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The Strait Gate: Entrance to life
WHAT EXACTLY IS HOLINESS?
Holiness of Christ is not religious formality, not intellectual ideas and precepts of men. It’s not bondage but grace and liberty in Christ. Holiness is the beauty and glory of God. Holiness means perfection, purity, faultless and sinless. The pursuit of God’s kingdom is about following holiness, though not without good works through faith in Christ Jesus.
Man lost this divine nature of God “holiness” in Eden, God restored it through Christ. Holiness is total separation from the world and total submission to God by faith through Christ. Holiness is not just abstinence from evil, worldliness and carnality. It is total abstinence from evil and sin followed by good works through faith in Christ Jesus. Holiness is about the goodness of God Almighty. God is good, and out of the abundance of His goodness He created man so that man would resemble Him in goodness. In the other words, man was created to possess the character or the innate nature of the living God.
There are five strong attributes of holiness which the Christian must not fail to appreciate. Though these characteristics are similar to each other by their definitions - we must study them word for word to enable us have clearer understanding about holiness of Christ. Conforming to these attributes practically means following peace with all men and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.
Exodus 34:6 And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth.
The above scripture says, God is merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abundant in goodness and truth. Exodus34:6 unveil the character of God which is all about holiness. These attributes are: 1. mercy, 2. kindness, 3. longsuffering, 4. goodness, and 5. truth. I will begin with the word mercy or merciful which represents compassion and forgiveness because it came first in the above scripture.
Our God is merciful and forgives people because He is holy. Holiness stirs up mercy and forgiveness from the inward. Forgiveness is an attribute of holiness not partial forgiveness, genuine forgiveness triggered by the Spirit. A lot of converts profess holiness yet they lack the spirit of forgiveness. Converts who have unforgiving hearts are yet to grow. They listen to flesh more than they listen to God. I said so because unforgiving spirit is the absence of holiness. One cannot be holy and lack the spirit of forgiveness. Holiness is mercy and compassion towards people. God is merciful and He forgives people their sins when they return to Him, most times before the people repent.
The story of the lost or prodigal son truly depicts the rebellious nature of mankind, the mercy of God and His forgiveness.
Jesus said, a certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father, father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his wealth. A couple of days after the younger son gathered all which belonged to him he journeyed to a far country and wasted his substance by prodigal lifestyle. When he had spent all there arose a great famine in that land, and he began to be in want.
Degraded by hardship he went into odd jobs for survival until he repented of his ways and returned to his father. The loving father saw him at distance and had compassion and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him and celebrated his return. That is how God forgives people out of the abundance of His mercies. God is merciful and forgiving, not willing that any should perish. His desire is to see the restoration of that which was lost because He is merciful.
Luke 15:10 Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the Angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves, if your brother trespass against thee, rebuke him and if he repents forgive him.
Mercy is a very strong attribute of holiness. True Christians are merciful and forgiving because God is merciful and forgiving. Faith without mercy and compassion towards people is not genuine.
The scripture says that God is merciful and gracious. The word gracious simply means kindness or compassion. God is merciful and gracious in all His ways thereby expecting the church to be gracious because holiness of Christ involves sobriety and also compassion towards people.
Nehemiah 9:31 Nevertheless for thy great mercies thou did not utterly destroy them, nor forsake them, for thou art a gracious and merciful God
If one says he is holy or professes holiness yet the person is not gracious where is the holiness? The parable about good Samaritan, is a short story of the Samaritan’s kindness, and heartlessness of the holier than thou people.
Jesus said, a certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, they stripped him of his raiment and wounded him and departed, leaving him unconscious. By chance, there came down a certain priest that way and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite when he was at that place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him he had compassion on him, and went to him and bound up his wounds pouring in oil and wine and set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
First the priest saw him and passed on the other side, and the Levite came and looked on him and also passed by on the other side. Now, the priest was a minister in the temple, a man of God to be precise while the Levite was an official who oversees the temple worship. But both were heartless in their behaviors yet they called on the name of God every day. Should we now say that these men were holy? Is holiness not mercy and compassion? I suppose holiness begins with the heart and thereby manifest outwardly as compassion. As a man thinks in his heart so is he in the outward and actions. We cannot give what we do not have. The holiness of Christ is a spirit. When the spirit comes and dwell in the inside, the convert would be gracious like Christ and His early apostles. Holiness stirs up compassion from the inward; it does not remain in the inside without reflecting outwardly.
