Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God – 2 Corinthians 7:1
I read a brilliant post from John Bevere the other day, talking about holiness, and how it’s one of the words that has been lost from the church vocabulary in more recent years. There’s been a strong emphasis on the grace and love of God which has ignited throughout the body of Christ – and well overdue I reckon! But 2000 years after this verse was written, nothing has changed when it comes to the way that God wants us to live our lives in relation to the world around us.
The word ‘holy’ comes from the Greek word haigos which means ‘set apart’, ‘sanctified’ or ‘special’. We’ve made it a very spiritual word, which it is, but we all have things in our everyday lives that we treat as holy. There’s items of clothing that we wouldn’t choose to mow the lawns or clean the house in because they’re for special occasions, not for common purposes. Some have cutlery and tableware that’s not used every week, but set apart for special events. When I was a kid one of my teachers used to have a particular stamp that she would put on work that was outstanding, and everyone knew that to get one of those stamps was worth way more than the regular buzzy-bee 🙂 All of these things were ‘set apart’, ‘special’ and ‘sanctified’.
And that’s how God wants us to view our lives. Everywhere we go, in everything we do, we are on a unique and glorious mission. God has not fashioned our lives to be whittled away on pointless pursuits, or to be caught up with what the world around us is obsessed with. It doesn’t mean that we don’t serve or we live life with some selfish sense of entitlement. But like undercover agents – we are in this world but not of it. We set ourselves apart to stay true to the call we’ve been given.
I don’t think many Christians set out to not live their lives in a holy way before God, but perhaps it’s just more that it can slip down the priority list unless we can see it’s power.
This is why Paul gives us three great reasons in this verse to live holy:
1) Live Holy Because Of What Has Been Promised To You
The verse starts with a ‘therefore’, and as Derek Prince says, whenever you see a ‘therefore’ find out what it’s ‘there for’. The previous chapter ends with some pretty cool things that God is planning on doing:
- “I will live and walk among you – I will be your God, and you will be my people”
- “I will be a father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters”
God is really serious about his relationship with us. So if our heart response to God is ‘Lord, I want you to be near, I want to live as your son or daughter’ then surely our life response needs to be one where we put Him first, and leave behind old ways and dead works in order to walk in the promise He’s given.
So we don’t live holy to try to get a blessing from God, we live holy BECAUSE He has blessed us and given us some incredible promises. Why would we settle for anything less?!
2) Live Holy Because The Alternative Wrecks Your Life
I’m not going to fix the car in my good suit and tie, not only because it’s not practical but I also don’t want my good suit stained with oil and grease. Sure I could do it and get it cleaned up, but why let it get dirty in the first place?
Sin contaminates our spirits. Living in ways that are at odds to what God has commanded us isn’t just bad for our relationship with Him, it’s bad for US. If I lose my temper with someone, then when I come to God and ask for forgiveness He will cleanse me of the sin and give me grace for next time. But an impact has been made on the relationship that is now going to need to be worked out.
The blood of Jesus remains powerful to cleanse us from all transgressions, but sin nearly always carries some form of consequence our lives. So we live holy not just because of God’s great promises and intention for us, but also because the alternative just isn’t worth it!
3) Live Holy Out Of Awe And Wonder Of Who God Is
The verse ends with ‘perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’. I love that word ‘perfecting’… it means that we’re still on a journey with this one and it’s not going to happen overnight. But we’re intent on getting to our destination too.
The promise that God has given us is that he wants to walk close to us, and He wants us to be His sons and daughters. How differently would we live our lives if we knew that every moment of every day, the fullness of the presence of God was with us? If Jesus physically turned up one morning and said ‘I’m going to spend the day with you’ – how many things would we do and not do differently? We would make changes to our lives out of love and respect for Him. We would be committed to ‘perfecting holiness out of reverence for God’.
The truth is – He DOES walk with us! He’s closer than we could ever believe. But in order to see His power released, we need to get off the world’s rhythm, and live in time with His heartbeat.
“without holiness no one will see the Lord” – Hebrews 12:14
Nearly every time I’ve read that verse, I’ve interpreted it that I won’t get to see God unless I live holy. Certainly there’s truth in that – but I would argue that it’s not about me getting holy to get close to God – because He’s the only one who can make me holy in the first place! Trying to be holy without God’s help is simply dead religion.
I think it’s more that there’s breakthroughs, open doors, opportunities and moments that God wants to bring me into – but without a life that’s actively pursuing Him… I’m likely to miss what He’s wanting to do. Without a ‘holy’ (set apart) life, I won’t ‘see the Lord’ (where He’s going and what He’s doing).
But there’s something else too. I think this verse is about how Christians live in the world around us. When we blend in and just do what the world does, no one sees God. They just see more of the same. But when we live differently, when we live holy, when we make the decisions to do some things and not others because of our relationship with God… then they see something extraordinary. The world around us catches a glimpse of heaven.
That’s absolutely motivation for me to live holy!