Our God Calls Us to Be Holy

Last month we saw God’s holiness revealed in the Old Testament. In the Old Testament Israel was bound to the ceremonial law of types and shadows. There was a system of sacrifices set in place by God that the priests and high priest had to perform in order to make atonement for the sins of the people.  Along with this Israel was required to be separated physically from the heathen nations around them. This whole system of separation and legal sacrifices was imperfect because it could not make ultimate satisfaction for their sins (Heb. 10:11). These all were instructive types of the fulfillment to come in Christ, the great high priest.  Christ came as the mediator of the New Testament to redeem us by his death (Heb. 9:15). “For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh [Old Testament type]: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience  from dead works to serve the living God? [New Testament fulfillment]” (Heb. 9:13–14). The Old Testament types of physical separation and legal sacrifices have passed away. The fulfillment in the New Testament through Christ’s blood is now in place, so that we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to live unto him. God has put his law in our hearts (Heb. 10:16). We have been given Christ, who redeemed us by his one blood sacrifice. Although we do not see Christ face to face on this earth as the apostles did, we behold him as he is clearly revealed to us in his word and he also dwells in us by the Holy Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.” (1 John 14:16–17). We emphasize that Christ is clearly revealed to us in Scripture, especially in this post-modern, truth-denying age. Over against post-modernism, we can know truth, for God has revealed it to us in his word, and he has given us his Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth. This Spirit enables us, who are incapable of living holy by our own will, to live a holy in this life.

In order to begin living a holy life on this earth we must have a clear understanding of sin and how serious our holy God is in his hatred of sin. There is a plague assaulting the church in this post-modern age; this plague is the refusal to call sin, sin. As children of the holy God who have been sanctified and set apart to serve him, we must call sin what it is: sin. This is the clear message of Scripture, but the post-modernist says: “We can’t really be sure what the Bible says about homosexuality or the Sabbath day.” If this is true, the antithetical line we are called to walk is now blurred and undefined. If this is true, there is no separation between sin and holiness. When this line is blurred and even removed, it is an absolute disregard of the holiness of God. Hebrews 10:26–27 makes clear the great danger of post-modern thinking: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” We must take great care not to do this in our own lives. With certain sins we might say, “I’m not really sure if this is right or wrong [when in our hearts we know it is wrong], but I’m going to do it anyway.” We say this when we have the clear revelation of truth before us. There is a line drawn for us between sin and holiness, and we have been given the Spirit of truth to discern by using Scripture. We cannot walk with one foot across the line in the mire of sin and the other foot grounded firmly in holiness. There is no such thing as a carnal Christian. Scripture is clear in this regard. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Also: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 6:12–13). Read Psalm 101 and notice the clear and uncompromising language of separation. “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me” (v. 3). “A froward heart shall depart from me: I will not know a wicked person” (v. 4). “Whoso privily slandereth his neighbor, him will I cut off: him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer” (v. 5). “He that worketh deceit shall not dwell within my house: he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (v. 7). “I will early destroy all the wicked of the land; that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord” (v. 8). This is strong language. But so important is our separation from sin, that God clearly revealed it to us in his word.

How do we live in holiness in this life? How can we? We are not capable of doing any good of ourselves, because we are born in sin. Only God through the work of the Holy Spirit in us will lead us to walk a life of holiness. That’s why David in Psalm 101, when vowing to live a life of holiness and cutting off the wicked and wicked things from his life, asks, “O when wilt thou come unto me?” David realized he could not live a life of true godliness unless God first worked in his heart to carry out that confession. He realized he was a weak man, prone to sin. So also we are weak and must humble ourselves before God and pray, “Come unto me. Work in me that I may live out this confession to live a sanctified life, for in thy strength alone can I do this.” The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord’s Day 44 shows how weak we are when it says that “even the holiest men, while in this life, have only a small beginning of this obedience” that is required of us. With our own human frailty in mind, we look forward to the final perfection of our holiness.

As we are called to live separate from sin in this life, we are reminded of the final separation: the vast gulf between elect and reprobate when Christ will come on the clouds of heaven in judgment to take his elect home to dwell with him in eternity, and will cast the reprobate into hell for eternity.

When we get to our eternal home in heaven, we will see God face to face. We will see him as he is in his perfect righteousness and holiness. We will be clothed in robes of his righteousness. White as snow and released from all sin and guilt, we will worship him in perfection for eternity. With this beautiful view toward eternal life in heaven, perfectly righteous and perfectly holy before the Holy One, we are encouraged toward holy living in this life.