I don’t know how anyone who calls themselves a Christian could argue about the importance of holiness.
And yet you know, the fact of the matter is, if you are serious about this, as a goal, if you make this a top priority, in helping others, helping them be holy, you are going to find this goal of holiness, is actually pretty controversial.
It is a controversial kind of goal, because when the Bible commands us to be holy, and the Bible talks about personal holiness, it’s not simply talking about being nice.
That wouldn’t get people too upset, I don’t think.
It is not even simply talking about going to church more often.
That wouldn’t be so controversial.
Or even being more religious.
It’s certainly not talking about having this long list of rules, of dos and don’ts.
And it is definitely not talking about this attitude where someone feels superior to others. Instead when the Bible calls us to holiness it is talking about something much more personal and intense.
The word the Scriptures uses when it calls us to be holy comes from a noun that basically means to be different. When we say the word holy we normally first think of good or pure, something we do, but it is actually a little deeper than that. Holiness starts with something God does.
It comes from a word that can be translated literally, set apart.
A holy person is a set apart person.
If you want a small illustration to help you picture what it means to be holy, someone has said, you might think of reading the newspaper.
“You’re reading it, getting information, and as you’re reading through it suddenly there is one article with some information you can use. You want to use it in perhaps in a lecture you are giving somewhere, or a paper, anyway, you want to use it. The only way to use it is to set it apart. You have to cut it out of the paper. You have to set it apart from the newspaper. If you don’t do that, you can’t use it. To cut something out, to set it apart for your use, is part of what the Bible means when it talks about being holy.”
Being holy is being set apart.
For a specific purpose.
We can think way back to the Old Testament where they had items that they set apart for use in the temple, and though they might have been everyday items, they couldn’t be used like that any longer, because they had a new purpose, they were sanctified, consecrated for God.
And so when we talk about helping people be holy then, if that is a goal, we are talking about helping them live distinctively different lives.
The command be holy comes from the noun holy.
Meaning really we are talking about helping set apart people live lives that are clearly set apart for God.
That’s what we mean when we say, we want to help people be holy.
Which, sounds nice here in church, and I am sure, we all nod our heads, and most of us would think great, that’s how we should live. But the thing is, when we are not here in church, and we are outside, actually working with people and trying to help them grow, what we find, very often, is that this whole idea doesn’t sound so great, to them, it is actually very controversial if you are working with people and getting involved in their lives and helping them change.
For one thing, it is not the first thing on most people’s minds when they come for help.
Instead, when most people come to you for help, you will find they are thinking primarily in reference to themselves and not necessarily to God.
He is on the outside of their concerns, maybe at best.
The pressing questions for them, the ones they are most concerned about, are how can you help me be happy and how can God help me be happy, that’s more what they are interested in.
And what we are saying is, where we are starting when it comes to helping people, is quite different. We are starting with God. This is the most urgent issue in our minds. And we are asking how can God use this situation in your life, whatever is happening, and how can you respond to it in such a way that makes it clear you are set apart from the world for Him, and for His use?
How can you be holy?
The way a lot of people look at the world basically, is they are at the center, and everything else is a tool for them to use, for their pleasure and for their good.
Even God, and even religion.
When we talk about being holy, though, it’s like, our goal is to flip that whole way of looking at the world upside down, and show people God is actually at the center, and that everything we see around us is an instrument for His glory and pleasure, even you and me and them.
It would be nice for example, if I have a spouse that treats me the way I like and is doing what I think a spouse should do, that’s great and we should work towards that, but when it comes to marriage, and the ultimate decisions I make about marriage, that’s not the most important priority at the end of the day, it’s I belong to God, and how can I live in this marriage relationship in a way that honors Him?
It would be nice, if everyone in my community thought what I was doing was great, and I was applauded and people said, that is some guy as I walked down the street, but other people’s opinions of me, can’t be the final factor when it comes to make decisions, what matters most is what God wants from me instead.