It's Holiness, Church... But Not As We Know It
Articles - Christian Growth
by Lyn Packer
A little while ago the Lord told me in a prophetic word for the church – "It's time to put the fun back into Holy!"
Fun! Holy! – They are not two words that I would have thought went together, but then God is good at rattling our cages and challenging wonky theology.
I have noticed that most prophetic words I give to the church will first do a work in me before they do it in others, so that statement dealt to some wrong thoughts about holiness in me personally. I'm sure it will do the same for you.
"God, come and destroy our wonky theology, transform our minds and set us straight!"
I knew we were supposed to be holy and had read the verses relating to it many times over the years. So I thought I understood what holy meant. I had always tried, to the best of my ability, to live a holy life and thought I didn't do too bad.
But there was my first bit of wonky theology – my holiness isn't dependant on me doing something but on Christ having done something.
Col 1:22 But his Son became a human and died. So God made peace with you, and now he lets you stand in his presence as people who are holy and faultless and innocent. (CEV)
1 Peter 1:16 Because it is written, "you shall be holy, for I am holy." NASB
Part of my understanding of holiness was that I thought that true holiness meant that we had to live morally pure and righteous lives and that this was done through effort on our part. But it doesn't. It means, that's what God is so that's what you get to be! He gives it to you! Holiness is a glorious, wondrous gift.
God breathes over us the words "You shall be holy, for I am holy" as a divine benediction, an endorsement, a seal of approval. This is who you get to be because this is who I am. He releases over us his eternal approval – you are now made holy, you are fashioned according to my image and you are now in me.
Holiness is seriousness - Somehow in the back of my mind I really did used to feel that holiness was in reality a very heavy thing and that to be holy meant I would become serious and somber. Although that understanding had been changing unconsciously over a period of time; it wasn't until the Lord said "It's time to put the fun back into Holy", that I realised a momentous change had been taking place inside me.
So I thought I would really look at what I had believed. I re-looked at those verses and also used other aids to understanding.
Because I thought seriousness and somberness was part of being holy I looked 'somber' up in the dictionary and it means this - oppressively solemn or sober in mood, grave. The thesaurus equates it with words like solemn, earnest, serious, grave, sober, unsmiling, stern, grim, dour, humorless; gloomy, depressed, sad, melancholy, dismal, doleful, mournful, lugubrious.
No wonder the Lord told me it was time to put the fun back into holy!
If that is what we equate being holy with then no wonder we don't want to be it, and the world doesn't want to be Christian.
So as part of some scriptural study with an updated theological grid, I looked up "holy" in the concordance as well as the dictionary and thesaurus.
Strongs concordance – Holy
So the scriptural and Strongs meaning of holy is simply - A person who is consecrated or set apart for God - in other words, in new covenant language, someone who is genuinely born-again and set apart to God.
That's great but it tells me nothing about the outworking of that consecration or holiness. For that we have to look further. Before we do that let's look at the thesaurus and dictionary definition of holy.
Dictionary - Holy
Thesaurus - Holy
Below is the dictionary meaning of some of those words from the thesaurus – I especially loved the meaning for beatific.
Why did I not just take the scriptures at face value? Why did I not just take the Strongs meaning? Why did I look at the dictionary and thesaurus? Why? Because God does not just talk through scripture, he talks through many different things and in many different ways. In this case the Strongs alone did not give me a full enough picture of what a holy person is and what he looks like, behaviour wise. So I had to put many pieces together to get that picture – scripture, the concordance, dictionary, thesaurus, other peoples writings…
Holiness in character comes from the transformational work of Christ in us. Let's see what J C Ryle says – his writings and sermons on holiness are still considered by many biblical scholars as being the clearest on that subject. John Charles Ryle (10 May 1816 - 10 June 1900)
"Holiness is His special gift to His believing people. Holiness is the work He carries on in their hearts, by the Spirit whom He puts within them. Holiness comes not of blood, parents cannot give it to their children: nor yet of the will of the flesh, man cannot produce it in himself: nor yet of the will of man, ministers cannot give it you by baptism. Holiness comes from Christ. It is the result of vital union with Him, It is the fruit of being a living branch of the True Vine."
"Sanctification (holiness), again, is the outcome and inseparable consequence of regeneration. He that is born again and made a new creature receives a new nature and always lives a new life. A regeneration, which a man can have, and yet live carelessly in sin or worldliness, is a regeneration invented by uninspired theologians, but never mentioned in Scripture. On the contrary, St. John expressly says, "He that is born of God does not commit sin - does righteousness - loves the brethren - keeps himself - and overcomes the world." (1 John ii. 29; iii. 9-14; v. 4-18.)
In a word, where there is no sanctification, there is no regeneration, and where there is no holy life there is no new birth. This is, no doubt, a hard saying to many minds; but, hard or not, it is simple Bible truth. It is written plainly, that he who is born of God is one whose "seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." (1 John iii. 9.)"
"He that boasts of being one of God's elect, while he is willfully and habitually living in sin, is only deceiving himself, and talking wicked blasphemy. The very idea of a man being "sanctified," while no holiness can be seen in his life, is flat nonsense and a misuse of words. Light may be very dim; but if there is only a spark in a dark room it will be seen. Life may be very feeble; but if the pulse only beats a little, it will be felt. It is just the same with a sanctified man: his sanctification will be something felt and seen, though he himself may not understand it. A "saint" in whom nothing can be seen but worldliness or sin, is a kind of monster not recognized in the Bible!"
So let's put all the pieces together - Holy, is what you are if you are truly born-again – it is your state of being. You have been made holy through Christ's redemptive work and thereby are consecrated to God.
Holiness is not a set of traditionally perceived behaviours. Holy behaviour is simply a by-product of our being holy, not the other way around. We are not holy because we choose to do things we perceive as being right and proper so that we can make God happy with us.
A holy life is a life that is full of Joy because Joy lives in you; and out of that state of being given over to God and full of joy (blissfully happy) flows a life that is transformed into Christ's image, having his character and values, thereby it is a morally and spiritually excellent life. And in turn that life shows others the reality of God's amazing love and grace, what the real Christian life is, and offers them that same cleansing, consecration, that same blissfully happy joy and so much more.
A person who is truly born again or given over to God's will, out of their state of already being holy, will be Christ-like in nature and deed, blissfully happy and able to impart that to others. Now that begins to put the fun back into Holy! So in reality being holy is a fun filled adventure not a deathly serious set of rules and behaviours.
And that kind of Holy is one I want.
Is God serious? Yes, at times, but that is not his default personality or character. He is good; he is holy, he is love, he is joy, he is peace, he is righteousness, he is fun, he is full of delight, he is outrageously extravagant and so much more… those things are who he is, not just what he does. What he does flows out of who he is. That's the God we serve and love, that's the God who is holy and that's what his holiness works in us.
The Bible does not tell us that God's nature is judgement or anger or that he demands impossibilities of his kids and punishes them when they don't come up to that. Sure, the wages of sin is death and the sin nature had to be dealt with, but it is not us who deal with it. Christ has already taken all judgement and punishment and we will never have to have it. He has made us holy in him and we get to live out of his holiness, his mind, his heart, his nature. It is not about our works but his unbelievably wonderful grace.
Does God demand holiness? No he doesn't demand it – he gives it. It's his gift to us, his holy nature in us, to live out of.
It's holiness, Church…but not as we know it! It's time for a mind transformation and… it's time to put the fun back into Holy!