What do you think about when you hear the word “holiness”? If you’re like many people, words like rules, judgmental, “holier than thou,” may come to mind. Holiness has gotten a bad wrap in recent years (some of it perhaps justified).
Holiness is necessary to talk about because sin entered into the world. My favorite re-telling of the Adam and Eve debacle goes like this …
After creating heaven and earth, God created Adam and Eve. And the first thing he said was:
"Don’t what?" Adam replied
"Don’t eat the forbidden fruit." God said.
"Forbidden fruit? We got forbidden fruit?
Hey Eve! We got forbidden fruit!"
"DON’T EAT THAT FRUIT!" Said God.
"Because I am your Father and I said so!" said God, wondering why he hadn’t stopped after making elephants. A few minutes later God saw his kids having an apple break and was angry.
"Didn’t I tell you not to the fruit?" the First Parent asked.
"Uh huh," Adam replied.
"Then why did you?"
"I dunno," Eve answered.
"She started it!" Adam said.
Having had it with the two of them, God’s punishment was that Adam and Eve should have children of their own! Thus, the pattern was set and it has never been changed.
The Holiness Movement grew out of Methodism and the Wesleyan movement. In 1784, at the famous Christmas Conference in Baltimore, they opened with the question, “For what are we here?” And the answer was proclaimed, “To reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness throughout the land.”
The rich young man in this story was doing just enough to get by (if that’s possible). In this conversation with Jesus, he discovers something about himself that was keeping him from being perfect, complete, or whole in his relationship with God. How do you respond when God shows you things that need to change in your life?
“Sin to a believer is horrible, because it crucified the Savior; he sees in every iniquity the nails and spear.” (Charles Spurgeon)
In a cartoon that appeared in Leadership magazine, two couples are seated in a living room engaged in Bible study. One of the women is speaking. "Well," she says, "I haven’t actually died to sin, but I did feel kind of faint once."
A couple of great passages of Scripture to read about sin include: Romans 6 and 1 John 3
Holiness of Heart & Life
1 Peter 1.13-16; 1 Thessalonians 4.1-3a; Hebrews 12.14; Matthew 5.43-48
Walk in the Spirit
Amos 5.14-15a; Galatians 5.16-18; Philippians 2.12-13
The way toward holiness of heart and life is to walk in the Spirit (which we’ll talk more about next week). But for now, I think two of the questions that women and men, who are being ordained in the United Methodist Church, are asked, are fitting for us today …
- “Are you going on to perfection?” (With the help of God, I am!)
- “Do you expect to be made perfect in this life?” (Yes)
Of course, whenever we talk about sin and holiness, we must talk about grace. The Scriptures inform us that "Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God’s grace. So since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does this mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!" (Romans 6.14-15)
“God has one destined end for mankind — holiness! His one aim is the production of saints. God is not an eternal blessing-machine for men. He did not come to save men out of pity. He came to save men because He had created them to be holy.” (Oswald Chambers)
My prayer for you and me today is found in Psalm 51.10: "Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a right spirit within me."