Holiness – Too Far?

by Lester Young

If you’ve ever wondered that question (either silently in the back of your mind, or right out loud where everybody could hear you), you’re not alone.  Off the top of my head, I’d guess that it’s a pretty big club, and the membership includes a lot of Christians – myself included.  People may even subconsciously fear the word ‘holiness’ because (to them) it carries a connotation of having to wear specific clothing and give up every fun thing that’s ever been in the world.  And that’s a large part of the problem – we don’t really know what the word actually means.  So, let’s see if we can shed some Light on it.

A very quick, comprehensive and totally accurate working definition of the word holiness is simply this: to be Christ-like.  It’s really no more complicated than that.  We can understand and verify this in our minds by recalling just Who and what Jesus is – the express image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).  In other words, He was the full and complete carnal embodiment of all that God is – He was just like God, right here on earth.  And that’s fine; but it logically leads to this next question: “If I’m supposed to be like Jesus, and Jesus is like God, what is God like?”  Fortunately for us, that’s really not a difficult question at all.

You’ve probably heard the words, “You’ll know them by their fruits.”  When Jesus said it (as part of His sermon on the mount) He was initially referring to false prophets, but He immediately tied in vegetation as well: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they’re ravening wolves.  You’ll know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit” (Matthew 7:15-18).  By the use of such divergent examples, I think we can safely infer that this principle applies to pretty much everything.

Therefore, we can also know and identify God by His fruits – the fruits of His Spirit.  But before we go there, let’s bring up the ‘clinical’ Biblical definition of the word ‘holy.’  In the Old Testament, tracing the translation back to its Hebrew root word, it means ‘clean’ and ‘pure’ (that is, no foreign ingredients).  It can also mean ‘sanctify,’ which is just a religious word for ‘separate.’  The New Testament Greek follows those same lines, and we come up with ‘rightness’ (as in equitable, even, or justice), ‘clean,’ ‘clear’ (that is, translucent or see-through), ‘pure’ and ‘consecrated’ (again, simply a religious word meaning ‘to separate to or for a specific purpose’).

Now, while we’re identifying God by His fruits, let’s keep in mind the above-mentioned connotations of ‘clean’ and, especially, ‘pure’ – that is, no contaminants.  God is Love – pure love; no foreign objects or contaminants in there.  He is Joy – pure joy; no unwanted ingredients included.  He is Peace – pure peace; with nothing extra that goes against the concept of peace.  He’s Longsuffering – and that’s it; no lack of patience.  He’s Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness and Temperance – all completely pure.  So pure that you can clearly see through all of them – no hidden meanings, no clever disguises, no strings attached.  That’s what the Lord Jesus personified.  And that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, too; because as He is, so are we in this world (1 John 4:17).

So, holiness?  It’s just the purity of it.  It’s taking that next step and separating ourselves from anything that might contaminate or clog up – even slightly – the flow of God’s pure Spirit through us to those around us.  It has nothing to do with the clothing that you wear, or your use of makeup and deodorant (or lack thereof).  Remember the Jewish Pharisees and scribes, whose special apparel made them unmistakably recognizable to the public?  (They were very prideful of that fact, by the way [Matthew 23:5-7].)  Jesus spanked them profusely whenever He got the chance, didn’t He?  He told them that what they did with the outside wasn’t relevant, but to instead “cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, [and that will make] the outside of them clean also” (Matthew 23:26).  The same very definitely goes for us.

Now, regarding the makeup and deodorant thing, there are some living among us right now who need not even think of coming outside without them, ever!  But…well, never mind.

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