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Unless we grasp God’s holiness, we will no longer be “amazed” at his amazing grace. It is easy to take God’s grace for granted, and this is commonly done today. Rather than assuming God’s holiness and being amazed by His grace, we take for granted His grace and are amazed and offended by his holy wrath and judgment. Many presume on God’s grace by doing that which they know is wrong, rather than being deterred by a fear of His holiness. I’ve known significant leaders in the Christian community who went into adulterous affairs, presuming they would ask for forgiveness later. One leader of a college fellowship was greatly offended because he was asked to step down from his leadership position because he was living with his girlfriend (unmarried). This kind of presumption might be evidence that the person is unsaved (Matt. 7:21-23), or that they are unaware of the consequence of their sin or of the reality of God’s discipline (Heb. 12:5-14).
Why Should We Be Holy?
Our motive for being holy is not primarily to follow rules and laws, but to follow God Himself. We are to strive to be holy, “pursuing…the holiness without which no one can see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). But how can we be motivated to be holy? Why should we be holy? The answer to this question gives us a profound insight into what our motives should be.
We are to be holy because God is holy. I Peter 1:14-16: “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 in all your behavior; Because it is written, ‘you shall be holy, for I am holy.’ ” The reason we are to be holy is because God is holy. We are to obey (vs. 14) not just because the Bible tells us to do so, but because of who God is—the nature of His character.
This also means that God’s commands are not arbitrary. In secular philosophy classes, the professor might raise a dilemma to put Christians on the spot: “Does God command something because it is good or is it good because God commands it?” Either side of the dilemma seems unacceptable. In the first case, God commands something because it is good—it seems that there is something higher than God; namely, “the good.” In the latter case—something is good because God commands it—smacks of arbitrariness in God. (God could have been evil and evil, good.)
What is the answer to the dilemma? It is that God is a law unto Himself. In other words, God’s commands are really a reflection of His nature. He commands the good because He is good, holiness because he is holy, justice because he is just, love because he is loving and so on. God’s commands also correspond to our own nature, being made in the image of God. God’s commands are not unduly restrictive, but show us how to be free and whole. They are like God’s “instruction manual” or God’s “prescription” for how we are to run the human “machine.” For instance, if you put water in the gas tank of your car, it not only violates the instruction manual for the type of fuel to be used, but it will make the car run erratically or even shut down. Again, if you don’t read the instructions for a medication, it might lead to a harmful or lethal drug interaction. God’s commands show us the way to live fully and joyously. To violate God’s commands means not only violating biblical teaching and offending God’s holy nature, but also breaking ourselves. It’s just like running full speed into a concrete wall—we do more damage to ourselves than to the wall. God certainly reveals His instruction about what holiness means in the Bible, but the ultimate reason for our obedience is the character of God Himself. The more we meditate on who God is, the more we see who we are to be. Of course, we are not going to be infinite, eternal, omnipresent, or self-existent. But we can emulate God’s goodness, justice, holiness, and love.
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