I was reading an article recently on the subject of holiness based on a recent survey by the George Barna Research Group, and a conclusion of the survey was that only about 3 in 10 American Christians viewed holiness as a necessary part of their Christian walk.
Holiness is a matter embraced by the Christian Church, but it is not one that many Americans adopt as a focal point of their faith development. This is partially because barely one-third of Americans (35%) contend that God expects you to become holy. A larger share of the born again public believes God has called them to holiness (46%) but that portion remains a minority of the born again population. – The Barna Group, Ltd, 2006
Many it appears, question the possibility that they could be holy. As a result, holiness was not a reasonable goal for which to strive. To be certain, much of this Christian worldview on the un-attainability of personal holiness stems from the image of church and church leaders that have been proffered by what I call American Religiosity particularly throughout the 20th and so far into the 21st century. This strain of church leadership suggests that people need a proxy for themselves before God. We need a person of infallibility that is only offered through formally trained and credentialed church leaders, who are the only ones who can boldly go before God’s Holy throne. The result of this insidious teaching is a body of believers in Christ who see themselves as incapable of or unworthy to go before God for themselves. But God says plainly in the Bible to: Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) God says without holiness you will not see Him. So where does that leave the roughly 60+% of people, church-going people who by their own assessment appear to be pursuing unholy but still Christian lives? At the minimum they appear to be dreadfully deceived, and at worse perhaps are not Christians at all. I’m convinced that most of these people do want to see God. However, to do so the Bible gives them a necessary requirement to live holy. It does not say live perfectly. It does not say live lives of sinless perfection. But it does suggest living with a desire to be holy.
John the Baptist was one person whom the Bible referenced as a holy character: For John had been saying to Herod, "It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife." So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. (Mark 6:18 NIV) Here, an example of holy living was being able to clearly see and being willing articulate to an offender, that adultery is wrong. However, in a different setting, this same holy man was doubtful about the legitimacy of Christ as evidenced by the following scripture: When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matthew 11:2-3 NIV). John wasn’t presented as perfect, but he was presented as holy.
The hard question for most is what do you do to be able to live holy? We’ll, I can’t articulate the 3-step approach here in this blog, but the Bible sure can. And that perhaps is the problem that the Barna research uncovers. There is an old saying that the acronym for the Bible is this: Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. The instructions to live a holy life are contained throughout the Book of the Bible. Having a desire to read it and the discipline and commitment to do so, will provide the instructions that is needed in order to know how to live the holy life that God expects.
If you are someone who is uncertain as to your ability to be holy, don’t let men or the world suggest to you that it is unattainable. Seek out the Bible, God’s Holy Word for yourself. Let the Holy Spirit teach you about true holy living. Sinless perfection it will not be. However, a continual earnest desire to learn about Jesus and a willingness to be more consistently obedient to his Word, will have you on the path to holy living right before your very eyes.
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