God made us from the dirt of the ground [Genesis 2:7] in His image [Genesis 1:27]. We are His by the rights of the creator – creature relationship, which all men have with God. God made mankind in His image so that we represent God to the rest of His creation. Since we represent God before all creation He has certain expectations for our lives. His creative ownership and the stamp of His image give God the right to have these expectations. We as His creation have no rights to reject these expectations [Romans 9:20-21].
God made mankind holy and good [Genesis 1:27, 31]. We understand the good part, in fact God says that everything at the creation point of history was very good [Genesis 1:31]. It’s the holy part we can’t seem to understand. The word holy means to be set apart, sacred, consecrated, dedicated. It’s hard for men to realize how we were before the fall when sin entered into the world [Genesis 3]. We have to take a long look at God and His character and realize that in the beginning we were created to reflect His character. When God created us in His image we were set apart and consecrated for this purpose. We were dedicated to God. We became the sacred part of His creation. So God expects us to be holy as He is holy [Leviticus 20:26].
In the beginning all was very good and Adam and Eve did reflect God’s character as His image bearers. When they were tempted to know good from evil and to be like God, they chose to no longer bear the image of God, but to bear their own image [Genesis 3:6]. Here was man’s great fall from the grace of a holy God, becoming unholy and profane [Isaiah 64:6]. Because of His righteous holiness God sets the requirements for entering into His presence [Exodus 19:10, Leviticus 10:9]. Today we like to tell people to “come just as you are” when we encourage them to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. We are referring to the fact that we can’t change our ways without God’s help. Jesus died and took God’s wrath [Romans 5:9] against our sin on Himself while we were still sinning [Romans 5:8]. Though this is true, that we do come to God as we are, it is because of His requirement for repentance [Luke 13:3, 5] and believing faith which produces good works [James 2:26] that we live a life changed and changing into the likeness of Jesus [Romans 8:29]. So faith in Jesus without change and works is useless to us [James 2:20]. God invites us to enter into a life-long relationship with Him [2 Corinthians 6:2] through our faith in the life, work, death, and resurrection of His son Jesus Christ [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. The only way by which we can come before Him guiltless is through the blood consecrated covering provided by Jesus Christ [Revelation 1:5], secured by our faith in Him [Galatians 3:24], and sealed by the Holy Spirit’s presence [Ephesians 4:30].
So there is a distinction between what is holy and unholy and we don’t set the standard. God sets the standard because He is the only one qualified to say what is and what isn’t holy [Isaiah 43:10-12]. God told the Israelite priests that they were to minister in His name clothed in certain garments [Exodus 28:3] and in a sober state of mind [Leviticus 10:9]. Being influenced by wine or other stimulants would put the one ministering before God in a position to possibly do or say something profane which would result in his death before our holy God. God expects us to act and talk in a consecrated way. We have been set apart from the world and though we live here we are not to be a part of the way of the world [James 1:27]. So Christians need to practice holiness before God and the world [1 Peter 2:11-12]. Christians need to teach the difference between what is holy and unholy [Ezekiel 44:23] by their words and their lives.
God not only expects us to be holy, but He also expects us to be perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Now that seems impossible because every human has sinned [Romans 3:10]. We need to remember two things. First, nothing is impossible with God [Matthew 19:26]. As already mentioned God has provided a way for our sins to be forgiven through our faith in Jesus Christ [Hebrews 1:1-4]. Second, the meaning of the word translated perfect means to be complete, mature, having reached its end. God is perfect and we are to be spiritually perfect. Once again God has done the impossible by sending the Holy Spirit to abide in us [James 4:5]. His work is not only to convict us of sin and our need to be saved [John 16:7-9], but also to teach and guide us [John 14:26, 16:13]. He works in our lives to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ [Romans 8:29]. His work is to sanctify Christians and bring them to spiritual maturity [1 Thessalonians 5:23].
Living in holiness does not save us, only our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection can remove sins and the wrath of God from our lives [Ephesians 2:8-9]. Living in holiness is a result of our faith in Jesus and the Holy Spirit living in us [Colossians 1:9-11, 27]. When Christians live unholy lives we are showing contempt toward God and His word. We twist things, making the holy unholy and the unholy holy [Ezekiel 22:26]. We ignore God’s commandments thinking they are not that important and begin to talk and act in an unholy way [1 Timothy 6:20-21]. The Lord’s day of rest, the Sabbath, is not reverenced nor honored. It is no longer a day set apart for rest and worship [Exodus 20:8] but becomes a day for our pleasure [Isaiah 58:13].
What kind of God do we reflect? What are the characteristics of the God which the world sees in our lives? Where is the love and desire for God which we profess? If we have been saved by faith in Jesus Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then we must not grieve [Ephesians 4:30] or quench [1 Thessalonians 5:19] God’s work in our lives. We must live a holy and perfect life in the world.
Hugh Folds, Minister of Education and Youth SPBC