So, the other day I was reading another bloggers post. This person suggested that believers do not need to fear Hell. While I agree with this, mainly because due to our belief we won’t be going there, I was left with the since that either Hell didn’t exist or that no one would go there. At this point I cannot say for sure what this individual thought or intended to say, but I do think that these ideas exist and are worth talking about.
As I approach this topic or any topic regarding God, I am always interested in the why. For example, if Jesus died for my sins, why would He want to do that. If God says don’t kill, then why? If God tells us to be holy, then why? I don’t do this to put God on the spot, but because I want to know Him more, to perhaps grasp a little more of the thoughts and ways that are above my own, and to understand His heart more. I truly believe that He knows best and is ok with me wanting to understand His commands.
What Does the Bible Say?
So, to cut to the chase; God does tell us to be holy.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”” (Genesis 1:26, ESV)
“You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine.” (Leviticus 20:26, ESV)
“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (1 Peter 1:15–16, ESV)
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”” (Exodus 19:5–6, ESV)
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV)
From the very beginning God has intended for us to be like Him. We are made in His image and called to be holy as He is holy. In the past I did a study of the word holy and looked at how it was used. I noticed that the word “holy” was attributed to God or something that belonged to God. At this point I am not ready to fully expound upon this word, which I will do in a future post “What is Holiness”. But these verses demonstrate that God wants us for Himself, in the same what that I want my wife for myself. We are His treasured possession (Exodus 19:5).
Since it is clear that God commands us to be holy, the question is why? Why does God want us to be holy? I think the following verses gives us insight important for answering this question.
““Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matthew 5:8, ESV)
“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah” (Psalm 24:3–6, ESV)
““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, ESV)
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, ESV)
The first two verses tell us the requirement to be in God’s presence, clean hands, a pure heart, no deceit, and no idols. The second two tell us that Jesus was given so that we may have eternal life, which is to know God the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent. To simplify, God say’s this is what it takes to hang out with Me, and hey Jesus died so that you can hang out with Me. Take a look at these two verses.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16, ESV)
“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,” (Hebrews 10:19, ESV)
The throne of grace is easy to understand, God/Jesus’s throne, how cool is that. Check out this description of God’s throne found in Isaiah 6
Isaiah’s Vision of the Lord
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”” (Isaiah 6:1–5, ESV)
In this passage Isaiah is trembling before the King of the Universe, as he should, but we are told we can come confidently before Him. Wow!
In Hebrews 10:19, the writer talks about the Most Holy Place. Below I have provided links below for more detailed teaching on the matter, but essentially the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies, is the place in the tabernacle where God’s presences dwelled above the Mercy Seat and the Ark of the Covenant. This place could only be entered once a year by the high priest and only after following the proper protocol. Even then he would enter with a rope tied around his waist just in case he died. And now we can enter with confidence. How cool!
The problem with over playing the grace or legalism cards is that they both have fundamental misunderstandings of God. The legalist focuses on the justice, righteousness, holiness, judgement and wrath of God, while the hyper-grace crowd focuses on God’s love, mercy, patience, grace, and kindness. One side views God as a rage driven vindictive judge while the other treats Him as a permissive grandfather. Both points of view are incomplete. Both are focused on either the eternal punishment of Hell (to be escaped or not to worry about), and/or the eternal reward of Heaven, a place of eternal bliss or happiness. These verses can categorize this.
“But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”” (Revelation 21:8, ESV)
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:4, ESV)
These are important verses and are not to be ignored and we can look forward to the time when pain, sickness, sin, and death are no more and are grateful that we were rescued from our previous fate, eternity in Hell. But personally, I look forward to these verses:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.” (Revelation 21:3, ESV)
“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:22–23, ESV)
At the end of the day there is one question to ask for us. What motivates us, or what do we delight in. Do we delight in the pleasures of this world, do we delight in our ability to follow the rules, or do we delight in the presence of the Lord? Which of these fulfills the greatest commandment?
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” (Matthew 22:37–38, ESV)
I think we get so short sighted, either we are too focused on enjoying the pleasure of life (whatever we believe that to be) or we are focused on avoiding the bad place, getting to the good place, and possibly getting a heap of rewards and a big shiny crown to show off. The reality is that we have some access to God now, and when we do get to the good place the limits to our current access will be removed.
We can get caught up in the concerns of life and How Jesus make everything better or we are busy trying to be good. But Jesus said:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” (John 15:5–6, ESV)
Holiness cannot be attained by our own efforts. It is something that comes from Jesus.
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9, ESV)
Jesus cleanses us, and then it is up to us to abide in Him. Through this process, we are transformed into His likeness, we bear fruit: fruit of the spirit, fruit of righteousness, fruit of ministry, and so forth.
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, ESV)
If we are partaking of the sinful “pleasures” of this world, then we are making a choice. We are choosing something other than God to bring us pleasure. And perhaps we are inadvertently saying God you’re not enough. Life is only enjoyable with __________. When in reality:
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11, ESV)
“And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6, ESV)
“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV)
If we love the Lord our God with our entire being, then what are we going to be seeking. Getting high/wasted, getting lucky, getting rich, climbing the socioeconomic ladder? No, we will be seeking God and longing to be like our Daddy God.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, ESV)
“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” (Romans 8:29, ESV)
I think I went on enough to make my point. In the end, it is undeniable that the Bible tells us that God wants us to be Holy. I believe the reason for this is because He wants to spend time with us, and holiness is the requirement. In fact, He long to be with us so much that He sold everything in order to make it happen.
““Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:45–46, ESV)
““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16–17, ESV)
What concerns me both for the legalist and the hyper-grace camp is this verse:
““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21–23, ESV)
Are we living our lives in pursuit of knowing Him, or is it something else?
I leave you with this question: If God wants us to be Holy so that we can be in His presence, what is holiness? I encourage you to follow my blog and to sign up for my email list so that you will be notified when my next post, “What is Holiness” is published (see the side bar or menue).
Link on the Most Holy Place
Link on the Tabernacle