I purposely saved the subject of holiness for the final chapter. I believe that all prior lessons will help build the foundation needed to embrace our sanctification and move us toward a lifestyle of holiness.
Holiness is the greatest expression of who God is. It is the source of His absolute moral purity and goodness. Holiness separates God with unapproachable light and sanctifies Him from all darkness and anything that would be impure, defiled, or incomplete. Holiness is the purest expression of God’s love and nature.
The power of holiness overcomes all darkness and consumes all evil. It is not the opposite of darkness and evil, but the master of it.
1 Peter 1:15-16 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
God calls us to be holy because God is calling us unto Himself. Intimacy with God is our created purpose and without holiness, we cannot fulfill that purpose. Jesus’ work on the cross and our acceptance of His sacrifice will make us holy positionally. This restores our relationship with God so we can partner with Him to work out our salvation and sanctification practically as we grow in our intimacy with Him.
The absence of holiness brings judgment.
We have instructions and examples throughout the Bible about the power of God’s holiness, how to treat His holy things, His holy commands, and the harsh judgment that falls on those that do not properly reverence His holiness.
The Church has heaped judgment upon herself because of unbelief and a lack of understanding in this area. We no longer tremble at God’s presence and the reading of His word. We no longer treat our assembling as holy. We have lost our understanding of sacred communion, and we have mingled worldly practices into our corporate worship.
Where is the holy fear in God’s people? Have we wandered so far from the fear of the Lord and holy reverence? Has pride and complacency blinded our hearts to seeing God as common?
Both the Old and the New Testaments stress the importance of cultivating holiness in our lives. However, more and more we gravitate toward focusing on the promises of God while neglecting the importance of sanctification.
2 Corinthians 7:1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.
The fear of the Lord is inseparable from holiness. Without the fear of the Lord, holiness is incomplete and unattainable.
1 Peter 1:13-19 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
For us to become holy as He is holy, we must fear the awesome power of holiness and reverence the One from whom holiness emanates. We must retrain ourselves to understand what holiness is and renew a holy fear in the Church that will help us treat God, His Word, and His people as holy.
Training for holiness
For the priests and Levites, there were detailed instructions on how they were to prepare themselves for service in the temple, and how the high priest was to approach God. Without strict adherence to these rules, they could be stricken dead.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many accounts of Israel receiving extreme judgment from the Lord?
3,000 died in one day because of idolatry. (Exodus 32)
24,000 Died in a plague because of sexual immorality. (Numbers 25)
In 2 Samual 24, when King David had a census of Israel, trying to measure the strength of God’s people, it was offensive to God because He was their strength. 70,000 died in one day because of David’s sin.
We read in Joshua 6 and 7 that after the walls of Jericho fell, a man named Achan caused Israel to be defeated in the battle with AI because he stole some garments, some silver, and gold, and brought them into the camp. 36 men were killed in that battle with Ai and Israel’s army was sent running with their tails between their legs. Here is Achan’s judgment;
Joshua 7:24-26 Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.
26 Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day.
One man’s sin brought judgment on the entire nation. Much like Adam’s sin brought judgment upon all of mankind. It was not our fault that we were born under sin, yet here we are, living with two natures.
Our lack of reverence as His body has brought the righteous judgment of God upon us in the form of disqualifying us from the kingdom of God’s power and promises. We are citizens of the kingdom, but we are a kingdom divided, a weak and powerless people.
After decades of the Ark of the Covenant dwelling in the house of Abinidab, king David chose thirty thousand choice men to retrieve the Ark and bring it back into the city of David with great celebration along the way. Abinadab’s sons, Ahio and Uzzah drove the new ox-cart that the Ark was placed on. When the oxen stumbled and it seemed that the Ark was going to fall, Uzzah put forth his hand and touched the Ark to steady it. Although Uzzah had good intentions to keep the Ark from falling off the cart, God was angry at him for touching the holy thing, and he was stricken dead on the spot.
2 Samuel 6:6-7 And when they came to Nachon’s threshing floor, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. 7 Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him there for his error; and he died there by the ark of God.
This incident made David angry. He did not think it was just that God would strike down a man that was only trying to help, but it also stirred up the fear of the Lord in David to the point that he was afraid to bring it into the city.
2 Samuel 6:8-11 And David became angry because of the Lord’s outbreak against Uzzah; and he called the name of the place Perez Uzzah to this day. 9 David was afraid of the Lord that day; and he said, “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” 10 So David would not move the ark of the Lord with him into the City of David; but David took it aside into the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite. 11 The ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite three months. And the Lord blessed Obed-Edom and all his household.
To this day, people still get angry at God for these types of judgments just like David did. Many ask questions like, ”how can a good God kill all those people?” Some make bold statements calling God a murderer. Could it be that God is trying to teach us something in all these harsh judgments?
What is God saying to us in all these shocking stories of incredible judgment? He is teaching us about holiness. The dangers of mishandling it, the incredible power that comes with it, and the sobering judgments that fall on those that don’t understand it.
God’s rules are set in place to protect us. If we don’t obey His commands, there is a system of spiritual and natural judgment already in place that we become subject to. God, in His great mercy and wisdom, is trying to show us the power and importance of holiness to protect us. If we are to be in a relationship with Him, we must know how to approach Him. If we are to represent Him, we must understand Him. If we are to understand Him, we must understand holiness.
