There is a Divine imperative found in Leviticus 19:2. God tells His people “you must be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy.”
I read this, and I am immediately struck by the impossibility of such a thought. How can we possibly be holy like God? How can we human beings, His created, ever approach the perfection of such a God, the Creator? After all, He is all powerful, He is all knowing, He is holy, righteous and just in all His ways. One of the primary characteristics of God’s manifest glory, is His holiness. Where could I possibly fit in to such a picture?
Holy, in it’s simplest form, means “separate.” So when God mandates holiness, He is not saying that we become God, but that we become “set apart.” He has called us to live our lives on a different level than those around us. That the lifestyle, drive and motivation of the world’s culture not become ours. That our life’s agenda is not determined by the ever changing fads and customs of our environment.
I grew up in the “holiness” movement. There was a great deal of emphasis placed on external lifestyle. Now, please don’t take me wrong here. As you know by some of my earlier posts, I believe that God’s redemptive power is transformational in our lives. It truly impacts the way we live, the way we present ourselves to those around us, the way we act out our Christian faith. But, too often, we were known more for our appearance than for our righteous lifestyle. Unfortunately, holiness became more about the do’s and don’ts. We pursued good works in order to become holy and, in the
process, we devolved into legalism.
When we “get saved”, several things happen in an instant. We repent (turn from our sin), God then justifies (makes us just in His sight), He regenerates (makes us new), thereby the new birth (a new creation). But I believe something else happens at this moment, something entirely of God’s grace. God then, at that moment, pronounces us holy. He empowers us, as His saints, to live holy lives. We no longer pursue good works to become holy, but we live righteously because we ARE holy. It’s not as much about doing the right thing as it is about serving God. It changes the whole motivation as to why we serve the Lord.
We must not define holiness in ourselves, or judge holiness in others solely on the basis of actions, nor even from the perceived condition of the heart. Holiness is not a country to which we travel, and after much deprivation and self discipline, finally arrive. But it is a place into which God deposits us by His grace and out of which we live our lives.
Make no mistake, God requires holiness for our lives.
Ephesians 1:4-“according as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”
The search for holiness does not begin with creeds, or doctrines, or rules, or regulations, but with God Himself. He is the only source by which we achieve holiness and the only power by which we live holiness.
When I first felt led to write on this subject, I jotted down a few thoughts off the top of my head. I want to leave them with you.
Holiness cannot be defined in the narrow context of our human thinking.
Holiness cannot be initiated or sustained by the frail efforts of our human flesh.
Holiness cannot be legislated by the zeal of human intentions or disciplines, no matter how righteous they may seem to be.
Holiness cannot be determined by the changing fads of modern culture.
Holiness should not be reduced to a list of rules or a code of conduct with which we adorn and bind ourselves.
Holiness has it's birthplace in the very center of divine nature, and is manifested as an expression of that divine nature within us.
Holiness is extended as a statement of divine love.
Holiness is experienced as one submits, by faith, to the drawing of divine grace.
Holiness is mandated by the word of God and motivated by divine example.
Holiness never gives birth to self-righteousness, nor does self-righteousness find consolation in true holiness.