Holiness is not something any of us could accomplish on our own. Holiness is absorbed. It is not learned, earned or forced. It is not calculated with points for and against. Holiness is the result of a relationship with someone who is holy. As we draw close to the One who is holy, we start acting holier. It is similar to holding a nail to a candle flame—the nail will heat up.
It cannot help but respond to the candle’s warmth in a similar fashion. The closer we are to Jesus, the holier we become.
If the key to holiness is intimacy with the Holy One, the answer to the question of holiness is time spent in His tent:
For You have been a refuge for me,
A tower of strength against the enemy.
Let me dwell in Your tent forever;
Let me take refuge in the shelter of Your wings. — Psalm 61:3–4 (NASB)
HOLINESS CANNOT BE MADE
We tend to be formula-loving people. When we find something that works, we try to make it into a pattern we can follow the next time, so we can predict the outcome.
But a relationship with anyone, including God, is an amorphous thing with ebbs and flows. Patterns do not work with holiness. The moment we start trying to define holiness, we get ourselves in trouble, because the ways of God are far above our own. Isaiah used imagery to show the difference between humanity and the Divine, writing that as far as the heavens are above the earth, so far are the ways of God above our ways. We are human; we cannot make ourselves holy.
Instead, holiness is taken in. It seeps into our bones like water in a dry sponge. The closer we draw to God, the more we realize, “Just a second. Wait . . . He is bigger than I thought. He is holier than I thought. He is purer than I thought.” The mold breaks.
HOLINESS IS NOT LEGALISM
Legalism says we can become holy enough to reach God, but that simply is not true. In fact, that kind of thinking will “teach” us things about God that are not godly, things that do not line up with His truth. We cannot earn holiness by living good and faithful lives. We can only absorb holiness by spending time with the One who is truly holy.
About the time we think we are holy, we find ourselves on slippery ground. I believe we are the most like our Father when we have set aside distractions and are looking at Him in shock and awe. In those moments, the greatest of hope floods our spirits, because we begin to understand that life with God is not about our ability to perform. “My God. You are holy. Compared to You, I am unholy. And yet You love me.” Those are holy moments.
The divine dynamic tensions of God keep us in a place of seeking Him and, at the same time, being transformed by Him. Legalism says once we are transformed, we are transformed. “If you think you are holy, you are holy. If you dress this way, talk this way and follow these rules, you are holy.” But that is not holiness.
If you want to live a holy life, Jesus is the answer, not the rules. He is the One we want, and holiness is an outgrowth of that desire, not the rules. This relationship with Him is real, and like any good relationship, it grows, expands and becomes better as we spend time with the One our hearts long for.
In His presence, we change. We are undone in the best of ways. We know hope and His kindness, and we find ourselves in a holier position, respecting who He is not just with our actions but also at the core of our beings. Everything He touches is truly transformed.