What does it mean to be holy before God?
“But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:15–16, NLT)
Narcissism is defined as an overarching love of oneself. The goal of a narcissist is to judge others according to their worth to you, accumulate things to make your life easier, accumulate people around you who always make you feel like you are the center of the universe, and seek to promote your self-image. Between 1997 and 2006, those tested for Narcissism increased by 30%. As an interesting corollary, during the latter 1900’s, many educators pushed the need to endow students with more self-esteem. Many scholars today have concluded that indoctrinating students with the goal of higher self-esteem has led to a certain portion of the population developing narcissistic disorders and lifestyles. In essence, teaching children to focus on themselves and their own image has led to a rise in people who are entirely self-centered and selfish, i.e., narcissistic.
Nowhere does the Bible teach that parents should focus on a child’s self-esteem in the raising of their children. Quite the opposite, the Bible teaches the parents should teach their children to respect God, respect their parents (“honor your father and mother”!), and treat others in a righteous and godly manner. Instead of focusing on the self, the Bible focuses on the love of others. Sadly, our world is bent on doing the opposite. Worldly thinking promotes self-love, selfishness, self-centeredness, narcissistic endeavors, and self-esteem. John MacArthur has warned that even Christians have bought into the lie of self-love and self-esteem building. He wrote: “The supreme goal pursued by many in our narcissistic culture is a “healthy” self–esteem. Even Christians have jumped on the self–esteem bandwagon, misconstruing Jesus’ command to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 19:19) as a mandate for self–love. But the Bible nowhere commands us to pursue self–esteem; instead, it commands us to be holy (1 Peter 1:16).” (Strength for Today).
Like MacArthur, I see how important is the need to focus on holiness, not to focus on self-esteem when raising children or living one’s life. 1 Peter 1 reinforces this focus by saying, “you must be holy in everything you do” (1 Peter 1:15). 1 Peter 1:16 even quotes the Old Testament, where God says, “You must be holy because I am holy”. These same words are spoken by God in Leviticus 11:44, Leviticus 19:2, Leviticus 20:26, Leviticus 21:8, among other places! Being holy is not only a trait of God. It must be a trait in your life if you want to be faithful. So, how does one be holy?
The Bible states a number of things required for you to be holy. Leviticus 20:7 teaches that you must consecrate yourself in order to be holy before God. To do this, you must dedicate your life and your will to follow God. Asking the Holy Spirit to not only live in you but speak to you is a good first step. Baptism, an altar call, and a public confession of faith with a dedication to faithful living follows thereafter. Faithful living involves giving God your offerings, following God’s commandments, living a righteous life, and conducting yourself in godly ways while doing what is right before God’s eyes (Leviticus 21:6, Numbers 15:40, 1 Corinthians 7:34, 1 Peter 1:15, Revelation 22:11). Holiness entails living a godly life wholly dedicated to following the will of God in Christ while worshipping God alone.
Have you ever noticed that “holy” things used in worship are not to be used in other places? For example, things used for communion in worship are not to be used for other purposes. Wine goblets used in communion are not to be used for drinking parties or public drinking. Holy places, like sanctuaries, are not to be used for public parties, hobby conventions, or the like. That is because these places are “holy”. The word “holy” means set apart or sacred. When you are “holy”, you are to be set apart from the world. Your life should be different from worldly people. Your attitudes and actions should be faithful in conduct not full of drunkenness, worldly displays, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, dissention, party spirit, etc. Galatians 5:16-26 explains this very understanding of holiness.
If you are to be holy before God, what does that mean to you personally?
Carolyn grew up the daughter of a pastor. She was a beautiful child, much loved by her family and the congregations her father served. Carolyn was a smart child, yet conscientious. She got excellent grades and used her knowledge to help others. She went on several mission trips, was a Sunday School teacher’s aide, and always willing to reach out to those in need.
When Carolyn was in her sophomore year in college at Northwestern, her closest friends teased her about being a virgin. Her roommate shared with Carolyn that people were looking down on her for being “so religious” and “a virgin Mary”. Feeling the stares and peer pressure from others, Carolyn asked her boyfriend to have sex with her. He happily agreed. After having sex with him, Carolyn found herself feeling different. Instead of feeling enlightened as a woman and accepted by her friends, Carolyn felt ashamed and dirty. Her prayer life suffered. She felt ashamed that she had become so worldly in her actions and beliefs. It took months for Carolyn to feel at peace in her soul again.
Carolyn’s sexual act was brought on by a desire to be “normal” and “a real woman”. All it really did was make her feel distant from God and ashamed of her choices. Carolyn experienced real holiness UNTIL she succumbed to worldly and fleshly pressures. It took her a long time to feel holy before God again.
Horatius Bonar wrote the following about holiness: “A holy life is made up of a multitude of small things. Little words, not eloquent speeches or sermons; little deeds, not miracles or battles, or one great heroic effort or martyrdom, make up the true Christian life. It’s the little constant sunbeam, not the lightning, the waters of Siloam that go softly in their meek mission of refreshment, not ‘the waters of the rivers great and many’ rushing down in torrent, noise, and force, that are the true symbols of a holy life.”
Bonar then warned against the “little evils, little sins, little inconsistencies, little weaknesses, little foibles, little indulgences of self and of the flesh, little acts of indolence or indecision, or slovenliness or cowardice, little equivocations or aberrations from high integrity, little bits of covetousness, little indifferences to the feelings or wishes of others, little outbreaks of temper, or crossness, or selfishness or vanity” (from “Our Daily Bread” as found in 10,000 Sermon Illustrations; 2002). It’s these little evils that eat away and destroy the holy life.
What little or big things are corroding your holy life? What is keeping you holy before the Lord? Are selfish thoughts and actions eroding your faith? The scripture for today doesn’t say you “should” be holy. It states that you “MUST” be holy before the Lord. How well are you living up to God’s command to be holy?