A CALL TO HOLINESS
Living a Holy Lifestyle
Jerry A. Collins
There is a danger in believing in a sort of "Stained Glass Holiness". The view that restricts holiness to the realm of the ceremonial. It is a Holiness on Sunday only mentality. This kind of thinking views holiness in terms of special days, special holy places and special holy activities. The problem with this thinking is that it tends to divorce righteousness in everyday living from religious activities and ceremonies. In other words, it is OK to be religious on Sunday for instance, but cheat on your wife, unjust in business, insensitive to the needy, and immoral in lifestyle the rest of the week.
God focused on this issue in Leviticus 19. Godís decrees are binding on those who claim to follow him, in worship, in business, in society and in personal relationships. They had to walk worthily of their high calling now. The person who Ďflew in the face ofí the law was demonstrating his lack of commitment and faith. So this passage is a reminder of the necessity to be a holy person everyday and in every situation. We will learn about practical holiness from Leviticus 19. This chapters tells us how to spell Ďholyí.
1. GODíS HOLINESS IS OUR MOTIVATION TO BE HOLY 1-2
The holiness of God is the bedrock supporting the practice of a holy lifestyle in our lives. Our morality must ultimately rest upon the unchanging nature of our God. This command was for the whole nation not just a select few. This shows that holiness for us is not an option but an expectation. An imperative. When we refer to the holiness of God we are speaking of that which defines God as separate from all that is evil. He is not in any way polluted, compromised or defiled by anything inside or outside of himself. It is necessary that our lives reflect the nature of our God not ourselves. Godís holiness then is a pattern for our holiness. We are not only to be holy because God is holy but to be holy as or like God is holy. The rest of this chapter spells out a practical holiness for us in our everyday lives but that can only be accomplished as we pattern our lives after the holiness of our God. He has established that He alone is to be basis of our holiness in life.
We should not be looking to anyone else as a pattern for our holy lifestyle. We might tend to think that holiness is supposed to accompany a certain office or position here. We might assume that because a person is a pastor, an elder, a preacher, or priest that they are somehow intrinsically holy. The reality is that such positions are strategic targets of Satan and His agents (2 Cor 11:12-15). Holiness has nothing to do with oneís occupation but rather oneís obedience to the commands of God in daily living. Jesus Himself taught that status was not the goal of the believer but rather service (Matt 20:25-27). Jesus own example of setting aside his status and position to serve the Father is to be the example for us (Phil 2:5-8). This same concept from Leviticus 19:2 is reiterated in the NT several times. Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). As obedient children do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance but like the Holy One who called you be holy yourselves also in all your behavior because it is written you shall be holy for I am holy (1 Peter 1:14-16).
2. HOLINESS EXTENDS FROM FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS TO RELIGIOUS PRACTICES 3-10
In vs 3 we see that honoring oneís parents and keeping Sabbaths summarizes the whole law and illustrates that holiness begins in the home. A home environment that teaches the family to look to the holiness of God as the standard of lifestyle for the family will raise children that learn to respect, reverence or fear his mother and father. Children raised with this understanding will likely be motivated to fear God and flee from idols or false gods in false religions. So holiness is to be lived out in family life. It includes respecting and fearing your parents. It is interesting that when the Bible describes unbelieving humanityís rebellion against God and the rejection of the knowledge of God, that mankindís dismissal of God creates a mental vacuum filled with all kinds of depravity, including disobedience to parents (Romans 1:30). People who are guilty of breaking the law of God include the description of those who kill their fathers and mothers (1 Timothy 1:9). When the last days are described, a term which includes the entire period between the first century and Christís return, the description includes those who are disobedient to parents (2 Timothy 3:2).
The passage goes on to extend holiness into religious practices including the proper disposing of the meat of the fellowship offerings which involved a very severe penalty of being cut off from the people if done improperly. the point being that we had better take seriously what God takes seriously. God does not owe us any explanations. Actually, our main problem is often taken seriously that which God has made very clear is serious to Him. If we were to spend the rest of our lives obeying that which He has made clear enough to us we would be too busy to question that which seems unclear. The religious practices extended even to agriculture. The gleanings in the corners of the fields and the fallen grapes in the vineyard were to be left for the poor (vss 9-10). The point here is that holiness is sacrificial but sensitive. This kind of holiness is willing to cut oneís profit margins so that the poor would have food to eat. Not cutting the corners and leaving the grapes would cut into the profit one could make on the hard work in the fields. But a devoted follower would know that this is a holy lifestyle and would obey God. James tells us that A pure and undefiled religion in the sight of God and Father is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress band to keep oneself unstained from this world (1:27). It is apparent that Godís emphasis is not on religious ritual and ceremony but on right, holy living. A holy religion is one that helps others in need. Especially when those we can help are people who can never pay us back.
3. HOLINESS EXTENDS TO ALL OF OUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS 11-18
Here are a series of prohibitions directed to the promoting of harmony and holiness between Israelites as well as to loving your neighbor as yourself. Holiness is seen in relationships with those closest to you as well as those furthest from you. The whole purpose for promoting honesty is so that Godís reputation will not be tarnished (vvs 11-12). Again we are reminded that our focus is on God and His nature. His holiness is the motivation for our own. This is exemplified in o0ur lives by the nonexploitation of the weak, the laborer and the handicapped (vvs 13-14). There must be no injustice toward the stranger nor discrimination of the poor or great but just and fair judgments made. Not just judgments made that benefit us. This must be motivated from within by loving our neighbors. Love is the willingness to give to another person that which will serve their greatest good. That is my only motivation and this is practical holiness in all kinds of personal relationships I will have throughout the course of my lives. To those closest to me and those furthest from me (Fellow-countrymen, foreigner, weak and vulnerable, enemy 17-18). All must receive from me a practical holiness that is exemplified by loving acts.
4. HOLINESS EXTENDS TO OUR OBEDIENCE OF GODS WORD 19-37
This section is marked off at the beginning and the end by the phrase You are to keep my statutes (vss 19, 37) emphasizing obedience to His Word is practical holiness. This obedience includes not confusing what God has made distinct vs 19. We could apply this principle to sexual practices or relationships. For instance sexual relations are for marriage partners and only amongst a man and a woman. Mixing and confusing these distinctions is disobedience and unholy. There are consequences for our actions vss 20-22. Whenever there is sin there are consequences. Verse 20 says there shall be punishment. The NT says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23) both the death-dealing consequences of sin we set in motion and the consequences of eternal separation and damnation. God is deserving of the best we have to give and offer vss 23-25. The skimpy harvests of the first three years in the land would not be presented to the Lord. We must avoid false religions and the practices associated with them vss 26-31. They are deceptions and dangerous. Street market honesty exemplifies practical holiness along with respect for the older and the alien vss 32-37. Holy people do not cheat others nor look down on others. We must obey God in these matters because he is the one we are pleasing.