Holiness in an unholy world is an idea that creates havoc when an ‘us and them’ approach is taken. It is tempting to think that the world is totally separate from us and our own integrity sets us apart. People act like they are a candle in a sealed glass jar shining their light into a dark world and never having to fear that a dirty wind will blow out the flame. Try it. Put a candle in a glass jar, light it and screw the lid on tight and watch what happens. Sadly this has happened to many a church seeking holiness by sealing themselves in tight by doctrine, rules and ritual. Toxic pride soon blows their flame out. Fake holiness puts up barriers that not only keeps people out but extinguishes their light.
The Bible does tell us that we are a ‘chosen’ people; “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9) We are ‘special’ not because of our own merit but because of God’s mercy. And we are to declare His praise not our own; “for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:10) We are called to; “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) We cannot ‘honor all people’ when we judge them less worthy because they don’t measure up to our self righteous standards..
We are born into the world. And we are of the world in our flesh. Like pickles in a jar the world’s brine has soaked us through right into our core. God help us! Jesus prayed to Our Father for His disciples; “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:14-17) Jesus knew that though we may be His disciples we could still fall into the hands of the ‘evil one’. Pride and hard heartedness gives authority to the devil to torment us and through us, others. Jesus knew also that our sanctification wasn’t dependent upon what we did to purify ourselves. God’s word, His truth is the only path to holiness.
We come to Jesus as we are – soaked and steeped in worldly brine – the wrong kind of salt – the worst kind of salt. Lord have mercy! What drives this out of us? By what process? Where does it start and where does it end? Can a pickle stop being a pickle by draining the brine around it and finding like minded fellows to occupy a ‘purer’ jar? Wouldn’t just what’s inside each ‘holy striving’ pickle pollute the purity of the new jar? Jesus taught us; “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” (Mark 7:14,15)And; “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.” (Matthew 15:19,20)
How does the ‘worldly worthless brine’ get driven out of us? Jesus, Himself, tells us; “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 6:63,64) Jesus makes us clean: “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3) Yet many of us don’t really believe that – we make ourselves clean by being ‘pure’ by our own efforts. And then we demand others ‘clean up’ by making them conform to our notions of ‘purity’.
‘Good’ people can fall into a ‘terrible’ soul killing trap if they become obsessed with making themselves ‘holy’ and the putting their own standards of purity on others. Jesus nailed the Pharisees for this very thing; “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.” (Matthew 23:4,5) And; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” (Matthew 23:25-28)
You can have a ‘zeal’ for God but not according to knowledge of Him; “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:3,4) Self-righteous fake holiness bears no fruit; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.” (Matthew 23: 15) Do we not see the empty dying worldly church of today bearing no fruit because of it’s fake holiness;
Love seems to be a pretty big deal to you, but we’re not getting that when the rubber meets the road. In fact, more and more, your brand of love seems incredibly selective and decidedly narrow; filtering out all the spiritual riff-raff, which sadly includes far too many of us. It feels like a big bait-and-switch sucker-deal; advertising a ‘Come as You Are’ party, but letting us know once we’re in the door that we can’t really come as we are. We see a Jesus in the Bible who hung out with lowlifes and prostitutes and outcasts, and loved them right there, but that doesn’t seem to be your cup of tea. Church, can you love us if we don’t check all the doctrinal boxes and don’t have our theology all figured out? It doesn’t seem so. (John Pavlovitz, Dear Church, Here’s Why People are Really Leaving You.
The people hated Jesus for calling out the fake holiness of the Pharisees and there were many that wanted to kill Him because He said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) Holiness has a name – Jesus. Holiness has a face – Jesus’. Holiness has a body – His true church; “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” (Colossians 1:18) Any church where Jesus and only Jesus is high and lifted up is holy. Where Jesus is not high and lifted up, there is no real holiness.
What is true holiness? How is it achieved? You can’t become holy by your self. Joining a ‘holy’ church won’t do it either. Casting out some pagan practices but not others is a dead end as well. Only God makes us holy; “God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made Him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; He made us pure and holy, and He freed us from sin.” (1 Corinthians 1:30) Like King David we must learn to look only to God for holiness; “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence,And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.” (Psalm 51:10-12)
When God has made you holy, you are fit for a fruitful ministry; “Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” (Psalm 51:13)
His holiness always bears fruit.