…the term “holiness” is not exhausted by that of “moral purity.” Granted, the latter is not excluded, but neither is it the only meaning, not even the primary one. … Holy is that which in all things conforms to the special laws God has ordained for it. Holiness is perfection, not only in a moral sense, but in the comprehensive sense in which the unique legislation of Israel conceives it: a religious, ethical, ceremonial, internal, and external sense.
–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 2: God and Man, Baker, 2004: pg. 219.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
–Hebrews 12:14, ESV.
To be made holy is something which seems very pie-in-the-sky for me most days. I’m aware of my sin and my sinful desires acutely today, so it seems even more inaccessible. I want to be as God would have me to be: loving, holy, merciful, and all the rest. And yet, I sin–sometimes willingly, sometimes not. I know exactly what James is talking about in James 1:14 when he talks about being enticed by one’s own desire.
And yet, without being made something I am not already–holy–I will never see God. Isn’t this a bit harsh? Scripture makes it sound loving.
But right now, it feels like cruelty. Bavinck, on the same page I quoted above says,
Yet, sanctification is something more than merely being set apart; it is, by means of washing, anointing, sacrifice, and the sprinkling with blood (etc.), to divest a thing of the character it has in common with all other things, and to impress upon it another stamp, a stamp uniquely its own, which it must bear and display everywhere.
I don’t really want my sin to be divested of me on many days. In my mind, it’s what makes me human. If to err is human as we’re told, then I don’t want to be different…less than…others. But that’s the subtle trick: to be divested of my sin is to become more like Christ…more fully human. It’s how I am being renewed to better display God in the world.
And so, I pray with the hymn writer:
Rock of Ages, when in want or rest,
My desperate need for such a Savior I confess
Pull these idols out from my heart embrace.
Rock of Ages, I need your grace.
–“Rock of Ages (When the Day Seems Long),” by Sandra McCracken. Music by Kevin Twit