The bible has a lot to say about Holiness. Early on in our journey as Christians most of us discover that God is Holy whether by reading the Old Testament in the books of Moses, or Isaiah’s call to ministry, (Isaiah 6) or in the Psalms (e.g. Psalm 99:3, 5, & 9). We discover that, as believers, God sees us as holy and beloved, Colossians 3:12, and wants us to be holy in our lives as He is holy “Just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do” 1 Peter 1:15.
As a younger Christian, and over the years, at times I have found the topic of the Holiness of God somewhat scary and the call to be holy not easy, with a significant fear of failing, resulting in a mixture of feeling pressure, along with an anxiety that I am falling short. Now, as with many things, there is a balance in the truth: God is perfect and perfectly holy, awesomely so, and clearly no one can approach him in their own righteousness, only clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. Equally, we are being changed from one degree of glory to another to be progressively conformed to the image of His Son, Romans 8:29. We now stand before God fully righteous in Jesus’ righteousness, at the same time we are being changed, step by step, to be more like Him. Now there is something to get excited about and very thankful for!
Today we can reflect on another aspect of holiness that I believe is wonderful and life changing and which can grow and thrill me, fuelled by thanksgiving. Holy means separate or set apart, Holiness is separation. A place, thing, (or person?) set apart. Now what about that romantic novel “He/she only had eyes for his/her beloved”? This is very exciting. When you are deeply in love with someone, you don’t go out with someone else primarily because of rules or duty saying you shouldn’t. You don’t go out with others because you are deeply in love with one person. You are set apart or separate because of love for the one you love.
Where does thanksgiving really play a part here? Another non biblical quote coming up! “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. It works in the human realm, the more grateful and thankful you are for your partner and his/her qualities – personal, emotional, practical, physical, intellectual, skillful, spiritual and more – the more you will appreciate them, the more thankful you will become, the more beautiful (in all aspects) to you they will become and the more set apart, separate, or holy the relationship will be. It doesn’t have to be you life partner, the same principle of noticing and being thankful works with your friends, your children, your church leader etc, etc; gratitude and thanksgiving increases appreciation.
And I want to suggest, that it is so with God. Thanksgiving, fueled by noticing all that God is, what it means to belong to His family and be His beloved, and what it does to notice all that He has done, is doing and promises He will do for me, stokes up my love for Him. And love increasingly only has eyes for its beloved. And there it is, set apart holiness on the increase. Not sweaty duty and falling short but increasingly intoxicated by love. David spoke and lived a lot in thanksgiving and praise and had a pretty brilliant relationship with the Lord.
Now you may say I am being idealistic. No, this is a journey. Anyone who has been in love knows there are ups and downs. In life as well as in the novels, we do have eyes for others (or other things), and go off course in one way or another, even hurt each other. David did, but grace, love and relationship brought him back with forgiveness. And genuine, full blown love does involve work, perseverance and sacrifice not just intoxication. So it is with the pursuit of our Holy Lord.
All I want to suggest is this: ask the Holy Spirit if there is more to the pursuit of holiness and our Holy God than I have seen so far, and ask whether it might be more of a huge romance than I had previously thought. And pull that weapon of thanksgiving out again, the one that you have been practicing over the last few months. See if it isn’t powerful in fueling further your love and appreciation for your beloved Lord as you notice and appreciate Him more and more. As you remind yourself in thanksgiving of all He is and has done and is doing for you. And as you notice and appreciate how beloved you are to Him, it could result in a whole new perspective, on being holy and set apart to Him, in your journey of faith and growth.