When you hear the word “Holiness” what’s your first thought? Do you picture a gray haired little old lady wearing her hair stacked in a bee hive on her head? Do you picture a bland and solemn life where “fun” is banned? If that’s your idea of holiness, trust me—that’s not God’s idea.
The more I study the work of the Holy Spirit, the more I see a pattern: these two words keep cropping up: love and holiness. I believe that’s because both of these are intricately bound and interwoven in the fabric of obedience:
[box]May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father . . . (1 Thessalonians 3:12–13)[/box]
How do you think they relate to one another?
I think Jesus made it pretty clear for us.
Jesus gave us the prescription for demonstrating our love for God when He told us:
[box]“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).[/box]
Holiness will never happen without obedience. Obedience is birthed from a pure love for God.
It’s easy to place “holiness” in the category of moral purity, but holiness encompasses much more than that. Holiness is living a life of obedience to God and that can involve everything from my eating habits to abolishing worry as my default position.
Holiness starts with loving God.
Love for God is directly linked with obedience to Him. I’ve found that obedience, although difficult at times, comes far more easily when I focus on His character.
When I focus on God’s enormous love and gracious mercy toward me, it compels me to respond in obedience.
This is how Paul described it:
[box]“For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).[/box]
Focusing on God’s love for me cultivates my response of love toward Him. He pours love into my life and love for Him flows back to Him.
Romans 5:5 describes the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to love:
[box]“. . . and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”[/box]
Quoting from J. I. Packer’s excellent work, Keeping in Step with the Spirit:
“Love is not essentially a feeling of affection, but a way of behaving . . . Love does something; it gives; that is how it establishes its identity . . .
As Jesus was law incarnate, so he was love incarnate, and following his way of self-giving is holiness in its purest and most perfect expression. Love to God . . . and love to neighbor . . . (is) the very heartbeat of holiness.”
“Love to God” is fleshed out through obedience to God. Laying down your selfish inclinations, self-centered way of thinking, slothful tendencies, and picking up the mission God has for you in this moment.
Love toward others is fleshed out also through obedience to God, obeying the mission He has for you to carry out in service to them for His glory (as illustrated in Jesus’ story of the Samaritan in Luke 10).
Loving God and others may not be what you first think of when you hear the word “holiness” but it should be. Holiness springs out of pure love for God. Love for God is demonstrated through obedience and obedience develops a character of holiness.
So, what does obedience look like in your life today?
How can you walk in holiness today?
Image courtesy of africa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net