Declared Holy

“What does it mean to be holy?” This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on. I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…” (Read more by clicking the title…)

On most Saturday mornings of late, I meet with my buddies to open The Word and discuss what we’d been studying the previous week.  This week’s topic was “Holiness.”

“What does it mean to be holy?”  This is the question we were basing our study and ensuing conversation on.  I had spent some time during the week scouring my bible program and had pulled some pretty interesting (to me) ideas, definitions, and scriptures on the word “holy” and “holiness”… but it wasn’t until we began sharing and discussing for a half hour or so, that one of my friends made a comment similar to, “… sometimes we forget who we are…”  The implication being we forget who we are in Christ.  This thought stayed in the forefront of my mind as we began going down a particular thread of discussion.

Leviticus 11:44-45 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. 45 For I am the LORD who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. (emphasis added)

Leviticus 20:7-8 Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy (emphasis added). for I am the LORD your God. 8 And you shall keep My statutes, and perform them: I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

These were verses that kicked off our discussion and the week’s study.  Interestingly enough, both passages use “consecrate” and one uses “sanctifies.” Both of those words are very, very similar to the word “holiness” – from the New Bible Dictionary:

“Sanctification is one of several possible English translations of qdš, hagios and their cognates. See *HOLINESS for usage. Context alone determines whether the translation should be holy, holiness, holy one, saints, consecrate, consecration, sanctify or sanctification. Even in individual passages translators do not always agree. Its broad meaning is the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”

I began to wonder if God was declaring part of his name – who he is – when he said “… for I am holy.”  What if when God identifies himself as “… the LORD who sanctifies you,” he was in fact restating his holiness (see the definition of sanctification again).  What if he was stating it, like we state our names?

Then, like a flood, connections, ideas, and thoughts hit me – saturating my mind like an overfilled sponge.  I simply could not write fast enough in my journal or quite explain my thoughts to my buddies during our discussion.   This is my exploration of those connections and thoughts…

First family picture after adoption
First picture of Megan, Jordan, and Nick as "Shoemakers"

In December 2004, my wife and I adopted 3 kids from Penza, Russia.  This doubled our children overnight.  The Russian kids were from two different orphanages – one ten year-old boy from Orphanage #3 and a brother and sister, ages 15 and 14 respectively, from Orphanage #1 – yes, they were quite creative with the names of the Orphanages in Penza.  On our adoption date, I remember sitting in the courtroom, waiting for the finality of what was more than a year in the making: filling out paperwork, filing paperwork, authorizing paperwork, and re-working, re-filing, re-authorizing paperwork.  It all culminated when the Judge declared that our adoption was complete and that these three children were mine and Dawn’s.  They were declared to be Shoemakers.  My now embellished memory is the Judge striking his gavel on the desk transferring my name, ‘Shoemaker’, to those unrelated, orphaned kids.  With that single declaration, they forever became part of my family, my heritage, my namesakes, and became Shoemakers…

Isn’t the transference of my name, Shoemaker, to those children in the courtroom that day, exactly what happens when we become “adopted” into God’s family through Jesus Christ?

We are adopted into God’s family as children of God.  God who?  God with many names, one of which is Holy.

Galatians 4:4-7 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born  of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Romans 8:15-16 “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,”

I am Holy,” God declares (Lev 11:45) and “... the LORD who sanctifies you…” (Lev 20:8).  “You are my child!” God declares as he strikes down his gavel.  Forever, we are “Holy” because we are God’s… just as Nick, Megan, and Jordan are “Shoemakers” and no longer Mordashov. Mordashova, or Savenkov.

We are holy and there is nothing we can do to change it.  You may be saying, “God is very specific about what holy actions and characteristics are in Scripture.” I agree 100%.  I believe God puts those in there to teach us what it means to be Holy, not to define the requirements to attain holiness.

Over the first year (and beyond), we had to teach Nick, Megan, and Jordan what it meant to be a “Shoemaker.”  I wrote a letter and translated it into Russian very early in our parenting them that explained what carrying my name meant.  What behavior was acceptable and what what not.  What I began to teach them was drastically different than what they had learned in the orphanages where they grew up.  It was not an easy process.  Nick and Megan had spent 10 years in the orphanages, from ages 5 and 4 through ages 15 and 14.  There was a lot of behavior and attitude and character to work on and it took time.  There were many occasions they did not exhibit what was “Shoemaker” approved.  Whenever they exhibited those characteristics, actions, words, or attitudes that were not congruent with being a “Shoemaker”, it didn’t make them any less a Shoemaker – it just meant there was still more work and learning to do.   It was, and is, a continual process of changing to be WHAT THEY ARE… SHOEMAKERS.

Is that any different in our lives with respect to holiness?  God calls us – and better yet – DECLARES us to be holy.  In Genesis 1, God says “… let there be light…” and spoke light into being where it did not exist.  In Leviticus 11:45 God says “… you shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”  What if God is declaring holiness into our lives and speaking holiness into being where it did not exist?  I believe He is declaring us holy – because we are his and he is holy.  It’s our responsibility to learn what that practically looks like.

Remember our definition of sanctification?  It basically means “holiness.”  The last line and main idea of sanctification (holiness) is “… the process by which an entity is brought into relationship with or attains the likeness of the holy.”  How are we brought into that likeness?  We read it in Gal 4:6 & 7 “… God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts… therefore you are no longer a slave but a son…”

God puts his Spirit in us.  This enables us to live – AND CHANGE – to “… attain the likeness of the holy.”  This is a permanent thing – just like my kids will forever be a Shoemaker – we will forever be God’s and therefore holy.

