In this lesson you will be introduced to a definition for God’s holiness, your response to God’s holiness, and three types of holiness.
Take your Bibles and turn to Isaiah 6:3. If you are like me you didn’t have cable or satellite, you had a TV antenna above the roof of your house. From time to time the station I’m trying to watch is fuzzy and out of focus. So, I get up go outside and grab the pole and turn it. I’ll be looking through the widow at someone who is watching the TV screen and gives me the thumbs up that it’s clear. Watching a fuzzy screen with static noise coming from it can be frustrating.
Well, sometimes that’s what happens when we try to study God. If your antenna is not working right, you won’t get a clear picture. You won’t hear all the story. It’s not there is something wrong with the One sending the message, it’s just that the receiving part of our lives needs to be adjusted. Our spiritual receivers need to be fixed.
Since Adam’s fall, our ability to pick up the “God Channel” has been greatly disturbed. As a result, we stare into the picture of our lives and wonder where God’s at and why He’s not doing something or why He’s doing what He’s doing. We can’t see the whole picture or get all the information. Because of our sinful nature and other things we have a difficult time understanding God.
Of all the things about God hard for us to focus on, one of the most difficult is God’s holiness. Let’s begin with a definition. The holiness of God is that character of our Lord that causes Him to be without sin in everything He is and does. He is completely perfect.
There is no way under heaven to describe God’s holiness in the time we have together but I do want you to see a brief description of God’s holiness and understand how we should respond to it.
The Description of God’s Holiness
To begin to understand God’s holiness we need to know three things.
God’s holiness is the centerpiece of His attributes
First of all, God’s holiness is the centerpiece of His attributes. God’s holiness is central to understanding who and what He is. Nowhere in Scripture is God called “love, love, love;” or “eternal, eternal, eternal” or “powerful, powerful, powerful.” But in Isaiah 6:3 and other places He is described as “holy, holy, holy” (NLT). Whenever you see three words repeated like this in the Bible, you are reading something that is of ultimate importance. God is wanting to get your attention about something. God wants us to know without a doubt that He is holy.
When it comes to God all His attributes are affected by His holiness. God’s love is holy, it’s without sin. God’s wrath and justice is holy, it’s without sin. God’s wisdom is holy, it’s perfect. Everything about God is holy. God does not sin nor does He tempt anyone to sin. He is holy. Everything He says or does is holy. It’s the centerpiece of His attributes. Everything that God is and does and doesn’t do is right. He is perfect and He is holy. God’s holiness is the centerpiece of His attributes.
God’s holiness makes Him unique
Number two, God’s holiness makes Him unique. It separates Him from His creation. When we talk about the word “holy” you find definitions like “to divide,” “to mark off,” and “to set apart from all else.” It’s the opposite of profane, common, or ordinary. To be holy is to be different, distinct, or unique. The English roots refer to that which is whole, healthy, happy, sound, complete, and unspoiled. The word “holy” eventually came to mean “spiritually pure, sacred, untainted by evil, sinless.”
When applied to God, holiness is that which divides Him from everyone and everything else. It is the quality of “awesome mystery” in God’s being, His essential nature and character that make Him different, distinct, and unique from any other thing or person in the universe.
That’s why Moses after God had parted the Red Sea wrote a song to help them remember their great God who delivered them. One of the lines in the song, as seen in Exodus 15:11 ask, “Who is like you among the gods, O Lord – glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor, performing great wonders?” (NLT). The answer is “No one!” Notice that Moses used the phrase “glorious in holiness” to describe God’s uniqueness. “Glorious” literally means “expanded” in holiness. God’s holiness, like His other attributes, is in a category by itself. He isn’t six or ten or one hundred times more holy than the best person you know. God Himself is an entirely different category in which He is the only member. He is “glorious in holiness” and it’s His holiness that separates Him from everything else.
His holiness includes the absolute absence of evil in His character. It includes and defines all that is pure, whole, righteous, and healthy in the universe. We cannot, with our finite minds, get our arms or our minds around the absolute, sinless, majestic purity of our God. Even with God’s help, we will be overwhelmed by His holiness long before we understand much about it. But it is His holiness that separates Him and makes Him completely unique. God is holy.
God’s holiness demands that He judge sin
Third, God’s holiness demands that He judge sin. This is repeated all through the Bible. God has always judged sin, and there is a great future judgment coming. God’s holiness and judgment of sin are always linked together. For example in Revelation 16:5 where God is pouring out His wrath during the Great Tribulation on those who have rejected Him, an angel says, “You are just, O Holy One, who is and who always was, because you have sent these judgments” (NLT). The reason God judges sin is because He is holy. God judges man and creation because a holy God cannot skip over sin. He couldn’t skip over it if He wanted to because of His holy nature. God’s holiness means sin must be taken seriously and always will be judged. God takes sin seriously and so should we.
Our Response to God’s Holiness
Exploring God’s holiness is not just a nice way to learn more about God. There are responsibilities that flow from deeper understanding. Our exposure to God’s holiness must lead to a clear reflection of it in our lives. Every person who understands enough to have Christ living in him or her can hear God say, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:14-16, NLT). In other words, the holiness of God demands that Christians reflect His character in their lifestyles. How do we do that? How do we grow in holiness?
To get us started you need to know the three experiential aspects of holiness.
