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What is holiness? How is it attained? Is
it attainable? Is it perfection? The holiness of God was the
dominant theme throughout the Israelís history. Their worship emphasized
their need to be holy. Israelís worship emphasized something they
werenít. Godís holiness left the Israelites wondering if anyone could
stand in his presence.
God presented himself as a holy God
throughout the Old Testament. He warned the Israelites not to
come up on Mount Sinai, because it had been set apart as holy ground
because of His presence there.
20 The LORD
descended to the top of Mount Sinai and called Moses to the top of the
mountain. So Moses went up 21 and the LORD said to him, "Go down and
warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the LORD
and many of them perish. 22 Even the priests, who approach the LORD,
must consecrate themselves, or the LORD will break out against them."
23 Moses said
to the LORD, "The people cannot come up Mount Sinai, because you
yourself warned us, 'Put limits around the mountain and set it apart as
24 The LORD
replied, "Go down and bring Aaron up with you. But the priests and the
people must not force their way through to come up to the LORD, or he
will break out against them."
25 So Moses
went down to the people and told them. NIV
This made a powerful statement about
Israelís unholy condition. They were not allowed to touch the
mountain upon which God resided. God consistently revealed his holiness
through the temple worship. There was the Holy Place and the Most Holy
Place only the priest could enter.
There were specific laws given to move
the Tabernacle from place to place. Aaron was to prepare the
articles of the tabernacle a certain way for moving it from place to
place as they wandered in the wilderness. The Kohathites were to do the
actually moving of the tabernacle. Aaron was to oversee the packing of
the articles of the tabernacle. However, Aaron was instructed to pack
for the move in such a way that the movers would not so much as touch
the articles of the tabernacle. If they touched the articles they would
Aaron and his sons have finished covering the holy furnishings and all
the holy articles, and when the camp is ready to move, the Kohathites
are to come to do the carrying. But they must not touch the holy things
or they will die. The Kohathites are to carry those things that are in
the Tent of Meeting. NIV
17 The LORD
said to Moses and Aaron, 18 "See that the Kohathite tribal clans are not
cut off from the Levites. 19 So that they may live and not die when they
come near the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons are
to go into the sanctuary and assign to each man his work and what he is
to carry. 20
Kohathites must not go in to look at the holy things, even for a moment,
or they will die." NIV
These laws were given to empress upon
Israel the holiness of God. There was no sacrifice they could
offer that would make them holy enough to even gaze upon a holy God.
19 But God
struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to
death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people
mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the
men of Beth Shemesh asked, "Who can stand in the presence of the LORD,
this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?" NIV
Godís holiness is not just an attribute
of God; it is who God is. Holiness embraces the totality of God.
All of Godís attributes are guided by his desire to be holyóto be
righteous. He can do nothing unholy. Everything he does emanate from
his desire for holiness. He has purely holy motives.
Godís Holiness Is Unattainable
Holiness is not something we attain
through human effort, for it is impossible to attain holiness apart from
God. God is the one who makes us holy. We consecrate ourselves
to God by seeking to keep his decrees, but only God alone can make us
7 "'Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God. 8
Keep my decrees and follow them. I
am the LORD, who makes you holy.
Godís call is to consecrate ourselves to holiness.
He has called us
to live out his holy purpose for our lives. Yet, we are reminded that it
is God who makes us holy. It is only through the blood of Christ that we
can hope to be holy.
When Christ becomes our source of righteousness, holiness and
redemption, it leaves us without any room for boasting.
think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise
by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble
birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the
wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28
He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things ó and
the things that are not ó to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no
one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ
Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God ó that is, our
righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written:
"Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." NIV
Like the ancient saints, we do well to
strive for holiness. Yet none of our efforts will be pleasing to
God if they are based on the belief that we can attain holiness through
our own means. We ďare being transformed into his likenessĒ through the
power of the Spirit, not our own efforts (2 Corinthians. 3:18). (J.
Stephen Lang, Discipleship Journal)
Even such worthwhile pursuits as church
attendance, Bible study, and Scripture memorization will get us no
further with God than living in the trees, if they are not carried out
in a spirit of dependence on the grace of God alone to make us holy.
Although we are called to obey, for our sanctification we must rely on
God to keep us holy through the blood of Christ and the leading of the
Holy Spirit. (J. Stephen Lang, Discipleship Journal)
prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully
on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 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."
17 Since you
call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives
as strangers here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with
perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the
empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19 but with
the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He
was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these
last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised
him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in
22 Now that
you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have
sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the
heart. 23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of
imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 24 For,
"All men are
and all their
glory is like the flowers of the field;
withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the
word of the Lord stands forever."
And this is
the word that was preached to you. NIV
God makes it clear that personal
holiness is also something we must pursue. Personal holiness is
not just a gift God gives us through Christís atonement for our sins.
Peter calls the recipients of this letter to obedience.
Obedience is our pursuit of holiness. Obedience has to do with seeking
to do the right thingórighteous living. God imparts his holinessóhis
perfection, or should we say Christ perfectionóto the spirits of
22 But you
have come to Mount
Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the
city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of
angels in joyful assembly, 23 to the church of the firstborn, whose
names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of
all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 to
Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that
speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. NIV
We have an ongoing problem with sin.
