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What Does It Mean to "Be Holy?"
By David A. DePra
It is a common assumption that, "holiness," is clean living. But this is not exactly the Truth – although real holiness will result in clean living. HOLINESS, according to scripture, means to, "belong to God, and only God." Once we realize this, we can see where clean living becomes an outcome of holiness.
The word, "holy," (Greek – hagios) means, "to be set apart for God’s use." Or, to use the vernacular, it means, "to belong to God and only God." Indeed, the term that God inspired to describe His people more than any other, "the saints," is this very same word, hagios. Thus, by definition, a saved person IS holy. A saved person BELONGS to God.
Immediately we see that holiness is not an option for a Christian. Holy is what a Christian IS – as defined by our relationship with God Himself. The fact that we don’t act holy doesn’t change the fact that a Christian, or a saint, is, "a holy one." That is our identity if we are IN CHRIST.
Holiness is clearly indicated by conversion. When we are saved, what do we do? We GIVE OUR LIVES to Christ. So, in other words, we no longer belong to ourselves. Rather, we belong to God. Thus, we are HOLY.
This is the only kind of conversion the Bible knows anything about. Conversion is not a verbal assent to Jesus as Savior. It is not merely believing the doctrine of salvation. Conversion is an unconditional surrender of my whole self into the hands of Jesus Christ – into His death and resurrection. I then belong to Him. I no longer belong to myself.
What? know you not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's. (1 Cor. 6:19-20)
For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord's freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ's servant. You are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. (1 Cor. 7:22-23)
Again, we see that true holiness – belonging to God – translates into holy works. Sure. Once I belong to God, I can no longer use myself for my own purposes. And yet it is important to get the cause and effect straight about this. I cannot MAKE myself holy by doing holy works. No. Trying would be legalism. But if I am holy, I will do holy works.
A Single Heart
To be holy means to belong to God, and that will translate into works. But on a deeper level, it will mean something about my heart and relationship to God. It will mean that I will be DEVOTED to Him. My heart will have one single purpose: That God have His will and His glory in my life.
Now, notice something: I do not need to KNOW everything, or even much, about what God wants in my life, as far as specifics. But that’s ok. This isn’t about UNDERSTANDING God, as much as it is about DEVOTION to God. I can be absolutely committed – devoted to God – but not have a clue about what He is doing. It is the attitude of heart that is important. And such an attitude IS holy.
The fact is, EVERYTHING is dependent upon this holy and devoted attitude. Faith, obedience, and even my eventual understanding of God and His purposes depend upon it. Jesus taught this principle to His disciples many times:
Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if your eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Mat 6:20-23)
An eye that is SINGLE is a heart that is focused – in openness and devotion – upon God. Thus, the LIGHT of God is able to enter into that life, and indeed, fill the life with light. The result will be exactly that – light. In time I will come to see God, understand God, and walk with Him. But a life that is not SINGLE – i.e., MY agenda is casting a shadow over God’s purposes – that will result in an inner darkness. I will never come to see God or His purposes.
The word, "single," here, means, "without folds or creases." Note that. This would speak of an eye, or focus, which has no part of it folded up and away from God. In other words, all of my life is open and exposed to God. No secret, hidden places. Is this not exactly what HOLINESS is? A single eye is one which is belongs to God.
If you want to know the key to so much in the Christian life, it is found here. If we keep our eye – all of our life – unfolded and open to God, God can work. He can bring light and Truth. We are to keep our eye single, not just as a theory, but through each and every issue in life. We are not to allow our hearts to begin to be drawn to another, and thus become DOUBLE-MINDED, or double-eyed,
If we don’t keep our eye single, then we will be in darkness – a darkness which our eyes may become adjusted to. In time, we will be totally deceived and not realize it. If you want to know the REASON behind much deception, it is here. The problem isn’t so much a failure to understand theology. It is that people don’t have a single eye to the Lord.
Singleness of heart is equal to holiness, and holiness is equal to purity – in spirit. This, according to the Bible, is a big key to seeing and knowing God Himself. This ought not to be surprising. If my eye is single to God, I see God. If it isn’t single to God, then I’ll see Him only through the other thing that I have brought in. In short, I see God through the lenses of my devotion and surrender to Him.
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Mat 5:8)
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Heb 12:14)
To the end he may establish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints. (1 Th 3:13)
It is not necessarily an overtly evil thing that makes us double-minded towards God. No. Usually, it is something that seems GOOD. But anything that violates the fact that we belong to God, and only God, is enough. That thing is an UNCLEAN thing. It corrupts the purity of our relationship with God.
Single-mindedness and holiness are not only for those who are mature in Christ. All that is necessary is for you and I, no matter where we happen to be spiritually, to turn right now and give our devotion to Christ. We must do this at all costs, and be willing to pay the price if there is a cost. Then we will not only be holy, we shall be acting like it.
Holy living is supposed to be the outcome of being holy. It is supposed to be the result of a love and reverence – devotion – to the One to whom I belong. And as mentioned earlier, for a Christian, holy living is not optional. If I think it is optional, then I need to get back to whether my eye is single. I’ll find the real problem is somewhere in that issue.
There is another thing we need to understand: Holy living is not necessarily perfect living. No. Although that is not a cop-out. The point is, if I belong to God, I’ll want to live perfectly, but will realize just how imperfect I am. But the attitude, and intent, and surrender is the thing that makes me holy unto God – not the works. The living is the outcome – as imperfect as it may be in this body of flesh.
Note Paul’s words about holy living:
For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. (1 Th 4:7)
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Eph 4:22-24)
Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor 7:1)
I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. (Rom 6:19)The bottom line is that UNHOLY living is when I am living for myself – and it is possible to live quite a clean life for myself. It is even possible to live a RELIGIOUS, CLEAN LIFE, and to be totally UNHOLY and UNCLEAN in the sight of the Lord. The question is not whether my works appear holy. The question is whether I am holy. If I am, the works will be there. If I’m not, then the works mean little. HOLY living is when I live for God – and it is possible to be quite flawed in that. Again – holiness is a heart devotion and surrender to God. Without this, there is no true holiness.
God’s wants a HOLY people. We are that, by identity, through the new birth. But God isn’t going to force us to belong to Him in practice. We, as God gives light and grace, need to open ourselves to Him – have a SINGLE EYE. If we do, we ARE BEING HOLY. And we will then seek to do holy works – to God’s glory.
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