This topic is nothing new. It goes back at least to Paul’s writings and I’m sure one of the psalmists hits on it as well. The ever present struggle between holiness and liberty. The struggle is both an internal and external struggle. Individuals often deal with this in their own hearts and minds, while at the same time others are trying to help them figure things out. Sometimes that help isn’t solicited and can be, more often than not, detrimental.
What is holiness? First off, it’s a word that most people don’t use in their everyday speech. It’s a lofty “churchy” word. Another word that communicates the same thing and sounds equally lofty is “sanctified.” It sounds very sacred and uncomfortable. But the concept it conveys is very street level. The thing one must do when talking about holiness is to get through all the baggage.
To be holy or sanctified basically means to be set apart as something special. Doesn’t sound to scary, does it? To be set apart. Everyone has holy things. (OK, let’s just get the “holy underwear” jokes out right at the beginning, and I’m not talking about the kind that Mormons wear.) Grandma has holy dishes that only come out on special occasions. Mom has holy scissors that are only used for scrapbooking. (Any other scrapbook widowers out there? Kidding! I love you dear.) Dad has holy (underwear! I’m so immature) golf clubs that are not to be used for lightsabre battles. Girls have holy clothes that are only worn for special reasons (boys do to for that matter). Boys have holy toys (be they Legos or PS3s) that may only be used by those who are worthy.
See? Not so bad, is it? Holiness. In the life of a believer, to be holy means to be set apart to Jesus. But what does that mean? It starts off good and can turn ugly easily. To be set apart to Jesus means that you are separated from things that are not of or from Jesus. Your life is given over voluntarily to Him, not out of obligation but out of love for Him. It’s like being married. Someone who is married is set apart from from all others. Their mind, body, and soul are reserved only for their spouse. That means they don’t commit adultery, they don’t flirt, they don’t look at porn. They don’t engage in anything, mentally or physically, that would endanger their relationship. Why do they do this? Because they have to or else they lose their spouse? While that is a factor that ought not be the motivating reason. The real motivation ought to be sincere, genuine, love. That’s what it is supposed to be with Jesus. Because I love Him, I don’t cheat on Him, flirt with things that aren’t of Him, etc. But again, what does that mean?
It seems like we can get this when it comes to real human relationships, but it gets more difficult when it comes to Jesus. Why is this? Is it because we don’t really think of Jesus as a real person? I think that’s what it comes down to. And because we don’t think of Him as a real person, but as a concept or part of a belief system, we need a list. We need a set of rules to define for us what it means to be holy. We need a set of don’ts to keep us in line, at least for conscience sake, if not for the sake of appearances. This is where holiness turns into its ugly step-sister legalism. This is where relationship turns into religion. Holiness becomes that which we are set apart from. That’s only half of the deal. Holiness is as much what we are set apart from as what we are set apart to.
If Grandma had her special plates only for special occasions, but never brought them out, ever, there is a problem. If Mom never used her special scissors it means she isn’t scrapbooking. If Dad never used his golf clubs, it means he isn’t golfing. If believers don’t engage the world with the love of Jesus as people who are set apart for Jesus, well, then they aren’t being Christians. “You’re judging me!” No, God’s word is judging you. Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5: 9-13.
“I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.””
What has happened is that we Christians have built up our own Christian subculture around us. We have Christian radio, Christian coffee shops, Christian clothes, Christian movies, Christian breath mints, the list goes on. Each of these usually begin with a good intent; connecting with the world. But what happens is that they become places for Christian to retreat to, so all of the “marketing” mutates into viewing the Christian as a consumer. Christian consumerism is a whole other blog topic.
My point is that in an effort to be both holy to Jesus and useful to Him in impacting the world with His message of love and grace and forgiveness and redemption, we have accomplished the exact opposite. We now try to draw other Christians and we have lost the love. We are holy unto ourselves. Who goes to Christian concerts? Christians. Who goes to hear the evangelist? Christians. Who goes to the Christian festivals? Christians. Do you see a problem with this?
To anyone who is reading this, be they Christian or not, please please please, take some time off from your life and get some perspective on yourself.
Unbeliever, whether you realize it or not, you are set apart, you are holy to this world. It will lead you in the wrong direction, it will lie to you, and it will kill you. You need Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” John wrote that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleans us from all unrighteousness.” You need to be cleansed. It isn’t about breaking a rule, it’s about being imperfect before a perfect God. Since you can’t make yourself perfect God made a way for that. Jesus is that way. Paul said “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” That’s it. That’s all there is to it. That’s where holiness begins.
Believer, whether you realize it or not, you are set apart to the Lord. Paul said in Romans 6:17-18 “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.” Did you see that? You were slaves of sin. That means you don’t have to be anymore and if you are letting yourself do that, there is something wrong. Not to be too blunt, but it is your fault if that is happening. Why? Because you have a choice to whom or what you are holy. Different things hang different people up. That’s why I never give a list of things you can’t do. However, here is a list of stuff to do. And if you are too busy doing the do’s (not Mt. Dew), then you won’t have any time to do anything that might be a don’t. 1) Read/Study your Bible. It is God’s love letter to you. 2) Pray. Talk to God. Talk to Jesus. Talk to the Holy Spirit. God is a real being who listens and talks back. 3) Spend time with other good, solid believers and learn from them. Don’t just l
earn from them, do what they do. As they follow Jesus, so must you. As they do what Jesus did, so must you. 4) Turn around and, in the words of Yoda, “pass on what you have learned.”
I leave you with these words from 1 Peter 1:13-19. Next time I will ramble about the liberty we have in Christ.
13 ¶ Therefore gird up the loins of your mind (note: this means to make your mind ready for action), be sober (note: doesn’t mean simple to not be drunk, it means to think clearly), and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;
15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,
16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.