Essence of Holiness

This week God has been talking with me about the essence of holiness.  He has taken me to several passages of scripture that, when considered together, reveal an imporant insight about holiness.

I've often asked, what does a holy life look like?  We tend to use biblical and theological terms quite readily in our conversations with other believers, but I wonder if we truly understand the meaning of those terms and concepts. Holiness is one of those terms for me.

Thankfully, God has given me some insight this week about the meaning of holiness.  Here are the most central points from a long conversation I had with God about this topic today in my journaling:

  • Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin (James 4:17, NRSV).  We can deduce from this verse that the opposite could be stated as, "When we do the right thing, we are without sin." Being "without sin" is a way to describe being holy.
  • In Ephesians 1:4, being holy and blameless are linked together. The essence of "blameless" is "to be without sin."  In Christ, we are seen by the Father as blameless, because Christ has paid the price for all of our sin - past, present and future.
  • ... as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct... for it is written "You shall be holy, for I am holy (1 Pet 1:15-16, NRSV).  When this verse is read in light of James 4:17, it seems that the way in which to be holy, as God is holy, is to do the right thing.

But then Romans 7:14-24 comes to mind:  I do the thing I don't want to do, or in my case, much of the time I don't do that which I know is right to do; it is the sin of omission rather than comission.  It can all seem rather hopeless. . .unless I ask the Holy Spirit to change my heart, mind and will.  I love to pray David's prayer, found in Psalm 51:10:  Create in me a clean heart o God, and renew a right spirit within me.  This prayer never fails to bring about a transformation in my heart and will, and I find myself willing to do what is right, wanting to do the thing that, just a few moments ealier, I did not want to do.

For me, this whole issue of doing what is right is a counterpunch to procrastination. For various known and unknown reasons, I have developed over my lifetime a habit of procrastination.  During any given day, I find myself saying in my mind, "I will do that later," or "not now."  I have been stunned recently to discover just how often this line of thinking occurs.  The tasks at hand can be large or small, it doesn't seem to matter. What does matter, I've come to see, is the attitude of my heart, for a heart that consistently resists doing the right thing is a rebellious heart.

What I have discovered this week is that procrastination is the opposite of surrender to God.  When I sense little nudges from the Holy Spirit to do something, and I respond with "not now," I am asserting my will over God's will for me in that moment, and thus revealing the rebellion that is lodged in my heart.  This was a startingly realization.  (I expect some would disagree with me; however, I know this to be true for me.)

God, in his great mercy, grace and love, is gradually addressing procrastination in my life, and he is doing it in a way that leaves me feeling free from shame and guilt over all of the right things I have not done during my lifetime that I could have done; it reflects a tremendous waste of time. Additionally, as God is changing my heart and my will about this issue, I am being transformed; I find myself tackling the incidious chaos that seems to develop around the edges of my life, and at times seeks to overwhelm me.

Amazingly, when I do the right thing, in the moment when the Holy Spirit nudges me, I find a deep sense of order emerging within me and in my tangilbe world. Tasks are getting done; things are in their place.  There is a deep sense of order and rightness that leads me to a place of peace, freedom from guilt, and joy.  I can breathe deeply and easily because I know that I am doing the right thing. And in this place of freedom, I sense a deepening intimacy with my Lord.

Truly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).