“You shall be holy, because I am holy.” What comes to your mind when you think of “being holy?” Often, we think of holiness according to the phrase “set apart.” I recently had the opportunity to preach the last half of 1 Thessalonians 3 at our sending church, Silverton First Baptist, where Paul speaks of the goal for believers of being holy at the return of Jesus. Using a story, we looked at 3 common misconceptions of holiness.
First was encompassed in a person we called “The Grumpy Puritan.” This view of holiness wraps it up in red tape and self-made rules. There are rules about the rules, and then more rules for how to keep the rules. It is a holiness completely void of happiness, full of judgment and legalism. The set-apart Grumpy Puritan is our source for the phrase “holier-than-thou” and the reason the word “piety” now has a negative connotation to most Americans.
We then looked at “The Radioactive Saint.” He gets his name from the unnatural, halo-like glow about his head. He lives is life in a rapturous mind-lock with God, completely oblivious to what is going on around him. He is our source for the phrase “so heavenly-minded he’s of no earthly good.” He uses his communion with God as an excuse to avoid people and will not break his heavenward gaze even for a second to reflect God’s grace to desperately needy people.
- Finally, we looked at “The Unapproachable Light.” Here, God’s majestic holiness was presented without the complementary truths of His Love and Grace. Holiness for us is unattainable and hopeless as God remains unapproachable. While there is probably more truth in this view of holiness than the other two, it still falls desperately short of what holiness for us really looks like.
We can say that holiness is living by a standard…but it’s God’s standard. It is not our own ideas and rules and pride molded into a façade that makes us look good before God. It is living for God’s purposes and glory. Holiness is living in a state of constant communion with God and setting our hearts and minds on things above…but in a way that makes us more sensitive to the needs of those around us. Being holy means that we “weep with those who weep” and “rejoice with those who rejoice.” God’s holiness is his majestic purity; it is wrapped up in the fact that He is unapproachable. But, we must remember that, when He was unapproachable, He approached us! When we were still sinners, God demonstrated His love for us in the life and death of Christ.
When Paul looks at our goal of holiness in 1 Thessalonians 3, he is doing so through this lens. “…may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all…so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness…” If we look to approach and attain holiness without being permeated with a God-built love for others, we will have missed a vital ingredient. We will ourselves become both unapproachable and unapproaching, like the Grumpy Puritan and the Radioactive Saint. When we define holiness as “set apart,” we cannot forget to add the second half of the meaning “for God’s purposes.” God’s purpose for us is that we would love “one another” (other believers) and “all” (those yet without Christ) with His love demonstrated in Jesus.
To dowload the sermon, check out “Silverton First Baptist Church” on iTunes, or visit http://silvertonfirstbaptist.org/podcast/index.htm.