Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What is Holiness?

I am starting a four week this Sunday entitled The Utter Relief of  Holiness (the title is borrowed from John Eldredge). One of the first  tasks I had to do in putting together this series was to define what  holiness is. I think holiness is one of the good church words that we  use regularly, but are unsure of what it actually is. We might have a  faint idea, but if we are asked to define it we realize that we don't  really have a firm grasp what holiness really is.  That was the  problem I ran into as I pondered what I wanted to communicate.

I turned to the dictionaries for help (two English dictionaries and  two Bible dictionaries), but I found them to be of little value. Since  I was still struggling to define holiness I turned to my older brother  to see if he could help clarify my thoughts. Tom gave me the  definition of holiness that he has used and something clicked. The  definition that he uses is set apart from the ordinary. When I put  that definition on top of text I had decided to use, 1 Peter 1:13-25, the accuracy  of that definition was clearly seen.

So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God's obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, "You must be holy because I am holy."

And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no  favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as "foreigners in the land." For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. God chose him as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.

Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God. As the Scriptures say,

"People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades.  But the word of the Lord remains forever."
 And that word is the Good News that was preached to you (NLT).

Did you notice how the things of God are contrasted with the things of this world? God’s people are to live as obedient children rather than living to satisfy our own desires.  Christians are to life as foreigners rather than to accept the traditions of the people of this world.  We are ransomed, not by silver and gold, but the precious blood of Christ Jesus.  To be holy is to be separated from the ordinary things of the world.

As God's holy people we are set apart from the ordinary way of living in this world.  We are set apart, not by ordinary things like silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus.

Holiness comes down to being set apart, and we don't set ourselves apart from the world, but we are set apart by God. Therefore we don't become holy by our own effort, but we absolutely surrender to God and allow Him to use us for His purposes.

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