Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry



By Rayola Kelley


      Last month I wrote on God’s glory. One of my prayers was and continues to be that the Lord would keep me from touching His glory by foolishly taking credit for His work (1 Corinthians 1:29, 31). He has honored my prayer by often humbling me before I could swing from a branch of exaltation to only land on a narrow pinnacle of foolishness to experience an abrupt landing on the runway of embarrassment. The reason I am aware of this experience is because I have had to “wear the T-shirt” a few times to gain some sobriety. As a result, I have reminded myself that, “I have no part in sharing His glory, but I can share His life so others can experience His glory.”

      This month I am going to talk about the one major attribute that sets God apart and brings glory to all that He does and that is His holiness. When you consider what Isaiah 6:3 states, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts,” and Revelation 4:8, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come,” the matter of God’s holiness is clearly stated, highlighted with a type of amen, and confirmed as being so. If heaven shows such emphasis, what must we as believers on earth show?

      The truth is most people do not know what to do with God’s holiness. There are some who read my daily posts on our ministry Facebook page. One of the subjects I dealt with was sanctification, which is a work of holiness. However, it is important to talk about what holiness is in light of God becoming the only example of it. After all, all holiness will be measured solely by God’s holiness (1 Peter 1:15-16). I say this because there are people who believe they can make themselves holy by wearing certain clothes, practicing particular ordinances, and acting a certain way. Granted, such things may make them stand out, but it is not because such things speak of God’s holiness. It may speak of personal piousness or self-righteousness, but it does not speak of God’s holiness. There are others who, when they consider God’s holiness, throw their hands up in the air and say, “No way can I be holy! Just forget it. He is asking too much and is being unrealistic.”

      It’s true; God’s holiness will give a person a true reality check. For the prophet Isaiah it revolutionized him, his calling, and his ministry in Isaiah 6. Granted, God’s holiness is like a light that penetrates, purifies, and consumes, but as we will see in Isaiah’s case it stripped him of any preconceived notions about himself, his calling and revealed the sorry condition of those he was called to challenge and minister to. He admitted he was a man of unclean lips and lived among those who also had unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5).

      The word “uncleanness” points to perversion, which in the case of Isaiah it points to the fact he could not speak in purity without his lips first being purged by coals from the altar. This purging also points to “anointing.” He not only saw his own inadequacy in his spiritual state but the people were also perverted in all that they spoke and heard. “Uncleanness” also points to the profane, that which has been marked in some way to be strange or sacrilegious to God such as in the case of Aaron’s sons offering strange fire to God in Leviticus 10:1-3. It also points to that which is filthy to God, totally contrary to all that He is, and for this reason even man’s best is considered filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).

      When I first was saved, I recognized that I had sin, but I did not understand the depth of my sin. I thought there had to be something good in me, after all I considered myself pretty decent. The Lord gave me seven years of falling on my face to recognize how far from the mark of righteousness I was in my thinking, feelings, conclusions, and actions. Granted, when I came face to face with a sinful action, I would confess it and then try to reform myself. I did not realize that my attitude towards what I thought was alright needed to be transformed by truth, enabling me to see my conduct the way God sees it.  When I encountered a prevailing mood I assumed that it would change in due time, but until I recognized that it came from my fallen state, I never took it seriously enough to step over it in utter disgust. It took me awhile to realize that committing sin and omitting righteousness in a matter are equally wrong. Being in such a state, I didn’t realize how far man has fallen from God. I didn’t understand that it was not just a matter of my sin that cost Jesus His life on that cross, but that I was a sinner through and through from my state of selfishness to my arrogant attitude, self-serving actions, and self-centered conduct. I could do nothing else but sin, whether it was a wrong action or failing to do what was honorable and right when the opportunity afforded itself. God could not count any action that originated from the flesh as right and He could not accept my best because it originated from my selfishness.