It interrupts our fellowship and usefulness for God. Godís provision for
our sins is continual forgiveness. We receive it as we confess our sin
intent on striving for holiness. This was to be the motive behind every
sacrificial animal offered under Judaism.
The sacrificial system of the Old
Testament temple was a means of reconciliation through the holiness God
provided. But it also demanded Israelís pursuit of holiness. For
them to enter into Godís temple without any attempt to live holy lives
was to desecrate Godís temple. The very sacrifices they offered at the
temple were useless unless they were intent on turning from their sin.
Today our bodies are the temple of God.
We destroy Godís
temple when we use it for unholy purposes.
16 Don't you
know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in
you? 17 If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's
temple is sacred, and you are that temple. NIV
When the world comes to Christ their
lives are usually characterized by the thinking of an unholy world.
Such was the case at Corinth and such is the case today.
18 Flee from
sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body,
but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. 19 Do you not know
that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you
have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a
price. Therefore honor God with your body. NIV
The immorality of our times is nothing
new. Paul admonished the Corinthians to flee from sexual
immorality. The elders sent letters to the Gentiles admonishing them to
abstain from fornication. Their world continued to have a hold on them
after they came to Christ.
and elders, your brothers,
To the Gentile
believers in Antioch,
Syria and Cilicia:
24 We have
heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed
you, troubling your minds by what they said. 25 So we all agreed to
choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and
Pauló 26 men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. 27 Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word
of mouth what we are writing. 28 It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and
to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements:
29 You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from
the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do
well to avoid these things.
Those preaching to the Gentiles were
more concerned about circumcision than they were that they live holy
lives. The elders at Jerusalem were more concerned about the
influence their pagan gods still had on them.
Paul urges us to be transformed by the
renewing of our minds.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your
bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God ó this is your
spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of
this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you
will be able to test and approve what God's will is ó his good, pleasing
and perfect will. NIV
I heard the preacher of Calvary Chapel
over on U.S. 19 speak over the radio one morning. He was talking
about the immoral lifestyles of the world. He made a shocking statement
about romantic lives of church people. He was pleading with those who
just came into his congregation not to pattern their romantic lives
after church members. He said when people are converted to Christ today
they find the thinking and lifestyles of church people no different from
the world. He emphasized that Christians were not setting an example for
them to follow in their romantic relationships. He pleaded with his
audience not to pattern their lives after church members.
The grief and anxiety characterizing our
world today is the direct result of unholy lives. Our
destructive attitudes are running rampant. Hate embitters, greed eats
away like canker, misplaced affections, love is trampled, confidence is
betrayed, rich people step on the poor, and the poor seek to dethrone
the rich. Prisons, hospitals and mental institutions point to unholy
The spiritual darkness we see is merely
a reflection of the spiritual darkness from within our own hearts.
The darkest part of our world is our spiritual lives. We are out of sync
with Godís holy plan for our lives. The Christian is not immune. We are
confronted by the pervasive culture of our fallen world.
In Psalms 32 we read Davidís journal
entry as he contemplated holiness and sought it. We also see
Godís response to his efforts.
First David describes the holy life.
We must show the world how to live holy
lives; they must see us reaping the benefits of holy living. It
is not enough to just teach people the Bible. We study teaching
techniques to become more effective teachers. It was no accident that
Luke wrote about what Jesus began to do and teach. Doing comes before
teaching. Jesus did not ask anyone to do or be anything which first he
had not demonstrated in his own life, thereby not only proving its
workability, but also its relevance to his mission in life.
Holy lives will win the confidence of
the world. Personal holiness is the most powerful way to inspire
the lost to come to Christ. This was Jesusí method to salvage the world.
It was Jesusí living that empowered his
message. Jesus came to exemplify a holy way of life with God and
man. He recognized that it was not enough just to get people into his
kingdom. His disciples needed to know how his experience was to be
maintained and shared if it was to be perpetuated. It wasnít his oral
presentation. All the disciples had to teach them was the example of the
Master Teacher who first lived what he taught.
The Bible is an instruction book on how
to live. If you donít live it, you donít believe it. Living it
is the only way to make it believable to a world lost in sin. It was
Jesusí life that drew people to him. He won their confidence. In doing
so he opened up the way of salvation to them. Those in the first century
observed Jesus in all types of situations, and among all kinds of
people, rich and poor, healthy and sick, friend and foe alike. It was
his life that drew them.
3 It is God's will th0at you should be sanctified: that you should avoid
sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control his own
body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like
the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one
should wrong his brother or take advantage of him. The Lord will punish
men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you. 7 For
God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore,
he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives
you his Holy Spirit. NIV
We live in an unholy world that
challenges our efforts to live holy lives. It is difficult to
always make the correct response to the selfishness of those around us
because of we ourselves are selfish. The key to a correct response to an
unholy world is found as we strive to make room for Godís holiness to
permeate our own hearts.
The only way to holiness is to exchange our
lives for Christ life (Galatians 2:20). It begins with our desire to die
with Christ so that we may live for him (Romans 6:1-4).