Holy Bible. Holy Spirit. Holy Ghost. Holy People. We use the word holy all of the time in Church, but do we really know what it means?
My dad grew up in the Great Depression. His mother died when he was five years old. Church was always a part of his struggling family’s life, and he can’t recall ever not being in church. He once told me a story about his religious upbringing. When he was a teenager, he and some of his church buddies decided to skip church one Sunday night in favor of going to the local nickel picture show. The next day his pastor showed up at his farmhouse to pay him a visit. The pastor asked if he had gone to the picture show instead of church the previous night. After my dad confessed to this venial sin, the pastor told him he was expected to respond to the altar call on the next Sunday morning to “rededicate his life to the Lord” and be restored to full fellowship of the church. Not attending the picture show on a Sunday night, among other things, was his first understanding of holiness.
The Church at Thyatira wasn’t all bad. In this postcard, Jesus commended improvement in the areas of love, faith, service and patient endurance (Revelation 2:18-19). But then we find the bind. Thyatira, like many communities of the first century, had trade unions and guilds that required membership in order to participate in the economic marketplace. These unions and guilds were filled with pagan people whose worship included sexual immorality and eating meat offered to idols. These Christians faced a moral dilemma: should they struggle to earn some form of living without participating in the trade guilds? Or should the go along in order to get along. It would have been a challenge then, and I suspect some of you have faced the same challenges to your faith in today’s economy.
In the midst of this struggle and prophetess spoke up with a theological loophole. This “Jezebel” taught the believers that it was okay for them to sin, because their sin proved the grace of God. If they sinned, God had to forgive, and when he forgave they would experience his grace. The more they sinned, the more grace they would receive. Jesus called this theology bogus, and sternly warned them to abandon it (Revelation 2:20-25).
In this series from Revelation, we have been learning about the measures that Jesus uses to evaluate his Church. From Thyatira, we find that holiness is an important matter to him. So what is holiness? What do we need to know about it? In tomorrow’s post I’ll share four important features of holiness that you need to know.