      Because of kind or generous acts, many people believe that there is some good in them, something redeemable. For me it took a real dose of encountering God’s holiness before I could see the real spiritual nakedness and shame of my state. I began to understand why I was somewhat deluded about my total depravity. Unregenerate man is not only lost but he has been deceived about sin and the seriousness, influences, and consequences of it (Hebrews 3:13). Hence this warning in Proverbs 14:12, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

No human being can know the depth of his or her dark disposition because it is a normal state (Jeremiah 17:9-10). Such normalcy is used by the people of the world to logic away the destructive ways of sin, feel justified in the flesh when feeding their unabated lusts, and establish a false foundation of personal goodness in order to feel okay in their present, lost, rebellious state. There is only one who knows the depths to which man fell and that is the Man, Christ Jesus. He had such a contrast as to the depth of man’s fall because He came from the glories of heaven.  He was pure—the light of the world, that exposed darkness everywhere He walked.  But, I believe it was on the cross that Jesus experienced the real depth of man’s fall.

Man’s spiritual state put Jesus on that cross. The spittle, hatred, and mocking directed towards Jesus showed just how opposed man was and still is to being ruled by the God of the universe. The darkness that covered the earth, while Jesus was on that cross, represented the darkness of man’s soul, which hides its rebellious ways that continually try to extinguish the true light of the world. But it was the cry on the cross that gives a glimpse of the depth to which man had fallen, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Lost man may not realize the seriousness of being separated from God in this world, but in the next he will know the depth of that separation. He will moan and gnash his teeth, but there will be no recourse to escape the ultimate consequences for his unbelief.

Jesus experienced a similar depth of darkness in His own soul, and it made His whole being cry in utter despair. We can’t understand it, but we can catch valuable glimpses of it as we walk in the light of Jesus. At times we are humbled when we sense the great length to which His mercy went to quench judgment and how deep His grace reached to offer each of us eternal life.

Because of this dark environment of man’s soul, he is forever trying to get around God’s holy character. He tries religion instead of the cross of Jesus because grace does not allow for self-glorification. He replaces the salvation of Jesus with intellectual pursuits because the cross seems too foolish and insignificant. He hides behind religious creeds so that he can maintain some kind of control of his spiritual life. Ultimately, man refuses to concede, submit, repent, and humble self before God Almighty and accept His terms of salvation. Because of this rebellion, darkness grows, and where darkness resides spiritual bondage exists.

      Many times people either fall into sin or become indifferent to righteousness because they are failing to do right when they know they should (James 4:17). After seven years I realized I was probably guiltier of failing to do right than doing wrong. It was at that time I realized that sin was not a matter of what I did as much as it was a matter of my spiritual state of being a sinner.

      There is nothing that will give people, which includes believers, a reality check about just how far they are from hitting the mark of their spiritual potential than God’s holiness. Fallen man is selfish at the core. Everything he does is to make himself look, feel and appear a certain way. He wants the recognition, adoration, and worship from those in his world. He wants to create and rule his own world to his liking, call his own shots and determine his destiny. He is self-serving in what he does, self-centered in what he thinks, and self-absorbed with his own self-importance. Selfishness is the essence of sin, the throne of pride, and the flint that ignites fleshly lust. The Apostle Paul clearly pointed out that there was no good thing in the flesh (Romans 7:18). In other words, nothing good, acceptable, or right can come from the selfish disposition because it is perverted and strange to God.

      What is holiness? Holiness is purity. It is hard for mankind to understand what it would mean to be completely pure in motive, attitude, intentions, ways, and works. Granted, it is natural for most to be impressed with their actions of good deeds while ignoring selfish motives, self-serving priorities, and self-centered agendas. Since people cannot see the real premise behind what they are doing, they cannot imagine how they could be perverted or wrong in their thinking, conclusions, and actions. In fact, Solomon points this out in Proverbs 16:2, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.” It is for this reason that this instruction follows this unnerving revelation, “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established” (Proverbs 16:3)

      There is no deviation of iniquity in the Lord, nor underlying motive, foul attitude, or hypocrisy. He is who He is, continues to be who He is, and will remain who He is without ever changing and becoming something He is not. James 1:17 points this out, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

      The Bible is also clear as to the Lord’s thoughts and intentions towards us, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end” (Jeremiah 29:10).  We are told His ways are higher than our ways and that He is good, meaning morally clean in character and completely righteous in His judgments (Isaiah 55:8,9).

