Holiness: A Gift of God’s Grace ~ Part 8

“I am Adonai, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy.” ~ Leviticus 11:45

“Following the Holy One who called you, become holy yourselves in your entire way of life; since the Tanakh says, ‘You are to be holy because I am holy.’” ~ 1 Kefa 1:15-16

In this post, we will continue to consider the holiness of God.  It is only as we see His holiness, His absolute purity and moral hatred of sin, that we will be gripped by the awfulness of sin against the Holy God.  To be gripped by that fact is the first step in our pursuit of holiness.

The Holiness of God ~ Part B

Because God is holy, He cannot ever tempt us to sin.  “No one being tempted should say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, and God himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13) [1]  Probably none of us ever imagines that God is actively soliciting us to do evil, but we may feel that God has put us in a situation where we have no choice.

King Sha’ul felt this way in his first major campaign against the Philistines (I Sh’mu’el 13).  Before going into battle Sha’ul was to wait seven days for the prophet Sh’mu’el (Samuel) to come and offer a burnt offering and ask the favor of the Lord.  Sha’ul waited the seven days for Sh’mu’el.  When he didn’t come, Sha’ul became anxious and took it upon himself to offer the burnt offering.  Sha’ul felt he had no alternative.  The people were fearful and had begun to scatter; the Philistines were assembling for battle; Sh’mu’el was overdue.  Something had to be done!  God had put him in a place where he had no choice, it seemed, but to disobey God’s explicit instructions.

But because Sha’ul disobeyed God’s express will, he lost his kingdom. “Sh’mu’el said to Sha’ul, ‘You did a foolish thing. You didn’t observe the mitzvah of Adonai, which he gave you. If you had, Adonai would have set up your kingship over Isra’el forever. But as it is, your kingship will not be established. Adonai has sought for himself a man after his own heart, and Adonai has appointed him to be prince over his people, because you did not observe what Adonai ordered you to do.’” (I Sh’mu’el 13:13-14)  What about us?  Do we sometimes feel we have no choice but to shade the truth a little, or commit just a slightly dishonest act?  When we feel this way, we are in effect saying that God is tempting us to sin, that He has put us in a position where we have no alternative.

Because God is holy, He hates sin.  Hate is such a strong word we dislike using it.  We reprove our children for saying they hate someone.  Yet when it comes to God’s attitude toward sin, only a strong word such as hate conveys an adequate depth of meaning.  Speaking of various sins in Israel, God says, “Don’t plot harm against each other; and don’t love perjury; for all these are things I hate.” (Zechariah 8:17)  Hatred is a legitimate emotion when it comes to sin.  In fact, the more we ourselves grow in holiness, the more we hate sin.  David said, “From your precepts I gain understanding; this is why I hate every false way.” (Psalm 119:104).  Now if that is true of a man, think of God.  As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.

We often say, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” This is blessedly true, but too often we quickly rush over the first half of this statement to get to the second.  We cannot escape the fact that God hates our sins.  We may trifle with our sins or excuse them, but God hates them.

Therefore every time we sin, we are doing something God hates.  He hates our lustful thoughts, our pride and jealousy, our outbursts of temper, and our rationalization that the end justifies the means.  We need to be gripped by the fact that God hates all these things.  We become so accustomed to our sins we sometimes lapse into a state of peaceful coexistence with them, but God never ceases to hate them.

We need to cultivate in our own hearts the same hatred of sin God has.  Hatred of sin as sin, not just as something disquieting or defeating to ourselves, but as displeasing to God, lies at the root of all true holiness.  We must cultivate the attitude of Yosef when he explain to Potiphar’s wife when he was tempted, “In this house I am his equal; he hasn’t withheld anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9)

God hates sin wherever He finds it, in saint and sinner alike.  He does not hate sin in one person and overlook it in another.  He judges each man’s works impartially (see I Kefa 1:17).  In fact, biblical evidence indicates that God may judge the sins of His saints more severely than those of the world.  David was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), yet after his sin against Uriah, he was told, “Now therefore, the sword will never leave your house — because you have shown contempt for me and taken the wife of Uriyah the Hitti as your own wife.” (2 Sh’mu’el 12:10).  Moshe, for one act of unbelief, was excluded from the land of Kena’an despite many years of faithful service.  Yonah (Jonah), for his disobedience, was cast into a horrible prison in the stomach of a giant fish for three days and nights, that he might learn not to run from the command of God.

In the deceitfulness of our hearts, we sometimes play with temptation by entertaining the thought that we can always confess and later ask forgiveness.  Such thinking is exceedingly dangerous.  God’s judgment is without partiality.  He never overlooks our sin.  He never decides not to bother since the sin is only a small one.  No, God hates sin intensely whenever and wherever He finds it.

Frequent contemplation on the holiness of God and His consequent hatred of sin is a strong deterrent against trifling with sin.  We are told to live our lives on earth as strangers in reverence and fear (see I Kefa 1:17).  Granted, the love of God to us through Yeshua should be our primary motivation to holiness.  But a motivation prompted by God’s hatred of sin and His consequent judgment on it is no less Biblical.

The holiness of God is an exceedingly high standard, a perfect standard.  But it is nevertheless one that He holds us to.  He cannot do less.  While it is true that He accepts us solely through the merit of Christ, God’s standard for our character, attitudes, affections, and actions is, “Be holy, because I am holy.” We must take this seriously if we are to grow in holiness.

In my next post, we will begin to consider that holiness for us as Believers is NOT an option that we can ignore.

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[1] It is because of this verse that I have modified the familiar petition in the Disciple’s Prayer to say “keep me safe from the temptations of the evil one” rather than “lead us not into temptation.”

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