. When we think of something holy or of holiness, our minds drift instantly to moral perfection or the perception of it. We think in terms of moral purity or something of religious significance to which we assign some form of purity. The guru, who lives in the cave on the side of the hill eating grubs and berries and living out his life simply and in constant contemplation of the transcendent, we consider to be holy. And he may be, but we have confused real holiness for imagined holiness.
The guru is holy, in the technical and real sense because he is set apart from the rest of the world – for that is what holiness is at its core; being set apart. It is not moral purity; it is that moral purity sets us apart from the rest of the world – which says volumes about the world around us. It is not an ascetic life that is holy – ascetic meaning simple, austere, self-disciplined and self-denial. It is not that kind of life that makes us holy; it is how that kind of life sets us apart from the way the rest of the world lives in lustful indulgence and pleasure-seeking. Do you see the difference and how easily we can be confused?
Now, when one is talking about biblical holiness, we learned that God is holy because he is completely other than what we are – God is holy because there is nothing and no one like him. It is why the arch-angel bears the name Michael – which means, “Who is like God?” The obvious answer to that question is “No one and nothing. God is entirely other than what he has created.” God, in his perfections, is utterly holy – perfectly holy. He is not only good, he is the source of all good. He is not only powerful, he is all-powerful. He is not only love; he is the source of and perfect example of love. The very essence of God is holiness – his set apart-ness. I mean, you seriously have to make up words like apart-ness to try and describe how holy he truly is.
I hope you are sensing the greatness of God in my paltry and inept attempts to describe him – I hope, truly, you’re getting a little uncomfortable with the magnitude of his greatness, his majesty, his holiness and my inability to adequately describe it. Like that picture that is just out of focus that reveals Bigfoot really exists, I hope my attempts to impress on you the gargantuan reality of God’s person unsettles you. As Mr. Beaver says about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe “'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
We must recognize that the God with which we covenant is so great, that he is not safe – cannot be safe. Not because he is reckless or capricious or wicked, or unmindful of us and delighting in our terror but because he is so much more than all we think or imagine and so perfectly righteous and good that without the blood of Christ we would perish in an instant were we to enter his presence. Our sin would doom us irrevocably. That is how intense his holiness is – anything that does not reflect his holy nature cannot survive in his presence. It is a mercy beyond all explanation that any part of the creation survived the Fall. It is a testimony to the greatness of his love and grace.
So, what that means for us is to be holy in the biblical sense is to be set apart for God’s purpose – to be set apart to the praise of his glory. It is to recognize in every facet of life that we are not our own, but bought with a price. We cannot set aside the reality that we belong to God – heart and soul – even for the purpose of making the money we use to keep body and soul together. No, even our livelihood must be brought under the Lordship of Christ and used for his glory. Even our recreation – our game playing, our music listening, our internet-surfing, our tv watching, our alcohol drinking – if you partake – our every act of leisure, our every act of labor, our every interaction with people and creation must be set apart for the glory of the Father in Jesus Christ the Son, by the aid and empowerment of the Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be perfectly holy.