During some of our summer Mathetes online Bible studies (5:30pm-6:15pm on our Church Facebook page) we've explored Paul's words about holiness. For Paul, justification by faith is everything; Christ's blood alone atoned for our sins and also made us righteous with God. This is wonderful news! Paul knew that he was a sinner, saved by grace. That is our reality, but in Christ we are now viewed as saints, God sees us as Christ, fully justified. Does this mean that we won't struggle with sin in our bodies? Paul reminds us in Romans that we will battle between the good we want to do and the evil our flesh desires to do. Yet, the blessing is found in the promise that we are no longer slaves to sin but to righteousness; we don't have to succumb to the wiles of sin because in our minds we are slaves to God. The battles take place in the mind, and when the Holy Spirit controls our thoughts and attitudes, we end up enjoying the blessed boundaries of God's love. Paul shares this daily, inner conflict with choosing between good and evil here in Rom. 7:14-25 (NIV):
14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. 21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; 23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. 24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
So when it comes to holiness, a Christ-follower can only talk about holiness as it relates to Jesus Christ at work within her. She knows that God's imparted divinity in Christ is at work within her through the Holy Spirit. And it is this understanding that empowers her to live an obedient, purpose-filled life for God. We are made holy through the power of God, expressed in the beautiful community of the Trinity (three distinct persons yet one divine, holy entity). The Trinity is a mystery to her, but helps her understand that our holiness is not just what sets her apart for God's use, but sets the Church apart for God's use as the community of faith. God's motivation is for both individual and communal holiness, just as he desired for the children of Israel; the Lord wanted Israel to be a beacon of holiness in a land surrounded by wickedness, evil and discord. Because Israel learned that they were grossly inadequate in the eyes of God, Yahweh's grace enabled them to continue, to help them realize that only by seeking the Lord's will and power among them would shine God's holiness across the nation and into all nations--and therefore into all hearts.
It took the offering of Christ on the cross to make God's dream for his children's holiness a permanent reality. Holy--wholly holy.
When we say something or someone is called "holy", it means that it/he/she is "set apart, consecrated". In other words, God makes something or someone holy in Christ, and the Spirit sets that thing or person apart for the distinct use of God's holy and set-apart purposes. God is purely holy! There is none like him and no one who will ever be like him. God's holiness is what makes God stand apart and outside of sin, darkness and death; this holiness was magnified when Jesus conquered sin and death on the cross. And now, God desires for the holiness of Father, Son and Spirit to work for the good of those who are called according to the Lord's purposes (Rom. 8:28). There is no darkness in Jesus, only light! There is no evil in Christ, only goodness! The Trinity is holy...wholly holy indeed!
In the early 1800s, a vicar by the name of Reginald Heber wrote the hymn, "Holy, Holy, Holy" set to the tune of "Nicaea" by John Bacchus Dykes. The hymn was published posthumously and is included in most major hymnals of our day. It is a favorite of mine and probably a favorite of yours as well. It is usually sung on Trinity Sunday in the Christian calendar year because of the three-fold witness of the Holy Father, Holy Son and Holy Spirit. The last verse of this mighty hymn is a true offering of praise directed towards the heavens in order to glorify God:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
God is so holy that only by God's grace through faith in Christ Jesus do we have access to his holy work within us. As the veil of the Holy of Holies was torn in two from top to bottom when Jesus breathed his last on Calvary's hill, God was making us holy in Christ. God was setting us apart when we couldn't consecrate ourselves. God was making us usable and good through the amazing love of a Divine Parent who couldn't stand the thought of his own creation not living in a holy community with one another, representing the holy community of the Trinity. We are made holy--wholly holy--through the holy work of God through Christ in the resurrecting power of the Spirit. This is the best news of all, and it is because of the Good News of Christ and his consecrated Kingdom all are welcomed to participate in this holy community manufactured by Jesus' finished work at Golgotha centuries ago.
Therefore, let us bow down in reverence and awe of our Holy God. Let us worship him in Spirit and in truth. And may we "...approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need" (Heb. 4:16, NIV). God is "holy, wholly holy" and we, too, are set apart to reflect that glory. We are enabled to do that each and every time we submit to the loving control of the Holy Spirit who desires to fill our minds with "...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable...excellent or praiseworthy..." (Phil. 4:8, NIV). When our minds are offered to God, our actions follow, actions that are holy, set apart, and
"...consecrated, Lord, to thee..."
Praising God for Christ alone is "holy--wholly holy",
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