On the Spirit of Holiness

On the Spirit of Holiness

On the Spirit of Holiness.

THE HOLY SPIRIT: The eternal life-giving Third Person of the Holy Trinity; the intimate bond of divine love and truth shared by God the Father and God the Son; the dynamic power of God offered to every human being on earth; the supernatural Presence in the Community of God who is personal without being material; the invisible creative force with divine intelligence who truly knows the mind of God from the inside; the Spirit of God who thus has all knowledge and is present everywhere in the universe; the sacred energy streaming forth from the Father and the Son, pouring love into our hearts (Romans 5:5), producing virtuous qualities in us (Galatians 5:22-23), and gradually transforming each believer into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18).

God’s eternal Spirit was present at creation, of course, “brooding like a bird over the watery abyss.” (Gen. 1:1, MSG). No surprise there. All three Persons of God existed together eternally before creation began, and they will be intimate spiritual companions forever after the world’s recreation as well. At creation, the Spirit was like a mother bird hatching an egg, bringing beauty and order out of nothingness and chaos, waiting to take us under His wing.

Because the Triune God is united and inseparable, the Father and the Son is everywhere the Spirit us. If the Spirit dwells in us and alongside us, so does the Father and the Son. If the Father and the Son have promised to make a home in us, the Spirit is right there as well, arm-in-arm in their Trinitarian Presence, establishing a dwelling place in us. Since we are welcomed inside the relationship of the Trinity, the Spirit helps make that happen. Since we are adopted into God’s family as His children, we can be sure the Spirit was a part of that process. We can be assured the Spirit will work to sustain us in the Trinitarian circle and fellowship.

St. Paul’s Trinitarian blessing that closes his second letter to the Corinthians contains an interesting observation concerning the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14). After praying for them to be blessed in the grace of Jesus Christ and the love of God, Paul completes the blessing by praying that they would experience the “koinonia” of the Holy Spirit. Koinonia is another rich Greek biblical term, meaning communion, participation in, companionship, intimate partnership with, deep fellowship with. We are not only joined into the community of the Trinity through the Spirit, but we are plugged into a profound fellowship with other believers as well. There would be no communion with other people were it not for the source of all communion, the intimate unity of the triune God. We are one with other believers only because of our oneness with the Trinity. Believers are welcomed into the relationship of the Trinity, and through that spiritual source of oneness we have the possibility of intimate fellowship with fellow believers. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, along with the Father and the Son, and thus we are able to live inside the Trinity while the Trinity lives within us and we live within the community of believers. The Holy Spirit, our true Companion, our intimate Friend “who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

“God promised the Good News long ago through the prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Gospel is all about God’s Son. As a man in His earthly life, He descended from King David’s royal family line. He was shown to be the mighty Son of God when He was raised from the dead with a display of triumphant power supplied by the Spirit of Holiness. And now Jesus is our Lord and our Messiah.” (Romans 1:4). 

HOLY: Set apart for special use; assigned to a godly purpose;  sanctified; consecrated; designated for a sacred function; separated from that which is ignoble or dishonorable.

HOLINESS: the state of being set apart to serve God’s best and highest purposes;  the noble process of being cleansed in order to increase one’s usefulness to God; purification through the Holy Spirit to reflect God’s purity; the high calling of separating one’s behavior from the common and worldly, and pursuing instead the gospel values of Jesus.

The Spirit of Holiness, otherwise known as the Holy Spirit of course, is the Holy One who is in union with God the Father – the Holy One, and God the Son – the Holy One. The Trinity of Holiness is set apart from the rest of creation, sacred above all things, and separated from anything common. The Spirit of the Trinity has the immortal power to raise the dead, to be life-giving, to give the breath of life to that which is lifeless. We who follow Jesus are new creatures only because the Spirit is able to take us in hand and breathe new life into our spirit, bringing us back to life after being spiritually dead. And we now have the same Spirit of Holiness who raised Jesus from the dead inside of us, making us alive to God!

“For you have welcomed Him, the Spirit of Christ, God Himself, into your life – even though you still experience all the limitations of sin – you yourself experience life on God’s terms. It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, He will do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to Himself. When God lives and breathes in you, and He does as surely as He did in Jesus, you are delivered from that dead life. With His Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s! (Romans 8:10-11).

“God’s Seed” in 1 John 3:9 – (Greek word “sperma“) – The seed of divine life introduced into a believer by the Father through the Holy Spirit; the provision of a new family name and identity; the miraculous infusion of the Father’s DNA, a new spiritual genetic framework within a believer; the transmission of new characteristics from the Father with a new heredity as a child of God; through His spiritual seed, God “fathers-forth” a new race in Christ. “People conceived into life by the Father don’t make a habitual practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. His principle of life is at work in them. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to deliberately and knowingly practice sin.

