His Without Reserve

I stumbled onto holiness not long ago, and it caught me by surprise. The scripture read: “Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). My first reaction was a mixture of denial and distress. Then I found this: “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev 11:44). If being holy meant what I thought it meant, I faced a spiritual dilemma: (a) These scriptures are a mistake, or (b) I need to learn what holiness really is. I asked myself  questions and found answers. In my search I limited myself to the Bible and Bible-study tools.

Bible writers considered holiness very important. It was important for the Children of Israel, and, according to Peter, it was important for the early Christians. Moses relayed this message from the Lord to the Israelites: “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy” (Lev. 19:2). Peter quoted Leviticus when he wrote: “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15, 16). Is holiness important for us today? I wanted to know.
    Question: Is it really possible to be holy?
    Question: Why are we called to holiness?
    Question: What difference does it make whether you and I are holy?
    Question: In the grand scheme of things, is holiness beneficial? Does it help me in some way? Does it benefit others? Does it glorify God?
    Question: What does “glorify God” mean?
    Question: Because the Scriptures give no readily apparent reason for us to be holy, I wondered, Is God arbitrary when it comes to holiness?

I learned that “holy” has taken on the connotation of “perfect” or “sinless.” That meaning had been in my mind as well. I began to see that if we have only that meaning in mind, it blocks the development of the most satisfying aspect of being a Christian. So when I discovered the basic meaning of the words translated “holy,” I was greatly relieved.

According to Bible scholars, the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated “holy” and “sanctified” and their derived English words, have had different but clearly related meanings throughout past centuries. This book employs the two principal meanings: (a) set apart from the common for God’s special use (consecrated), and (b) growing morally so as to reflect the character of Christ. The first is seen in the Christian’s daily consecration of himself to the will of God. The second is seen in the continuing growth of the Christian over a lifetime, growth in the knowledge of God and in possessing the attitudes and qualities of Christ. Both these meanings find expression in the chapters of this book, but they are employed in separate chapters to keep these two meanings clear to the reader and easy to understand. (1)

This book does not deal with the outward behavior that results from holiness, as important as that topic is. By “outward behavior” I mean (a) the common motions, gestures, and responses of a person to everyday events and in everyday activities, and (b) good deeds that reflect Christian motives and that bring hope and comfort to others. The Bible teaches the importance of Christian behavior as the outworking of our love for Christ and reveals that it is a requirement for salvation. (See James 2:14-26.)

This book is about glorifying God. It’s not about preparing for the second coming of Christ as we usually think of preparation. Don’t misunderstand. Being sure our sins are forgiven is an absolutely essential prerequisite in preparing for that grand event. But this book is not about that. Knowing how to use our spiritual gifts in service for the church is an integral part of every Christian’s personal mission. But this book is not about that.

This book is about the inner self, that secret sanctuary where our conscience resides and where we make our moral decisions, the place Jesus called heart and soul and mind. These pages are about what can happen when Jesus knocks at the door of our sanctuary and we invite Him in. They leave to others the call to outward Christian behavior because it is possible for a person to portray Christian behavior while having an unconverted heart.

This book is about whether we will allow Christ to be enthroned in our heart. It invites us to choose to answer Yes when God asks: “Will you turn your thoughts and your life over to Me without reservation? Will you surrender yourself, accepting My will for you every day?”

Come with me now on a journey along the Highway of Holiness, a highway that leads upward as we respond to the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.