Posts Tagged With: holiness

God’s Holiness. II: Holy People for a Holy God

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’ If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth; knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:14–19; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image from pxhere.com. Published under a Creative Commons 1.0 Public Domain license.

The previous post in this series introduced the concept of God’s holiness. It is an important attribute of God. The term refers to something that is different, set apart, or consecrated, as opposed to something common or ordinary. We then saw that God calls His children to share in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

How do we do this? How can we participate in God’s holiness? What does this look like? The discussion in this post and the two that follows it assumes that you are a Christian, who has received forgiveness of sins and everlasting life through faith in Christ.

First, we must admit that we cannot make ourselves holy. The Disciple’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 1988) has this note regarding 1 Peter 1:15–16:

“God alone is holy. Objects or persons can be classed as holy only by participation in His holiness.”

We cannot make ourselves holy. The best we can do is receive and participate in God’s holiness.

To do this, we must recognize that we are already holy through faith in Christ. Holiness is not something we seek or earn as much as it is something we live out and practice. If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, you are already holy. He has already purchased you with His blood and made you His own. 1 Peter 1:18 says that He has redeemed us. We belong to Him. He has already set you apart. God has given us His Holy Spirit living within us.

Most of us have moments when we do not feel holy, though. We know we are not acting holy. Sometimes, our behavior borders on diabolical. To change this behavior, we have to remove the obstacles that are hiding God’s holiness in our lives and let it flow out of us.

The exhortations in the next two posts are not a complete list. Numerous authors have written entire books on holiness in the Christian’s life. Three brief blog posts will not be able to cover everything. This is also not a step-by-step guide to holiness. Finally, I must emphasize that this is not a guarantee of instantaneous sanctification. The Christian life is a marathon, not a 100-meter dash; persistence and long-term obedience to God and fellowship with Him are necessary. Spiritual growth always takes time. Every Christian struggles with his or her own obstacles to holiness. Thus, we may each have to take different steps to grow. However, God has the same purpose in mind for each of us: That we may be conformed to the likeness of His Son (Romans 8:29).

In what ways would you like to see God’s holiness manifested in your life? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Holiness. I: Defining Holiness

“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

What do you think of when you hear the word “holy”? Most people immediately associate the word with God. We immediately guess that it has something to do with God or Jesus. “Holy” is one of those religious-sounding words that we might throw around without knowing exactly what it means.

Some churches will claim to be Holiness churches, with an emphasis on holiness or entire sanctification. Many in such churches will be adamant about wearing the right clothing (women always wearing dresses, for example) or listening to the right kind of music (it must mention Jesus by name, and it cannot sound like rock!). They have other rules: no dancing, no alcohol, no cigarettes, etc. If you feel that God is leading you to live such a lifestyle, please continue to do so; even if these rules are not explicitly biblical, they can protect you from certain excesses that can lead to sin. However, rules do not make a person holy.

The Hebrew word “qadosh” is usually translated as “holy, sanctified, or consecrated” in the Old Testament. It describes God as exalted above His creation, set apart from infirmity, impurity, and sin. People (priests, Nazirites, prophets, etc.), objects (oil, priestly garments, etc.), places (tabernacle, temple), and even times (the Sabbath, Passover, Day of Atonement) can be set apart for God’s worship, service, or glory.

The New Testament uses the Greek word “hagios.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that it comes from a word meaning “religious awe or reverence,” so “hagios” describes something as “worthy of veneration.” However, most New Testament writers use the term in the same way as the Hebrew word “qadosh.” Biblehub describes it like this:

“The fundamental (core) meaning … is ‘different’–thus a temple in the 1st century was hagios (‘holy’) because different from other buildings (Wm. Barclay). In the NT, hágios (‘holy’) has the ‘technical’ meaning ‘different from the world’ because ‘like the Lord.’”

The opposite of “holy” might be “common or ordinary.” God is holy; we approach Him with respect and awe (the Bible uses the term “fear of the Lord”). We should not think of Him as “the man upstairs” or as someone we can treat lightly and bring down to our level.

A church building is holy because we set it apart for God’s worship. Photo by Adrien Olichon on Pexels.com

As mentioned earlier, we may ascribe holiness to people or things that have been consecrated to God’s use and glory. Considering these objects might help us understand what it would mean for a Christian to be holy.

Think of some of the objects that might be considered “holy” by different Christians. Some churches have holy water, which church members might anoint themselves with before entering the church. Chemically speaking, it is just ordinary H2O. It is not “magic water.” However, it has been set apart as “holy.” We use it for worship; we do not use it to make coffee.