Be warned! Once the Holy Spirit begins to make Himself at home in each of us, nothing can turn Him from wanting to make us into saints. He is the Spirit of Holiness, and He wants to make us holy. He wants to turn us into little Christs, the Holy One.

What is a saint? A willing member of the holy priesthood of all believers; someone who is determined to be in the Lord’s sanctification process; a follower of Jesus who is intentionally living into holiness; a disciple of Christ who accepts being assigned by God for a sacred purpose; a person who is set apart for service to God and thus holy; a humble believer who reminds others of God’s presence in the world; an imperfect person who is designated to represent a perfect God; a Christian believer whose behavior is increasingly separate from the sinful and worldly; a Christ-follower who is engaged in the process of being cleansed and purified in order to increase one’s usefulness to God; a believer whose life is marked by growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). Unfortunately, there are many myths about sainthood, and they should be countered with the truth.

Myth #1 – Saints are only those who are intensely pious, more spiritual, and are super-Christians.

Truth #1 – “Holy is the best word we have for the all-encompassing, all-embracing life of God that transforms us into a uniquely formed and set apart people. Holy is never a pious abstraction. Holiness cannot be reduced to an emotional devotional experience that we cultivate in order to “feel spiritual.” Holiness is an invitation to enter into what God is doing and intending to get done in the world. And it’s for everyone. Holiness is not targeted to an elite spiritual aristocracy.”  (Eugene Peterson, The  Jesus Way).

Myth #2 – Saints don’t want to be tainted by the world as they live into holiness. 

Truth #2 – Jesus went out of His way to touch the untouchables. He was a friend of sinners, and all those rejected by the religious establishment. Jesus talked with them. He lived with them. He was unafraid to be blemished in some way by His contact with the sinful. On the other hand, Jesus never compromised His character. He never joined in with the sinful life, even when tempted. He kept Himself clean while engaging with the unclean. That’s a picture of sainthood. Someone willing to provide the presence of a pure God in the midst of an impure world. Someone who rubs shoulders with the dishonorable in order to bring the light of healing and hope, forgiveness and redemption. (SL).

Myth #3 – Saints tend to be glum and overly serious, because they don’t know how to have fun

Truth #3 – These Christians are a quiet and holy people. They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasures of this sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They have overcome the world.” (Cyprian of Carthage, 250 AD).   “From gloomy Christians, Lord, deliver us.” (Teresa of Avila).

Myth #4 – Saints are all tame and domesticated, living a bland life with no personality of their own.

Truth #4 – Holiness is wild  and undomesticated. Holiness is an interior fire, a passion for living for God, a capacity for exuberance in living out the life of God in the details of our day-to-day lives. Holy is not a word that drains the blood out of life. It’s a word that gets the blood pumping, pulsing life through our veins and putting color in our cheeks.”  (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way).

Myth #5 – Being set apart, saints tend to live at a distance from the everyday world and real life. 

Truth #5 – Human beings are called to holiness because God their Creator is holy. God is indeed distant from the world, is transcendent, set apart, distinctive. But He is also vitally present and active within the world. Rabbi Sacks called it a “calibrated distance.” Just as God remains present in daily life despite being set apart, saints are called to live in and be active in the world. God does not participate in the unholy, because of His purity. Saints are not to participate in the unholy because we have put on Christ, wearing our new nature. Saints do not make peace with unholy alliances of any sort. Saints are intentionally involved in God’s sanctifying process, remaining saints-in-making, holy servants of God in everyday life. (SL).

Myth #6 – Saints are too narrow-minded to live a well-rounded, beautiful life. 

Truth #6 – “The new thing in this little Jewish community in Eastern Europe (during the 18th and 19th centuries) was that holiness, the highest of all values, became so real and so concrete that it became as perceptible as beauty. How was it possible not to feel the presence of God in the world? How could one fail to see that the whole earth is full of His glory? Such longing for the higher endowed them with an almost superhuman quality. They did not write songs, they themselves were songs. They often lacked outward brilliance, but they were full of hidden light.”  (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Earth is the Lord’s).

Myth #7 – Sainthood is not meant for everyone. You have to be specially called to be a saint.

Truth #7 – “All of us, if we only knew it, are on a hunt for the holy, for a life that cannot be reduced to the way we look or what we do or what others think of us. We are after something – more life than we get simply by eating three meals a day, getting a little exercise, and having a decent job. We’re after the God-originated and God-shaped life – a holy life.” (Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way).   “If you consult your own soul with complete honesty, you will see that there is one and only one reason why  you are not even now a saint: You do not wholly want to be.”  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life).

Myth #8 – Saints are so heavenly minded they are no earthly good.

