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What Does It Mean to Be Holy?
All the passages below are taken from Elisabeth Elliot’s book “Secure in the Everlasting Arms,” published in 2002.
When God finished the work of creation He blessed the seventh day and made it holy. When Moses saw the burning bush in the desert he found that he was standing on holy ground. God's Word tells us that we must be holy because He is holy. Is so awesome a mandate as holiness attainable for us sinners? Hear what the hymn writer T Binney wrote:
Oh, how shall I whose native sphere is dark, whose mind is dim,
Before the Ineffable appear, and on my naked spirit bear the uncreated beam?
Jesus, who is "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Hebrews 1:3), shows us the answer to that question, and the way of obedience. He said, "Here I am---It is written about me in the scroll---I have come to do your will, 0 God" (Hebrews 10:7).
Holiness is not an impossibility for any of us. It means first of all to be set apart, as the vessels in the tabernacle were set apart (consecrated) from ordinary vessels. For us to be holy means the will to do God's will. It means sacrifice---the offering up of my own will (which sometimes seems to me an impossibility) and the acceptance of His. He asks of us nothing which He Himself was unwilling to do. "He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:17-18).
There is a way for man to rise to that sublime abode; an offering and a sacrifice, a Holy Spirit's energies, an Advocate with God.
That Advocate is Jesus Christ, who "although he was a son,... learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).
These, these prepare us for the sight of holiness above; the sons of ignorance and night may dwell in the eternal Light, through the Eternal Love.
The Lord loves us, and "takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation" (Psalm 149:4).
There is an active practice of holiness as we carry out, for the glory of God, the ordinary duties of each day, faithfully fulfilling the responsibilities given us. The passive practice consists in loving acceptance of the unexpected, be it welcome or unwelcome, remembering that we have a wise and sovereign Lord who works in mysterious ways and is never taken by surprise. I heard a comforting word at the Urbana Missionary Convention some years ago. Eric Alexander, a dear Scottish preacher, reminded us that "God is not worrried (roll those Rs!) about anything!'
Which of these two requirements of holiness (active or passive) is beyond our strength? Remember the words of the apostle Paul: "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation.... I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Philippians 4:12-13). This is all that God demands of us in His work of sanctification. He demands it from the high and the low, from the strong and the weak; in a word, from all, always and everywhere. A promise to which I have clung for many years is the prophetic word in Isaiah 50:7 (KJV), "The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed."
Perfection does not consist in understanding God's designs but in submitting to them, for "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). Sometimes the explanation of his purpose (Romans 8:29) is overlooked: "For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son." God works in the soul to make it holy---to make it, finally, like Himself. The whole essence of the spiritual life consists in recognizing the designs of God for us at the present moment. [141-143]
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