Ephesians 1:13-14 ” In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

So where does that leave me?  I simply have to receive that I am who He says I am.  Easy to say, not so easy in practice.  Leads to a whole other discussion of who I’m listening to… but that’s another post.

Running After Papa…

 

 

Burdened…

Last night I toured the Mormon Temple Square in Salt Lake City.  It was an amazing place.  I walked away burdened, not only for the salvation of my Mormon friends, but for the state of which the Big-C church, particularly in America, is.

Why isn’t Christ making a difference in people’s lives in the nonMormon church?  Why is the divorce rate just as high in the church as it is among the unchurched?  Why isn’t the Church as a whole full of the same devotion and fervor as the Mormon church?  Why doesn’t the American church-goer really try to live the commandments of Christ?  Jesus himself commanded twice “Go and sin no more.” (John 5:14, 8:11)  He wouldn’t give a command that wasn’t “keepable”.  So why do we keep on intentionally sinning?  Because we either do not know God, or we do not fear God.

I can’t help but play Matt 7:21-23 over and over in my head.  (By the way relek95, I thought you were going to do the 10 scariest passages in the Bible… to my count, this was the first and only one you did… I’m looking forward to the other nine…)

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

So who are those that know Him?    That word “know” is an expression of intimacy. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. (Jn 10:27-28).

I am burdened that the American church-goer abuses the grace and mercy of our Father because we – as the American church – have no idea how much our sin hurts Him and how it is so disgusting and offensive to Him.  I wonder how many people in the American church really “fear’ Him, I mean, really, really, fear him.  We’ve so preached the goodness, mercy and grace of Father, that it’s almost like we’ve stripped Him of the awe-factor and honor and respect and fear that He is due.

I, for one, am choosing to live Christ’s commands, but not out of a “settling the scoresheet”, or “I owe Him so much”, or “I’m working for a higher position in eternity” mentality, but out of the knowledge that I cannot ever repay Him for the Grace and Mercy He’s shown me.  I am incapable of any works worthy.  “My righteousness is as a filthy rag” (Is. 64:6).  I choose to live his commands because I love him and intimately know him and hear His voice.  I do it out of relationship, not out of religion.  I do it out of gratefulness, not out of paying my debt, because He paid my debt for me. (Jn 3:16)

What choose you?

Romans 6:15-19 (NLT) 16 Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey? You can be a slave to sin, which leads to death, or you can choose to obey God, which leads to righteous living. 17 Thank God! Once you were slaves of sin, but now you wholeheartedly obey this teaching we have given you. 18 Now you are free from your slavery to sin, and you have become slaves to righteous living. 19 Because of the weakness of your human nature, I am using the illustration of slavery to help you understand all this. Previously, you let yourselves be slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led ever deeper into sin. Now you must give yourselves to be slaves to righteous living so that you will become holy.

The predominant word that stands out to me in this passage is the word “slave.”  So often that word has such a negative connotation in our Western – particularly U.S. – culture.  I’m not sure I fully grasp the cultural significance of the word slave used in the times and culture of Christ.

Regardless, I looked up the word in its Greek origin.  The word is doulon means this: 1) a slave, bondman, man of servile condition. 1a) a slave. 1b) metaph., one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men. 1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests.

What is particularly interesting is the root of this word. The word originates from the word deo which means to “bind” as in: 1) to bind tie, fasten. 1a) to bind, fasten with chains, to throw into chains. … 1b2) to bind, put under obligation, of the law, duty etc. 1b2a) to be bound to one, a wife, a husband.

So, choosing to participate in sin is choosing to become bound to sin, like a husband and wife are bound to each other.

That’s why there is no grey area of sin with God.  It is either sin or it is not, because I am either bound to sin (which verse 19 says leads to deeper and deeper sin – deeper and deeper bondage) or I am bound to righteous living by  (verse 17) “… wholeheartedly obey[ing] this teaching we have given you…” and (verse 19) “… you must give yourselves to be slaves of righteous living…“.

Our culture is saturated in moral relativism… “if it feels good, do it”… “I’m not bothering anyone else”… yada, yada, yada (to quote the great Jerry Seinfeld).  Our society is so jacked up because of it, that we – as a nation – pass laws limiting the rights of the many in order to “protect” the few from being offended or isolated.  Our courts let the wrong go free and legislate from the bench because their own moral compass doesn’t jive with the moral compass of those who passed whatever law is on the books.

How did I get down this train of thought?  I don’t know.  The question becomes then, how do I give myself to be a slave of righteous living?  It’s fairly easy sitting here in the midst of the Bible Belt in the land of Freedom (although our freedoms are diminishing with every year).  What does it look like when the Christian becomes the target?  What was it like when the Roman’s were feeding Christians to the lions?

If this is the easiest place in the world at the easiest time to be a radical Christian, why are there really so few?  That’s a convicting question.  What aren’t I more radical than I am?

I had a girlfriend in college that called me a “Bible thumper” when we broke up.  In response to that, a friend told me, “Hey, we all thump something.”  He was right.  So is God.  According to this passage, we are all slaves of something.  It’s our choice.  It’s my choice.  Sin or Righteousness.

I choose righeousness.