For born again believers in Jesus, holiness is not a suggestion or an option. It is a an non-negotiable characteristic that should define each of us. 1 Peter 1:14-15 says: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior”. Then in verse 16, Peter repeats God’s words in Leviticus 11:44: “you shall be holy, for I am holy”.
But, what is holiness? Let’s start off with what holiness is not. It isn’t carrying around a fifty pound Bible looking pious. It isn’t walking around with a frown on your face and a finger pointing at everyone. It isn’t standing on your soap box preaching “turn or burn, baby” to everyone you meet. No, these do not constitute holiness.
My simple definition of holiness is this – bringing pleasure to God. The word holiness comes from the same root word as the word “sanctify”, which means to be set apart. In practical terms it means that we are to separate ourselves from the ways, thoughts, and motives of the world and to be led in total surrender to the Holy Spirit. It must be stated that sanctification was never intended to mean running away form society and living like a hermit on a deserted mountain top. On the contrary, as believers we are to be lights in a dark world, and to be a testimony to the wonderful saving grace of Jesus. We are to be insulated from the world, not isolated from it. Think about a thermos of hot chocolate on a cold wintry day. The hot chocolate is insulated from the cold so it stays hot even though it is out in the cold. The cold just doesn’t get in. This is how we are to be – not isolated from the world, but out in it without it coming into us.
Modern Christianity, however, has forgotten the meaning of insulated. There is a definite fine line between what is acceptable behavior for a Christian and what is not, and that line is the Word of God. The Bible draws a very clear line on God’s standard of holiness. The trouble is, however, is that many Christians have blurred that line. Instead of being insulated, we have let the “cold” in and lost our “heat”. Sadly, behavior that is called “sin” in the Bible doesn’t even turn our heads anymore.
For example, divorce and remarriage is as common in Christian marriages as is in non Christian marriages. Premarital sex has become all to common with those in the church. Pornography has crept into an astounding number of Christian men’s lives. Many believers I have talked to over the years have no problem going to movies that Jesus just wouldn’t approve of. Secular books that promote self centered thinking and worldly values are read without blinking an eye, and are then emulated in daily life. And gossip has ravaged many churches and damaged many lives.
My friends, we’ve forgotten that EVERYTHING that falls short of God’s holy standard is an abomination in His eyes. Have we forgotten the price that had to be paid for our sins? Have we forgotten the cross? Have we torn ourselves away from God’s loving arms and embraced the world’s standards? Have we, the holy, sanctified bride of Christ committed adultery with the world? Have we so adopted a secular world view that there is no visible difference between the church and the world?
Imagine for a moment that you are attending a wedding. The groom is in the front of the church, well groomed and dressed with an impeccably neat tuxedo waiting for his bride to walk down the aisle. As the music starts playing the Wedding March, your eyes fix on the bride. However, as she walks toward her groom, you notice something wrong, something terribly wrong. Her wedding dress is soiled and wrinkled, her veil is ripped, her shoes have mud on them, her face is smudged with dirt, and her hair is a mess of knots and tangles.
How do you think the groom would feel? He would be deeply hurt at her lack of preparation for their big day. Do you see the parallel between this picture and the relationship between the church (the bride) and our groom (Jesus)? Are we going to present ourselves to our groom as a clean, chaste virgin beautifully adorned for her husband or as a sin stained adulteress?
In a discussion about holiness, we must remember that none of us is perfect and none of us has “arrived”. However, this is not an excuse for sloppy obedience and compromised discipleship. We must strive daily for lives that bring glory to God, and reckon the fact that we have everything necessary to live lives pleasing to God because of the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit. As we surrender to Him and give Him control, holiness will become more and more evident in our lives.
Fellow disciple of Jesus, now is the time for a revival of holiness within the church. No more fence straddling. No more mediocre, lukewarm discipleship. It’s time for all of us to get on our faces and repent of our unholiness. it’s time for every believer to be broken and to surrender to the Holy Spirit. it’s time to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus. It’s time to bring pleasure to God.