What do you think when you hear the word "holy?"
Typical answers would range from a honest description of God to a slight change (“holiness”), with the cynical addition of two words. “Holier than thou” reflects the impression that – rightly or wrongly – some people have of the church
Even in the church we are not always clear what holiness is or what, practically, it might involve. Many Christians would recognise it as one of the defining aspects of God’s character but may not make the connection that holiness is a spiritual goal for church and believer alike.
We’ll be looking at Ephesians 4 & 5 but there may be other bible texts you might want to read (see 1 Peter 1: 13 – 16; 2 Timothy 1: 8 – 9; Ezekiel 36:23; Isaiah 35:8; Psalm 51: 10 – 12), to help you understand the nature of holiness and its expression through the church.
“Holiness, as taught in the Scriptures, is not based upon knowledge on our part. Rather, it is based upon the resurrected Christ in-dwelling us and changing us into His likeness.” (A.W. Tozer, Preparing for Jesus' Return: Daily Live the Blessed Hope)
The call of nonconformity is a call to a deeper level of righteousness, that goes beyond externals. When piety is defined exclusively in terms of externals, the whole point of the apostle’s teaching has been lost. Somehow we have failed to hear Jesus’ words that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of that mouth. (R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God)
To think about …
- What should Christians be like?
- How is this character formed?
- Please share what you understand by "holiness"? What bible verses support your definition?
- Why might some Christians be perceived to be more holy than others?
Our motto text (Romans 12: 1 – 2) reminds us that the Christian life will always involve some kind of separation. The challenge is for us to be part of something yet, at the same time, to be able stand apart from those aspects of it which do not reflect the character and nature of God.
It’s an old struggle and remains one which we all have to deal with on a daily basis. Shining our light means we are in the darkness, on life’s front line where that all the brokenness and of the world hasn’t yet been healed. It affects us but does it change us in the sense that it deflects our mission and goal and away from Christ? Committing to holiness recognises the conditions in which we live, alongside the commitment to Christ we have made.
Please read Ephesians 4 verse 17 to chapter 5 verse 2.
Old and New (verses 17 to 24)
- In verses 17 to 19 Paul gives us a pen picture of what we might describe as a materialistic outlook on life. What are the essential characteristics of such a life?
- How we find our way out of anything which, superficially, seems so attractive?
- What’s different between a Christian and a non Christian in terms of outlook and/or behaviour?
- Why would we want to be different?
During the course of any given week, we will change our clothes on a regular basis. Whether we are on trend or not, the clothes themselves cannot disguise the fact that what we look like doesn’t alter the essential nature of who we are. Paul uses this idea of taking off and putting on as a metaphor (a word picture) for a deeper change that goes beyond our physical appearance. In this case, he says that our nature is changed as we put on Christ (His nature) and take off self.
Brain in Gear: life in order (4:22 – 5:2)
- What needs to change for us to become like God? ( see verses 23 to 24)
- Paul suggests (verse 23) that the priority is right thinking. Why is it important to respond and commit to God with our mind as well as our heart?
- What does practical holiness look like (verses 25 – 32)?
- How can we model this in the church? How might we overcome the concern that it can look like a works based salvation?
- If GHBC were to imitate Jesus (verses 1 – 2) what would church life look like? What do we need to do to get there?
What can I do?
Holiness is wholeness--that is, the whole-hearted devotion of a whole nature to God, the consecration of every power to His service. This leads us to lean hard on God, and to seek His companionship and fellowship. (F B Meyer. Our Daily Walk)
Where do you need to lean on God? How will that be expressed in your commitment to the fellowship of the church? What areas in your life need attention if you are to realise the fullness of a holy life – God’s intention for you?