The word "holiness" carries with it some unwanted baggage, thanks to "religion." In the East, to be a holy man means to sit naked with your legs crossed, and having folks give you money in return for your blessing. Some holy men sit on poles for twenty years (Pillar Saints). Others stay off poles but they stay away from any contact with a sinful world, in a holier-than-thou legalism. Others live in monasteries, and have a vow of silence. Much of the Church doesn’t live on poles or have a holier than thou attitude. They do however live in a monastery – one without walls. They, too, have a vow of silence. Few have physical contact with the world. Their association with humanity is strictly confined to the Church. Fellowship is what they have on Wednesday nights, Sunday mornings and Sunday nights. The are salt among salt, light among light.
True holiness is the opposite of the above. It does mean that we cut ourselves off from the sin, but not from the sinners. True holiness is to be like Jesus – "separate from sin" and yet He was accused of being a "friend of sinners." The Scriptures admonish us with these thought-provoking words: "I wrote to you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must you needs go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat", (1Corinthians 5:9-10). Can you see what the Bible is saying? If we separate ourselves from sinners, we won’t be able to reach them with the gospel of salvation. The only ones we are told to separate ourselves from are hypocrites. Look at these wonderful words from George MacLeod of Scotland: "I simply argue that the cross should be raised at the center of the marketplace as well as on the steeple of the church. I am recovering the claim that Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad, so cosmopolitan they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek . . . at the kind of a place where cynics talk smut, and thieves curse, and soldiers gamble. Because that is where He died. And that is what He died for. And that is what He died about. That is where church-men ought to be and what church-men ought to be about."
There is nothing "spiritual" about being holy. It just means a separation from sin. God is holy – He is sinless, and we too are called to be holy: "But as He who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of conversation" (1Peter 1:15) See Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 15:4. See also Romans 6:19, 22; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 1:8; 1Peter 1:15.
It’s as simple as this – God has given us an umbrella in the Savior to shelter us from the rain of His wrath. God has given the covering, and we are told to stay under that covering of holiness. How may we best do that? We do this by reading God’s Word daily and by the cultivation of a tender conscience. By having an obedient heart, and by living in the fear of God.
The next time you try to witness to someone you know isn’t right with God, and he suddenly says, "Oh, I’ve been born again. I know the Lord," ask him if he is "living in holiness." More than likely he will say that he is. Then call his bluff. Ask him to define "holiness." As he is straining his brain to come up with a definition, say, The Bible says, "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord" This means that we should be separated from sin and the world and then ask him if he thinks he’s a good person. More than likely he will, so take the time to take him through the Moral Law. Blessings Pastor Phil.