Asking for a Friend
What Does it Mean to Be Holy?
We are in week #3 of a series called Asking for a friend. Our focus has been on topics that may be awkward or embarrassing to discuss. Last week, LaMorris did a great job talking about the subject of race. He began by asking people who were sitting in the seat they typically sit in to move to a different seat. He was at a slight disadvantage because He doesn’t know where you sit. I do. I made notes about those of you who stayed in your same seat. 😊 He was reminding us how easy it is to get comfortable. We all like to be comfortable. We are sometimes hesitant to be stretched or challenged.
Today, I hope you will allow yourself to be stretched out of your comfort zone. This first verse can surely stretch all of us out of our comfort zone. “Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” – 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV) It seems like one of the great problems we face in Christianity is when the people who speak about Jesus don’t live like Jesus.
These are the people who talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk. There is inconsistency. Parents who live like this send confusing and conflicting messages to their kids. Here is an awkward and uncomfortable question…
How has your personal lifestyle reflected the holiness of God this past week?
Would the word holy describe the words you have spoken? Have you been holy in the thoughts you have been thinking and the deeds you have been doing? People are sometimes afraid to answer that question because they aren’t 100% sure what it means to be holy. Holiness is an attribute of our Heavenly Father. And all of us have been called to live a holy life. But what does it mean to be holy?
The Apostle Peter framed it in a question…“What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives.” – 2 Peter 3:11b (NIV) Are you on the path toward living a holy and godly life?
The Hebrew writer made this bold declaration…“Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” – 1 Hebrews 12:14 (NIV) Sounds like we had better pay attention!
The Apostle Paul reminds us that holy living is not just an invitation, it is a calling. “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:7 (NIV) If God is calling us to be holy, we had better find out what that means, don’t you think? So, what does it mean to be holy? Of course, I am asking for a friend.
Growing up I would have understood holiness to be a long list of don’ts. Don’t go here. Don’t go there. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Can anyone relate? Even though we didn’t hear as much about it, holiness did include some do’s. For instance – DO read your Bible. DO pray. DO go to church every time the doors are open. But from what I recall, the focus was more on the DON’Ts than the DOs. Even though some people have defined holiness like this, I don’t think that is ever how God defined holiness.
In some instances, I think traditions were given precedence over truth. This is where the legalism of the Pharisees creeps in. Straining to keep over 600 rules and regulations, the Pharisees of Jesus day lived life by the measuring rod. There is no joy in that kind of existence and Jesus was never in favor of that kind of bondage. That is not a scriptural understanding of what it means to be holy. Holiness is not about a list of more rules and regulations. What we need to be holy is a change of heart.
The transformation Christ wants to bring to your life, is not an outside-in transformation, but rather, an inside-out revolution that begins in the heart. It is a transformation that will change the way you think, act, and live. But for so many years we were basically told, “if you do the do’s and don’t do the don’ts you are holy.” But there was some inconsistency with that message because some people looked the part, but their actions were anything but holy.
One of the meanest ladies I ever met, wouldn’t be caught dead in a pair of slacks. She always wore a dress. She didn’t wear makeup, and I doubt that she had ever cut her hair. She really looked the part of what stereotypical holiness might look like. She apparently kept all the man-made rules. People could easily identify her with the holiness movement, but there was a problem. She was mean! It seemed kind of inconsistent, but no one ever raised the question because she looked the part. And besides that, people were scared of her!
When Jesus pointed out the defining traits of His followers, He didn’t talk about things like haircuts, clothing, jewelry, or makeup. He spoke about LOVE. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35 (NIV)
LOVE is the foundational requirement for Christian living.
LaMorris talked about it last week. So many professing Christians have said and done so many unloving and unChristlike things. But when love for God is reflected in love for people, we have fulfilled the great commandment given by Jesus himself (love God – love people). Matthew 22:37-39.
Jesus said, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” – Matthew 7:20 (NLT) We have talked about it before. The only real evidence of a truly Sprit-filled life is the Fruit of the Spirit. You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of fruit they are producing in their lives.