I have a small vial of “holy oil” that I might place on a person’s forehead while praying for them. There is nothing special or magical about that oil. I could probably refill the vial with extra-virgin olive oil from the grocery store, set it aside, and consider it “holy” because I use it only for prayer ministry, and have the same results. My church uses wine for communion; even though it is ordinary wine, and you might be able to buy it in any liquor store, we do not pop open the bottle to enjoy it with dinner. A church building is constructed with ordinary materials and may not look impressive or imposing; however, if it has been set apart for God’s worship and glory, it is holy and should be treated differently.

Each of these objects is holy, not because they are chemically unique, but because we set them apart to worship God, and He receives them. Thus, they can communicate God’s holiness to people.

It should be like that with us as followers of Jesus. God has received us into His family. He has set us apart to worship and glorify Him. We are declared holy by Him. We should participate in His holiness and communicate it to those around us.

Perhaps many of us pray, “Jesus, make me holy.” Instead, may our prayer and heart’s desire be, “Jesus, you have already made me holy. Reveal Your holiness in me.”

Where do you most see God’s holiness revealed? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Holiness, God's Moral Attributes | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Knowing God to Be Like Him

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).
“Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy’” (Leviticus 19:2).
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY’” (1 Peter 1:14–16).

Over the last few months, this blog has discussed what some theologians refer to as God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. These include His omnipotence (being all-powerful), omniscience (being all-knowing), omnipresence (being present everywhere), and His eternal nature (everything besides God has a beginning; He has no beginning and no end).

black cross on top of mountain
Image courtesy of Pexels.

Theologians will refer to some of God’s other qualities as His moral attributes, including His holiness, love, justice, goodness, mercy, etc. These qualities make God truly worthy of our worship. Omnipotence without justice or love would produce the worst tyrant imaginable. Omnipresence without love and mercy would give us no hope of escape; because of God’s love, His permanent presence makes Him a refuge to which we can flee. His majestic attributes set Him above everything He created. His moral attributes allow us to worship Him and take comfort in His presence, power, and wisdom.

On the other hand, the distinction between God’s majestic and moral attributes is somewhat arbitrary. Each of God’s qualities is an essential part of who He is. He does not slip between His majestic and moral attributes as different circumstances arise. He is always all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, eternal, holy, loving, and righteous. God does not fragment Himself and exercise only one or two of His attributes at one time, then switch to a few others as the circumstances dictate.

One clear distinction exists between God’s majestic and moral attributes. God urges His children to share in His moral attributes. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus told His disciples to be perfect, even as the Father is perfect. (If you think “perfect” here means sinless, or if you are prone to perfectionism, please read this post. God will love you even if you sin.) We should love others because God is love. We should forgive as we have been forgiven. The child of God should desire to be like his heavenly Father.

Several forthcoming posts will look at some of God’s moral attributes. As we consider them, we must remember that a proper definition of His qualities is necessary. The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). We will get some bizarre ideas if we define love the wrong way; the love of God should not be confused with the ideas of “tolerance” that are popular nowadays, or with the distorted “love” of a child molester, or with my undying love for cream-filled doughnuts. Nor, when we think of God’s holiness, should we mistake it for the self-righteousness arrogance of some religious people who claim to be holy. God is the ultimate example of love, justice, holiness, and goodness; we should not expect Him to submit to our culture’s expectations and standards.

As we reflect on who God is and what He is like, may we be drawn to become more like Him and be the people He made us to be.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Which of God’s attributes inspire your life and worship most? Feel free to share by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2020 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Moral Attributes, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Called to Be Saints—1 Corinthians 1:2

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…” (1 Corinthians 1:2, ESV, emphasis added).

As I am writing this, Halloween is ending. Children on Long Island have finished trick-or-treating, and most are no longer dressed like superheroes, cartoon characters, or any of the other alter egos they have adopted for the day. Now is the time to start eating all of that candy!

Like those who celebrate the day, Halloween wears a mask that clothes it in mystery. Some people choose to emphasize the “dark side” of Halloween. They talk about how October 31 was originally set apart to worship the Celtic god of death, Samhain. How evil or satanic their rituals were is a matter of debate; some authors will claim that our Halloween traditions are sanitized versions of abominable activities such as human sacrifice, while others claim that we know almost nothing about Celtic religious rituals.

Regardless of how the ancient Celts worshipped Samhain, the church adopted November 1 as All Saints’ Day, and thus October 31 became All Saints’ Evening. In older dialects of English, these would be “All Hallows’ Day” and “All Hallows’ Evening” (abbreviated as Halloween), respectively. Thus, while some seek to draw attention to the devil, the church traditionally focuses this day on those who lived and died by faith in Jesus (and, through them, to Christ Himself). While All Saints’ Day primarily honors heroes of the church, November 2 commemorates all who have died in faith and joined “the great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1); that day is known as All Souls’ Day (or, according to the Book of Common Prayer, the Commemoration of  All Faithful Departed).

