by Javan Rowe
Moses saw the flames from a distance. The bush was burning but it was not consumed. His curiosity gave way to fear when he heard the voice of God saying, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Moses knew then that he was in the presence of a special, holy being.
A Holiness Revealed
The word holiness literally means “separateness.” When describing God as holy, we are saying he is completely separate from sin. God is perfect in character and distinct from anything less holy. We can never fully comprehend God’s holiness. It is completely foreign to impure and unholy beings like us. God is holy and inherently separate.
Our separation from God’s perfection is both physical and moral. He is physically separate, dwelling in Heaven. His holiness is also moral, though, meaning it carries the highest standard of ethical purity. In fact, if it were not for the intervention of God’s love, grace, and mercy, we would never know him. We would remain hopeless, sinful human beings who could never bridge the cavernous gap between our holy Creator and ourselves.
God’s holiness affects everything it contacts. When the Levites performed certain tasks to God’s specifications, the tabernacle and everything in it became holy because God dwelt there (Exodus 40:9). After Jesus ascended to Heaven, he gave us the Holy Spirit who literally brought God’s presence to us. The Spirit indwells believers, enlightens us to God’s holiness, and moves us toward sanctification. Holy God touches us, imparting some of his holiness to us, and we find ourselves becoming increasingly holy.
As we experience God’s holiness, a desire to replicate that holiness is birthed. In the ways God is separate, the Spirit moves us toward separateness. This is not to say we are to be physically disconnected from others, but rather engaged in our culture while separated from worldly lusts and sins. Our call to be holy, or set apart, for his service means we are to seek holiness, enslave ourselves to God (Romans 6:13), and practice self-control, which will demonstrate God’s holiness to a broken, unholy world.
Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning.” We should listen to the truth God speaks to us through his Word. This requires more than rapidly skimming passages, and instead meditating on what we read. Scripture contains many examples of people who, despite struggles with certain sins, still managed to seek holiness. Through their lives, and through biblical instruction about the character of God, we can become more knowledgeable about holiness.
Once we understand what holiness is, we can start our quest to know it experientially. Our search must begin with a craving in our spirit, similar to our physical hunger and thirst. It is through prayer and reading Scripture—in other words, getting to know God—that a thirst is created within us for more of him. This thirst is intensified by denying ourselves whatever is contrary to his commands. Through bypassing daily feasts of carnal sins, a vacancy is left in our spirit, creating an intense hunger that can be filled only by holiness.
Once we have sought holiness in God’s Word, praying to God and emptying ourselves of sinful things, we must be proactive in seeking out holiness. It is an unending process of sanctification until we arrive in Heaven and are instantly glorified. In the meantime, God reveals holiness to us. We simply need to open our eyes and witness it. We will never actually achieve perfect holiness, but we should still pursue holiness like we can obtain it, accepting no substitutes.
Enslave Yourself to God
We were born into a world of sin. Jesus came to offer freedom from our shackles, enabling us to enjoy new liberty. Christians are free from sin, but subject to a new Master. This should not frighten us, though. After all, why should we not be servants of God, since he is the one who breathed life into us?We are servants of God, or we are servants of the devil—there are no other choices. Serving Satan leads to a second death in Hell, but those who are children and servants of God will spend eternity with him. Besides, God is a benevolent Master who wants only the best for us.
Because God is our Master, we are to submit to him. Our obedience and service should not be done begrudgingly, but joyfully and thankfully. Romans 6:13 says “offer yourselves to God . . . as an instrument of righteousness.” When a concert pianist performs, the piano keys do not resist the player’s hands. Rather, they submit themselves to the hands that press down on them. The result is beautiful music. Likewise, we are to submit ourselves under God’s mighty hands—hands that work to make wonderful music through us. When we wake up every morning, asking, “God, how can I serve you?” we become the tools God uses to show the world his holiness.
Obedience means we must take control of the desires of our flesh that attempt to bring us down. Peter advised believers to “prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled” (1 Peter 1:13, NIV, 1984). He later wrote, “abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul” (2:11). Peter knew what it meant to lack self-control. The Gospels reveal his constant struggles, acting and speaking rashly. Though many instances depict Peter as someone to be admired, he had to learn to control his passions. Jesus told Peter that Satan wanted to destroy him, so Peter was well aware of the things he warned others about in his epistles.
Just as Peter battled impulsive behaviors, we must battle our own sinful desires. Our thoughts can stray at a moment’s notice, without any warning, so we must work to keep them captive. Once our thoughts are taken prisoner, we can discern whether or not God would approve of them. We must learn self-control by preparing our “minds for action,” avoiding sinful desires, and remaining constantly vigilant and alert.
Mirrors of God
We were made in the image of God, but because of the Fall, God’s image in us has been distorted. Our salvation restores the original image. Our redemption gives us a unique opportunity to reflect God to a world that has turned its back on him. We are the image-bearers of God, so we should try to reflect the best image of him possible. This means striving to be like Christ, rather than our peers, and looking to the Bible as a blueprint for reflecting God to others in positive ways.
Part of holiness is exhibiting a love for others similar to the love the Father showed when he sacrificed his Son on our behalf. Holiness means demonstrating the mercy that withholds punishment when it may be justified. Holiness includes demonstrating kindness to those who are unkind to us. Mirroring God’s holiness involves replicating some of God’s attributes that are laid out in Scripture. As we reflect God’s holiness to the world, the result will be obedience to God’s Word, love for God, salvation for the lost, and service to others.
Isaiah gives us a great goal when writing about the people of God: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (61:3, NIV, 2010). We are to display the splendor of God to the entire world. As long as God is gracious enough to give us life, we should strive to be the best reflections of God we can be. As we look to God’s holiness, he will use the righteousness of Christ to make us more and more holy as we continue the process of sanctification. We will then continue to reflect the holiness of God until the day we go to be with him. Until then, let’s be a clear reflection, a polished mirror of God’s holiness, for the benefit of those we encounter daily.
Javan Rowe is a freelance writer in Columbus, Ohio.