Authentic Christian HOLINESS is characterized by the Fruit of the Spirit.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” – Galatians 5:22-26 (NIV) The Spirit of God produces these character traits in us. These qualities are found in the nature of Jesus Christ. The only unmistakable evidence that an apple tree is indeed an apple tree is the fact that there are apples hanging from its branches. The fruit is all the evidence you need.
Does the fruit you are producing in your life reveal the nature, the character, and qualities of Christ? If you have a desire for the fruit of the Spirit to be present and growing in your life, you must get connected to the life of Christ.
In John 15, Jesus talked about it in terms of the VINE AND THE BRANCHES. He said, I am the Vine, you are the branches Just as any branch will die if it is detached from the vine, we must get connected and stay connected to the life-giving Vine which is found in Jesus Christ. Get to know Him. Grow to love Him. Learn to listen to Him. And always obey Him.
Holiness is best defined as CHRIST-LIKENESS.
God’s desire is for you and me to be like His son. That scares people. We prefer to compare ourselves with others at church or the people we work with. They are not the standard! Jesus is. God wants us to be like Jesus. That is His goal for all of us.
“God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him.” – Romans 8:29 (The Message) We are called to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ.
It sounds like a massive undertaking, to be holy as God is holy and to follow in the steps of Christ. And it is. And it is not something you can do on your own. “How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?” – Galatians 3:3 (NLT) Talk about an exercise in futility! You cannot live a holy life on your own. We need God’s help to get this right. And the good news is that He is ready to give it. He is ready to help you live the life He has called you to live.
God will ENABLE us to live the life He has CALLED us to live:
How does He do that?
1. God gives us His SPIRIT to GUIDE us.
“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” – John 16:13a (NIV) One of the wisest things you can do as a believer is to develop a keen sensitivity to the Spirit of God. We talked about that in week one of this series. (App and Online) When you allow the Holy Spirit to guide you, you are on your way to becoming the person that God has called you to be.
2. God gives us His WORD to INSTRUCT us.
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” – Psalms 119:105 (NIV) The Word of God will illuminate the pathway to becoming holy. Why do we do read and study the Bible anyway? We read the Bible because we want to become the people God has called us to be. He speaks through His Word, He reveals His will, and He shows us how to live. Read it. Study it. Meditate on it. Memorize it. And most of all apply it. You may read a book or hear a song or listen to a message that gets you all fired up emotionally. But until that emotion gets connect to action, it really doesn’t mean a thing.
I love it when people make changes in their lives because of the instruction of God’s Word or the prompting of His Spirit. Over the years I have noticed that the great motivator for transformation in our spiritual lives is not a list of rules. The great motivator for spiritual growth and maturity is when people fall more in love with Jesus. I hope you are making time each day to connect to God’s Word.
The Bible App is a great resource. You can find it at bible.com or on The Point App.
The Bible App for Kids
Our goal is to get to know God better and be more like Jesus. One of the best ways to do that is be reading, studying, memorizing, meditating on, and applying God’s Word.
3. God promises to FORGIVE us when we FALL.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9 (NIV) Over almost 37 years of pastor ministry, I have seen so many people begin walking with Jesus. They would say their desire is to live a holy life. But somewhere along the way, they got discouraged or distracted, and they gave up and quit. It usually didn’t happen in a moment. It was more of a slow fade. They just subtly drift away. Things that were once a priority, suddenly take a back seat. It can happen to anyone. You put off things like Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, serving, giving, etc.
Sometimes the drift begins with one bad choice. Then you feel like you are unworthy, and you don’t measure up. You are ashamed of what you have done. And shame causes us to disconnect and hide out. One of satan’s favorite tools is isolation. At a time when we need the family of God the most, people often isolate themselves and they begin a downward spiral in their spiritual life.
