December 12, 2018 — Holiness

“…for He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name.” (Luke 1:49)

Recording Jesus’ own words, Peter preserves for us the following extraordinary promise: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16). This raises at least two questions. Firstly, how is this remotely possible? And secondly, even if it is, do I want to be holy?

Holiness is not our self-propelled push for personal pietism! C.S. Lewis makes it clear in whom the possibility of our holiness rests. He writes, “‘Make no mistake,” says [Jesus], ‘If you let Me I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself into My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less or other than that. You have free will and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see the job through.’” This was always Jesus’ plan. “He chose [you] in Him before the foundation of the world, that [you] should be holy and blameless before Him.” (Ephesians 1:4).

But do I want to be holy? Clearly, any form of “holiness” that leads to someone looking like they just drank a gallon of vinegar is not biblical holiness! Lewis writes, “How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.” I think that we recognize His holiness in others. Lewis continues, “Every now and then one meets them. Their very voices and faces are different from ours: stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant. They begin where most of us leave off. They are, I say, recognizable; but you must know what to look for. They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. . . They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from. When you have recognized one of them, you will recognize the next one much more easily.”

I recognize His holiness in this congregation, and it inspires me to surrender to this process of surrender. We are, after all, in this together. We follow Him, not in a bubble of sour personal piety, but as members of His body. Together, in all our frailty, we pick each other up, dust each other off, and encourage one another along, as He daily sets to work on us.

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