Rediscovering What It Means to "Be Holy"
Have you ever been overcome by thoughts of the holiness of God? One time, as I listened to the choir sing "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty," I wept in the pew. I was simply overwhelmed by the perfect holiness of God; and I knew—except for my position in Christ—I am oh, so unholy.
A song I remember singing as a young girl was "Take Time to Be Holy." Do you remember?
Take time to be holy, the world rushes on;
Spend much time in secret with Jesus alone.
By looking to Jesus, like Him thou shalt be;
Thy friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.
The Lost World of Christian Holiness
I'm not surprised many hymns and songs in the Christian world emphasize God's holiness; but today, how many songs call us to personal holiness before Him?
Many years ago, people in America clearly understood the difference between "holy" and "unholy" in everyday living. The Anglican minister J.I. Packer wrote in Rediscovering Holiness, "There was a time when all Christians laid great emphasis on the reality of God's call to holiness and spoke with deep insight about His enabling of us for it."
In fact, the Puritans, he said, insisted that all life and relationships—marriage, parenting, friendships, career, stewardship, etc.—must become "holiness to the Lord." But that's not always true today. Packer said that there is a "lost world of authentic Christian holiness."
Getting Serious About Holiness
Packer, along with Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Andrew Murray, and Jerry Bridges, inspired me to examine my own heart in 2014. I read their books about holiness and asked the Spirit of God to be my teacher. Over time, I rediscovered what God means in these two words: "Be holy." It was so much more than I'd imagined.
The more I read about the beauty and power of holiness in the Christian life, the more I longed for it. Like others in the church, I can put up a good front . . . but God always sees my heart.
Last October, I attended the True Woman Conference sponsored by Revive Our Hearts. God used the speakers and His Word to open my heart even more. Before I went, I thought I was doing pretty good. One night, though, I wept in repentance, broken over my unholy state. I saw the pride, the comparisons, the jealousy, the selfishness. I looked good in public, but in my heart I was a mess.
And God wasn't done. Returning home, I couldn't get enough of reading about holiness and sanctification in Christ. God gave me a growing hunger for biblical holiness, not the half-hearted holiness that makes Him sick.
Christians can be deep in ministry and still spiritually shallow. The pursuit of holiness is meant to be daily, not sporadic. Busyness, distractions—even with good things—and lapses into sin are just a few of the many things robbing us of the beauty and joy of holiness.
The Many Aspects of Holiness
I discovered holiness has many dimensions:
- We are separated unto (or "set apart for") God so we can faithfully and powerfully serve Him.
- We are consecrated (devoted) to the Lord and called to live with higher motives.
- We can cooperate with God as He makes us over in holiness (or "sanctifies" us).
- We will sense a growing fear of displeasing Him.
- We desire to show respect for God's holiness through our own holy behavior.
- We will rejoice in holiness, finding it is not a drudgery. It's a blessing!
- We discover holiness isn't as much about rules and lists as it is a heart eager to obey God.
- We hunger to do God's will and take God's moral law as our rule and guide for holiness.
- We pursue purity of heart and holy behavior in every aspect of life—marriage, friendships, finances, work/ministry, physical passions, etc.
- We learn to love what God loves and hate what He hates.
- We pray for holiness, knowing it can only come from God.
- We reject all impurity—shunning and departing from every known sin and ungodly habit.
- We practice repentance as a daily exercise for growth in holiness.
- We focus on Jesus as our model of holiness, striving to be like Him.
It touches on every part of our walk with God!
Packer explains, "A holy person's motivating aim, passion, desire, longing, aspiration, goal and drive is to please God, both by what one does and what one avoids doing."
It is a response of deep heart gratitude for the grace God has given. And holiness is not just for the people in the pew—it's for everyone in "full-time Christian ministry" too. The great Scottish revival preacher, Robert Murray M'Cheyne, once declared, "My people's greatest need is my personal holiness."
It is God's will that we become holy people (1 Thess. 4:3). In fact, holiness is the goal of our salvation (Titus 2:11–14), and God gave His Word to train us in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16–17). Yes, the "world rushes on," as the song says . . . but if we are wise, we will "take time to be holy."
Do you want to go on a great adventure with God and find out for yourself what the Bible means when it says, "Be holy"?
By Dawn Wilson
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