Have you noticed when reading the Bible that it talks far more about what we are to BE than about what we are to DO? Yet, it seems in our thinking or even our preaching and teaching we tend to think more about what we are to DO rather than on what we are to BE. Look at one of the great illustrations of this point in I Peter 1:13-16. “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But 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.”
What do you think of you when read that God is holy and that we are to be holy in our lives? I think most of us have some interesting visuals come to mind when we think of someone being holy. Many, I think, see some monk in the desert who lives as a hermit having little to no contact with the world as someone who is holy. I think others see holiness only in terms of moral purity. If one isn’t involved in some adulterous relationship then they must be holy or if one doesn’t watch pornography on their computer they are holy. I suspect it would be very interesting if we could get people generally to share with us what their mental image is of someone living a holy life. The word translated “holy” literally means to be separate. It is the same word that is translated “saint” or “sanctified.”
To ever grasp the concept of being holy in the world, we must start with the point that “God is holy.” It is vital to see that the command for us to be holy in life is so closely tied to God declaring, “As I am holy so you be holy.” God’s holiness is tied to His uniqueness. He is totally different and separate from the gods that so many set up for themselves in life. One of the most common sins talked about in Scripture and that still haunts us constantly is the sin of Idolatry. When the statement “Be holy as I am holy” was first uttered it is in Leviticus 11:44,45. It was in a time when it was common for people to mold their gods of gold, or even of wood, was formed into some kind of image, perhaps like the golden calf that the Israelites had made in the desert. The idols that people established or gods that so many worshiped were usually more like an over-stressed form of the people who made them. They had gods of all kinds from the goddess of sex to the gods of war. Remember when the story of one of the emeries of Israel came out to fight them and met on the hills around them for the battle. Israel was victorious in the battle and the enemy went away with the explanation that “their god is the god of the hills.” Their plan was then that they would plan a battle when they met them in the valley so their god wouldn’t be so powerful. God wants us to know that He is totally different and separate from any such god that people may come up with.
God made us to be people of worship so it is common for those who don’t know God at all to come up with some kind of god they can worship. Often, in our time the god we make to worship is MONEY. Paul declared that covetousness is idolatry. So, tons of people really worship the money, the property, the stocks and other investments that they make as the real god in their lives. I think that is the reason that God tells His people to give of their income to Him. He doesn’t need our money since everything belongs to Him. But if we remember that He is the giver of all blessings by taking the very first things that we make and giving them to Him then we keep ourselves from the idolatry of covetousness.
God is holy in that He doesn’t change from one day to the next. He is the same every time we approach him. He never leaves or forsakes us. He is always a God of amazing grace and compassion for His people. “His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts. As the heavens are higher than the earth so are his ways higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts.” His power is unlimited. “He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we ask or even imagine by the power that works in us.” Unlike us or any of the gods that we come up with, God’s love is overwhelming. As Paul described in Romans 5 that we might be willing to die for a good person, “But God commends his love to us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Think of God’s demonstration of His heart with both Paul and Peter. With Paul, he took one that had blasphemed him, been injurious to his cause and tried to destroy Christianity, but turned him into a believer and the most determined follower, apostle, and preacher of his word one could imagine. He took Peter, the fishermen who seemed to always be up and down, saying things that were demonstrations of amazing faith and then in the next moment something that was horrendous. In one short segment of Scripture in Matthew 16, he goes from one being told by Jesus, “Blessed are you Simon, son of John. Flesh and blood didn’t reveal this to you but my Father who is in heaven.” He then promised to build the church on what he confessed and gave to Peter and the other apostles the keys to the kingdom of heaven. But then just a few verses later Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind me Satan. You have your mind set on the things of the world and not the things of God.” He denied his discipleship to Jesus three times in a row. Yet Jesus called him aside during the time between his resurrection and ascension to ask him three times, “Do you love me?” Each time when Peter answered that he did love him, Jesus responded with, “Feed my sheep” or “Tend my lambs.”
So, if God is holy in being the God who loves intensely and never forsakes us, the God who never changes and goes overboard in showing compassion, then if we are to be holy like Him it has special meaning to it. Our being holy isn’t about going off to the desert away from everyone. It’s not just about not being immoral in my lifestyle. It’s not really about what I don’t do as a follower of Jesus, but more about the kind of life I live in the world. Notice the things Peter was talking about when he challenged us to be holy like God is holy.
Being holy has to do with having a mindset that is alert and clear thinking. It’s about setting our hope on God’s grace that will be revealed completely when Jesus comes again. Think of this concept for a time. Most of my life I’ve thought of the second coming of Jesus in terms of judgment and pictures of people being lost eternally. What a different picture Peter paints for us about the return of Jesus. Instead of it being something to fear, it is about grace and hope being fully realized. It is something we should be anticipating with excitement that we will see Jesus our Lord and Savior. He didn’t just come the first time out of grace. His return as one filled with grace. Our hope rest upon that grace that we will only see completely when he comes again.
Being holy means we are obedient children of God and that we refuse to conform to the evil desires that used to be the standard for us before we came to know God. Holiness involves living a life for the Lord in the midst of people all the time. It certainly isn’t about isolation or hiding out somewhere. In Philippians 2:14-15 Paul was telling us how to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, knowing that God is constantly working in us both to have the will or intent to do right and to actually live in a way to fulfill His good purpose. “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” He said if we did this we would shine as lights in the world. Notice it is in the warped and crooked world that we are to live this life that shines for God.
Being holy is living for God daily, in regular life, with God as our standard. We live in His presence and guidance all the time. So, be holy as He is holy.