What comes to mind when I say “holiness”? Do you picture a fire-and-brimstone preacher? A stuffed shirt whose face is contorted into a permanent frown? A guy in West Virginia dancing around a box of snakes?
I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “holy” a lot lately. God said “Be holy, for I AM holy.” (Lev. 11:44). If God said it, me thinks I should try to be it. Historically, I have tied my “holiness” to how little I sin, or how “good” I am. And while there is certainly a connotation of this in being holy, the word really means “apartness or sacredness.” In essence, it means to be set aside for a special purpose.
“[God] hath saved us, and called [us] with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” 2 Tim. 1:9
Being holy implies being totally given over to God. It means to be “set aside” for His use. It means to be different from the world around us. Not to be cut off from the world, but to be in it, but not of it.
This poses a problem for me. God calls me to holiness, to be different, to be “set apart,” yet, some days, I’m no different from someone who doesn’t even believe in God. Some days, I’m worse. Some days, I wonder how God could love someone like me.
That verse I quoted above gives me great peace, however, because it shows that it’s nothing that I do that earns God’s approval. He has called us! He made the move towards us, not the other way around! He chose US “according to His own purpose and grace…BEFORE the world began!” I don’t know about you, but I look at that and go “whoah!” That means that my being set apart depends not on anything I’ve done, but on Him alone.
Having said that, does that give me a license to live any way I choose? No! In the words of St. Paul “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2) Since we’ve been given this grace, it should change the way we live.
What does that mean? It’s different for everyone. Somethings that I struggle with wouldn’t faze my brother, and vice-versa. The point is that, when we come to Christ, we are no longer our own. We are “set apart” for HIS purpose. If I feel Him leading me away from a certain thing that I’ve always done, then I need to obey that leading. He’s leading me away from death and sin and into life! LIFE! Abundant life! (See John 10:10)
A holy life should be a joyful, joy-filled life lived wholly for God. It’s not about counting sins and brow-beating ourselves, because if we’re focused on our sins, our focus is NOT on Christ. If we live for Him, according to His purpose, the “holy” thing will take care of itself.
Perspective. That’s the key.
Where is your focus?