|Lev. 26:12 says, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people”.
If we could capture the reality of that verse what would it look like? How would our faith, our lives be different? What would it look like to walk with God every day, every moment, with every thought we have, every decision we make reflecting an intimate relationship with Him?
Daniel had that kind of relationship and it impacted every area of his life. Last week we saw where Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego refused to bow down. Now Daniel, in chapter 6, refuses to stop bowing down and worshipping his God. Even with the threat of death he would not, could not, stop BEING who he was – holy, set apart for God.
Daniel 6:6-10, “So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing. Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.”
We need to ask ourselves, how can we live with the courage of Daniel? How can we live a life of holiness that leads to more than trying to be good, but being like Christ? What does God mean when he asks us to be holy as He is holy? What does it mean to walk with Him, to truly be his people?
For many Christians, when we think of “holiness” we think of monks walking silently around doing nothing, or long prayer meetings. Others think of following rules about drinking, dancing, or gambling. For some it all seems too lofty or legalistic. Even in our era of relevant, thought-leading, tech-savvy, postmodern Christian leaders, holiness is often connected to moral behavior such as sexual purity or financial honesty. We act as if holiness is either outdated or something that only a few uninspiring Christians care about.
Why is that? Well, I have a few thoughts. As I said last week, part of that mentality comes from our desire to be culturally relevant. There is nothing wrong with being relevant, as long as you do it without compromise.
So many Christian leaders want to be the person who can cross over…to be loved by both Christians and the culture alike. I think Christians are often concerned that if they talk about holiness it will alienate non-Christians. We think, unbelievers are not interested in holiness…right? I find it interesting that so much is being written about the present generation getting tired of all the gimmicks and glitz of 21st century church and looking for authenticity. As we lose ground, and our children leave the church, we just keep compromising, hoping that our culture will accept us. We keep screaming, “We’re not different, we’re just like you…we just love Jesus.”
For this and other reasons, we are turning our backs on a commitment to holiness. According to a recent Gallup poll, people who identify as “Christian” have the same moral views as people in mainstream culture when it comes to topics such as divorce, spousal abuse, sex between unmarried adults, pornography, materialism, racism, and polygamy, just to name a few. Most people in our culture don’t see believers as holy, or morally different in any significant way. Honestly, they often see us as hypocrites. If we are going to change the culture’s view of Christianity, we need to stop moving away from the idea of holiness, but instead recover the true meaning of it.
We are the temple of the living God. Holiness is not just something that a small group of super-Christians finally attain after a life of sacrifice. It’s the beginning and center of God’s will and call on our lives. Like I said last week it’s more about BEING and less about DOING. It’s not rules driven, it’s relationship driven.
I know the term “holy” carries with it a strong secondary connotation of moral purity, but that’s not the primary purpose. The most basic meaning of holiness is to be “set apart” or “dedicated” to God. It means we Belong to God. In Lev. 26:12, God said, “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. So, before you think morality, you need to think relationship.
Remember what 1 Peter 2:9, says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
I’m not saying our relationship doesn’t have moral implications, but God calls us to be holy before he calls us to be good. One takes precedence over the other. I don’t want to belabor the point, but if we don’t grasp this, we will reduce holiness to a bunch of rules, a set of “dos” and “don’ts”. To give you a better understanding, I need to go back to a verse that I’ve quoted over and over in the last few months.
Col. 3:3, “You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”
We need to see holiness through the lens of our relationship with Jesus. We often just see holiness from an Old Testament viewpoint without understanding it in light of the incarnation of Christ. Those who have given their lives to Jesus have become one with Him. Being a follower of Christ means far more than believing in God. It means to be united with Jesus in and through the Holy Spirit.
Gal. 2:20 says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”. Because of our union with Jesus, we participate in the life of God. He dwells in us, and we dwell in him.
In John 17:21 Jesus says, “…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Because of that truth we can say that in Christ, God’s holiness is portioned to us. In Christ, we are already holy. We have been made perfect through the blood of Jesus. And because of that we should be overwhelmed with gratitude and a desire to be like Him. That should be the foundation of any thoughts we have about holiness. With these truths in mind, we begin to realize how much more God is asking of us than just being moral. If it was just about morality and rules the rich young ruler would have been fine.
If our idea of holiness is limited to following rules, or doing or not doing certain things, we will never ask the truly important questions: “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose?” Or in the case of the rich young ruler, “Who is my first love?” When we are living a holy life that question has already been answered. Jesus made the young man answer the question by telling him to go and sell all of his possessions and give to the poor. It was only then that he reflected on his own heart.
It takes us back to Monday to Sunday. Being faith-active in every area of our lives. God should consume our lives. His call to holiness is radical, and all encompassing. David Peterson wrote, “With regard to God’s people, holiness means being set apart for a relationship with the Holy One, to display his character in every sphere of life”. Being a follower of Christ means we died to self, our old nature is consumed by our new nature. We now live in Him and for Him. Holiness means that all we have belongs to God, and that every part of our lives is to be shaped and directed toward God. Holiness is not primarily about moral purity. But let’s be honest. If we understand what it means to be holy it will have a profound impact on our behavior and personal choices. Daniel belonged to God and it showed in every decision of his life. Notice how Daniel never wavered in his decision to pray when he learned about the new law. Why? It wasn’t an option. He knew who he was and whose he was. Life or death wouldn’t change that. Think about it. What’s a more effective way to help someone make good choices; telling them what to do or what not do, or teaching them to be holy? Understanding what it means to have your life “Hidden with Christ in God” helps you become a person who makes godly choices.
Over the next few weeks I want to look at some people in God’s Word who can teach us the way to holiness. These are people who will help us discern and give us wisdom and insight into what it means to truly walk with God.