Elusive Holiness

Posted on April 26, 2013 by Dr. Jerry Rankin in Devotional Reflections

Rankin-Devotional“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”  1 Peter 1:15-16

Classical Christian writers often focused on the matter of holiness and the Spirit-filled life, but we seldom dwell on the issues of a sanctified life. We tend to relegate it to the theological realm of our salvation. Knowing that we were saved and cleansed by the blood of Christ, spiritually we are “saints” who are holy or “set apart” in the eyes of God. But that theological reality doesn’t necessarily translate into practical attitudes and behavior.

We tend to think of holiness as an unattainable level of perfection, something to strive for but impossible in this world. In fact, we have gone so far in our perception that it is not really desirable. We think to be holy it is necessary to be cloistered in a monastery isolated from the real world, or it is a weird personality trait of someone who carries around a big Bible and speaks in “thees” and thous.”

Why would the Bible exhort us to be holy if it is something we could not do. If it is just theoretical or automatic for a born-again Christian why would we be admonished with the responsibility to walk in holiness. If it means to be “separated” how do we live in the world but be separated and not of the world. Does it mean we are so God-centered that we can’t even enter into a conversation with our buddies about hunting, fishing, ball scores or the latest television sit-com?

Unfortunately, churches and sects that emphasize holiness seem to resort to legalistic models of behavior, enumerating “do’s” and “don’ts” that characterize the expected lifestyle. The description reminds me of an expression I used to hear regarding Christian behavior: “We don’t dance or chew or go with girls that do.” However, one can conform to rules for living without having a pure heart and true holiness. Not drinking, cussing and engaging in illicit sex doesn’t assure one will not commit  fraudulent business practices, abuse one’s family and be guilty of jealousy and selfish ambition.

I have been around people who seemed to be saints; there was an apparent God-consciousness about them. They could engage in normal conversation about what was going on in the world in a relevant way, but it was unthinkable that a critical or slanderous remark would ever be uttered from their lips. Their life reflected a genuine compassion for others–obviously more a God-nature than ours. To describe them as simply a “good” person was inadequate.

Holiness of life grows out of an awareness of God’s presence at all times that thwarts any desire or inclination to sin or affections for things of the world. 1 Corinthians 19-20 explains it this way: “Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”

Such God-consciousness creates a desire to please and glorify Him in all our attitudes and lifestyle. It allows the Holy Spirit to lead us and conform our character and behavior  to that which glorifies God. It is not so much legalistic actions and our decisions as it is a sanctification produced by the Holy One living within us. Practicing an awareness of His presence produces a love for Him, a hunger for His word and submission to His leadership that results in a life set free from an attraction to things of the world.

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