Why holiness matters
We all love a God of love. We certainly appreciate a God of grace, mercy, kindness and forgiveness. But have you have ever given thought to the fact we NEED a God of holiness?
The reason is because we cannot understand God’s mercy and forgiveness until we first seek to understand His holiness. The word holy or holiness means “to be dedicated, consecrated or set apart for a certain purpose, to be pure, sacred.”
Our comprehension and understanding of the holiness of God, at least based on our natural senses, is certainly insufficient. Moses asks, “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders.” Exodus 15:11
The answer, of course, is no one! The holiness of God means God is separate, set apart, above everything and everyone that He has created. This also means everything associated with God is holy.
When God descended to Mount Sinai, demonstrating His power and holiness, He warned anyone touching the mountain would be put to death. Only Moses and Aaron were permitted on the mountain. Mount Sinai was “set apart as holy” in Exodus 19.
When priests, who served as scribes, copied portions of the Old Testament and came to the name Jehovah or Yahweh, they would actually stop, wash themselves and change their clothes because the name of God is holy.
As recorded in the Genesis account, God created everything in six days and then instituted a seventh day of rest. “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.” Exodus 20
The Lord’s day is holy.
Today, in a culture of casualness, all of this seems so foreign, even weird, to us. Thankfully Jesus, who is perfectly holy, makes a way for us to be in relationship with a Holy God. “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” II Corinthians 5:21
We hear much today about God wants a relationship, not religion. That is very true! But people mistakenly confuse that, and even add to it, by saying God is interested only in relationships and not in holiness. That thinking is wrong, even dangerous.
The Word of God is very clear that God actually established a rule for holiness… it’s called the Law; specifically, the Ten Commandments from Exodus 20 are at the center of instruction for God’s people. I John 2:3-4 “And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”
Think of it like this… God’s commands, rules and law are given as a means of grace so that we can grow in our holiness, godliness, love and affection for Him. We are actually instructed by God to “Be holy as I am holy.” I Peter 1:16
All of us know our pursuit of holiness in and of ourselves is impossible. Take for example the sixth commandment, “You shall not kill.” Pretty simple, pretty clear. Yet Jesus actually raises the bar of holiness when He teaches in Mathew 5:21-22 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.” Do you understand? Even if you have not been guilty of murder, we ALL have been guilty of being angry with another person. Therefore, in light of God’s holiness, we still fall short.
Even our good intentions fall flat, as Isaiah 64:6 reminds us “our righteousness is like a filthy rag.” We actually deserve punishment as a result of our constant sin.
Remember when I said we cannot understand God’s mercy and forgiveness until we first try to get a grip on His holiness? Thankfully God “…became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:14
Jesus is the greatest example of holiness. We see this demonstrated when He “…emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8
Why does holiness matter? Holiness matters because it reminds us we are not and points us to Christ who is.
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Tim Boger, senior pastor of Big Woods Bible Church in Lock Haven.