Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:3
According to James V. Brownson there are three aspects to holiness:
- Differentiation, or being set apart from the world
- Openness to God, an availability to God’s presence, or being set apart to God
We looked at the first two aspects in Holiness – Set Apart. Being separated out, or chosen, and setting our hearts and minds on obeying God leads to a passion for purity. Holiness, in the purity sense it seems to me, is becoming “like Jesus,” conformed to his image. It is “the restoration of the image of God,” as Wilberforce described it. Brownson defined purity as finding our true identity in Christ:
“In the broadest sense, purity consists in actions that are in accordance with our God-given identity. The life of faith is the life that lives out our identity given to us Christ. ‘Seek first God’s kingdom,’ says Jesus, ‘And everything else will be yours as well.’ Or as Kierkegaardi paraphrases the same notion, purity of heart is to will one thing, to consistently set one’s will toward being the child of God that God has called you to be … To allude to the words of Jesus: the soul preoccupied with many things can miss the one thing that is necessary. To live by the one thing that is necessary is what purity is all about.”ii
The purity of holiness means to be “set apart” to God. It means God is our focus, our pursuit, our “one thing.” And it is not primarily for ourselves, but for others. It is not so we can pat ourselves on the back, but because when Jesus is lifted up, all men are drawn to him. When we are truly like him, people see what God is really like; they know his love for them; they experience all that God yearns for them: the healing and restoration and being set free, loosing of bonds, breaking of chains. Jesus wants to become “the firstborn of many brothers.” Holiness is submitting ourselves to that passion, dying to ourselves to help make that happen.
“As reflected in the life of Jesus, spiritual formation, or sanctification, is the growth we are to experience as people who believe in Jesus—growth that moves us toward the image of God.” — J.D. Walt iii
Holiness means obedience to the will of God which is all about love; it’s about doing the good works that we were created to do, which are all about helping to bring his lost children home.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Jesus’ command was not you will witness – not you will knock on doors, or hand out tracts, or however people witness in our day – or not even that you will write blogs. But that you will be witnesses. That word translated “be” – eimi – means to be, to exist. In other words, you will exist as a witness to God’s glory, it will have become part of your being. When people look at you, they will see Jesus in you.
“It is through Christian people that the Lord Jesus is glorified; that is why he is concerned about these people. Let us remember that the world knows nothing about him apart from us; it gets to know him through us, and judges him by what it sees in us. Indeed, he put it still more specifically by saying that even as God had sent him into the world to manifest the glory of God, now he sends his people into the world in exactly the same way, so that he may thus be magnified and glorified through them.” — Martyn Lloyd-Jones iv
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you– from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. 1 Peter 2:9-10 (Message)
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Romans 8:29 (ESV)
So, there are two reasons to pursue holiness which correspond to the two consuming passions of God. First, that we might see and know and love him as our Father, and second, to love our fellow humans with God’s love so that they might be brought into his family too.
Holiness as purity is not so we can be “holier than thou.” It means to be holier and holier toward God, holier and holier because of God’s work in us, holier and holier for others, holier and holier for love – to be a conduit of God’s love.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength … Love your neighbor as yourself. Mark 12:30-31
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 (ESV)
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself. John 12:32 (ESV)
i Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. Sören Kierkegaard. 1938. https://www.religion-online.org/book/purity-of-heart-is-to-will-one-thing/
ii Holiness and Hermeneutics. James V. Brownson. Western Theological Seminary. 1999.
iii The Image of God and the Quest for Holiness. J.D. Walt. https://www.seedbed.com/the-image-of-god-and-the-quest-for-holiness/
iv Sanctified Through the Truth. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Crossway Books, 1989.
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