Saturday, August 20, 2005

Modern Man and the Holy Life

By Alexander Samuels

The word "holy" is not very commonly used in our modern vocabulary. I have heard it as part of an expression of profanity more than in normal conversation. When was the last time you talked to anybody about living a holy life? Ask your pastor how many people he has counseled lately who wanted to know how to . . . live a more holy life. You can guess his answer.

In most churches we attend, we will probably hear the word "holy" used in reference to God, the Holy Spirit or the Bible, but how many sermons have been preached in the last year in your church about holy living? Many Christians do not quite grasp in our modern times this word that is used more than 600 times in the Bible. What does "holy" mean? How does it apply to us?

In order for a person to be holy, he or she must be morally blameless, one who is separated from sin and consecrated to God. A person who endeavors to live a holy life does so because his or her life is consecrated for God's use. In other words, in order to live a holy life you must live according to the teachings of the Bible - in contrast to the sinful ways of the world. An important concept to remember, as a Christian, is that God wants us to live in obedience to His Word. He has called every Christian to live a holy life.

Most of us today, if we think about holiness at all, believe in the myth of "cultural holiness." That is, we compare ourselves to our neighbors and say, "Look at how he lives. I am surely a better person than he is." This is a relative standard of holiness in which we feel it is pleasing to God if we just live a better life than our neighbors. But this is not Biblical holiness. Biblical holiness is nothing less than complete conformity to the character of God.

The character of God's holiness is an incredibly high goal, but He holds us to it. Even though it is absolutely true that God accepts us based on His grace and the sacrifice and merit of Jesus Christ, His standard for our character is this: "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1: 15-16). At salvation the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives to make us holy in our day-to-day lives. If we do not begin to experience the desire to live holy lives to please God, we should question whether our faith is just wishful thinking. True faith in Christ will always manifest itself in our lives by the good fruit of our character and actions.

Scottish theologian John Brown writes, "Holiness does not consist in mystic speculations, enthusiastic fervours, or uncommanded austerities; it consists in thinking as God thinks, and willing as God wills." This doesn't happen automatically. With the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, we must strive for it each day of our lives. Why? Because "without holiness no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). Modern man and woman must look to the Bible as the absolute truth for teaching us to live a life pleasing to God. We must ask God daily to search our hearts for sin. Otherwise, we will refuse to see. "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way" (Psalm 139:23-24).

This article and much of my life has been inspired (other than by the most important book of all, the Bible) by a book written by Jerry Bridges over 27 years ago. The Pursuit of Holiness (Nav Press) came along at a time when I was really having trouble understanding how to live the Christian life. It also helped me to understand what must be taking place in the spiritual work of the church and in the lives of the congregation for the church to be an authentic Christian church. I urge you to get a copy of this book and read it. I pray that God will use it to inspire you in your calling. I pray for all of us to be reminded daily to live our lives in conformity to the standard of God's holy character.

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