares us Holy by virtue of being “washed” in His Blood!
The Israelites received the Law of God through Moses; yet following it to the letter never brought salvation. The law was a continual reminder of the sinfulness of the people who were to live by it!
Even today, those attempting to live under those laws, certainly feel a sense of condemnation hanging over their head. They cannot keep to the law entirely; try as they might, they just can’t do it; they live with an overwhelming sense of guilt and shame for being unable to.
James 2:10 – For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
We soon find ourselves in the predicament Paul spoke of in his letter to the church in Rome . . .
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
Does this sound familiar; perhaps is may very well describe the way you feel.
Too often, folks will want to “try to be a Christian.” It is in the trying that life often becomes so unbearable that they slip away, never feeling as though they will ever measure up to the standards that God has laid down for them to live by. Disillusioned and sad, they go away hurt and confused; some never recover from this!
When we try to be a Christian, we fall into a performance-based religion and we quickly realize that something is out of kilter here. While the mind and heart may want to change and fall in line with these new rules and regulations, something deep inside intuitively knows that this is not the “real” you.
We tend to base our Christianity on how well we perform it. Instead of “being” a Christian, we try to “do” Christianity; we put on happy Christian faces and say all the right Christian things, trying to assure folks we are certainly a Christian. We tend to wear “two hats” one when we are around church folks and another around worldly folk; the difference is glaring!
When it comes to God’s law, we know it is good. The whole purpose of God’s law was to show us what He is like. It is as if God is asking; “Would you like Me to be your God? If you do, then this is what I am like.”
The law of God, quickly reveals that we are nowhere near being like Him; those laws reveal just how far away from God we really are! Recognizing this disparity causes us great conviction and we humble ourselves and come to Jesus. The law of God helps us understand our need for salvation; it moves us toward salvation.
Jesus declares in John 6:44; “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” Drawn to God, we come to a “flash point” and then in an amazing, God inspired act of grace, we come to faith and believe in Christ, rescued and brought into His kingdom. The law of God accomplished its mission!
Now, as we learn to live in this new kingdom, the law no longer has hold over us; or rather, it does not condemn us. Oh, it still stands, and it is still righteous, and it remains a strong reminder of what the character of God is like; but we are now on the other side of that law, and we are now safely in the kingdom.
- Without the gift of Christ, the law stood in judgment of us and we were certainly condemned. The law stood as a reminder of our sinful nature and we lived in fear. Now, as a redeemed child of God, that fear is lifted, and we live in, and under, grace!
We can go back to that amazing passage in the Book of Romans we referred to earlier . . . the one where Paul struggled with sin. The following chapter is a celebration of life being lived differently.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
So, we can clearly see that when we come to faith in Christ, we are set free from the law; it has done its work and we are now living by the Spirit . . . this is really good news!
Remember, the purpose of holiness, is to allow us to be in right relationship with God Himself; set apart for Him and His purposes ONLY. When we believed in Christ for redemption and we transferred into His kingdom, we became holy; not by anything we did, but by what He did. His sacrifice and His Blood washed away the stains of sin and we were declared holy!
Now here is the clincher . . . listen to these three passages . . .
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. 14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
In all three of these passages, the admonishment to be holy and to keep ourselves separated to God is clear. Unlike the articles used in the temple of God, we make choices and we have free will. Now rescued from the world of darkness, we have an obligation to stay in the Kingdom of His Son.
We are part of a family, God’s family, and there ARE rules to follow and new ways to learn.
These passages; written to us so that we would be mindful of the awesome responsibility we all have as followers of Jesus and that is to keep ourselves holy.
It is here . . . right here, where the issues of legalism and rule-making and breaking come into play. We not only have a responsibility to God, but to one another. In order to keep everyone on the same page . . . so to speak, we often make additional rules and regulations to live by; markers along the way to keep any wayward folks in check.
While rules and regulations have great value, they do not save. These man-made rules and regulations may keep you from getting hurt or hurting others, but they, in and of themselves, cannot save you, nor can they keep you saved!
Once the law propelled us to Christ and we were born again into the Kingdom of the Son, the work of the law was finished; its mission accomplished!
Under the Spirit, when we sin, we are no longer condemned, but convicted and there is a huge difference! Under the Spirit, we don’t want to sin; we are getting to know God more and more; Jesus is the One who extends His hand to us and says; “Come, follow me.” It is in the following, that we grow and find our place in the Kingdom of God. It is in the following that our lives begin to take on the likeness of Jesus.
I have often been asked by anxious people; “Pastor; is my lifestyle going to send me to hell?” The real issue is not lifestyle, but life. Anyone one without Christ is lost and according to Jesus, they are condemned already.
“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already. . . “ John 3:18
The person who is lost will spend eternity without Christ, not because of a lifestyle, but because they have not come to Christ.
I say to that questioning soul; they need Jesus, redemption is only in Him. When Jesus reaches out His hand, and you decide to follow Him; your lifestyle will begin to look remarkably like His! Oh, and by the way, His lifestyle is holy!
Walking with Jesus is not for the fainthearted. It is not an easy walk and the way can be difficult. He quickly reveals areas of your life that need attention. He will want you to learn to trust Him; with relationships, finances, children, your future, your health and much, much more!
Keep in mind that you have been transferred out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, and it may take a while before you get everything right; just remember, as a child of the King, you are no longer under condemnation, but you have been set free!
Let’s keep pursuing the way of holiness together and see where it leads . . . this is going to be good!
Next week, Lord willing . . . Part II