What is holiness?
We hear it a lot in the church world, but what does it mean to be “holy?” And why is it important?
First of all, the true definition of “holy” is:
- dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred.
- (of a person) devoted to the service of God.
- morally and spiritually excellent.
Yet the second definition of how our culture uses the word “holy” is in a humorous context:
- used in exclamations of surprise or dismay. – “holy smoke!“
This google search alone is telling of how our culture has misused the pure and divine nature of the meaning of “holy.” People don’t take it seriously. Not only that, they mock and ridicule those who try to live “morally and spiritually excellent” and “devoted to the service of God.” The enemy has warped this inherently good characteristic of God into something that is seen as “haughty” and “lofty.”
Our culture has misused the pure and divine nature of the meaning of “holy.”
But guess what – holiness is not merely being “a good person” or “morally upright.” It is also the power of God. Holiness is in a category that is completely its own. When we size up next to an all-powerful, all-present, all-knowing, and holy God, we realize how truly spiritually unclean we are. And I don’t say that to discourage you. It should actually encourage you, because Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to live in us so we can live the life God designed us to live – in close relationship with Him forever!
Today, we are going to reclaim the true meaning and beauty of holiness.
“Holiness is completely unique, and utterly all-powerful, radiating out from God like an energy. In fact, God’s holiness is so overwhelming, that it can actually be dangerous to approach.”1 BibleProject
There are multiple stories in the Bible that show just how powerful God’s holiness is.
In the Old Testament, human beings could not “boldly approach the throne room of God” (Hebrews 4:16) because we didn’t have Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, to take away all of our sin (past, present, and future). Therefore, it was only by the grace of God that those who were in His presence did not die right there on the spot (Leviticus 10:1-3; Exodus 33:18-20). And why did people die when they entered the presence of God? Was it because God is an angry, violent God? No! Remember, because we have ALL fallen short in some way (lying, cheating, gossiping, etc.), we are not worthy to be in the presence of a God who is entirely morally pure now and forever.
There has not been nor will ever be anyone like our God. He is so holy that we don’t even have a frame of reference to understand what He is like. No one can stand against or compare to the greatness and holiness of the Lord God Almighty. Holiness is not just one characteristic of God, it is His very essence. Everything He does is holy: He is holy in justice, in love, in wisdom, in power, in sovereignty, in grace, in anger, in patience, in compassion. And why is this important? Because as Paul Tripp said so eloquently, “without the holiness of God, there would be no moral law to which every human being is responsible. Without the holiness of God, there would be no divine anger with sin. Without the holiness of God, there would be no perfect Son sent as an acceptable sacrifice for sin. Without the holiness of God, there would have been no vindication of the Resurrection. Without the holiness of God, there would be no final defeat of Satan. Without the holiness of God, there would be no hope of a new heaven and earth where holiness will reign over us and in us forever.”2
Holiness is not just one characteristic of God, it is His very essence.
Think about it in this way: Why is it that the third person of the trinity is named “The Holy Spirit?” He’s not called “The Feel-Good Spirit”, “The Gracious Spirit”, “The Encouraging Spirit” or even “The Loving Spirit.” Don’t get me wrong – He carries all of those qualities, but what separates Him from all others is His holiness. That is the ultimate goal and what is most important to God. Because let me remind you: We are not worthy to be in the presence of God in and of ourselves. We are born sinful beings – automatically separated from God the day we are born. Again, don’t hear what I’m not saying! Of course God is with us and for us and loves us. But if we want to spend eternity with Him, we must be set apart from the world. We must live righteous lives according to His will and His commandments. This isn’t legalistic Christianity – this is true love and devotion to the One who gave His life for us to be in perfect unity with Him. We choose to live above reproach because it’s not just the “right thing to do” – it’s actually reinforcing how God created us to live and who He created us to be. Holiness isn’t an unreachable standard. When we submit to the Holy Spirit’s leading, it is actually a beautiful way of life. Holiness is every good thing because holy is who God is!
“So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16 (NLT)
Friend, do not be discouraged! We are able to live a righteous, holy life only because of The Holy Spirit living in us and through us.
Remember, Jesus didn’t die and rise to life again for us to just live “happy” lives. He ascended to Heaven so He could send His Holy Spirit to dwell with us here on earth. He did everything He did so we could be empowered to live in wholeness, freedom, and in right relationship with God the Father. This is only possible through holy living. Let me be clear: Perfectionism is not the goal. God didn’t create us to condemn us by not being “perfect like Him.” He doesn’t want us to carry around shame when we do fall short, because we all know we do at times! God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, but He does want us to pursue holiness because that is how we stay close to the Father! So if/when you do mess up, run to the Father. Not away from Him. Because of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice and atonement for our sins, we can “approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV).
So now dear friend, let’s go into the world and show everyone the joy, the goodness, the freedom, and the beauty of holiness.
1 BibleProject. (2021). “Holiness.” https://bibleproject.com/learn/holiness/
2 Paul Tripp Ministries, Inc. (10, Sept, 2018). “The Doctrine of Holiness.”https://www.paultripp.com/articles/posts/the-doctrine-of-holiness-article
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