A return to being set apart

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We live in an era of history that is an ever-changing social, technological, political and cultural landscape. It feels like in the last 15 years everything is changing at a rapid pace. However, the word of God provides the guidelines for life that don’t change throughout the generations. These principles are the same today as they were 2000 years ago.

In our modern culture, there is an idea used in scripture that as of late has become a bit of a four-letter word in Christendom. For some, it makes them cringe and recollect abusive memories of controlling churches or communities. For others, it seems like an antiquated concept that is open to the cultural interpretations of the day. None-the-less it is a word and idea that is congruent and everywhere throughout both the old and new testaments. That word is…

Holiness

Holiness by its biblical example and implication is probably best described as “to be set apart”. As much as the actual word above is separated from the rest of this entire blog…that is a reflection of God’s intention and desire of how our hearts and actions would be set apart from the brokenness of the world that we live in.

We are called to live our lives in alignment with the scripture. More and more in this day and era, we want the scripture to bend and conform to our current revelations of how we think things should be or our definition of what is fair. However, scripture is there to challenge us:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

If the reading of scripture is not challenging your concept of how you should live your life, you might do well to examine if you’re letting it do its job. We as humans do not enjoy being uncomfortable. Our carnal nature, similar to animals in this world, loves pleasure and runs from any kind of pain. The idea of reading and applying something that cuts us, prunes us, challenges us and asks us to die to our own opinions is not in alignment with most of the social norms of the new millennium that we live in.

Holiness is not about rules. If we minimize it to a list of rules it is eternally powerless. We have to search the bible for the correct motivation of why we should live our lives set apart… and do we trust this God we love enough to follow and His guidelines for our lives. Here are a few personal motivations of why I want to pursue holiness. It’s not to make God love me more, but scripture does outline some definite rewards of applying ourselves to His standard of life He is calling us to:

Powerful prayer life – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” James 5:16.

How many of us want to see more miracles and healings? God heals because Jesus made a mandate in the gospel. However, we can see that there is some level of correlation between the lifestyle of the “pray-er” and the effective power of their prayer. What if the block to seeing God move more in your prayer life was a lack of applying yourself to his standard to life?

Hearing God better –“If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened;” Ps 66:18.

Sin by definition is anything that God hates. Throughout scripture, He tells us the things He hates and gives us instruction to not participate. However, when we create our own standards of how to live that are not based on the scripture we often can start creating a personal theology that “cherishes” or loves things that God hates. My desire in life is to have the most radical prophetic conversations in my relationship with God. Part of my job in that relationship is to make sure that I’m agreeing with the way that He is calling me to live. We are all his sheep and can hear His voice. However, the sheep that disobeys and wanders off from the Sheppard might have a little harder time hearing with clarity what the master is saying.

Encountering God –“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness, no one will see the Lord” Hebrews 12:14.

At Renew one of our primary delight and goal is to encounter the presence of God. This is why we emphasize worship so much. The scripture says that “He inhabits the praise of His people”. We love to encounter Him. However, the scripture also tells us that living a life set apart to His standard is integral to seeing and encountering Him.

Knowing the Holy Spirit –“And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment.” John 16:8.

I was reading an old King James translation of the bible and it referred to the name of the Holy Spirit as “The Spirit of Holiness”. It jumped off the page at me. I somehow had always known this was part of His name, but the different phrasing of it etched that revelation in my mind and spirit. The Holy Spirit has many jobs. He is a comforter, He points us to Jesus, He empowers us…but one of the less popular parts of His nature is that He convicts us of sin. I have had friends that had the Holy Spirit living inside them and totally fell off the wagon…basically living for sex, drugs and rock n roll. During their entire time running from God, they would comment that they still felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit. They knew what they were doing was wrong because He lived inside of them. If we truly want a deeper friendship with the Holy Spirit and to know Him more… we must know Him as He is, “The Spirit of Holiness”.

One of the largest arguments against living a life of holiness that I’ve heard is that you cannot be both “relevant” to a broken world and live with “holiness” at the same time. We are living in a special period of time where more and more followers of Jesus are called to reach unreached people in our society in unique ways. “How can I reach people at the bar if I’m not there getting just a little bit drunk or high with them?”

I believe we have an opportunity to be a new generation of culturally powerful Jesus lovers. Ones that are steeped in a love for His word and aligning our lives to His supernatural power….but ones that do not communicate in the old antiquated language of “Christianese”. We love each person uniquely, without formula. We are radical like Jesus to go and be with the people…while at the same time living radically and with fervor to not become at all like them.

There is a fallacy in modern thinking that says we need to adopt a more spiritually liberal stance in order to reach the world. The new testament church in the Roman empire lived in a vulgar and broken society that makes America look like Sunday school. They found no need to agree with the lifestyle and culture of people in that day to reach the lost. In fact, they committed themselves to live set apart, yet communicating in the culture they were trying to reach. Paul said that to the Jews he became like a Jew, to win the Jews…and the same for the Greeks. He spoke their language, understood their culture, but remained aligned to the standard God had laid out for him to live his life.

I heard it said one time:
“Holiness agrees that things that God deems ‘sin’ indeed are.
Spiritual liberalism says that things God deems ‘sin’ are not.”

In the end, we live according to holiness because we trust and love that someone greater than ourselves knows what is best for us. God knows how He designed humans and He knows what will be good for them and what won’t be.

Holiness is our response of love back to Jesus.

“If you love me you’ll keep my commandments. He who does not love me does not keep my words. “ John 14:15, 23

This is Jesus’ definition of love. He is not trying to control us, He is trying to give us the best life and desires our trust that His commands are good and best for how to live our life.

Homework:

  1. On a scale from 1 to 10, how “set apart” would you say that your life is from the world around you. Use the word of God as your standard. Remember, Jesus’ standard of holiness is not just the external actions but the motivations of the heart.
  2. Is there any area of theology, life or culture that you find it hard to agree with God’s standard of holiness in the scripture. Sit down and have a journal conversation with God being honest about what it is and why it’s hard to swallow. Remember, He already knows this is in your heart…He’s not looking for you to “fake” the right answer. He wants to engage you in a conversation where He can begin to shift your thinking. (Is. 1:18).
  3. Sit down with your bible and ask the Lord if there is any scripture or part of his guidelines for life He wants you to personally focus on in life. Ask Him like the psalmist said “Search me and know me, and see if there is any wicked way in me”. Sit in stillness and see if any bible stories, parables or scriptures pop into your mind. Go read what the word of God says about them and ask the Lord to speak to you how He would like for your life to be set apart to His standard.

-Ryan Kee, RNW Leadership Team

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