Friday, May 4, 2012

The Holiness that Matters

God said,"Sanctify yourselves therefore, and be ye holy: for I am the LORD your God." Leviticus 20:7

It is interesting to note that He did not say "do that which is holy". Holy is first, and foremost what we are to BE. Yes, this does play out in our actions, but if we are not first holy on the inside the outside is irrelevant. So often we evaluate our own Christianity, our own holiness, based on what we do, rather than who we are before God. We compare ourselves to others to judge them or to rank our own holiness based upon what we see them doing, or not doing. Often, within the church setting one's holiness becomes rated based solely on the observance of outward rules. That is a problem.

Now, every organization has to have rules. Leadership especially must be held to a standard of conduct or they cannot be leaders. The Bible has clear rules designating the kind of people who can, and cannot be pastors, deacons, teachers, and the like. However, the congregation must be careful not to systemize outward rules to the point that they become the measure of spirituality, holiness, and growth. Built into the DNA of some churches is almost an unwritten "holiness chart", that is used to grade and assess everyone. So, because everyone knows what the answers already are they pass the test (outside) without doing the work (inside). When a group systemizes holiness based in majority on the outward, they begin to birth and grow pharisees and hypocrites.

Pharisees and hypocrites are in every church. They know the right words to say, they do all the right things, attend all the right conferences, show up at all the special meetings, avoid those things that the group considers out-of-bounds for the Christian. Sometimes because of the outward show these individuals are promoted to high levels of responsibility within the church.

The warning is simple. The modern church runs the risk of creating modern pharisees and hypocrites. Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 23:24-28, "Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."

Much emphasis must be made of the heart's condition and position before God. If the heart is holy, the actions will follow. If the heart isn't holy, the facade will eventually crack, fade, and crumble. The unfortunate truth is, when the walls of the facade fall down, they fall on top of others and sometimes crush them.

It is true, however, that inner holiness should impact, and will always impact our lifestyle. Look at what the Apostle Peter told us.
1 Peter 1:13-19 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 

Peter first addresses the inside of us, the mind. From here he contrasts who we were with who we now are. A new person will have by nature, a new conduct.

As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 

Next comes the motivation. Holiness, for the sole purpose of being like God. Holiness is not something God gave us to evaluate ourselves against another Christian.

Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. 

And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear: 

Our motivation for our outward walk is not to be how others perceive us, but rather the fact that we will give account one day of how we ran our race.

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 

Finally, Peter takes us back to what really matters...the blood of Jesus. We were not redeemed or saved because of our works. Our outward holiness does not impress God or gain our acceptance with Him. The only thing that impresses the Father is the blood of Jesus, and it is our only means of acceptance with the Almighty

Look with me at, 2 Peter 3:11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, 

We see in this verse a progression. First, Peter talks about the motivating factor of the end of this world; the end of the external and the beginning of the eternal. Second, he talks about the manner or kind of people that we ought to be. This has to do with the heart, with character, with our spirit, and attitude. From this inward holiness then flows an outward holiness that permeates our way of life (our "conversation"), this then makes us look like Jesus (godliness).

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