Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Does One Become Holy?

In the Matrix, there is a number of scenes where Agent Smith infiltrates a person, who then goes through what looks like a very painful transformation--stretcho, change-o, then snaps back into the shape of Agent Smith. Believe it or not, I actually think that is a great illustration of how a Christian becomes holy.

We look at a statement like "be holy as the Lord is holy," and instantly jump to the wrong conclusion: we think it is something we can achieve if we set our minds to it and get it done. Nothing could be further from the truth. It just isn't in the nature of the beast for a human to be holy. God alone can be attributed with that quality.

The most fundamental way to conceive of the notion of holy is to think "other" or "distinctly separate." No one can fit that description but God (see link in post title). Everything else, everyone else is just part of the creation, generally along with countless other examples of the same sort. "Other" in the realm of the created is a relative term at best!

God stands alone (and when I say that, I mean the trinitarian Godhead). Nothing else is what he is; nothing else has independent existence as he does; everything else was fashioned by him, yet he was fashioned by nothing. We generally jump immediately to the moral repercussions of God's separateness when speaking of holiness, but to do so is to not go deep enough into the subject.

If we don't plumb far enough, however, we generally devolve into some kind of petty rule keeping regimen in order to give us some sense we're aligned with the command to be holy. Holiness, however, can never arise from that which is intrinsically unholy. So, perhaps we need to rethink the force of the command, and see it more as an invitation. Like any of the commands of God in the old covenant, the point was not to elicit actual obedience, but to make us aware of just how unholy we truly are, and thereby to lead us to the gracious hand of Christ.

Oh, it's not that it's possible to be unholy and get along with with God, it's just that we can't achieve holiness by our own efforts. If we're to be holy, as we must to get into heaven (not to earn it, but just to survive it), holiness has to come to us, imported like oil is to Singapore. Since we must be holy to co-exist with God, we must come to Christ and receive the gift of his nature which alone is holy. When the holy one is in us, holiness becomes possible for us.

4 comments:

  1. This is a video that was sent by a friend. I sent it to every email address I had and asked them to do the same. It is "in your face." I've had little reply, but I'm hoping the message will convict. Holiness is a transformation of the heart and mind. When that happens, the outward will follow. Any other way is "putting the cart before the horse!" (as we say in PA) I appreciate your posts! They always bring me a step closer to the Master!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yhX7m3rF20c

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  2. Ruth,
    The video is a bit over the top. If God really approached things as is suggested in it, we wouldn't have a Bible-- Noah would have been zapped for getting drunk at the first opportunity after the flood; Abraham would have been zapped for being a coward and a liar; David for being a murderer and adulterer...

    I think you get my point. There is tremendous value in understanding our need to be conformed to Christ (holiness), but not much value in making people shaky about how they'll be received in the holy of holies. I go there, boldly, because of the blood of the lamb, never meekly because of who and what I am. God is remarkably patient while Christ is formed in us, we need to exhibit the same with each other.

    That being said, I think we need a wake up call. Maybe it takes something over the top to accomplish that!

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  3. Paul wrote about being conformed to Jesus’ likeness (the REAL point of “predestination”) and also about being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

    Peter wrote about being “partakers of the divine nature” – something made possible by God through His “great and precious promises”.


    These references indicate to me that:
    1) God’s intention for us to become like Jesus, to take on His nature.
    2) HE has provided the means for that to become reality
    3) There is some responsibility on our part (WE are charged to avoid conforming to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds).
    4) This process will not be completed until that day when “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” and He “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” and “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is”.

    The aspect of this that has always spoken to me is the part about renewing the mind. The way I picture this refers to that cliché “you are what you eat”. If we feed our minds with worldliness and sinfulness, then that will become evident in our lives. Feed ourselves on Godly things and likewise THAT will be more evident in our lives.

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  4. Onesimus,
    Well stated, I agree with you.

    As much as I appreciate the evangelistic fervor that has attempted to make the gospel as accessible as possible to as broad a sweep of the population as possible, it's not a complete message until it presents the ultimate truth-- Christ in us, the hope of glory.

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