Truth #8 – How did Christ live here on earth? He did good deeds. He healed everyone within reach, and some who were long-distance. He liberated the demon-possessed. He sought out those on the margins. Since Christians are called to be “little Christs,” (C. S. Lewis), a believer is one who does much the same as the Master. Ever since Christianity was established, believers have been pioneers in human care. They created the first hospital, the first hospice, the first prison reform, the first crisis pregnancy center, and have had the most direct hand in developing those institutions ever since. Christians were the first to run to the aid of plague victims in the Middle Ages. They brought and developed learning to unlearned populations. They established health care in leper colonies. The list goes on. Christians are the opposite of all-talk and no-action. Believers have the same inner promptings to demonstrate compassion as Jesus . Christians have excelled at initiating mercy and kindness wherever it is needed. Believers have been of immense earthly good wherever they have lived.  (SL).

Myth #9 – Saints are self-righteous, proud of their saintliness, holier than thou, and love publicity.

Truth #9 – “A saint is a human being released from the love of self and enslaved by the love of God.”  (Douglas Steere).  “Saints learn to be unknown.” (Thomas A’Kempis, The Imitation of Christ).

Myth #10 – A saint is basically a nice person who does good things, an eager activist in righteous causes.

Truth #10 – A saint is one who is picking out a new spiritual wardrobe, priestly garments of splendor. Saints are in the process of taking off their old nature and putting on their new nature in Christ. Saints wear a robe of righteousness and are clothed in Jesus. They are not merely putting on a comfortable costume. saints aren’t merely playing a part in a religious play. The new wardrobe is not just for appearance’s sake to look good. Putting on Christ means a saint’s outer life of virtue is in synch with his or her inner life of faith. That’s why wearing Christ transcends a generic goodness intended for cultural acceptance. The saint seeks to emulate Christ, demonstrating the very character of God, not participating in whichever social goodness is trending. (SL).

Myth #11 –  It is pretty much impossible to live the life of a saint, to live the holy life. 

Truth #11 –  Everyday saintly actions in the holy priesthood of all believers:

  1. Bring God to the People: Demonstrate God’s character through the Fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23); Develop a lifestyle of blessing others in God’s Name.
  2. Bring the People to God: Intercede for others through disciplined prayer; Remind others of God’s presence in the world through word and deed.
  3. Offer yourself Daily as a Living Sacrifice:  Read God’s mind by studying Scripture;  Minister to “one another” in God’s Name;  Offer up a constant sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
  4. Put On Christ as your Priest’s Clothing: Take off the Old You in sin, rejecting the attitudes and behavior of the old nature; Put on the New You in Christ, growing in faith and goodness.    (SL).

And the people were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘Everything He does is beautiful!” (Mark 7:37).

BEAUTIFUL: Greek word for beauty is “kalos,” used in Mark 7:37 above. The word means beautiful, handsome, perfect, excellent, admirable, wonderful. According to the people surrounding Him, everything Jesus did was beautiful. According to the messianic passage in Isaiah 53, Jesus had no outward beauty that would attract people to Him. But Jesus had a different kind of beauty. He had the beauty of holiness.

There is no doubt that Jesus displayed the beauty of holiness in His life and ministry. He was a living magnet, attracting people to His holiness. He led a beautiful life. It’s a wonder why there aren’t more people now attracted to His beauty. Certainly we can overcome the stiff competition from the world. His holiness was attractive when He was on earth. Why is holiness any less desirable now? Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. Through His Holy Spirit, Jesus can be worthy competition to the spirit of the age once again. It is still true that everything he does is beautiful. His holiness is still attractive. “In that day, the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious.” (Isaiah 4:2).

Wanted: A Magnet. Are we looking for a way to give holiness some pulling power? Are we trying to make holiness attractive to the crowd as well as the church? Look no further than Jesus. He led a beautiful, holy life.

  1. His holy wisdom helps make sense of the world. His wisdom is a vast improvement over the world’s glaring foolishness. True to His Word, He is truth-in-action.
  2. His holy goodness makes the world a better place. The obvious beauty of His goodness is a decided advantage over the banal ugliness of sin. He is love-in-action.
  3. His final victory provides the ultimate attraction. His holy life couldn’t be defeated by death. He was victorious in something that defeated everyone else. His resurrection was power-in-action.

So how can we make holiness compelling? For one thing, maybe the main thing, is to keep pointing people to the Gospels. Talk about His character and personality, His life and  ministry. It’s hard to argue with any of that. As the Holy Spirit guides the process, people will question Him, then admire Him, then investigate Him, then follow Him. It is a divine duty of all believers to live in such a way as to make Jesus an attractive option, the only option. Christians need to grow in winsomely fleshing out the beauty of His holiness through demonstrating His wisdom, His goodness, and His ultimate victory. While we do that, keep praying that God would give us “a crown of beauty” to replace our ashes of defeat. (Isaiah 61:3).