Long-suffering means patience, endurance, forbearance, tolerance or slow to anger.
Psalm 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.
God by His long-suffering gives opportunity for repentance. Enduring and forbearing this world for ages because of His goodness. Holiness is forbearance and tolerance. Christ endured and suffered because of us so He expects us to forbear and endure for salvation sake.
The parable of the wicked husbandmen portrays God’s endurance and forbearance despite the sin of Israel. Christ began to speak to the people in this parable: A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen (farmers) and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruits of the vineyard, but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him way empty. Again, he sent another servant and they beat him also and entreated him shamefully and sent him away empty. And again, he sent a third and they wounded him also and cast him out. Then said the Lord of the vineyard, what shall I do: I will send my beloved son, it may be they will reverence him when they see him, but when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves saying, this is the heir, come let us kill him that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the Lord of the vineyard do unto them?
The owner of the vineyard sought to collect his share through his own servants but the husbandmen offered harsh resistance and turned down his request three times. Yet, he showed forbearance by sending his beloved son but they killed him. That was how God showed forbearance towards the Jews for ages. That is to say that long-suffering emerges out of holiness. Holiness is not by power or by human efforts it’s the work of the Holy Spirit from within. Holiness produces forbearance and longsuffering.
Goodness is an attribute of holiness and this strongly emphasize about hatred towards evil. God hates evil and expect man to hate evil. Satan and his demons are evil. Worldliness is sin and sin is evil.
Amos 5:15 Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate, it may be that the Lord God of host will be gracious unto the remnants of Joseph.
Good people hate evil, and the fear of the Lord stirs up this hatred from the inward. Without the fear of God man wouldn’t hate sin. The fear of the Lord propels goodness from within. Holiness is about the goodness of God. There is no difference between goodness and holiness. Holiness of Christ is all about the goodness of God. Job was an upright man, one that fear God and shunned evil (Job 1:1).
Good people hate sin; they are compassionate and diligent in well-doing through faith in Christ. Holiness is strong hatred towards worldliness, yet compassion towards people.
Matthew 19:17 And He said unto him why calleth thou me good there is none good but one that is God but if thou will enter into life keep the commandments.
There is none good but one does not deny His immeasurable goodness, but to let the young rich man know the seriousness of God’s salvation and His abundance in goodness. God gave His only begotten son out of the abundance of his own goodness and love for mankind.
I understand the fear of God is the controlling principle of holiness. Holiness begins with the fear of the Lord from the inward through total submission to Christ Jesus and surfaces outwardly as God’s goodness towards men.
There are two kinds of fear in existence and both have their effects in this life:
The fear of the Lord.
The fear of evil.
The fear of the Lord is conducive to health but the fear of evil is unhealthy and does not in any way esteem holiness of Christ. The fear of the Lord provokes sound mind, courage, boldness and strength, but the fear of evil produces depression and stirs up high blood pressure. The fear of the Lord stirs up joy from the inward while the fear of uncertainty is nothing but complete despondent. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is the good and healthy fear. Man is expected to fear God not evil.
Holiness begins with the fear of the Lord and strong hatred towards sin. A good man hates sin and shuns all the ways of this present world. Holiness is strong hatred towards every form of worldliness and carnalities.
This fifth attribute of holiness refers to God reality, faithfulness and honesty. God is honest to man and to spirits.
Joshua 24: 14 Now therefore fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and in truth.
Joshua expressly warned Israel not to follow the ways of the Canaanites and other near east nations. God requested that Israel be sincere and honest in their relationship with Him. God hates worldliness and would not accept any form of carnality. As He called the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them ordinances through Moses, so He called the Church out of this world and gave the Church ordinances to follow through Christ. A true Church of God is an assembly or a group of baptized believers under the discipline of God’s word.
They are called to carry out the great commission, the administration of New Testament ordinances and the exercise of spiritual gifts. True Christians assemble for fellowship, reprove, instruction and worship. They carry out doctrine as it appears in the bible because they are separated from this world. God’s word is true and we have seen the realities of His word with great signs of earthquakes, famine, wars and hypocrisies everywhere. The only prophecy which has not yet manifested is rapture.
Christ said He is coming back and His testimony is true. The modern church should not forget letters from the island of Patmos to the seven churches in Asia which reveals the Lord’s warning, rebukes, reproves, and rewards from Him after this life (Revelation 2&3). Christ expects us to learn from these letters, and fear God, and follow holiness without which no man shall see God.
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