We were discussing holiness in our small group this week. We agreed on the importance of pursuing holiness through Bible reading, prayer, and accountability to others. We talked about how it is the Holy Spirit living in us that enables us to grow in holiness. But then we were wondering what it looks like to be holy. Is it keeping certain standards? Checking off a long list of requirements?
These thoughts came to mind: God tells us to be holy as He is holy. To start with, the only way to be holy in God’s eyes is to repent of our sins and ask Him to forgive us. All of us have at least broken the greatest commandment which is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And we’ve most likely broken the second greatest commandment which is to love your neighbor as yourself. Can any of us honestly say that we have always loved other people as much as we love ourselves? I can’t. So every one of us is a sinner by God’s standard even if we do a lot of good things. That’s why Jesus died on the cross, to take God’s wrath against sinners on Himself so we could be forgiven, and have a relationship with him forever. He did that because He loves us, even though we don’t deserve that love.
Now that we have repented and God has forgiven us, what does it look like to be holy like Him? It is easy to come up with a list of things that appear holy: Go to church regularly, read the Bible, pray, give money to the church and to the poor, dress modestly, teach Sunday School, share the gospel. . . .those are all good things, but in and of themselves they don’t make us holy.
The Golden Rule is “Do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets.” In the book of John, Jesus often says, “If you love me you will keep my commandments.” In First John, we are reminded that the way we keep the commandments of God is by loving our brother. If we love God we will love our brother, and if we hate our brother than we do not love God.
We can keep that long list of do’s perfectly, but it is not holiness unless our motivation is love for God and love for others. Paul talked about that in 1 Corinthians 13: My holiness or lack of it comes out in my reactions and responses to others. So many times I have been faithful to have my quiet time only to go yell at my children right afterwards. Yes, I checked off my quiet time for the day, but God still has a lot of work to do in my heart.
Holiness: love God above self. Love others above self. Die to self. Pour out my life for God’s glory and to bless others. By this standard I see I can’t start patting myself on the back any time soon (never!). But love is a fruit of the Spirit, so I know that I can grow in holiness day by day if I depend on Him. And I look forward to the day Jesus comes back. When I see Him I will be changed fully into His likeness, and the struggle will be over.