Last week we talked about spiritual sacrifices and what that means when practising holiness. But, how can we practise holiness if we have not yet fully grasped what that entails?
Over 40 years ago holiness (or what I perceived as holiness) was something I experienced on a regular basis when I stepped into my church every Sunday morning. At that time I attended an Anglican church. This was before they listened to the clamour of the world and gave in to its demands, rather than obeying the Word of God. Back then, you could hear a pin drop on a Sunday morning as the sanctuary filled with worshippers. When I came into the church, I would see the cross ahead of me, and before I entered the pew, I would bow my head, not in worship of a piece of wood, but in remembrance of who had hung on that cross. Jesus was given my respect, worship and praise as soon as I entered the sanctuary.
As I knelt in worship, I would evaluate the previous week, and confess any sins the Lord brought to mind as I prepared my heart for the following service. I stayed this way until the first strands of the pipe organ announced the beginning hymn. I was ready to praise my Lord in song, my heart prepared for the rest of the service.
Six years later I married into the Baptist church and encountered something entirely different on a Sunday morning – noise – and lots of it. I soon discovered a vast difference between Anglican’s and Baptists. While Anglicans spent the time before the service in prayer and contemplation focusing on God, Baptist’s concentrated more on fellowship, focusing on each other. In vain, I tried to pray before the service but soon found it impossible with people talking and laughing all about me. It took me many years to get used to this form of (what I considered) disrespect for God.
Fast forward to today, and it is rare to find a church without a worship band, who sing some lovely songs, but make more noise at times than my ears can bear. Quietness, silence, meditation and contemplation are not things you will easily find in an Evangelical church today. But is that a bad thing? Does holiness mean you have to be quiet when you approach God? Hardly.
The experience of approaching God both corporately and alone should be done with reverence, respect and awe because God is holy. But, King David danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14), and the Bible speaks about raising our hands towards heaven (Nehemiah 8:6; Psalm 28:2). Indeed, we are even called to make a joyful noise before the Lord (Psalm 91:5, 98:6). So praising God with our whole body is something incorporated into our worship since Old Testament times. But is praising God and worshipping Him “holiness?”
The first mention in the Bible of the word “holy” was by God Himself, and it was to Moses in Exodus 3:1-6. Note how Moses reacts:
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian. And he led the flock to the back of the desert, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.”
So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”
Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” Moreover, He said, “I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.
“Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”
The word holy is “qodesh” in Hebrew and means “sacred, hallow, set apart.” The ground itself was set apart or holy because God was near. Moses was afraid to look upon God, and so he hid his face. In other words, he knelt or prostrated himself before the Lord. Moses immediately recognized how unworthy he was to stand before God, let alone approach Him. There was a separateness between man and God because the light and the dark is never more evident when we are standing before a Holy God.
The holiness and majesty of God bring an immediate sense of unworthiness to anyone in God’s presence. We know how sinful, weak and insignificant we are in the face of His grandeur. It is to us, lowly sin-stained sinners, that God offers a way to climb up out of the pit, to join with Him and be united with His holiness by the gift of His Holy Spirit, through Jesus’ death on a cross. Light indeed came into the world so that we would not have to live in darkness (John 8:12). Now there is no separation, and we can boldly come before the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16).
But the Creator of heaven and earth commands us to be holy like Him (Leviticus 11:45, 19:2; 1 Peter 1:15-16) but how do we, as priests of God, realistically practise this holiness? How do we become a light for those around us without becoming self-righteous?
We remember that light separates the darkness and we were once part of that darkness.
The “holiness” of God is the light of Christ. That light now lives within you through God’s Holy Spirit if you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour. Do you understand the implications here? God inhabits you. You are now like the burning bush! Holy in God’s eyes because of His Spirit. Do people who meet you see that?
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16)?
How seriously are you taking your role as a priest of God?
Sadly, according to the “2014 State of Dating in America” report published by Christian Mingle and JDate, 61 percent of Christians said they would have sex before marriage. Fifty-six percent said that it’s appropriate to move in with someone after dating for a time between six months and two years. And 34 percent responded that while it would be nice to marry someone of the same faith, it’s not required (ChristianPost).
“If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17).
Maybe you are a new Christian reading this, and you are convicted by God’s Holy Spirit that your current lifestyle is more darkness than light. This is your wake-up call. Maybe you are a long time believer, but you’ve never given much thought into being “the light of God” here on earth. And so when people meet you, they don’t see anything different in you. You’ve hidden the light of God and grieved the Holy Spirit with your choices. There is still time to repent and allow the Holy Spirit to renew righteousness within you. God is ever willing to bring lost sheep back into His fold.
Our standard of behaviour in this world means we do not bring the world and all its ugliness into our lives. This is excruciatingly hard to do, as we live in turbulent times. Politics (or rather politicians) dominate the 24-hour news cycle not only with their antics but with the antics of their supporters (on both sides). Keeping our opinions on some things to ourselves is hard. So we must look to Jesus as our example of holiness, we must strive to be the light until he returns. Yes, the whole world has fallen into immorality. And it is horrible, and yes it grieves the soul when we see lewdness in the streets, during Gay Pride Month. But this is now our world. Up is down, good is evil and black is white. And Christian morality is considered intolerant and hateful. We are living in the last days, and so it is all the more critical that we remember who inhabits us. We must live each moment mindful of our union with the God of the universe. Our behaviour is a reflection on Him. We are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20), and so we must live our lives accordingly. The Holy Spirit of God Himself lives within you. You practise holiness by remembering that.
“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:12-17, NKJV).