(Please read this very slowly and prayerfully in front of Christ.)
God is holy.
What does that mean? How can we be holy?
God is holy. Holiness is a state of being that God is. It sets Him apart from us. It is his distinct nature. It is his character. It is who He is. Everything that emanates from God is holy. That is why only the Father is righteous. Not even Jesus, His Son could say He was good. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” (Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19) Goodness is only from God. None of his creation has it. As his created creatures, it makes Him sacred to us. We have to venerate Him. It makes Him God to us.
“But like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour, because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:15-16) We are to ‘be holy’, not to make ourselves holy. Holiness is an attribute of God and not of man. It makes Him sacred and venerable. Man can never make himself sacred and venerable so no matter what he does, it does not make him holy. (If ever a man is venerated, realize we have made him a god.) If we image a man who does everything righteously, would we call him holy? Holiness is a condition of God, a state of being. We cannot be holy no matter how righteous our behaviour is. Yet Peter tells us “be holy yourselves also in all your behaviour…’You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Pet. 1:16) How does this come about?
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’” (Mark 10:18) Even the Son of God did not think He was good. Yet we recognize that He is holy. What make him holy? It was because God was living in Him. As a human being born of the virgin Mary, he could not be holy. But as a divine being born of God, He was holy. He had the divine life within. With God as his Father, his life was divine, so his nature was holy. In expression, his holiness made Him not only sinless, but altogether righteous. That is why He is good. His righteousness was an expression of God the Father.
Realize it is similar for us today. In the flesh, we are sin personified. We are still leprous. However in the Spirit, based on God Himself, we are holy. We are God expressed if we live by our reborn Spirit. (John 3:5-6) That is why we are his many sons. (John 1:12) Our living should be altogether righteous.
This is the difference between the first covenant based on the law, and the second covenant based on Christ. The first covenant tells us what we should not do because we are headed up by the flesh, the second covenant tells us what we should do because we are headed up by Christ (Eph. 1:9-10). The first covenant tells us how to clean our cups from the outside, the second covenant tells us to express God’s holiness from the inside. (Heb. 8:8-12) This is transformational.
Transformation is not a change in behavior, it is a metamorphosis. Just like a caterpillar, in the flesh we crawl around on the ground. When we were reborn, God made us into a beautiful butterfly that can take to the air and fly into the open field. “He shall then sprinkle seven times the one who is to be cleansed from the leprosy and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the live bird go free over the open field.” (Lev. 14:7). No matter how beautiful a caterpillar makes himself, he will never be a butterfly and be able to fly. No matter how righteous we are in our flesh, we will never be holy and be truly good. Holiness is of God and not of us. Holiness is of the divine life in the Spirit and not the human life in the flesh. That is why we are to present ourselves as living sacrifices. “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” (Rom. 12:1) A living sacrifice is one who is dead in the flesh, but alive in the Spirit. “So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 6:10) Only the Christ in us makes us holy and acceptable to God.
If we think that in the flesh, based on what we have accomplished or grown into, we could somehow be holy, realize that is blasphemous. We have rejected the Spirit. We have rejected God. The only sin that is unforgivable is rejection of the Spirit. “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemies against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mark 13:28-29; see Luke 12:10) When we teach each other how to be better in the flesh without the Spirit, realize we have rejected God. “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” (Gal. 2:21) If we think we could become holy by our improvements over time, we would be “blasphemous” in our thinking. We would have said that our flesh could work towards holiness, that leprosy could become holy without God. That is what religion teaches us. Realize this is “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations.” (Rev. 17:5) We must not venerate each other according to the flesh. Babylon the great is in the form of a woman, but not His Bride. She says the flesh can become holy by effort. When we teach each other how to be righteous in our flesh without the Spirit, it seems good, but it is not the Bride. It is another woman. It is teaching caterpillars how to fly. It is not holy and acceptable to God because it stems from our own knowledge of good and evil. Its roots are in our rebellious nature that says all things can be headed up in our flesh. We fail to realize that Christ lives in us. “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves. Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?” (2 Cor. 13:5) When we rely on our flesh, we are not even of the faith. “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” (Rom. 14:23)
Christ in us makes us holy. That is why Paul opens his letter, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God. To the saints (holy ones) who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 1:1) When we are in the faith, we realize that Christ Jesus is in us. That is why we are saints. Only Christ in us makes us holy. Does living a sinless life make us holy? Realize we are still not holy. Only Christ living in us and expressed out of us makes us “holy and acceptable to God” (Rom. 12:1).
