‘The serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence in the world next to the power of God,’ according to Blaise Pascal. Holiness is beautiful and it has nothing to do with outward beauty. It is a beauty that radiates from within. This is the way the world will be changed. It starts with you and me. St Francis of Assisi said, ‘Sanctify yourself and you will sanctify society.’
Holiness is not an optional extra. It is not just for saints and special Christians. It should be something we all aspire to in this life. Holiness is not the same thing as intensity. Intensity is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit! The ability to laugh at yourself is key to holiness. Take Jesus seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. A sense of humour is the link between holiness and humility.
Holiness is not boring. As C.S. Lewis wrote, ‘How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing... it is irresistible.’
Where do you find holiness?Psalm 122:1-9
For the psalmist, the source of his joy was the chance to worship God in the temple. This was the place where the people went ‘to praise the name of the Lord’ (v.4b). This is why Jerusalem was of such great importance for the people of God and why the psalmist was so passionate about the peace and security of the city (vv.6–9).
Jerusalem was the holy city. It is described in our Old Testament passage for today as ‘my holy mountain’ (Ezekiel 20:40). The temple was God’s home. This is what made it holy.
Now, the church is God’s home. It is the new holy place ‘with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone that holds all the parts together. We see it taking shape day after day... a holy temple built by God, all of us built into it, a temple in which God is quite at home’ (Ephesians 2:20–22, MSG).
The people are the new place. Through Jesus, you are a new house of God – you are a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I long for your holy presence. I long to praise the name of the Lord. Thank you for the peace and security that comes from your presence in the house of God.
When do you become holy?Hebrews 10:1-18
Holiness is now possible for you through the sacrifice of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit who comes to live within you. In one sense, you can experience ‘instant holiness’. But, in another sense, holiness is a very long process that will never be complete in this life.
One of the questions frequently asked in an Alpha small group is, ‘What happens to all the people who lived before Jesus? Isn’t it unfair that Jesus came at a particular point in history and made forgiveness possible?’ The assumption behind the questions is that the cross can only work forward in time and cannot be effective for those who lived before Jesus.
However, the writer of Hebrews says, ‘But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God’ (v.12). The sacrifice of Jesus is effective for all time. The cross is effective for those who lived before Jesus and for those who live after him.
‘The old plan was only a hint of the good things in the new plan’ (v.1a, MSG). In other words, it only foreshadowed something superior that was to come.
The law could not perfect (v.1b). The proof that it could not perfect people is that the sacrifices had to go on being offered (v.2). People continued to feel guilty for their sins (v.2c) ‘Because the blood of bulls and goats is powerless to take sins away’ (v.4, AMP). Only the blood of Christ can take away your sin. He alone was the perfect sacrifice, since he alone lived a perfect life.
His voluntary sacrifice brought an end to the old order and established the new one (vv.5–9). The result of his sacrifice is that you ‘have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (v.10).
This is in stark contrast to the law: ‘Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! ... It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people’ (vv.12–14, MSG).
The expression ‘he sat down’ is very significant. The Aaronic priests never sat down to rest in the sanctuary (v.11). Their sacrifices were never complete. On the other hand, Jesus ‘sat down at the right hand of God’ (v.12). It showed that his work had been completed: ‘By one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy’ (v.14).
Here you can see how holiness takes place in your life:
As far as the past is concerned, the penalty for sin has been paid: ‘We have been made holy… he has made [us] perfect forever’ (vv.10,14). This is justification. Jesus’ sacrifice has made possible total forgiveness and a perfect relationship with God. You are totally forgiven. Therefore, forgive others and, most difficult of all, forgive yourself. There is no need for any further sacrifice for sins (v.18).
In the present, the power of sin is being broken. Sanctification is a process of ‘being made holy’ (v.14). In my case at least, it seems to be a very slow and challenging process. Jesus is setting me free from the power of sin. Holiness is the work of the Holy Spirit who ‘testifies to us about this’ (v.15). Through the Holy Spirit coming to live in you, God’s laws will be in your heart and on your mind (v.16).
In the future, even the presence of sin will be removed. One day it will be seen that evil has been totally defeated. Jesus ‘waits for his enemies to be made his footstool’ (v.13a) and the process of our ‘being made holy’ will be complete (see also 1 John 3:2).
Lord, thank you that by your sacrifice you bring me into a holy relationship with God. Thank you that through your Holy Spirit I am in the process of being made holy and that, one day, there will be perfect holiness forever.
How do you become holy?Ezekiel 19:1-20:44
The key to holiness is found in your relationship with God. God says, ‘I am The Holy’ (20:40, MSG). Through your relationship with him, he wants you to become like him. He says, ‘I, GOD, am in the business of making them holy’ (v.12, MSG).
This was the reason for the ‘holy rest days’, the Sabbath (v.20, MSG). It was to give the people time to develop their relationship with God. Giving God the first day of the week symbolised giving God priority over everything.
God’s desire has always been for a holy people. In this passage, we see once again his frustration with the lack of holiness of his people. God’s people are intended to be a reflection of God’s holy character.
Today’s passage begins with a lament for the last kings of Judah (19:1). The ‘lioness’ refers to Judah and the last kings are described as her lion cubs.
The image changes to that of an uprooted vineyard (19:10–14), but the message of the lament is constant. Any empire we build for ourselves may seem strong, but it will be easily and quickly destroyed.
The rest of the passage then goes on to explain why Israel was uprooted and judged, and what their actions should have been. God describes how the people have ‘defiled’ and ‘profaned’ his holiness, but looks forward to a time when that will no longer be the case.
The key factor in what makes the people holy or not seems to lie in their relationship with God. His complaint against them centres on their following other gods, and the way in which they defiled themselves by the images they looked at (20:16; see also vv.7,24,28,30). This is in stark contrast to what should have been a close relationship with God, in which ‘I the Lord made them holy’ (v.12).
All the way through, we can see that God’s longing is for a holy people who will reflect his character. He had a plan to make this kind of holiness possible. That moment only came with the sacrifice of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.
You have been made holy. The Holy Spirit lives in you. Put God first in your life and avoid anything that spoils your relationship with him. The serene beauty of your holy life will be influential and irresistible.
Father, I want to put you first in my life and to avoid anything that spoils my relationship with you. Help me to lead a holy life.
Hebrews 10:14 (MSG)
‘It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people.’
I am one of them!
Verse of the Day
‘…[you] have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (Hebrews 10:10).
C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady, (William B Eerdmans Publishing Co, 1971).
Tony Castle, The Hodder Book of Christian Quotations, (Hodder & Stoughton, 1982) p.146.
Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.
Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.