The Case for Holiness

“I’m free, I’m free,” seems to be the mantra of the church today. The quest for cultural relevance has created a church struggling with her identity. Schizophrenic, she’s simultaneously trying to live like the world and claim holiness. According to the Bible, this cannot be so, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” 1 John 2:15

For many Christians, “holiness” invokes memories of “dos” and “don’ts.” Many recall stern prohibitions against drinking and dancing and associating with those who do. The postmodern, emerging church rejects this legalistic notion of holiness and replaces it with a cultural or societal “holiness” that does not line up with the Word of God. In short, we’ve “thrown the baby out with the bathwater.”

Citing that they’re no longer subject to the law, many professing Christians do what they want under the umbrella of grace. It’s no wonder that many professing Christians mirror mainstream American culture in divorce, spousal abuse, extramarital sex, pornography consumption, materialism, abortion and homosexuality.

To be holy simply means that all we are and all we have belongs to God. Additionally, every aspect of our lives is to be conformed to and directed toward Him. The most basic meaning of the word “holy” is to be set apart or dedicated to God. This truth is citied in Leviticus 26:12, “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.”

Biblical holiness doesn’t rule out morality, in fact, it’s actually more in that it’s a unique relationship that God desires with His people. To be sure, this relationship has moral ramifications, but it precedes simple moral behavior. Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy – “Be holy because I am holy.” – 1 Peter 1:16. It’s this primacy of relationship with God that keeps us from reducing holiness to mere morality. We obey the teachings of scripture because of our love for God, not because we are forced to do so. We avoid certain activities because we know they don’t please Him not because we fear retribution.

Bottom-line, God’s call to be holy is an all-inclusive claim on our lives, our loves, and our very identities. He is to be our first and only love. We are to belong entirely to Him. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ requires nothing less than death to our fallen, egocentric selves in order to live in and for Him.

“I have been crucified with Christ,” says Paul, “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” – Gal. 2:20. Elsewhere, Paul tells us that our lives are “hidden with Christ in God” – Col. 3:3 – and that we have been “seated with God in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus” – Eph. 2:6. These scriptures teach us that by virtue of our union with Jesus, we participate in the life of God. He dwells in us, and we dwell in Him. As such, we can say that in Christ, God’s holiness is our holiness.

Indeed, we are free, free to allow Christ to live in and through us. We are free to yield to him. In Jesus’ own words, “…If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” – Matthew 16:24

Isn’t it time, we throw off the shackles of this world system, stop playing games, and return to our first love? “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,” says Jesus, “but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” – Mark 8:35-36. Join me in repenting for selfishness and yielding anew to Him. LORD, teach me your ways that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you! In Jesus’ name, AMEN!

Ray Buck