Ever since God said, “Be holy for I am holy,” people have argued about exactly what he meant. Everyone has their own version and opinion of what holiness is. So what is holiness? To understand what holiness is, we first have to understand what it is not.
Holiness is not a list of rules and regulations. If it were, the Pharisees would have been the most holy people who ever lived. They had the rules and regulations down, as well as the traditions. They didn’t just follow the law, they claimed to follow it to the LETTER. Yet, Jesus accused them of not even knowing God. Why? Because for all their information about the law, they didn’t actually know God or His law. They had the letter, but not the Spirit. It works the same in holiness. Knowing about holiness is not the same as actually having it in your life.
Holiness is the state of being completely separated unto God. I live my life in a way that is pleasing to Him. What He asks me to do, I do. Where He asks me to go, I go. My life truly is not my own. This is why Paul said that we are not our own, but we have been bought with a price. In its most basic sense, holiness is total and complete obedience to the will and purpose of God.
Some in the church have deeply hurt the cause of the church through their abuse of holiness. While I do believe that we should live our lives to completely please God, I also believe that we should not raise the bar so high that no one can reach it. You cannot expect a person who has just been born again to be at the same level as someone who has been in church their entire life. It’s a completely unrealistic expectation. You also can’t place burdens on people that are not biblical. A good rule is to follow the word of God as closely as you can. If the word says it, then live it. However, if the word is silent on it, then show a little grace.
In Matthew 23 we find Jesus being the most blunt that He is in maybe the entire Bible. He has had enough of the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and the result is an assault on their entire way of thinking and living. In verse 4 he really lets them have it. He accuses them of binding heavy burdens and laying them on men’s shoulders. That would be bad enough, but that’s not where he stops. He then says that they won’t even lift one finger to lift those burdens themselves. Imagine the hypocrisy! They told other people what to do, and wouldn’t even do it themselves.
This is where we have to be careful. We cannot put “holiness” standards on other people, and lack in other areas ourselves. That is the exact spirit of the Pharisees. I believe in the truth of the word of God. I have loved it and preached it since I was a boy. But I also believe that the word of God stands on its own. I don’t have to add my own unnecessary rules to try to “help” God out. Let’s preach the word and live lives of holiness, and be patient with those who may not be where we are yet.