My wife (Christina) is a Child-Life Specialist, her job is to help children be at ease in a hospital setting. For kids, hospitals can be big scary places with lots of strange things and lots of strange people wanting to talk to them and do things to them. But in order for them to receive what they need my wife’s job is to bring calm to their little worlds and prepare them for what’s coming. She even uses what is called “play therapy” at times to help kids. Her job then, understanding the developmental stages of the children she works with is to normalize the hospital for children so that they are comfortable receiving the care they need.
Holiness seems like a rather outdated idea that was really only meant for people who lived in Bible times and especially those in the Old Testament. But holiness is actually the way the Bible says that God isn’t normal, or always comfortable, that He is other, and different, and cannot be normalized. Holiness is to speak of the transcendent nature of God. It is to make humanity aware of the fact that God, while He connects intimately with us He is ultimately quite alien to us. The great paradox being he has the capacity to become known to us while at the same time remaining separate, mysterious, and unknown. Holiness is essentially the Bible’s way of saying God is different.
So here’s the kicker, God expects us to be different (holy) too. The New Testament picks up on the idea in 1 Peter 1:16, “For it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” This isn’t a weird holiness. You can spot weird holiness from a mile off. It’s merely a spectacle and not intended for God’s glory but the glory of the weirdos. Real holiness is much deeper and primarily concerns itself with impressing God rather than others.
So here are 7 key ideas on personal holiness and what it means to live differently:
- Holiness or being “different” is ultimately about trusting God with our lives. Trust is huge in any relationship but makes all the difference when it comes to our relationship with God. When we give ourselves over too God and become exclusive only to Him, that is holiness. Means we are set-apart and allowing God alone to direct us in every way. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- Holiness is the outworking of the gospel. The gospel is good news about what Jesus has done. When we live in this reality we live humbly knowing that we can’t take credit for any part of our salvation. Gospel humility is evidence of the fact that God has done a holy work on the inside that is now becoming visible on the outside. It’s always for His glory and not our own.
- Holiness begins with God and not man. Most of the time we get “holy” because we want the approval of those around us. That’s the wrong place to start. It all begins with responding to the call of God. It means Knowing in our hearts that we haven’t taken our relationship with God seriously and it’s time for a change.
- Holiness demands a change in thinking not just actions. Let’s not make holiness just about behavior modification. People mainly think in terms of what they need to stop doing or begin to do more of. But Romans 12:1-2 hints at the idea that holiness is a matter of the “renewing” of our minds. No question about it! Holiness is more a matter of the transformation of my mind than just stopping bad behavior or even starting good behavior. When the mind is renewed holy behavior is simply the end result.
- Holiness is doing the right thing with the right heart. Churches are often places where people do the right thing for the wrong reason just to keep up appearances. That’s never been God’s plan. God invites us to do the right thing with the right heart that belongs to Him. That’s why he promises to write his law on our hearts. At the end of the day it’s all about the right motivation to live holy. That motivation comes from a heart drenched in love and respect for God.
- Holiness is knowing how to balance being different from the “world” with love. Sometimes our holiness is a turn off to the culture around us. Mainly because we forget about how crucial demonstrating love is. Jesus was the holiest of all and yet he was able to walk among the most unholy and still be attractive. Holiness may demand separation in some instances but holiness shouldn’t be a total turn off to those around us. Our calling is to always walk in humility and love toward those around us who don’t know God.
- Holiness is swimming against the current when it comes to things that matter most to God. As much as we love the culture around us there does come a time when we stand against the culture’s values. This can be hard because we’ll get labeled as intolerant and unloving. Still, we are meant to first and foremost love God and bring Him glory. When we encounter something in the culture that only diminishes God’s glory we would do well to stand against it in a God-honoring but determined way.