His Without Reserve

"Did you just hear a knock at the door? I heard a voice, too. It's suppertime but let's see who's there."

A very good friend of Jesus once said that this knock and this voice belong to the Lord: "I am standing at the door and knocking. If you hear My voice and open the door, I will come in to you and will dine with you, and you with Me" (Rev. 3:20, paraphrased).

"Indeed, it is Jesus!"

You and I invite Him in with a mixture of delight and uneasiness. This is an extraordinary experience. Just the three of us, like the Emmaus supper on resurrection evening. Sitting across the table from you, He opens the conversation: "What have you been doing today?" And when you've shared your activities and interests with Him, He asks me how things are going. I wonder, Is He truly interested in the details of my day?

Then you courageously ask Him, "What has Your day been like?" He stretches out His arms to illustrate the scope of His concerns and plans throughout the world. How delightful it is to have the Lord confide in us! What fellowship!

At the end of the meal He rises to go. We hardly know what to say. We want Him to stay and stay, but we each have a full evening planned. And He might ask whether He may stay overnight.

"I know what you're thinking," He says cordially. "I must leave, yet with Me in your heart, you will have Me with You always. You will live in Me and I in you." We nod eagerly. Our uneasiness melts. With us always? Never separated? He waves good-by. And so, in this remarkable way, we and Jesus have entered into a special relationship with one another, a fellowship at the deepest level.

Called Into Fellowship With Jesus

As you and I bond with our Lord over many days and many suppers, a fellowship of surpassing beauty develops between us and Him. Of this experience Paul wrote: "God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord" (1 Cor. 1:9). We must not skip over the word "fellowship" lightly. John the Beloved wrote this: "We declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3). Can we imagine anything more delightful and satisfying than having fellowship with the Divine Ones? (John 14:20.)

Before we explore the exquisite meanings packed into the Greek word for "fellowship," let's return to our exploration of "holiness." Hebrews 12:14 is a foundational text on the subject. It raises holiness to a highly significant level in our Christian lives. "Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Our greatest desire is to see the Lord, so we are not going to be content until we know exactly and fully what holiness is. In our search we will also find that there's a tight relationship between "fellowship" with Jesus and "holiness"!

Breathing Life Into Holiness

As we have seen, pursuing holiness involves letting go of worldliness (as described in the Bible), and taking hold of Christ. "Holiness" does not mean becoming good, then better, then best. It is not simply adding religious activities to a worldly life-style.

Abram heeded God's call to leave one place and go to another. This was an act of holiness. When the Lord brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He said: "I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Myself" (Ex. 19:4). That was an experience of holiness: out of Egypt . . . to Himself. He appealed to them again and again to turn their backs on the culture of Egypt and to take hold of Him. He said, "If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples" (Deut 26:19). Isn't that marvelous? "My treasured possession!"

God's desire to have a people of His own did not terminate at the cross. Paul wrote that Christ "gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own" (Titus 2:14). In these last days God calls His people to come out (Rev. 18:4), and when the New Jerusalem is ready for the redeemed, He invites them to come in (Rev 22:17). (See also Matt. 25:21.)

In the Scriptures "holiness" refers "to persons or things which are removed from the common uses of the world and are set apart for the service or honor of God." (1) The Lord introduced this principle of godly life when he brought the children of Israel out of Egypt. They were to be His people in a special way. He said: "You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean" (Lev. 10:10). Not only were they to consider the furniture of the tabernacle special; they were to consider themselves special.

Holiness is turning oneself over to our Master to be used by Him, withholding nothing. It is devotion, dedication, consecration. "Hezekiah . . . did what was good and right and faithful before the Lord his God. And every work that he undertook in the service of the house of God, and in accordance with the law and the commandments, to seek his God, he did with all his heart; and he prospered"(2 Chron 31:20, 21). Holiness, then, is making wholehearted decisions to carry out the will of God.

Holiness is reliance upon God, leaning on Him: "On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them [Assyria], but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth" (Isa 10:20).

Holiness is replacing our ways with God's ways. "O that My people would listen to me, that Israel would walk in My ways!" (Psalm 81:13). Instead of wallowing in the quagmire of our own ways, with the Lord's help we may have the solid footing of His ways. "Turn my eyes from looking at vanities," wrote the psalmist; "give me life in your ways" (Psalm 119:37).

What Holiness Is Not

The word "holy" has acquired distasteful meanings or connotations. These descriptions from The Interpreter's Bible portray what true holiness is not:

someone who is artificially good, a "holy Joe."

someone who "wears a halo of sanctity which makes his [religious demeanor] forbidding"

someone who "frowns upon simple pleasures and feeds on the dry crumbs of ascetic negativism"

"many a 'holy' person wears a mask of sinlessness behind which he hides a pit of writhing sins like pride, envy, etc." (2)

"Holy" is not pompous and noisy, nor does it call attention to itself. When noticed, it reminds the observer of Jesus and attracts the observer to Him. In his description of a noble woman, Peter defined Christian nobility in all-female and male alike: "Do not adorn yourselves outwardly . . . ; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight" (1 Peter 3:3, 4).

Finally, Isaiah passes along to us this humorous word of the Lord about people who pretentiously worship Him, "Who say, 'Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!' These are smoke in My nostrils" (Isa 65:5, NASB).

Working Together With Jesus

Holiness is bonding with Jesus. It is experiencing fellowship with Him at the deepest level. Where we read "fellowship" in English, New Testament authors wrote the Greek word koinonia. This word has a broader, more satisfying meaning than our English "fellowship" does. It includes "communion," "partnership," and "participation."(3)

The author of the hymn "Blest Be the Tie That Binds" wrote of "the fellowship of kindred minds" and of "mutual woes" and "mutual burdens" shared. (4) The bonding of koinonia grows out of shared blessings from God, shared experiences along our Christian pathway, and participation with other Christians on behalf of the kingdom. Most of all it captures in one word the truth of the Christian triangle. You are at the lower left angle, I am at the lower right angle, and Jesus is at the apex. As you and I move upward toward Jesus, we are drawn closer and closer to each other. Bonding with Christ bears the fruit of entering into true fellowship with others.

Everyone, Christian or not, enjoys project success-working together with others to achieve a shared goal. However, words cannot express the joy that we Christians experience as we work together to achieve Christ's goals for all the peoples of our world.

The intimacy of koinonia permeates these thoughts of Jesus as He spoke to His disciples: "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete" (John 15:7-11).

What, then, is holiness for you and me in our lives day by day? 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. It is putting space between worldly attitudes and the attitudes of Jesus. It is magnifying the role of Jesus in our lives until there is none of self.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus,

Look full in His wonderful face;

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace." (5)