Please don’t be in that number. Guard your heart. Protect your family. Make faith a priority. Don’t give the devil a foothold. He is fighting to get the upper hand. Don’t let Him win. SOMEONE NEEDS TO HEAR THIS ONE SENTENCE RIGHT NOW. And whatever you do, please don’t buy the lie that says, it can’t happen to me.
Do you know anyone who has stepped away from their journey of faith? Perhaps God wants to use you to help nudge them to get back on track. That leads to the fourth way God enables us to live a holy life.
4. God gives us CHRISTIAN FRIENDS to support us.
The Body of Christ is to help one another, to encourage one another, and to lift one another up. This is one of the big benefits of being connect to a local body of believers – Church. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25 (NIV)
Some people try to justify their lack of involvement in the church by saying things like, I still believe in God. I still pray. I still read my Bible. Church attendance doesn’t make you a Christian. You can attend church every Sunday and still be lost. But it is unwise to try to diminish the importance of the church in the life of a committed Christian. Our connection to other believers is just one of the ways God refines in us the image of His Son.
Ephesians 5:25 tells us that Jesus Christ “loved the church and gave his life for it.” How can we disregard the church when it means so much to Jesus? How can we say we love Jesus if we want nothing to do with His Bride? You cannot be the Body of Christ on your own. Together, not separated, we are Christ’s Body.
God has called us to be holy. I have just given you four things that I believe He uses to enable us to live the holy life He has called us to live. I know some of you might struggle with the whole idea of being holy.
It sounds impossible.
First, let me remind you that with God, all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26) Leonard Ravenhill once said, “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world and make that man holy and put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.” – Leonard Ravenhill
I hope you hear this message loud and clear today. God is ready to EQUIP and ENABLE us to live the holy life He is calling us to live. If we are going to call ourselves “Christians” we must learn to live as Christ did.
As people who are called to be holy, we want to know Christ better each day. Our desire is to live according to the principles of God’s Word. “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’ Therefore, come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.” – 2 Corinthians 6:16b-17a (NIV)
To be holy means to be set apart. As a sanctified believer, the Holy Spirit comes to live in us, just as Jesus promised. He is the One who give us the power to live a life we could never live on our own. As believers, we are to be the temple of the Living God. A temple is a place where the presence of God dwells. When the Spirit of God comes to dwell inside of us, that makes us the Temple of God.
That is why you might have heard someone say, “take care of your body. It is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We need to understand that God will not live in a temple that is DEFILED BY SIN. Does that mean you will never make a mistake? It doesn’t mean that at all. Does that mean you will never sin? We won’t be perfect this side of Heaven.
But let’s be honest. We don’t have to sin. If you decide to respond to God’s call to be holy, you will not go on living in continual rebellion, disobedience, or sin. How could we? We have a new master. Paul says, we are no longer slaves to sin. This body is under new management! Someone says, but Steve, I don’t know if this is possible. With God, all things are possible. And I am fully convinced that the God who created this world, and all that is in it, is fully capable of enabling you and me to live the life He has called us to live.
God will only live in a Temple that is set apart for Him. When He comes in, He begins a process that will transform your life on every level. That is why it is wise to allow Him access to every aspect of your life where is nothing off limits. You won’t have any trouble surrendering to Him on this level when you learn that He knows what’s best and He can be trusted.
He is either LORD OF ALL or He is NOT LORD AT ALL.
Coming to church on Sunday is not just about feeling better for the rotten life you lived last week. It is about allowing God to transform your life from the inside out. Holiness is about BEING MORE LIKE JESUS. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to be holy on your own. You will never find victory over sin on your own. You will only struggle and fail for the rest of your life. It becomes a vicious cycle.
But when you submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to work in your life, God gives you the power to overcome hurts, habits, and hang-ups that you could never overcome on your own. You can break the sinful cycle and destructive habits that keep pulling you down and that prevent you from becoming the person He is calling you to be.
God wants to transform our hearts and refine is us the image of His Son. This is God’s CALL for each one of us. The question is, will you surrender yourself, COMPLETELY to Him? I would like to pray with you to that end. Would you bow with me?