"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." Psalm 51:10

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Being Holy

A few weeks ago, a group of women were examining the topic of “holiness” in our study, The Fitting Room, by Kelly Minter. This word drums up all sorts of images in our minds. Some picture monks or nuns in their holy habits, the Amish who have separated themselves from the rest of society, some super spiritual saint, or perhaps a legalistic upbringing. This word doesn’t fill us with the warm fuzzies like “love”, “joy”, or “peace”. In fact in our discussion, one woman commented, “I struggle with a word that means “set apart”. It’s like I think I’m better than everyone else.”  And yet, God tells us to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16). What exactly does God mean by that, and how can we possibly achieve it?
Unpacking this word is like unloading a moving van filled with trinkets and treasures collected for years. I’m not sure if any person can comprehensively grasp the concept of holiness. However, within the framework of the verses our class is dissecting in this particular study, I’m posing a few thoughts.
Colossians 3:12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
The first words Paul writes before he tells us what clothes to wear are that we are chosen, holy and dearly loved. God calls us holy before we have done anything good. How is that possible? I know what I am capable of—crabby attitudes, corrupted actions and careless words. How does God call me holy when I’ve done nothing to deserve that designation?  It’s only because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cross that I am viewed holy. Trusting my own goodness to please God is like a student relying on his charismatic personality to pass a test. It’s not good enough and never will be. According to Isaiah 64:6, “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.”
Kelly Minter says, “Without this imputed righteousness (God thinking of Christ’s righteousness as belonging to us), we are back to the concept of trying to clothe ourselves with clothes we don’t actually own. Righteousness isn’t something you can borrow either, just for the thrifty dressers out there.” How freeing to realize that God calls me holy not because I deserve it but because His son paid the price for me. The world teaches us the opposite—if we prove ourselves through hard work, we can be someone special. God says you are already special because of my son, therefore clothe yourselves with what you already possess. Unfortunately, we oftentimes attempt to achieve holiness by mustering up enough willpower to exhibit these virtues rather than realizing that we are incapable of justifying ourselves. We must rest upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross.
Holiness concerns our heart not behavior modification. Parents desire their children to listen and obey because they desire to obey, not because they are forced. I recall as a young girl my mom making me apologize to my sister or brother. “Say you’re sorry, Annette,” she’d say.
“Sorry,” I’d mumble.
“Sorry for what?”
“Sorry for hitting you,” I’d eke out to the offended.

Truly heartfelt, right?! How many of us apologized in our youth to our sister or brother because our moms threatened to ground us for a month, take away phone privileges or friend play time? And, how many of us as parents do the very same thing? Say you’re sorry, give the toy back, hug your sister, kiss and make up… God longs for us to exhibit His attributes because our hearts are transformed.  Behavior change doesn’t last unless there is heart change. Kelly Minter emphatically says, “…how I yearn to live altogether differently, not simply because I’ve learned how to manage my behavior but because God has changed me from the inside. And because I desperately desire to draw others to Jesus by a life that is distinctly bright and whole, because He has made it so.”
Our holiness, then, should draw others to Jesus not cause us to be uppity or snobbish. True holiness is not setting ourselves against or above others as my friend was concerned about. D.L. Moody stated, “A holy life will produce the deepest impression. Lighthouses blow no horns; they only shine.” We should be winsome women, attracting others to us like bees to pollen. Instead of judging, condemning and criticizing unbelievers who, incidentally, cannot be held accountable to live godly lives, we should live and love in such a way that they are drawn to the Savior.
As we are holy and wear clothes that reflect who we are in Christ, may those around us find love and grace.  May we be the kind of women who walk alongside those who are desperate, depressed and downtrodden. And, may we never portray ourselves as snooty or snobby or stuck up, but rather saved by His grace, made holy only because of Jesus.
Go light your world!

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