There is a decided air of un-holiness today. It is cooler to be “irreverent” and even sacrilegious. I heard recently of a Lady Gaga music video in which she played a nun, a fairly sacred occupation, only, her nun habit was decidedly unholy, made completely out of latex. That’s the same material used for condoms. Of course, Madonna did much the same thing in her video “Like a Prayer” when she play-acted a romantic relationship with an angel about twenty years ago, so nothing is new. That was “cool”. That was “hip”. Because of their permissive attitude toward child molesters in the pastorate, the once “holy” Catholic Church has come under fire. It seems that every other preacher, on TV or at the pulpit at home, is under a cloud of suspicion, damaging the reputation of all them. I could give countless examples, but all to prove that the permissive, unholy attitude is pervasive. No question holiness itself is under fire, painted with the broad brush of hypocrisy, because so many Christians have been bad at it. Just as the following verse from 1 Timothy predicted.
“For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” (2Ti 3:2-5, emphasis mine)
If there is a time for holiness it is now. The world needs to know that there is a difference between the world and the church. Though we are to be relevant and engaging with the world, we need to be identified separate from them. Even though we speak the language, we need to be from another culture. We are to be “in the world, but not of it.”
There is only One God and we are to be holy before Him. We are to separate ourselves from the world to be holy before God. Holiness isn’t cheap, but it is free. It’s like being given a Mercedes-Benz. It is free to you, but you know the giver paid a terrific price for it. Holiness is our response to that great gift. By the gift of grace we are saved, and this not because of what we have done, but because of the love of the One who saves us. Holiness is our response to God for His grace. Some people call it works. Others call it gratitude. But the Bible calls it holiness.
How do we do this? First let us establish that we must do this. We have a holy calling as his people, a mandate to be holy. This isn’t an optional command, or a command to obey when it is convenient, or un-contentious, like Sunday morning. This is a call to holiness 24/7, so that in every thought, and in every act, we are a holy people. Jesus was able to accomplish this. Can we do it too? We must. And God’s grace be upon us where and when we fail.
But if we are holy, won’t that make it more difficult to minister to the world? I mean, if we come off as “holier-than-thou” wouldn’t people stop listening to us and to the message we preach? In a way, that’s like saying that the plate has to be a little dirty in order for the food on it to be appetizing. People aren’t attracted to food served on dirty plates. They won’t be attracted to the gospel served by “dirty” people. Would you listen to a lesson on sexual purity from a preacher who had been caught in adultery? Or fiscal responsibility from a thief? Or how to eat healthy from someone morbidly obese? The messenger colors the message, no matter how pure the message may be. People need to see Christians for whom the message has impacted and changed before they will listen to it.
What has the message changed in your life? How has it made your life different? That’s the difference holiness makes. But Christians get busy, and busy-ness makes for lazy holiness. We end up saving holiness for Sunday and when the preacher is looking. Is that the holiness the Bible calls for?
A HOLY PEOPLE
As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
A HOLY BODY
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
A HOLY CALLING
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, (2Ti 1:8-9)