So, why would we honor saints, or give them any thought? What is a saint? In 1 Corinthians 1:2, Paul tells the Christians at Corinth that they are “called to be saints.” They did not live up to the standard many of us associate with sainthood. First Corinthians is filled with reprimands for their immorality, divisiveness, pride, etc. They were far from perfect. Yet, Paul calls them saints.

A “saint” is simply  “one who is holy,” yet we tend to be confused about that term as well. A holy person is not perfect. Holiness, in both biblical Greek (hagios) and Hebrew (kadosh), implies that something or someone has been set apart for sacred use. For example, if we say that a church building is holy, we are not saying anything about the quality of its architecture or that it was built out of magic bricks; we are saying that the building has been set apart as a place to worship God. You don’t play volleyball on the altar! Likewise, if your body and mind have been set apart for God’s glory, you realize that these parts of your personality should honor Him.

A Christian is holy not because he or she is perfect, but because he or she has been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood (1 Corinthians 6:20). We belong to Him. He has claimed us as His own. He has set us apart to live for Him. While perfection may not be realistic for us in this life, many of us are living below our spiritual privileges because we do not act like those who belong to Jesus.

As we take off the disguises of Halloween, let us remind ourselves on All Saints’ Day that we are called to clothe ourselves in the Christ, to mark ourselves as those who have been set apart for Him. “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh” (Romans 13:14, NIV). When we think of the great saints of church history (such as Saint Patrick, Saint Francis of Assisi, etc.), let us remember our place in the body of Christ. We should not merely honor and commemorate the great saints of church history; we are challenged to imitate them, because we also are called to be saints.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Soul Abhors a Vacuum—Matthew 12:43–45

“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” (Matthew 12:43–45, NASB)

Those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction may understand this passage very well, along with others who have fought the battle against life-controlling issues. “Out with the old” is not enough: We have to welcome the new things God has for us.

It is important to take note of the context of this passage. Jesus has been answering His critics, who claim that His signs and wonders (including casting demons out of people) prove that He is controlled by Satan (Matthew 12:24). Jesus answers them with several points: one of those is that, to plunder an opponent and take his possessions, you first have to bind him (v. 29). First, you bind the strong man. Then, you can plunder his house and take what he possesses. Likewise, you first must bind the demon (bring him under your control, disarm him, and bring him into your subjection); then, you can claim the person he has controlled.

This particular passage (Matthew 12:29) provides the background for verses 43–45. The demon has been cast out of the person whom he had claimed as his home. Now evicted, he wanders aimlessly. Life must really stink if you are a demon who cannot tempt, possess, or oppress someone. If you’re a demon, you make life miserable for humans and try to deter the work of God in their lives; it’s what you do.

The demon has been cast out of the man, but nothing else has been done. The man had Satan in his life. Now, he has just a vacant hole in his heart. However, the soul, like nature, abhors a vacuum. It cannot remain empty for long; something will eventually fill the hole.

So, since nothing has replaced the demon’s place in the man’s life, the demon returns with a whole group of his buddies. To make sure he does not get kicked out again, he brings reinforcements.

How does this play out in everyday life? The New Testament ascribes many forms of suffering to the work of demons: physical illness or handicaps, emotional turmoil (what we now almost exclusively attribute to mental illness and treat with medication and counseling), etc. Just for the record, I believe in many cases demons may find a weak spot in our makeup and capitalize on it; therefore, in some cases, physical or mental illness can have a natural or biological cause which has been manipulated by a demon into some kind of manifestation.

Today, many addicts will refer to the “demon in the bottle” (or whatever other container delivers their life-controlling chemical). The demon does not live inside the bottle, but it is manipulating their minds, emotions, thoughts, perspective, and choices. Those who seek deliverance cannot simply throw out the bottle, bag of weed, cigarette packages, magazines, etc. That demon must flee! Once he flees, you need immediate opposing occupation! To grab hold of lasting deliverance demands replacement: out with the old and evil, in with the new and holy.

The recovering addict may start attending nightly meetings, to avoid stopping off at the bar to unwind. Twelve Step programs urge their members to add prayer, meditation, and service to others into their lives; this can provide a sense of purpose which enables them to resist and avoid temptation.

However, this lesson is not for the addict alone. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); all Christians are in recovery from a life of sin. However, we cannot just stop by fighting off the demon. We need to invite the Holy Spirit to possess that hole in our soul. When tempted, we need to turn to the resources God has for us: when Satan offers illicit sex, drugs, hatred, or any of his other garbage, we need to grab hold of what God wants us to receive. Prayer, Bible study, worship and fellowship should be the foundation of the believer’s life.

Cleaning out the garbage of our past, leaving a vacuum/hole in our soul, and not filling that hole with the things of God is a recipe for spiritual disaster.

This post copyright © 2016 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life, Scripture Sabbath | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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