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Part 3: Why Should I Be Holy?

 

Every parent has lived through a year or two of constant "why's."

Daddy: "Jimmy! Don't eat that dirt!"

Jimmy: "Why not?"

Mommy: "Wipe your nose!"

Jimmy: "Why?"

Older brother: "Leave my things alone."

Jimmy: "Why?"

And on and on it goes. "Why?" "Why?" "Why?"

Are we impudent when we ask the Lord why He has called us to be "holy"? Shouldn't we just accept His instructions by faith, knowing that what He asks of us is for our best interest? Of course. However, He sometimes has provided the answers if we just look for them.

Chapter 8 closed with this description of holiness: "Holiness is focusing the spotlight of God's embracing love on the inner sanctuary of our souls, and choosing to have Him banish what is not of His making." We're now going to turn our attention to the Scriptural reasons why Christians are urged, even commanded, to pursue holiness.

We're Looking for Reasons

Paul highly recommended holiness as a spiritual duty for his beloved converts in Corinth. He wrote: "Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God" (2 Cor. 7:1).

Why, Lord? Please tell us why. Why do You want your children to be holy? Why do you want us to set ourselves apart from the culture around us? Why do you want us to be bonded to You? Why do you want us to stand out? Why?

Our text offers two reasons: "in the fear of God" and "since we have these promises." "In the fear of God" means that every part of spiritual development from babyhood to full maturity should occur in the setting of the goodness and holiness of God. Setting ourselves apart from ungodly principles and attitudes grows out of respect for our heavenly Father. We are members of His family, and holiness is a family trait. That's a good reason, isn't it?

The second reason grows out of the phrase "these promises." What promises? Verses 14 to 18 of the preceding chapter describe holiness and list the promises:

Holiness described:

Not being mismatched with unbelievers.

Not coupling righteousness with lawlessness.

Understanding that light has no fellowship with darkness.

Responding to the call to "come out from them (ungodly people) and be separate.

Reason for choosing to be special for God:

We are the temple of the living God.

The Promises:

"I will live in them and walk among them."

"I will be their God, and they shall be my people."

"I will be your father."

"You shall be my sons and daughters."

Now we have an outline presentation of four clear descriptions of holiness; a reason for holiness; and four wonderful promises. Our "why" is answered resoundingly. We are satisfied about "making holiness perfect in the fear of God."

Isn't it reassuring to know that we are members of a permanent family with the Divine One as Father? In light of His gift of salvation, isn't our Father justified in asking us to be loyal members of the family? Perhaps we don't realize that He is emotionally involved in seeing that His character traits are being developed in His children. Listen to how He felt about the children of Israel as He guided them to the promised land:

"Today the Lord has obtained your agreement: to be his treasured people, as he promised you, and to keep his commandments; for him to set you high above all nations that he has made, in praise and in fame and in honor; and for you to be a people holy to the Lord your God, as he promised" (Deut 26:18, 19). Certainly we too may claim this warm-hearted relationship now through Jesus Christ our Savior.

Two Warnings and an Encouragement

The Scriptures are filled with warnings that if the Lord's people did not obey Him, they would lose the protective and prospering relationship He wanted to have with them. In speaking of holiness, He has warned us today to separate from uncleanness and from the allure of worldliness. Dangers face those who neglect to form an enduring bond with the Lord.

A Warning: Hebrews 12 begins by talking about the holiness of separation from ungodliness and the holiness of perseverance: "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the heroes and heroines of Hebrews 11], let us lay aside every weight [ungodliness], and the sin which so easily ensnares us [contamination], and let us run with endurance [perseverance] the race that is set before us [spiritual growth], looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith [the source of our character development]."

Then we come to a warning flag: Verse14 reads: "Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." What is the meaning of these words of warning-"no one will see the Lord"? Is the apostle saying that we must pursue holiness (consecration) if we want to see the Lord at His coming? It may be. Jesus said: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8). "Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? . . . Those who have clean hands and pure hearts" (Ps. 24:3, 4). One commentator wrote: "Only the pure in heart can expect to see God." (1) Another said: "To see God, in the Hebrew phrase, is to enjoy him; and without holiness of heart and life this is impossible. No soul can be fit for heaven that has not suitable dispositions for the place." (2)

A Warning: Jesus taught: "If you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt. 6:14, 15). How does this warning relate to holiness? In this way: holiness is our choice of heart and mind to receive the gift of godliness. This choice leads us, over time, to think about sinners the way our Father thinks about them. What does God think of sinners? He loves them. They are valuable to Him, for He gave His Son to save them. What does He offer them? Forgiveness. So, those who are holy will be as eager to forgive others as their Father is to forgive them. Forgiving is a family trait. Our refusal-God forbid-to forgive those who have sinned against us illuminates our unfitness for family membership. Jesus was frank. Plainly said, when we will not forgive, we are among the unforgiven!

The first warning speaks of being unfit to see God. The second warning speaks of the necessity of forgiving others in order to receive His gracious gift of forgiveness for ourselves. These facts are clearly stated by John: "Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in [them] purify themselves, just as he is pure" (1 John 3:2, 3).

An Encouragement: We must not, under any circumstances, slide into the idea that we gain merit with God by perfecting holiness. The purpose of full consecration is not to try to earn salvation and favor with God. Just as forgiveness of our sins is all "of grace," so is heart religion. Consecration is not for Brownie points. It is our heart's gift of unspeakable gratitude to our gracious Redeemer.

Although it's painful to imagine being denied eternal life for any reason, it's devastating to imagine such a loss occurring because we harbor impurity in our hearts or have failed to adopt the love habits of our Father. The pursuit of holiness, we are reminded, is the pursuit of purity. And the pursuit of holiness is also giving up our ways and adopting God's ways. Our control center must be fully in His hands.

Benefits of Pursuing Holiness

When little Jimmy comes into the house with dirty hands, he will hear his Mommy order: "Jimmy, go wash your hands. It' almost lunch time."

"Why? They're not dirty."

"Just do as you're told," Mommy states.

Mommy is getting very tired of all Jimmy's "why's." It just takes too much time to explain over and over again that if you want to keep from getting sick, you ought to wash your hands before eating.

Our Father never seems to get tired of answering our questions. You'd think that after telling sinners how to be His very own for thousands of years, He would despair. But He doesn't give up. "Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16). What kind of throne? The throne of ledgers and accounts? No! The throne of grace!

God longs to have a large family of daughters and sons. He wants to replace Satan's family traits with Heaven's family traits. So He has not only warned us that our natural ways lead to death; He has lovingly beckoned us with the benefits of the holy life in His family.

Do I hear you humming a gospel song?

"I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God-

I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!

Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod;

For I'm part of the family, the family of God." (3)

What Christian doesn't thrill with the opportunity to develop God's family traits of character and, in so doing, providing a winning argument in the court of the universe that God is love?