Are you holy? What does it mean to be holy? How does one become holy?
The Apostle Peter, speaking to Christians, commands…
“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:13-16 ESV).
Holiness isn’t just to be the possession of pastors or preachers or seminary professors. Everyone who names the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior is to be holy. If you are a Christian you are commanded to be holy. But, again what does that mean? And how does one become holy?
Well, there’s a story in the Old Testament that I want focus on that teaches us what holiness is and in stark terms how seriously God takes holiness and the consequences of being unholy.
The story takes place in the book of Joshua, specifically in chapters 3 through 7. It tells the story of Joshua leading the Israelites into Canaan to take possession of it in fulfillment of God’s promise to them to have it as their home.
Their first combat mission was to take the city of Jericho. And they overwhelmingly succeeded in doing so having followed God’s unorthodox battle plan with apparently no loss of Israelite life.
Things were looking good for the Israelites. So, they engaged the enemy again, going up against the little town of Ai. After Jericho, Ai should have been easily taken. But they didn’t consult God first. And the results of the battle were a disaster. The Israelites fled from before the men of Ai and ended up killing some of the Israelite solders.
Joshua couldn’t understand why they had been defeated, badly. He fell on his face before God (something he should have done before going to battle against Ai). Eventually God told him…
“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Joshua 7:11-12 ESV).
Having entered the land of Canaan the Israelites consecrated themselves unto the Lord. They were committing themselves to be holy as He is holy. But the foundation of holiness is obedience and someone in the camp of Israel had disobeyed God’s commandments. Israel was no longer holy. As a consequence she could no longer stand before her enemies.
The situation Joshua found himself in was precarious and very dangerous. They were in enemy territory. And those enemies would soon learn of Israelite’s defeat at Ai. That would embolden them to consolidate their forces and wipe out the Israelites. Therefore, it was imperative that the holiness that Israel had been clothed with when they consecrated themselves upon entering Canaan be regained.
They did and went on to take Ai.
What’s this got to do with us as Christians? We are at war with the powers of darkness, Satan and his demonic warriors. It is only when we are clothed with holiness that we are able to defeat these powers. The story in Joshua teaches us what it means to be holy, what happens when that holiness is compromised, and how to regain that holiness. Though this story happened thousands of years ago by reading and studying it we as Christians can gain insight into how to fulfill the command…
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16 ESV).
Now, if you have ever tried to be holy by gritting your teeth, having believed your willpower is sufficient to enable you to become holy you have undoubtedly been frustrated and thrown up your hands in despair. Well, let me try to encourage you. I’ll throw a teaser out there for you to ponder (the answer to which is revealed when you listen to the sermon) revealing how you can be holy.
God isn’t just giving us a command to be holy; He’s giving us something else too. What? Listen to the sermon and find out.
“Remember, God isn’t asking you if you’re able to be holy; He’s asking you if you’re willing to be made holy.”