Holiness. What’s the first word that comes into your mind when you read that? What’s the second? What’s the first sentence? And are those positive or negative?
For some of us words spill out like disappointment, impossible, failure, disillusioned because that’s what we feel because we’re aware of our failures. For others it’s words like joyless, drudgery, legalistic and puritanical because we don’t really think holiness will make us relevant or welcoming or leave us with any friends.
We don’t have a hole in our holiness we have a glaring lack of foundations in understanding what holiness is, which means we don’t pursue holiness we treat it like the measles wanting only a low dose of. We think that being holy means somehow saying a life of ‘No!’ I can’t do that. I can’t watch that. I can’t go there. We’ve reduced holiness to the spiritual equivalent of a dementor that drains all the joy out of life.
And yet when we look at the bible it exalts in God’s holiness, not because it’s his ‘no’ to life but because it’s his ‘yes’ to joy. Holiness is God’s utter otherness in everything. It is not his being less than it’s his being far far far more than. And holiness when seen in Jesus is not his saying no to anything and everything, it’s not his restrictions. His holiness made him more loving, more welcoming, more compassionate, more gracious, more generous, more merciful. People loved being around Jesus because his holiness wasn’t manifest in being a killjoy but in bringing life and love.
So how tragic is it that for so many of us when we think of holiness we think of guilt and our failure. Or we think of the things we can’t do – because yes, we’ve swallowed the world’s lie that sin is where the fun is and so happiness and holiness are incompatible. That is an unbiblical lie. It is a satanic twisting of the truth that we need to stand against.
Holiness wouldn’t make us less approachable or engaged with those around us it would make us far far more approachable and compassionate and welcoming and loving. To be holy is to grow to love God more and so want to mirror his character and he is not a killjoy, he is not against fun, look around you. Taste and see that God is good, he thrives on giving us things to enjoy. Bite into an apple and stop and savour the various tastes and textures a holy God has given you to enjoy. Look out of your window and try to count the sheer number of shades of greens and yellows and reds and browns you can see in the leaves and the grass and other plants. All created by a holy God. To be holy is to be like God, it is to love others more not less. It is to be like Jesus who loved his enemies lavishly, who welcomed sinners and tax collectors not stood aloof from them in judgement because of some warped tick box legalistic view of holiness.
If the idea of holiness making you happy is not what instantly springs to mind we have a problem. We’ve swallowed Satan’s lie. In eternity we will be happy because we are made perfectly holy and will for eternity be holy and happy. That’s not just true of then but ought to be true of us now.
So, how do we need to rethink holiness? How do we challenge this lie we’ve swallowed and help others do the same? How do we proclaim the beauty of holiness as we preach and lead bible studied? How do we reshaping our discipling when we sit and walk and eat so that holiness in God is seen in all it’s beauty so we long to be holy we don’t fear it? Because the world needs us to be holy so that we mirror God; Father, Son and Spirit. Because holiness makes us happy, it makes us loving and welcoming and gracious and compassionate, children of our Father in heaven who live lives just like our big brother, empowered and transformed to greater holiness and therefore happiness day by day by the Spirit.