Rule 5 - Holy living

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We commit to living holy lives as examples of Christ

To understand what holy lives are, we should first appreciate what holiness means. Holiness describes what God is like: it is His character, His viewpoint, His presence. It is so different from what we might think of as the best of human character. It is very difficult to describe God’s holiness in words. In these situations, the bible often uses symbols or metaphors. Here is an example from Revelation. It is an amazing vision of four living creatures with six wings who were spiritual beings. This description was the best way to try and represent them; it was a way we could understand. Day and night these creatures declared:
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. (Revelation 4:8)

Now this vision is also found in the Old Testament in Isaiah where living creatures were declaring the same words. These living creatures had six wings, with two they covered their eyes, with two they covered their feet and with two they flew. Why did they fly? It showed they were moving in the Holy Spirit. But why did they cover their eyes? Because the holiness of God was too glorious to look at. And why did they cover their feet? Because feet represent uncleanness and they felt unclean in the presence of God. And what did Isaiah do? He fell on his face in repentance:
‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.’ (Isaiah 6:5) 

Jesus is holiness

This might sound like a frightening experience, but it was a wonderful one. If God can impress on you the infinite purity of his holiness, it is liberating. It should not bring condemnation or inadequacy to see His holiness; but it should be an eye-opener to the wonderful gift of salvation in Jesus. The God who is so pure was prepared to give His only Son for the impure. And also, because we believe that Jesus is the God/Man, He also is holy. For us this is important because it shows that a life of holiness is possible for humans. Jesus has made this possible:
you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:30)
Holiness is the nature of Jesus and this is given to us through the presence of the Holy Spirit within.

The Spirit is holiness

The Spirit of God is called the Holy Spirit and not something else like the loving Spirit, or the merciful Spirit. The Holy Spirit will create holiness in those who believe in Him and receive Him. ‘Holy’ is not just a description of His nature but of His aim in ministry too. It is very easy to portray God’s love as something which is cheap and turns a blind eye to all kinds of human behaviour. But when you desire God’s holiness you won’t do that. 

Holiness can be defined for us by rules describing right and wrong. For example, the Ten Commandments are a great example of practical holiness. We know that we cannot be saved just by keeping all the commandments of the Old Testament – we are saved by faith in Jesus. But if we do not seek to live holy lives, we shall not be fulfilling God’s will:
Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 7:1) 

new life

The Old Testament scriptures give insights into the holiness of God which help us to live in the Holy Spirit. The Ten Commandments are a great place to start in knowing what holiness should be: they cover both our relationship with God and what holiness means in our responsibilities to one another – loving God and loving our neighbour. This requires a change of mind. Having spent our lives thinking about what is best for our own good, we must allow the Holy Spirit to recreate in us a new way of thinking:
be made new in the attitude of your minds; and ... put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:23-24)

When the gospel was first preached in Europe, it was a challenge to the prevailing culture. The gospel they preached didn’t compromise on holiness in order to make the message more acceptable. Becoming a Christian then, for instance, meant embracing a set of restrictive morals. It meant giving up the social standing that was part of heathen idol worship. These standards of Christian holiness were derived from the Old Testament scriptures which the early church used as their guide.

Now Jesus made it clear in the Sermon on the Mount, that Christian standards of holiness are even stricter than those in the Old Testament:
‘You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “You shall not murder,  and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.” But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. 
‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:21-22 & 27-28)
The Holy Spirit leads us to this depth of holy living. If we won’t be holy, we shall lose the presence and power of the Spirit. Our need is not to follow all the detailed rules of the Old Testament but to learn from them the principles of what holiness is, and then to live holy lives in this day and age. 

purifying ourselves

The vision is simple. If you want to live a holy life you will have to have rules. We are faced with many things in modern life of which the bible writers had no experience. But the Holy Spirit will lead us to make rules of holiness. We shall need wisdom as we discover how we should live with the scriptures as our guide. For example, as a general rule for myself, I avoid films with an 18 certificate; I am trying to grow a holy mind. This is not salvation by works; but it is working out my salvation. (Philippians 2:12)

There is no area of life which holiness should not reach. We are called to live a holy life as Jesus did. This is to be part of our Christian testimony. It does great disservice to the gospel message when Christians are seen to be lacking in godly morals. Spend time when you pray, and when with your accountability friends, to work out what a holy life means. Growing in holiness is a process. We shall become aware of deficiencies as we mature. But this is great grace, for it shows us how we can proceed. This is the gospel – repent from sin and live a holy life before God through the power of the Holy Spirit – the scriptures combining with the power of God (Matthew 22:29)

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