      Let us consider what Scripture says about the subject of holiness. Ephesians 1:4 states, “According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.” We must first recognize that the Lord has not chosen us to be religious or happy, but holy. Because of who He is, this decision that He would have a holy people occurred before the foundation of the world. It is only in a state of holiness that we can be considered as one without blame. The last word gives us a clue as to how we can ensure we come to such a blameless place: by loving the Lord with all of our heart, soul, mind, and might. We must want to please Him above all others.

      We have been chosen by the Lord to a place of holiness and 1 Thessalonians 4:7 tells us we have been called to holiness. It is clear that we have been called into a place of holiness in order to be established in holiness. Our part is simply believing the Lord and walking in obedience, but His part is to cleanse us.

      In Ephesians 5:26 and 27, we are reminded that the Lord will sanctify and cleanse His Body the church with the washing of water by the Word so that He will be able to present it as not having any spot, wrinkle, or blemish. Notice the Word of God is a washing machine and is able to cleanse us if we believe and obey it.

      Hebrews 12:14 instructs, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” The greatest point of peace comes from being at peace with God, but we cannot be at peace with God without possessing holiness. This Scripture clearly points out holiness is not an option, and the Lord does not command something unless He provides the means and ways for man to walk in it. Therefore, man cannot be casual about understanding what it means to be holy or trust his own ideas and attempts to be holy because he will end up missing the mark.

      Isaiah 35:8 points out that there will be a highway called, “The way of holiness.” This Scripture warns that no one who is unclean or who is a fool will be able to pass over this highway. This highway separates the profane from the holy. It is clear that holiness is a matter that a person can’t afford to overlook. If a person is going to pass over into all that God has for them, it will be on His terms.

      It is important to point out that God’s holiness speaks of His righteous ways and acts. The Lord can’t be anything but righteous because He is holy. The last part of Romans 6:19 gives us this insight, “…even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.” It is clear that to come to a state of holiness we must be walking in the ways of righteousness.

      The writer in Hebrews gives us a clue that in most cases such holiness doesn’t fall on someone, but it often takes a heavenly discipline to bring about the right attitude. Consider what Hebrews 12:10 states, “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.” We must partake of holiness, but before we can we must possess a state in which we can properly appropriate it. Hebrews 12:11 explains how it will manifest itself, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peacable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”

      Holiness begins with a pure state which points to pure motives, but it must graduate into a right attitude about a matter to properly receive the means or ways to appropriate the matters of righteousness. The Apostle Paul pointed this out in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore these promises dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of the Lord.” Ultimately such holiness will produce godliness.

    To ensure cleansing, we as believers must separate from the profane, which is an act of consecration, and submit ourselves to the sanctifying work of the Spirit. It is clear that holiness must be perfected in our lives but such perfection will occur only when we possess the attitude of the “fear of the Lord.”

    This brings us to the final reason we are called to be holy. It is found in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We have been chosen and called to be set apart from this world and the present generation to be a royal priesthood, representative of God in this present world. To stand apart we must be a holy nation, and to be separated unto God we must be a peculiar, special people who do not belong to, blend in, or bend to the world.

      Holiness is our highest calling because in consecration we dedicate all to the Lord, and when our status as saints is obvious to the world when it comes to our conversation of godliness (daily living) we will ultimately bring glory to Him, fulfilling our potential to reflect His glory in purity, righteousness, and beauty.