Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Holy Is As Holy Does

It sure is easy to get bogged down while reading through the book of Leviticus! There are so many rules, prohibitions, sacrifices. I have the tendency to jump right over all these ‘laws’ and move along since, after all, ‘we’re not under the Law’, right?
Still, there is so much detail in there about what to do and what not to do; about what to do if you did something you weren’t supposed to do; about how to ‘atone’ for doing something you weren’t supposed to do; about how to consecrate yourself to do other things, etc.
All those rules and details must be in there for a good reason. But why?
At one point, I determined that all of those laws and regulations were there to show people how to ‘become holy.’ After all, a phrase very similar to “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy” is repeated almost verbatim many, many times throughout Leviticus (11:44, 19:2, 20:7, 20:26, etc.) and the rest of the Bible.
But then I noticed a slight variation to that phrase when reading through chapter 20. In verse 7, the above phrase is repeated, “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, for I am holy”. But then in verse 8, we are told: Keep all my laws and obey them, for I am the LORD, who makes you holy.
Then something ‘clicked’ and started to make a bit more sense to me, a New Testament believer. I realized that all of those ‘laws’ and ‘sacraments’ weren’t there to show anyone how to become ‘holy’. Rather, they were there to show God’s people - those He had set apart and He had made ‘holy’ – how they should be acting since He had already made them ‘holy’.
God chose the people and set them apart, He ‘sanctified’ them – made them ‘holy’. And since they were His ‘set apart’ or ‘holy’ people, they should be acting differently than all of the other people in the cultures around them.
God didn’t want there to be any confusion about how His people should be acting differently than those around them, so He went to great lengths to specify many, many ways to ‘separate’ themselves from the culture – to show that they were ‘holy’. Thus flowed all of the very detailed laws dealing with what and what not to eat, ‘uncleanliness’, how to sacrifice particular animals for specific purposes, sexual relations, a version of ‘tort reform’, etc.
While we want to defiantly claim that we are not ‘under the Law’, there is no denying that even New Testament believers are commanded to ‘be holy’ (1 Peter 1:15-16). And just like the Israelites following Moses were made ‘holy’ by God (Leviticus 20:8, above), not by their actions, we are made ‘holy’ by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10), not by anything we could ever do.
So, because we are made ‘holy’, we must then live as ‘holy’ people – people set apart as God’s own. God has called us to live holy lives, not impure lives. (I Thessalonians 4:7, NLT) You ought to live holy and godly lives (2 Peter 3:11(b)).
The Israelites were called to stand out from the cultures around them (I am the LORD your God, who has set you apart from all other people (Leviticus 20:24)). So, they weren’t to sacrifice their children, marry their in-laws, harvest every single grain of wheat, mistreat their slaves, eat certain foods, etc. They were called to be ‘holy’ people who stood out like sore thumbs among the cultures around them.
And that’s what we are supposed to do and to be as well.
We live in a much different world, a much different culture. But we have still been made ‘holy’. We are still called to ‘be holy’ and to stand out from the culture.
How do we do that? What does that look like?
Well, a good starting place is to observe what is going on in the culture around us. Watch movies, read the paper, listen to the radio. It soon becomes painfully obvious what ‘the world’ values, what ‘the world’ is chasing after, how ‘the world’ acts toward one another.
So - . . .
Act differently.
Stand out.
Be ‘set apart’.
Be holy.
Just remember: Actions don’t make you holy. God already made you holy. Since you are holy, live that way.
If you aren’t standing out like a sore thumb in today’s culture, you are probably not living out God’s command to ‘be holy’. Is it more important to you to ‘fit in’ or to ‘be holy’?