“The pursuit of holiness is an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God.” — Troy Gentz
The above quote from our pastor really got me thinking about holiness. “… unrelenting, uncompromising, obedience.” Wow, in this day of deciding everything about ourselves for ourselves, does anyone do this anymore? Does anyone even think of obedience? Isn’t that an archaic word? An oppressive concept? Does anyone pursue holiness? Yet, God commands and, I believe, yearns for us to be holy.
But just as he who called you is holy, so be (ginomai) holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am (eimi) holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16
This above verse emphasizes how, for us, holiness is a pursuit or goal, the moving toward, the ongoing conforming and allowing ourselves to be transformed. There are two different verbs translated “be” and “am” in this verse. One is more like “to become” and the other one is “to exist.” We are called to become – ginomai – holy; but God is – eimi – holy. The Greek word ginomai means to become, to come into existence, begin to be, receive being. It points to our journey toward holiness, our willingness to receive a new being, become a new creature.
In contrast, the Greek word eimi means simply to be, to exist, to happen, to be present. According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the word is in the first person singular present indicative and expresses, “I exist” or “I AM.” God always has and always will exist as Holy – unchanging, unfailing – the One we can fix our eyes and our hearts on, the objective, the goal, the ultimate destination of our pilgrimage here on earth.
But why does God yearn for us to become holy? I believe at least part of the answer is in this verse:
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
The Greek word translated “see” above is optanomai. It means “to look at, behold, to gaze (i.e., with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable).” It does not denote “simply voluntary observation,” or “merely mechanical, passive or casual vision.” It is emphatic and intensive, signifying “an earnest but more continued inspection.”i That is our part – to gaze at our remarkable God with wide-open eyes. Or, as A.W. Tozer put it, “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.”ii
But the word also means to allow one’s self to be seen, to appear, and that is God’s part. God wants to be seen. God wants to be known. God invites an intense, earnest, and continued inspection of Himself. Doesn’t that sound like a best friend? Like a lover?
You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends. He has done this through his death on the cross in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. Colossians 1:21-22
And there resides, in that verse, another fundamental truth about holiness – that we can’t do it ourselves. It is because of what Jesus did on the cross that we can pursue, or even think about pursuing, holiness. It is only because of Jesus’ death on the cross that we can come into His Presence and gaze in wide-eyed worship at the lover of our souls.
“Here is the truth, plain and simple. Without the holiness that’s imparted by Christ alone—a precious gift we honor by leading a life devoted to obeying his every word—none of us will see the Lord. This refers not just to heaven but to our present life as well. Without holiness, we won’t see God’s presence in our daily walk, our family, our relationships, our witness or our ministry.” — David Wilkersoniii
So, there seems to be this tension between receiving holiness as a gift that has already happened – “I have been crucified with Christ” – and something I must also pursue. GotQuestions explains it this way:
“Like righteousness, holiness is a gift from God. The process of becoming holy is called sanctification, and God promises to complete His sanctification in us because of Christ’s work on the cross. The writer of Hebrews explains positional sanctification: “By [God’s] will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all,” and also alludes to progressive sanctification, speaking of “those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:10, 14). We are perfected and sanctified by one event: Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross for our sin. As we live our lives in Christ, our holiness increases as we yield to the work of the Holy Spirit within us and follow this command: “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:12–13; see also Romans 12:1–2; Hebrews 12:1–2).”iv
Let us, then, receive the amazing gift that Jesus gave us on the cross, but let’s also pursue holiness as an unrelenting, uncompromising obedience to God as he reveals his will to us. Let us run swiftly to catch, press on, press forward, seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavor to acquire holiness that we might behold Him, that we might know Him. This is the first reason to pursue holiness. I would like to explore more about holiness, including the second precious reason for pursuing it, in following blogs.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries
ii A.W. Tozer. That Incredible Christian. “We are Saved To as Well as From.” Compiled by Anita M. Bailey. 1964.
iii David Wilkerson, Our God-given Escape Plan https://worldchallenge.org/devotion/our-god-given-escape-plan?ref=devos
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