A Recent Church Facebook Post:
The closer you get to Jesus, the more everything else seems so unimportant.
To truly love Christ is not only to desire to be more like him, but to honor him in duty and character. My God is HOLY ♥
Yes, God is LOVE, and that is so integral to understand, but HIS Holiness is of equal if not more importance. HOLINESS looks like something, HOLINESS acts HOLY, HOLINESS loves with a HEAVENLY love, HOLINESS lives a life that honors GOD, and furthermore HOLINESS does not turn on and off, it is there in the dark and in the light, it is there at home, on the street, and church, and on social media, or Snapchat. HOLINESS honors their elders, and treats the house of God with reverence. HOLINESS holds onto the things that are important to GOD.
It is not an exploitation, a ticket to popularity, or self-exaltation. HOLINESS is always HUMBLING.
My brothers and my sisters, it is that HOLINESS that sets us apart. When we seek the face of God there should always be a pulling to separate ourselves from the things that don’t look like him! The more I know him, the more I love him, that much MORE am I aware of my unholiness, Lord let us be more like you!
A friend recently ran across this from a neighborhood church, sent it on to me, and asked what I thought of it. She said there was something about it that didn’t sit right with her, although she didn’t disagree with anything specific in the words.
I could not agree more with all of this. Even a brief look at Isaiah 6 fills the soul with this tremendous sense of reverence at the intimate unmediated presence of the HOLY.
Jesus preached constantly of the HOLY. Of the immediate presence of the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven. Lots of the people around Him thought they understood what HOLY meant. Obviously… HOLY means wearing the proper godly clothes, carrying oneself in the proper righteous manner, associating only with those religiously and morally acceptable, vilifying those who were unclean, irreverent, unholy, or sinful, and certainly behaving properly in/at the Temple… respectful of her customs and leadership.
Here Jesus came… not only talking… but WALKING a lifestyle that appeared (to those who were the most expert in godly holiness) entirely UNholy… associating with fallen women, embracing sin riddled lepers, freeing demoniacs from their bondage, consorting with publicans, tax-collecting collaborators with the Romans, healing or telling others to carry forbidden things on the Sabbath, even discussing sacred things with pagans and women, defending the morally irredeemable like fornicators and adulteresses.
And yet… scripture makes clear… HOLINESS does, indeed, have an appearance. The Father is utterly HOLY. But only ONE knows what that looks like… “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.” [John 6:45b-46] Jesus, in fact, NEVER ONCE uses the word “Holy” as a descriptor of the Father. This word HOLY, (ἅγιος, -ία, -ιον), appears only 40 times in the Gospels, Twice referring to the City of Jerusalem, once describing what is not to be given to dogs, once describing a location for the Abomination of Desolation, once uttered by a demon addressing Jesus, once describing John the Baptist in the knowledge of Herod, twice describing angels, once as an angel describes Jesus, once describing the prophets of old, once describing the covenant of the law, once declaring the firstborn male of all species to be holy, and once referring to God in Luke’s rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew’s rendition uses the word “hallowed” (ἁγιάζω), more often translated “sanctified” or “rendered holy”. Every other Gospel referent to the word “Holy”, primarily spoken by Jesus, is as part of the phrase we translate “Holy Spirit”, (hagios pneuma – ἅγιος πνεῦμα).
So what? Why take so much time to look carefully at what Jesus, the Gospels, and the Bible have to say about Holy and God? Simply that humanity has a tendency to think we know better than God. That God can say something simple, like Jesus’ and John’s revelations that God IS LOVE, and that we will be known as Christians not by our apparent self-righteousness or image of holiness, but by our love for one another. [CF 1 John 3:10-5:3; John 13:34-35] Frail and foolish humanity, all too often deceived by the “appearance” and “status-driven” appetites of power, politics, economics, and social esteem, tend to look upon the “appearance” of the self-righteous and holy-sounding, without seeing the heart as God sees people.
Jesus was both grieved and sickened by such hypocrisy. One day, the religious leaders (whose job they felt it was to defend the Holy at all costs), pointed out the sinful way Jesus and his disciples were eating, having neglected to wash properly, thus disrespecting what they called the “tradition of the elders”. Jesus names them outright, “hypocrites”, quoting Isaiah’s excoriation of them and stating, “Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men… You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’;, and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother, is to be put to death’; but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God); you no longer permit him to do anything for his father and mother; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many such things as that.” [Mark 7:6-13]
Those consumed with religiosity and theology, tend to succumb to the arrogance that they can “define” such words as “righteousness” or “holiness” as things in themselves… free standing concepts apart from the character and nature of God Himself. The problem is, such concepts have true meaning only WITHIN the character and nature of God Himself.
Both Jesus and John assure us that LOVE is not simply a “characteristic”, or an “accidental or subsequent descriptor” of God. Love is not just “one among many features” of God. Love is an essential NAME of God. And SO is HOLY, by the way. And so is RIGHTEOUSNESS. None of these words, these concepts, these names, have meaning or can reflect Truth, without being grounded in one another.
That is… without Love, there is no Holiness. Holiness is one expression of Perfect Love. And Love is one expression of Perfect Holiness. Righteousness is an expression of Love, and Love always expresses itself Righteously… never by corruption or exploitation or cruelty.
I agree wholeheartedly with the initial thesis of the Facebook post… but it seems incumbent upon any careful scriptural scholar to hasten to point out that just as God is Himself Indivisible, so too is His Nature and are His Names.
Fortunately, for those of us who diligently seek to know, love, and see the face of God…
Philip shared that passion. “Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” [John 14:8-15]
An Ultimate Definition of HOLINESS Perhaps?
Holiness is patient, Holiness is kind and is not jealous; Holiness does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Holiness never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. [CF I Cor 13:4-10]
March 10, 2020 at 1:48 AM
Your words reminded of your “rose garden” – seeing the same rose from different angles – but always the same rose.
March 15, 2020 at 9:51 AM
What great thoughts! As you point out, holy, or holiness, are Greek words, and, therefore, had meaning to Greek following other gods. It referred to anything set apart uniquely for the use/purpose of a deity. How better can we be set apart for the purpose and use of our Savior than through love, and that flavor of love that acts for the good of others, and seeks nothing in return (also a Greek term)? I’ve thought of holiness being so different than we typically think, but haven’t connected it so closely to love as you have. It’s like you’ve completed a major section of a jigsaw puzzle for me, and the picture is of Jesus. Thank you!