During the A to Z, I’ve been writing here about important aspects of worshiping and pursuing God. Now we come to one of the most important – and least comfortable.
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” Heb 12:14 NKJV
The Message simplifies this thought to “work on getting along… with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse.”
The word here means purification, sanctification, that state of staying set apart not just from the world but also for God. We can’t merely be on the outskirts of society, weird Ned Flanders types who never participate in anything fun because “that’s of the devil.” Nor can we live two lives, one devoted to God and the other riddled with willful sin.
We’re to be whole people, holy people, healthy and helpful to the world around us.
“May God himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23 MSG
So what’s the difficulty with this?
First, there’s no room for compromise. There’s no leeway for blowing it. Christ calls us to an all-or-nothing relationship. For example, in Luke 9:23 we see Christ tell us that His disciples must take up their cross and follow Him. That means essentially dying to ourselves in order to live for Him (2 Cor 5:14-15). Paul tells us our act of worship is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God. (Rom 12:1-2).
Holiness isn’t a half-hearted thing.
Second, we never fully measure up to the mark. We can never claim we have arrived at perfection. John writes that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Paul lays out our condition in Romans 7, how we often do what we know is wrong and fail to do what we know is right. And even our very best efforts are like filthy rags before God’s purity and holiness (Isaiah 64:6). “All have sinned and fall short” of God’s standard (Romans 3:23).
There is no finish line in life for this journey.
That can be a weighty realization. We must be holy if we hope to see God, yet we can never attain that goal.
So that brings us to another ‘H’ for today:
Every morning brings hope that today we will be better than we were before.
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out, his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning. How great your faithfulness! (Lam 3:22-23 MSG)
Paul writes of his worldly achievements and merits, then calls them all worthless compared to Christ. And then he makes this comment:
“I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus.
I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.” Php 3:12-14 MSG
This is why we can never wink at sin or shrug away our failures… and yet we can rejoice with confidence in God’s great love that transcends our shortcomings. When we’ve failed today, we confess it and start off tomorrow fresh, full of hope, eager to discover and display holiness.
So tonight you get two for the price of one: a reminder that we must be holy if we desire a glimpse of God, and the promise that there is hope every morning as we experience God’s love anew.
What do you think? What helps you strive for holiness? How does new hope each morning affect your thoughts about God?