What do we need to know about holiness? The Bible affirms time and time again that we are the holy people of God. But what does that mean? To be holy means to be consecrated or set apart for Gods special purposes. Let me explain it this way. When my wife and I got married, my mother gave us a set of china as a wedding gift. As I recall, she got them by cashing in her S & H green stamps. We use those dished for special occasions or when we have guests. China calls for special food and special people. We don’t use it every day, and when we aren’t using it we have it stored in a special place. At one time in our marriage we even had a china cabinet to display our china dishes.
When I was a kid, most of the meals I ate were served on melmac. If you know what melmac is, you’re showing your age. Melmac is a virtually indestructible, plastic plate that is barely one step above paper plates on the food chain. Lisa and I also have some of these unlovely but functional dishes dating back to our kid’s toddler years. We used those to serve kid friendly food like fish sticks, mac and cheese, canned ravioli, pizza rolls, chicken nuggets…you get it. The point is that you don’t put filet mignon on melmac and you don’t serve corn dogs on china. China dishes is the best metaphor for holiness that I know. As God’s holy people, we are fine china in a plastic plate world. Holiness isn’t about our behavior or keeping a long list of rules and regulations. It’s who we are.
Check out Peter’s call to holiness in 1 Peter 1:13-16: So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” Holy is who we are in Christ. Holiness has to do with the degree of consistency by which we live in accordance to our nature and purpose.
The problem is that sometimes we put corn dogs on our fine china plates. The good news is that God extends his mercy to us when we do unholy things. When we sin we are not only violating God’s commands, we are living inconsistently with our holy nature. When we sin, God’s Spirit nudges our spirit and convicts us of our sin.
Let me take a brief moment to explain the difference between conviction and guilt. Conviction is from God. It is merciful and invitational. His conviction draws us to return to him in a prodigal son welcome home kind of way. Guilt on the other hand, separates and isolates. Guilt creates shame and avoidance. You may feel guilt about something in your life, but that guilt that isolates is not from God. God’s goal for your life is not to drive you away, in his mercy his goal is to draw you close.
Holiness is important to God because as his holy people our lives are the platform by which we display his love to the world. Just as fine china serves as a platform to present a wonderful meal, your life and mine is the platform of presentation of his glorious love and grace. We are china plates in a plastic ware world. Its important that we are committed to give his love the best presentation we know how.