First, there is positional holiness. This is called justification. The moment you understand that God is holy and you have sinned, you turn from your sin, trust in Christ’s work on the cross to pay for your sin, and pray to receive Christ. You are immediately justified. You have been declared holy by virtue of your position in Christ. God sees you as forgiven, cleansed and holy because of the blood of Christ.
Second, there is practical holiness. This is called sanctification. If you are like me you know you are saved, but you also realize that you still have the same struggles with temptation before you were saved. That’s where this second aspect of holiness comes in. Once you’ve put your trust in Christ, the Spirit of God does dwell in you, but now you face a battle. You have enemies- your own tendencies and habits, the world, your lack of Biblical knowledge, your lack of fellowship with other believers, and the devil himself. God will use His Word, the Holy Spirit inside you and relationships with other Christians to help you grow in your walk with Christ. Over time, you’ll become more and more like Him. You will become more and more holy in your thoughts, actions and lifestyle.
Third, there is permanent holiness. This is called glorification. You and I are going to die, or the Lord is going to return, and the moment you meet Him the process of holiness will be suddenly over. This moment is called glorification. You will permanently be holy. It’s a done deal. There will be no more sin to deal with in any form.
With those three aspects of holiness in mind I want to give you four reactions to the holiness of God that all Christians should have. So I want to give you some thoughts about practical holiness. How do we respond to this awesome holy God?
We work at living holy
Number one, we work at living holy. We don’t slide or stumble into a holy life. A holy life doesn’t just happen. You have to make a decision and a commitment to live holy. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord” (NLT). We are to “work” and “make every effort” (NIV 84) to live holy and godly lives. How would your life change if you made more of an effort to not sin and to do what is right? How much work are you putting into holy living?
- To “work at living a holy life” may mean protecting your eyes and heart by protective devices on the internet or TV.
- To “work at living a holy life” may mean humbling yourself to follow the authority that God has placed over your life.
- To “work at living a holy life” may mean ending some relationships that is hurting your walk with God.
- To “work at living a holy life” may mean asking someone to help keep you accountable regarding certain areas of your life that you know you struggle with sin and temptation.
I’m not talking about legalism, but placing boundaries or limits around your life in order to protect you from sin and to encourage you toward righteousness.
Is someone were to ask you, “What are you doing that demonstrates that you are working at a holy life?” What would you say? The first step in being holy because God is holy is making a commitment to holiness.
We work at thinking holy
Number two, we work at thinking holy. We have to change the way we think as Christians. We have to think differently than we did before we were saved. Look at Ephesians 4:17-24. As you read the following verses, note all the words that have to do with your mind, thoughts and thinking.
“With the Lord’s authority I say this: Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against Him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from Him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God – truly righteous and holy” (NLT).
Responding to God’s holiness requires a new way of thinking. A key issue in your growth is what happens in your mind. What do you allow into your mind through your eyes and ears, or through the books you read? How much of God’s Word are you feeding your mind? What we devote our minds to makes all the difference (Philip. 4:8; Rom. 12:1-2). You need to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.
We work at obeying God’s command of holiness
Number three, we work at obeying God’s command of holiness. Look closely at 1 Peter 1:14, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. (15) But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. (16) For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy” (NLT, 1 Pet. 1:14-16). The motivation to live a holy life is because our great and wonderful God is holy. The standard for our holiness is God himself… just as He who called you is holy, so be holy. The scope of our holiness is in all we do. We cannot be selectively holy. We can’t choose holiness in one area in exchange for accepting sin in another. This isn’t about keeping a set of rules, about length of hair, about make-up, about what translation of the Bible you read or what style of worship you prefer. This is about living life as free from sin as possible. Free from sin in your attitude. Free from sin in your speech. Free from sin regarding your body. Free from sin regarding your emotions. Free from sin regarding relationships. It’s about changing your life to not cause other’s to sin. It’s about living holy. It’s a command to obey.
- Holiness says, “When God says be forgiving, you are forgiving.”
- Holiness says, “When God says submit to authority, you submit to authority.”
- Holiness says, “When God says be generous, you are generous.”
Holiness is a passion to honor God in all we say and do.
We work at developing an attitude of holiness
Number four, we work at developing an attitude of holiness. Having an attitude of holiness is having a hunger for holiness. There is something in you that has a driving desire to live a pure and godly life more than anything. Proverbs 8:13 says, “All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech” (NLT). Having an attitude of holiness is not a haughty, holier-than-thou treatment of others. It is an uncompromising, gut-level rejection of evil behavior. Holiness can be a very unpopular attitude in a world of compromise and immorality. Having an attitude of holiness causes you to view everything you say and do through the filter of purity.
For example, if someone were to ask you about a movie you saw. You might say, “Well, it was entertaining except I wish they would have left this one scene out of this couple doing something they should have been doing.” The reason you say that is because you filter everything through holiness. You have an attitude of holiness. You evaluate everything based on holiness.
God says “Be holy because I am holy.” The first step in being holy is accepting Jesus Christ as the Lord of your life. Then by God’s grace you begin to say no to sin and making every effort to be holy. You get serious about living for Jesus. You make every effort, by God’s Spirit working in you, to think… feel… do… and be holy.
Is there a sin you need to repent of? Are you making every effort to get rid of it? Go to God and say, “God I need help. I want to quit it, but for some reason it is a ball and chain. I need you to deliver me. Place people into my life to help me. I want to be holy because you are holy.”