No one was allowed to touch the Ark once God’s presence was there. Only the Levites were allowed to move it and they had to carry it with poles, thrust through rings in the side of the ark. Anyone who touched the ark died instantly. If the high priest did not purify himself properly and observe every detail of his priestly office while in the Holy of Holies, he would be stricken down as well.
God does not allow a defiled person to touch His Holy things, and God will not abide in an unholy temple even today. We are now His temple, and if holiness is not restored to the Church, we will never see the demonstration of the kingdom of God that we see in the early Church and should be seeing now.
There are many more accounts of severe judgment falling on man, but they have a common thread. They are all instructions to us about how we are to treat a holy God, His holy things, and His holy people. God uses the severity of physical judgment to teach us the magnitude of spiritual judgment that is incurred when we lack reverence and understanding of holiness.
Maybe the greatest example of despising God is the worldwide flood in Noah’s time. Think of the magnitude of this judgment. A world that knew only evil continually, with no thought to the holiness of God. Then consider the world we live in today.
The Bible says in the last days it will be just like the days of Noah.
Matthew 24:37-39 But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Our culture knows little about holiness because the Church has not set the standard of sanctification required to represent God well. Holiness is a big deal to God. Why is holiness not a big deal to the church anymore?
Some time ago, I asked the Lord to teach me about His holiness. I began to pray for understanding and seek God through the scriptures, all the while, listening to the Lord’s instruction. He said nothing to me about holiness. Instead, He began to teach me about the fear of the Lord.
It is the fear of the Lord that perfects holiness in our lives. Without the fear of the Lord, we fall into the same type of irreverent unbelief that the people in Noah’s day did, and the children of Israel did in their 4o year journey in the wilderness.
Just as Israel could not enter the promised land with all its abundant blessing, the Church is living and dying in the wilderness without ever walking in the fullness of the kingdom of God.
A tree is known by its fruit. One look at the Church today, compared to the early Church we read about in the Bible, and it is obvious that we have lost something. Where is the demonstration and power of the kingdom of God? Why are we not bearing the fruit of the kingdom we see modeled by our fathers in the faith? Have we been so corrupted by the world and blinded by its influence that we don’t understand that the Spirit God placed within us is Holy?
We have made friends with the world by allowing sin to creep in, and remain in our Church gatherings. We need to redefine our relationship with the world and each other. If we fail to restore a high level of accountability for each other. If we don’t raise up bold leaders that can set an example of holiness and sanctification to follow, we will continue to disqualify ourselves from the greater things of God.
Emphasizing an entertainment culture and the building of a religious organization has taken the place of building and discipling people and leading them to a lifestyle of holiness. How are we currently being discipled? What are we reproducing? Should we continue to multiply a Church that produces attendees rather than producing disciples with the fruit of holiness?
What is our mindset when we “go to Church?” Is it for fellowship? Is it a religious duty? Are we needing a boost of encouragement to make it through the rest of the week? Do we simply wish to be a part of something bigger than ourselves? Does it even enter our minds that what we are doing is considered holy by the Lord?
The Church needs to understand that when we gather together it is a holy assembly of Christ’s body. In the Old Testament, they called their gatherings “holy convocations.” There was an awareness of divine purpose and an expectation of divine direction when they gathered. Without an awareness of holiness, we will continue to attend Church instead of becoming her. We must stop “doing Church,” and become the Church.
A vision of the body
Some years ago, in a time of prayer, I thanked God for the body of Christ that validates Him to the world. As soon as I said that, I had a vision of an Arab man clothed in a robe and sitting in a wheelchair with His head hanging down in sadness. I saw the word “INVALID” appear out of thin air hovering over this man. As I looked closer, the man’s head lifted and I realized that it was Jesus!
At that moment I knew that we, the Church had done a poor job validating Him to the world. The world views Christ as weak and powerless, not valid, and they view us, His body, the same way. We need the power and demonstration of the kingdom of God to validate Christ to the world. This will not happen if the Church does not return its focus to the fear of God and holiness.
1 Chronicles 16:29 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Psalm 29:2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
God commands us to “be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) How is that even possible? Is God trying to trap us in our inadequacy? Is He asking us to do the impossible? Or is He calling us to an intimate relationship that is impossible to attain without an abiding faith in His ability to bring it to pass?
God is calling us to the ultimate journey; A journey to holiness. A journey back to Him. A magnificent journey of growth and redemption that leads us out of darkness and into His glorious light. A journey that requires a relentless faith that brings Him great pleasure.
If we will embrace this journey, we will behold His glory. His work in us will reflect His glory and light, showing others the path to holiness. This will advance the kingdom of God far more than us following a bunch of rules.
2 Corinthians 3:18 We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
We must make a daily decision to present ourselves to God as a vessel He can use to move through. Every act of obedience leads us closer to His holiness. Every fruit of the Holy Spirit we produce contains the seed of holiness. It is only reasonable that we conduct ourselves as if we are already holy as He is holy.
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
We are a royal priesthood, a holy nation with a holy calling. We can no longer tolerate living in the defilement of the world. We must come out from among them and be separate so that the light of God can shine through our lives.
2 Corinthians 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” 18 “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
It is time for the Church to arise and become everything that Christ has paid for. A separate, peculiar people that not only look different and behave differently but make a difference by our supernatural power and influence.
We must break fellowship with the world and be separate from it to have the influence necessary to change it. Our peculiarity, our royalty, and our supernatural authority must become evident to all. This will bear fruit that remains and give God great glory.