Holiness . . . what thoughts or pictures does that word bring to mind? Musty old relics? Tight-faced, prudish old ladies? Stifling restraint? Holiness is perhaps more maligned and misunderstood than any other attribute.
If the word holiness seems an uncomfortable fit for you, perhaps you’ve attached some misguided thinking to this beautiful fruit of the Spirit. Consider holiness as the state that is nearest to the heart of God. How does that sound?
Spending my hours in an up-close and personal encounter with the Father sounds pretty good to me.
Listen to one of my favorite authors’ definitions of holiness:
Holiness is consecrated closeness to God . . . in essence obeying God, living to God and for God, imitating God . . . taking his side against sin . . . following Christ’s teaching and example, worshiping God in the Spirit, loving and serving God and men out of reverence for Christ. In relation to God, holiness takes the form of a single-minded passion to please by love and loyalty, devotion and praise. In relation to sin, it takes the form of a resistance movement, a discipline of not gratifying the desires of the flesh, but of putting to death the deeds of the body (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:13).
I hope you don’t skim that paragraph too quickly. Take time to let J. I. Packer’s words soak in beyond your mind all the way to your heart.
“Consecrated closeness to God . . .” what follower of Christ doesn’t want that? But notice he didn’t just say “closeness” as though I can spend the afternoon in a sordid bed of idolatry with one hand reaching for the lust of my flesh and the other pressing into God. He said “consecrated closeness” which specifies that this closeness to God isn’t attainable while cozy in bed with my pet sins.
[box]“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:3–5)[/box]
[box]“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)[/box]
Consecrated closeness to God, holiness, will require walking by the Spirit, turning from my silly pursuit of idols, and learning the life of full obedience. More on that later this week.
What about you? What comes to mind when you hear the word “holiness?”