These days, it’s common for believers to view Jesus as a friend. It is true that when we have a relationship with Jesus, He is accessible and calls us “friend.” But too often we forget that He is also holy.
What does “holy” mean? “Set apart, distinct, different, and separate.” The word literally means “a cut above.” So when we talk about God, the word holy implies that He is other. There isn’t even a category in our human terms for Him.
The first time we see this concept of holiness is in the Old Testament, right after God parts the Red Sea. There’s a song that Moses sings: “Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11) The answer is “No one.” Only He is majestic in “holiness.”
My best personal definition of God’s holiness combines both His majesty and moral purity. It’s the absolute absence of evil. It encompasses what is pure and righteous.
I think that some of the older Christian traditions in the past actually helped us grasp God’s holiness. Unfortunately, they also portrayed God as a distant, cold deity who wasn’t accessible except through significant rituals. But this was never God’s intent.
We need to know that Jesus is tenderhearted, quick to sympathize with us in our struggles, and is our friend. He loves us, and He accepts us just we are. But we also need to know that Jesus is holy.
The morality of the average Christian in the evangelical church screams, “I don’t believe Jesus is holy. I can do what I want, when I want, and God basically will give me a pass!” And “God is loving, so I don’t really have to do what God says.”
But God has called us to be holy – to be separate. He said, “Come out of the darkness.”
Separate doesn’t mean weird. It doesn’t mean we dress funny. It doesn’t mean that we’re not a part of or involved in our culture. We’re to be separate from the inside out.
Holiness is about becoming like God in our character.
So what does living a life of holiness look like? How do we stay separate from the world’s values and stand for God’s truth about life and morality without becoming legalistic and self-righteous?
We need to live the way Jesus did.
We need to live an amazing life that is pure and righteous amidst a dark and fallen world. We need to take a strong stand when it comes to our faith so that our enemies are absolutely astounded and wonder why we love people who outwardly hate us. And why we give away good instead of evil.
This is what turns life around. And this is how holiness brings wholeness and health.
My hope and prayer is that one day we might grasp the greatness and the holiness of God in some of the richest traditions, but not lose the intimacy of what it means to have Jesus as our friend.
To learn more about the holiness of God and His other attributes, check out Chip’s series and group study, The Real God.
Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge
Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.More Articles by Chip