The book of Leviticus was written recording God’s commandments in ordinances to the children of Israel. They were supposed to all be priests to the Gentiles (Num. 3:12). Realize it is written to us, foreshadowing what we, as Christians who are the priests to God today forming his “royal priesthood,” (1 Pet. 2:9) are to do. This book teaches us how priests should conduct themselves when we let God express out of us. It draws a clean line between our dependence on our own life with dependence on God’s life. It shows us a distinct separation between the dependence on our flesh and the dependence on the Spirit living inside of us, in being holy and acceptable to God. When we live by the strength of our flesh, it is unclean. That is why there are dietary restrictions in Leviticus 11 (For their significance, see “Life Study of Leviticus”). But “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mat. 15:11) The expression of the flesh defiles us. Leviticus tells us when a mother gives birth to flesh, she is unclean (Lev. 12) and that males have to be circumcised to cut off their flesh (Lev. 12:3). “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.” (Rom. 2:29) It tells us that in our flesh we are leprous, infected by sin so we express sins in our flesh. (Lev. 13) We need to be freed by the Spirit, flying off into the open field, and to cut off all the expressions of the flesh, shaving our entire being. (Lev. 14) It tells us all expressions of our flesh, any discharge out of our being, is unclean. (Lev. 15) It tells us not to eat blood, “For the life of the flesh is in its blood.” (Lev. 17:14) so we are not to internalize and gain strength from any life of the flesh other than the divine life that is of God when we serve as his priests. It tells us “None of you shall approach any one of his close relatives to uncover nakedness, I am the Lord.” (Lev. 18:6) because our wife is “flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23) and any progeny is related to me in flesh. As Christians, we are not to deal with each other in the flesh but in the Spirit. Our dealings with each other should always be in the Spirit and not in our flesh because we all have the same Father. Only in the Spirit, apart from our flesh, can we be one to form his Bride. So in the very next paragraph, the Lord reminds us he is holy. “You shall be holy, for I the lord your God am holy.” (Lev. 19:2) To be holy we cannot express the flesh. So from Leviticus 19:9-27, God tells us what not to do. “You shall not…” because in our flesh, we do all these things. When we function by our own knowledge of what is good and evil, we are in our flesh and not in our spirit with His Spirit, where the Spirit has made a home in our hearts (John 14:23). “If anyone loves me, he will keep my words, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23) Love Him so we are one with God. It is the only way to be holy. That is why, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6) No one can be holy without Christ living in him. “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18)
Holiness is a noun. It is not a process. There is no such thing as holification. It is God’s distinctness. That is why no matter how righteous we are in our flesh, we are not holy. We are far short of holiness because it is distinctly different. The way God makes us holy is to sanctify us. Sanctification is a process. It is a word that means to set apart to God. God Himself is separating us out from the world so we could be one with Him through Christ. Under the first covenant, men in their flesh tried to set themselves apart. They had so many statutes and ordinances to keep. It never worked because they tried to do them in their flesh, by their own efforts. They just could not be holy because the source of sin in their flesh was not dealt with. So God gave us a second covenant. He came himself. He brought his holiness into men, to reside within men, so that not only is the source of sin in their flesh dealt with, the divine life enlivens men so they could be holy. “But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (Rom. 8:10) Men could be filled with a distinctness that is not of the flesh, not of this world “…That you may be filled to all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:19) He could be holy, set apart to God in righteousness because the Spirit in him is holy. That is why, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour.” (1 Thes. 4:3) This is such a strange phrase, “For the will of God, your sanctification” because is could be read as ‘for the will of God is to sanctify us’ or ‘for the will of God is your sanctification’. Realize when we allow the Spirit to live freely within us, we have let the will of God take over our will. We have submitted our will in our flesh to the will of the Spirit. This is our sanctification. We simply submit the desires of our flesh to the will of God who resides within us. Through the working of the Spirit, we know how to control our own flesh in holiness and honour. (1 Thes. 4:3) That is why we are his workmanship. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)
The control of our own flesh in holiness and honour is all dependent on the Spirit residing in us. “Do not quench the Spirit,” (1 The. 5:19) “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phi. 2:13) Let the Spirit flow freely in you, to will and to work for his good pleasure. Remain in the Holy of Holies within your spirit where He is and never go out anymore (Rev. 3:12). Realize it is God Himself who is sanctifying you completely today. It is not by our own efforts in the flesh. Even when the children of Israel were told to keep the statutes, it was God who sets them apart sanctifying them. “Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” (Lev. 20:8) “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 The. 5:23) He is setting us apart, our whole spirit, soul, and body, every part of who we are, to be with Him in holiness. This is how He keeps us blameless until Christ returns.
God is holy … Christ in us makes us holy.