God is Holy But What About His People?

the-prophet-isaiah-1729Is there a holiness deficit in the life of the church today? Are Christian relationships more easily befouled, sins more readily excused, wrongs more casually overlooked, ministries more superficially carried out because the holiness of God fails to indwell the community? In short, is the holiness God expects of his people in partial eclipse?

Holiness is not merely one among many of God’s attributes. It is the exceptional word chosen by him to inform his ancient people — and us — of his inmost character and being: “I am holy.”

That is why the holiness code (Leviticus 18–27) summons God’s people to relationships drastically different from those of the pagan peoples among whom Israel lived: “Be holy” God says, “because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:2).

In a fundamental sense, whatever is dedicated to God is regarded as holy. The tabernacle was holy, as were the vessels used in worship, the priestly garments and the priests themselves. They were not inherently different from their class, but they were dedicated to the service and worship of God – thus holy.

But that’s not the whole of it. In the holiness code the “set apart” people of God were to demonstrate holiness in their personal and community life — “Do not lie.” “Do not deceive one another.” “Do not hate your brother in your heart;” “…love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:11, 17,18).

This call to holiness of heart and life echoes in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to the church in Rome: “Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy (fully revealed in the cross of Christ) to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

Among believers today, holiness is too easily regarded as an option. Such believers would be sure to say it’s necessary to have one’s sins forgiven. But the quest for holiness – that’s optional. It’s like saying, it may be necessary to buy a car but it’s optional whether to add a global positioning device.

But holiness is not an option. At the very outset, to be truly forgiven means also in some elemental way to partake in God’s holiness. The immature church in Corinth had its carnal flaws, but it was regarded from the start as, “ sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy,” (1 Corinthians 1:2). That is, it was not only given a “set-apart” status in Christ but that status was expected to become a quality of life.

Isaiah’s vision of God given in the temple was for him in one sense a glorious moment (Isaiah 6:1-8). He saw the Lord enthroned. As the seraphs flew about he heard them calling to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty; / the whole earth is full of his glory.” The doorposts shook. The temple was filled with smoke.

But, it was at the same time a searingly painful moment. He cried out, “Woe to me!” going on to acknowledge, “ I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the king, the Lord Almighty.”

One cannot experience the holiness of God without at the same time experiencing a convicting sense of the incongruity of the sinful heart. Such painful moments precede the inner cleanup, enabled by God’s Holy Spirit.

Charles Wesley wrote a stanza of a hymn that could serve to lead us all in praying for a renewal of God’s holiness in our thoughts, relationships, workplaces, and churches:

He wills that I should holy be.
That holiness I long to feel;
That full divine conformity
To all my Master’s righteous will.

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3 thoughts on “God is Holy But What About His People?

  1. These and so many more were the inconsistencies I struggled with as a sincere, born-again believer during the first ten years of my Christian life. A Christian experience that eventually collapsed in a complete breakdown of my belief system and the tragedy of believing God had left me simply because I could not measure up to the false standard I had been taught by so many well-meaning yet ignorant pastors who were anything but able to properly divide the Word of God. They simply did not understand the Gospel of Grace. My life had become a futile attempt to live up to an impossible standard of behavior God never intended me to live up to. His plan was and is for me to simply trust in the perfect life Jesus has already lived for me.
    Php 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.

    Quite simply, I am as righteous and holy as Jesus. I am this “by faith.” There is a law that states, “You can never become more than who or what you believe yourself to be.” A person who believes he is nothing more than a sinner saved by grace can never be more than just that. He is either a sinner or he is saved by grace but he cannot be both. In the same way when I, by faith, start seeing myself as perfect, as righteous and as holy as Jesus is, the Spirit is now able to transform me into who I really am by faith. I am free, truly free by faith in who Jesus has made me to be – perfectly righteous and as holy as He is. My perfection is in Him. This is why He died. This is what He made possible for every believer.
    I was taught that I must become holy as He is holy. Try as I might I could never attain such a life for more than an hour at most. And more, I did not see such a life even in those who taught me that very concept. I was taught that I had to do something rather than believe something. As the Lord began to teach me the wonders of transforming grace through right believing, I began to move ever closer to holy behavior by simply trusting the Spirit to bring the reality of holy behavior in my life through my faith in the fact that I am already perfectly holy in Christ. I now understand that I must first believe who God has already made me to be through my faith in Christ.
    Sadly my experience has been the experience of countless sincere Christians who have simply given up on trying to be who they know they should be but have concluded that such a life is unattainable. They have concluded that they can never make “Adam” good and missed the supernatural power of transformation available through the “Second Adam.”
    If we start by faith in believing and seeing our perfection in holiness through Jesus we will shortly see such behavior coming to pass in our own lives wrought by the supernatural work of the Spirit within each believer. God says, “Rest.” “I will do it.” “You believe and I will work.”
    When I was born again I was given a perfect spirit – my spirit is now perfect in Christ and one with Him. That is what makes it possible for His Spirit to indwell me. However, I still am an imperfect soul – my personhood – who I am. I am now saved, yet imperfect and in need of transformation and sanctification at the soul level of my being. I long for the reality of a holy life outwardly. I want to see the reality of who God has already made me to be on the inside (my spirit) through my new birth. That is the process of sanctification or maturity that God undertakes within. My spirit is as perfect as Jesus. My soul is saved and being made perfect like Jesus. And my body is waiting its redemption.
    The key is believing that we are holy (in Christ) and only then can we ever hope to become holy. It’s what Jesus has made possible through the new birth but so many pastors simply don’t understand it and fewer have ever experienced it. If they did and taught it from their pulpits I believe we would begin to see a supernatural holiness in every born again believer in the church today.
    Teach Christians who they are – not what they should or shouldn’t be doing.

  2. Pingback: COULD THIS REPLY BE OF USE TO YOU AND ME? | meanlittleboy2

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