Holiness in an Inhuman Culture
Updated: Mar 2
Holiness- now there's word that will conjure up all kinds of thoughts and opinions from a Christian western perspective; and unfortunately-not good ones. Why? Because like most biblical concepts and beliefs, holiness became a manmade concept that begins with us, not God. I liken it to repentance. God by his Spirit draws us and convicts us-not people and not we ourselves. We can't truly come to God in repentance unless the Spirit draws us.
For many in the modern western church world, holiness took on the form of dress codes, rules, and regulations that have an outward form of godliness, but no inward power to transform and shape a holy life.
The more I began to study holiness from a biblical perspective, the more I realized just how far we've strayed from the truth. Holiness isn't a bunch of does and don'ts, like many of us in Pentecostal or conservative circles have been taught. Like repentance, holiness is a work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, whereby he graces us and empowers us to live a holy life. It is God who dictates this work in our lives, in his way and in his time- not we ourselves.
Sure we can all do our best to live according to biblical standards, spelled out in scripture, and we should, but that won't make us holy; that's not a heart change-that's a rule change. The doing comes later, once God begins a work in your heart and mind (repentance).
No when God comes to set you apart unto himself (aka holiness) He will begin to bring to your attention all the things that you were probably not aware was a problem within your heart.
Our hearts are way more wicked that we know and God is the judge of our hearts- the One who points out to us what truly offends him and requires change. And he will begin an inward work by his Spirit to change all the things in us that have not been set apart to him.
For me, He began to reveal that I had an anger issue, that I was totally unaware of. As it began to surface, Holy Spirit helped me repent and change the way I dealt with my anger. Anger isn't always bad, but as James says, it doesn't produce the righteousness of God.
Notice that it wasn't me who uncovered my heart- it was God. He starts the setting apart work of holiness with each of us as he is the One who searches the hearts and minds of his people.
God is the One in charge of your spiritual formation.
And as if the anger issue wasn't enough to deal with, God then began to show me how I did not love others the way he loved them. I was like-what?!?! I love people God. Oh no Dana- you don't see them or love them like I do. Now for me this is the heart of what holiness looks like-love. Jesus said all the law and the Prophets hinges on loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength-AND loving others as ourselves.
My whole view changed of what I thought it meant to live a holy life.
Holiness shifted me to love like God loves!
Legalism and rules can't do that. Fear, abuse and control are what's at the heart of legalism, and I want nothing to do with that.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I think we can all agree that we are living in difficult times, so I wanted us to take a look at a few scriptures that show us what an unholy life looks like. Notice all the adjectives used here to describe the attributes and behaviors of unholy living.
But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, slanderers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power; avoid such people as these. 2 Timothy 3:1-5
That's a really long list isn't it? And notice that being unholy is listed. I would suggest to you that the whole list reveals what it means to be inhuman and unholy.
So what does it mean to be holy? What does it mean to be truly human? These are not questions that we are asking often enough. If we are true disciples of Jesus Christ then these are questions we need to start asking ourselves.
All of the above adjectives in that scripture are negative and self serving-just the opposite of the nature, character and attributes of God. And especially the opposite of the truly human one-Jesus-the Son of Man.
So what scripture can we look to, to describe what it means to be human?
Then God said, “Let Us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; Genesis 1:26a
In the order of creation we as humans (mankind) was made to look and resemble God-in every way. That was the original intent found in scripture. So the scripture in 2 Timothy helps us see just how far we've fallen from the original plan.
And until Jesus, we see the ever-widening gap, between what it means to look and BE like God.
How do we manage a way out of all this inhumanity? How do cooperate with God in looking and being more like him? After all isn't that our goal? To not just be saved from eternal damnation, but to look like Jesus-the second Adam?
We look to Jesus-the author and finisher of our faith. And….we look to his Word-The Holy Scriptures.
The apostle Paul helps us in the simplest of ways… language. We live in language yet we often overlook it in scripture.
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ who are at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father.
If we are not careful we look over words in scripture, and lose the brilliance that is staring right at us. Notice Paul often refers to people as saints? Why? Because in the Greek, the word, holy, saint and sanctify are all the same word. The English language attempts to link them but does fall short grammatically.
Notice, Paul begins with-"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints.... this is language to help us understand that God is the One who called Paul and set him apart by his will to be an apostle. His life in scripture most certainly testifies to this fact. And then we see how God calls us too and God sets us apart to himself and, to be a family member of the Body of Christ....so stop right here and let that sink in.
You don't call yourself or set yourself apart to God. It's not by might, nor by power but... BY HIS SPIRIT.
Although we do have the responsibility to submit our will, when Jesus calls us, HE BEGINS the SANCTIFYING work in us-not we ourselves. This is important, because so much of the western church has taught us that if we go down to the altar and pray a simple prayer that we are now called and set apart by God as disciples.
The hard truth is that although it may begin that way for some, that is not the example found in scripture. What is found in scripture is this:
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what good will it do a person if he gains the whole world, but forfeits his soul? Or what will a person give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every person according to his deeds. Matthew 16:24-26
So Dana does that mean that confession isn't important? Absolutely not. The bible says if we confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in our hearts that God raised him from the dead, we shall be saved. Confession is vital to beginning your life of transformation with God the Holy Spirit- but it doesn't end there at the altar-it's only a beginning place for those who go that route. God meets many people outside the four walls of a church anyway- so for some, they never go to an altar-God draws them right where they are.
Holiness is not a One Time Thing-It's Ongoing
Holiness is an ongoing and transforming work of the Holy Spirit that shapes us into the image of a Holy God that we proclaim we serve. A holy life that God requires of us, as disciples of His Son-Jesus.
It's been my experience that God will do this sanctifying work, not only for discipleship, but when he is preparing you for a greater work of influence in the world around you. And I believe that is taking place right now in the lives of many of his called out ones.
What Needs Another Look
Obviously the confession theory of being a Christian is not producing fruit in the lives of many professed Christians, so this needs another look from the Pentecostal tribes of today.
A lack of understanding of what it truly means to be holy and set apart needs to begin again from the pulpits of our nation. We aren't even meeting the basic standards of what it means to be human, as across every state of our nation, violence, crime and lawlessness runs rampant on a large scale. Even yesterday in a community close to me, a man shot and killed two police officers on a local College campus. We desperately need revival and renewal in our nation.
Is There Any Hope?
In the midst of all that is going wrong around us, I do offer encouragement today my friends. I am experiencing and witnessing how God is coming to set his people apart to himself for a greater work in society. God is preparing his Bride through personal holiness to go out and be shining lights of what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God.
What all the preparation is unto-I do not know, but I am getting a glimpse, as I know according to church history that holiness begins, personally, then institutionally, and then culturally. I think we can all agree the need for this in our world today.
God in his comings in the earth, is drawing his people to himself to go out into the harvest fields, for truly the harvest is great- but the laborers are few. He is pricking hearts and inviting us all to cooperate with him in what it means to live a set apart, sanctified, holy/saintly life. And as he comes to you, please don't hesitate to cooperate with his life giving and transforming glory. Holy Spirit is at work in our world and he is beginning this work in us first-personally.
Grace to you,