- Renée Coventry
Holiness & Love, Pt. 20
Yesterday I said that love characterizes holiness, not a love that facilitates sin but addresses and redeems it. Only God can do that, and He did in His Son, Jesus Christ. Let's examine this more fully today. Recall that I mentioned in "Holiness & the Law," that the law set holy parameters for the nation of Israel, teaching them to act holy, and that the Holy Spirit transforms our character and empowers us to be holy.
In Mark 12:28-34, a scribe asked Jesus, "Which is the first commandment of all?" Jesus answered him, "The first of all commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
Loving God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength means to give Him His place in all time, space, and matter which He has given to you. It is only in the context of holiness that we can truly love God because we make the conscious decision not to violate His presence with that which He abhors - sin. Susanna Wesley had an insightful definition of sin. She taught her boys that "Whatever weakens your reasoning, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes away your relish for spiritual things, in short, if anything increases the authority of the flesh over the spirit, that to you becomes sin, however good it is in itself." Many things that we consider holy works are just good works that have become unholy and sinful because they take away the time, space, and matter that belong to God and others.
Only in the context of loving God in holiness can we genuinely love others. If our motives haven't been purified, then people will constantly second-guess them. It is because our love is unholy that the world looks at the church and claims it is hypocritical. Notice Jesus' life. He offended many, but He was never accused of being unholy or hypocritical. When the masses encountered Christ, they knew His love, and it was holy. Holy love willingly lays down its life for another. This love radiated from the early church to such an intense degree that they still clung to Christ even when persecuted and martyred. The church today is in dire need of a baptism of holiness.
Today's culture defines love not as doing what is in the best interest of another. Instead, it attempts to convince us that not only should we accept people as they are, but condone what they do, sinful or not. That's NOT love; it is enablement. If it were love, Christ would have stayed in heaven and let me die in my sins. I'm thankful for a God who was not content to leave me as I was, in my sin, but chose to die and rise again so that I could be redeemed.
The world has also convinced us that if we live holy lives, we must therefore be judgmental. We've all heard the phrase "holier-than-thou." But that's the point. A Christian is supposed to be holier than the world, and in being so, invite the world into its holiness through the redemption of Jesus Christ. Not in a self-righteous way, mind you. Self-righteousness has never resulted in people coming to Christ. Just the opposite. However, when we live authentic lives in holiness, people stand up and take notice. Nobody in the early church had to advertise their piety; it was apparent to all they came in contact with. So our holiness should be evident to all.
It's time to separate the holy from the profane, Church. That is why I am teaching on holiness. Ezekiel was told that the priests were to teach God's people "the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean" (Ez. 44:23). As a co-pastor with my husband, this is me, called by God, doing the best I can to teach you this. We cannot afford to confuse the two or write-off holiness as an Old Covenant mandate with the excuse that we're under grace. No! We must not only learn the difference but consciously exercise holiness, consecrating and setting ourselves apart daily.
Paul admonished the Philippians, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure" (Phil. 2:12-13). You see, holiness, while characterized by love, is also characterized by the fear of the Lord.
Father, I know I can't love You and others properly outside of a consecrated life. Lord, please teach me the difference between holiness and self-righteousness. Let humility be characteristic of my life, accompanied by a purified love for You and others. I don't want to settle for anything less than a complete transformation that draws the world to You. Please help me, Holy Spirit. I ask this in Jesus' name, amen.