Firstly, in order to understand Holiness we must understand what the bible is speaking about when it talks about holiness.
In my studies I have come to the conclusion that holiness is rendered primarily in two ways
1. As being distinct or set apart, (character/ being/essence) and
2. Righteousness (pure, without error, conduct/deed)
Fundamentally, the concept of holiness therefor is only to be found in fullness in God himself. For only he is wholly separate and ‘otherly’ and perfect in righteousness, no one is like Him in anyway, not even the heavenly beings. He is the only uncreated one. He is the author of what is righteous, by his action and his word the whole universe is held together.
1 Samuel 2:2
“There is no one holy like the Lord,
Indeed, there is no one besides You,
Nor is there any rock like our God.
There is none like You, O Lord;
You are great, and great is Your name in might.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
5 principles of Holiness
Being is basic to doing
Knowing is basic to acting
Gods work of salvation is completely paid for
Gods work of sanctification is basic to our desire to obey
The purpose of pleasing God is basic to avoiding sin
So, in terms of discipleship and todays discussion: Why do we pursue holiness? What does that look like if only God is truly Holy? and How then can we go about it?
In terms of why, we pursue holiness because God commands it and because without it God will turn away from us. His holy nature cannot commune with sin. It is the active working out of the crux of our faith in Jesus. He had to die as a sacrifice to make us redeemed to be Holy. (as also God redeemed Israel from Egypt)
44For I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, because I am holy.e You must not defile yourselves by any creature that crawls along the ground. 45For I am the LORD, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt so that I would be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.
You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own
1 Peter 1:15-16
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.”
Hebrews 12: 14-17
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Holiness is needed so that we can come into the presence of God, this has been the pattern throughout the History of God and his people. God cannot come into and have loving fellowship with the unclean, the unholy. We pursue Holiness because we pursue God himself. There is no possible way of pursuing God, growing in relationship with him apart from a pursuit of Holiness.
14 For the Lord your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy, so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you.
What does Holiness look like in our lives?
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In the fulfillment of these commands the fullness of Holiness is realised.
2 Corinthians 7:1
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.
The promises spoken of are being temples of the living God, His chosen people, his children. That is the motivation / inspiration / reality.
Perfection of Holiness looks like purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates or corrupts our body mind and spirit, from a reverence or awesome love of God. In that context it looks like obeying his commands and keeping ourselves uncontaminated from Sin and anything that is unholy.
So not only is it purification through repentance and faith in Christ, faith that puts us ‘IN’ Christ. A washing. Something that needs to be done in stead with known sin entering our lives, but there is a sense where holiness will also keep us from being contaminated by Sin. A prevention from sin.
Holiness is not pursued by focusing on eliminating Sin, having our attention on Sin. Holiness is pursued and perfected by growing in our love of Christ. Loving Jesus is the prevention, Jesus is our purification.
A Living Sacrifice
12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a]by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b]
Romans 12 is perhaps one of the most exhaustive “lists” of what a Holy life looks like. Lets go through it.
How is this a possibility?
Perhaps first it’s good to remind us that holiness is NOT the means of our salvation, nor is it a job description, nor is it necessarily an expectation that Holiness would be perfected in the life of any believer, as I have heard many a great man of God say that with increased maturity in the faith and love of God comes an ever increasing knowledge of our depravity.
HOLINESS is a way, not a place or an achievement. Something to be and to become and to be becoming of.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray.
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.
9 The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways.
The HOLY SPIRIT is our helper, our guide on this pathway of Holiness. We need to have relationship with and be born of the Spirit to be able to be the new creation, the Holy vessels set about for Holy living.
“the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you”
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”
1 Corinthians 3:16
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
1 Corinthians 2:10-11
“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except for their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God”
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms”
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you”
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God”
Because the Holy Spirit lives in us HE can live the Holiness which we can not. Thus why we must DIE to SELF that HE may live.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
Is a great text to summarise the difference between the holiness attempted in the flesh and that of the Spirit. Lets have a look.
Holiness, is the true mark of a true follower of Christ. It is what we are called to be beyond what we are called to do. It is the way in which we fulfill every command and of the Bible the 600 something of the Old Testament and the 1000 + in the New Testament. The mystery in it comes in the fact that it is not linear, as it is a pathway walked with God, by promting from the Holy Spirit, the discipline of the Father (and his abundant Mercy) and the example and loving sacrifice of Jesus.
It has to have its foundations on a deep, life - changing revelation of God, of Jesus, a repentant surrender of one’s life to his lordship and for one to have received the Holy Spirit and to be truly born again.
The bible indicates and history reveals that few truly seek the path of Holiness and that it is a lonely road but at the same time in order to walk the road of holiness it must be walked in community because people are the true markers of ones holiness and how we love them.
HOLINESS has to be born from a Fear of the Lord, a revelation of Sin in it fullness of offence to God, that sin has to be acknowledged and taken responsibility for and brought to Jesus for our atonement through repentance, Sin ongoing and continually needs to be dealt with in this way.
We have to have a LOVE for God and a trust in him that means we are willing to lay down our worldly lives and thinking to be ‘SET APART’ Gods people and chosen vessels for the work of reconciling the world to him. Having the mind of Christ and also that of Paul, where the only will that was at work in their lives was the will of the Father and to count everything gained in this world as nothing for the surpassing Glory and Joy of intimacy of the Lord.
A mind that considers Holiness as work can never breed Holiness. Holiness is loving the Holy One. As Husbandness is loving ones wife.
The Holy Spirit has to be the ‘worker’ of our walk of Holiness and we are responsible for allowing that work by having relationship with Holy Spirit and not quenching him.
As a child can only have relationship with his mother through birth, so we can only have a loving relationship with God in Spirt, and that by being born of the same nature. New Birth.
Through faith, new birth and the authority given to us we are tasked to maintain our holiness and not become contaminated by the world or sin and that by maintaining the mind of Christ and also by engaging in the battle for our minds and spirits against the powers and the principalities who, may not be able to steal your eternal salvation can certainly knock you off the path of holiness through all kinds of lying and deception. This is a spiritual battle and must be fought in such a way. It should also be mentioned that a life lived in holiness is the greatest warfare against the enemy and therfore we shall not be surprised when the attacks come to take us from the Holy Way. His arsenal is wide and varied and can stem from false liberty that leads to sin to great condemnation which leads to discouragement or religious works.
As our mind, will, emotions, and soul are also involved personally healing from the past also become an important part of the walk of holiness. This ensures pattern of behaviour from the ‘old self’ that protect us from pain etc do not contaminate our life with Christ.
e.g if we have issues of rejection it is important that these are not brought into our relationship with God and are dealt with so that we can relate to God in ways that don’t, for e.g, lead to works for approval. That we maintain the freedom to be led by the spirit and not the flesh.
Holiness is EVERYTHING about Christian living. Christian living can not be thought of outside of Holiness.
If you are not growing in Holiness, you are not growing in Christlikeness, the spirit is not a work in you any longer. You are in danger of hearing Jesus say “ get away from me I never knew you”