When did holiness become a dirty word?
When did the idea that Jesus came to free us to sin, rather than to free us from sin, become so popular in Christendom?
When did holiness become an optional part of being a servant of Christ?
As a child, when I would see the bumper sticker that read Christians are not perfect, just forgiven, I would bristle. It was not until I was an adult (and a more mature Christian) that I understood why that saying bothered me so. It sounded like a cop-out, an excuse for bad behavior. Even as a child, I knew something was not quite right about that notion.
Hebrews 12:14 – Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
1 Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle?
who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
2 He that walketh uprightly,
and worketh righteousness,
and speaketh the truth in his heart.
3 He that backbiteth not with his tongue,
nor doeth evil to his neighbour,
nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
4 In whose eyes a vile person is contemned;
but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.
He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
5 He that putteth not out his money to usury,
nor taketh reward against the innocent.
He that doeth these things shall never be moved.
According to these scriptures, it is clear that without holiness, no one shall see the Lord; furthermore, the scriptures state explicitly that those who will abide in the Lord’s tabernacle and dwell in His holy hill will be those who walk uprightly (seeing the Lord and dwelling in His tabernacle and holy hill likely refer to both spending eternity with Him and increasing our spiritual intimacy with Him prior to this).
As I pondered the topic of holiness, I began to think about holiness in every area of one’s life. I initially thought of these aspects as separate entities–holiness in what one views, hears, thinks, and how one behaves. But, the more I pondered, the more I began to see connections between these aspects. Oddly enough, my brain defaulted to the notion of the computer and its input and output–this is likely due to my years in the technology industry. Anyway, perhaps you have heard the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.” This saying refers to the fact that bad input will produce bad output: A bad web developer will input bad code and, thus, produce a glitchy, user-unfriendly website.
I concluded that bad spiritual input (unholiness in our viewing and hearing) will produce bad spiritual output (unholiness in our thoughts and then in our conduct).
Let us examine these areas and what the scriptures have to say about them:
Psalm 101:3 – I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes:
I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.
This issue is huge and this scripture says it all! I am certain that there is a connection between pornography and the increase in the sexually perverse behavior we are seeing in our society.
Pornography aside, what about the countless television shows and movies that either casually or positively portray heterosexual couples living together, unmarried (even outright showing the characters’ dalliances in the bedroom (i.e., fornication)); adultery; LGBTQ+ behaviors; violence; abortion?
Viewing these things accomplishes two things for Satan:
- Sinful behaviors are normalized. This is why, today, it is almost as common to debate whether these behaviors are sinful with so-called Christians as it is with unbelievers; when Christians watch these things, they become less shocking, and sin–the same sin that repulses God, the same sin that sent His beloved Son, the King of Heaven, to a brutal and horrific death, a death that left Him eternally scarred–becomes less repugnant to us.
- Sin becomes less repugnant to us. Again, sin should disgust us as much as it disgusts God. If we truly loved Christ, how could we get pleasure or enjoyment out of the things that sent our Beloved to the cross? Let us remember that, in addition to setting no wicked thing before his eyes, the Psalmist states that he hates the work of them that turn aside and that their works will not cleave to him.
Do you hate the work of them that turn aside and keep those works from cleaving to you? Or do you enjoy those works and indulge in them? We should not aid Satan in his plan for our destruction; we should not dishonor the Lord by enjoying the things that displease Him and that led to His horrific sacrificial death for us.
Mark 4:24 – And he said unto them, Take heed what ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you: and unto you that hear shall more be given.
Romans 10:17 – So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Jesus stated very clearly that we should be careful about what we hear; moreover, the more we hear or listen to God’s Word, the more our faith for His Word will grow. On the flip side, the more we hear or listen to things contrary to God’s Word, the more our faith for these things will grow.
Let us return to the things we often call entertainment–secular television shows, movies, music. How much profanity and godlessness are crammed into these things? The more I have been focusing on these areas of my life–what I view and listen to–the more I realize just how junk filled these things are. If you pay attention, you will notice that it is extremely rare for a secular movie to not take God’s name in vain; you will almost always hear “God [expletive] it!” or “Jesus Christ!” voiced in frustration or exasperation by one or several characters–this, in addition to the loads of profanity and perverse sexuality typically in secular entertainment. Why would we want to listen to God’s name being tossed around in such an irreverent, disrespectful manner?
Joel Houston, of Hillsong, recently voiced his belief in evolution; he actually believes you can reconcile Christianity with disbelief that Christ created life according to the account in Genesis and other scriptural passages. I was saddened to read this, but I guess I should not have been too surprised by the theology of the leader of a band that one commenter described as “the Joel Osteen of music.” Anyway, Houston probably echoes the beliefs of many contemporary so-called Christians because they have spent their time listening to atheist “scholars” and professors spouting evolution, secularism, and humanism instead of listening to the Word of God (and I do not mean sermons from preachers, I mean actual audio of the KJV!).
If we hear something over and over and over again, we will eventually come to believe it.
Philippians 4:8 – Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Truly, what is more lovely than the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word? But how can we think on what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy if we input filthiness and garbage through our eyes and ears?
Job 31:1 – I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?
Job 31:1 clearly addresses the connection between what we see and what we think about.
Romans 12:2 – And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
We are not to let our thoughts drift willy nilly; we are to renew our minds with the Word of God and cast down and bring into captivity every thought that is against Christ and His Word. But I reckon we will struggle with sinful thoughts less if we go out of our way to not input ungodly things into our minds.
Psalm 50:23 – Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me: and to him that ordereth his conversation aright will I shew the salvation of God.
Psalm 50:23 reminds me of Hebrews 12:14: He that orders his conversation aright will experience the salvation of God; similarly, he that is holy will see the Lord.
1 Timothy 4:12 – Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
1 Peter 1:15 – But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
[The word conversation, in these and many other scriptural passages, refers to “manner of life, conduct, behavior.”]
Christ expects us to be an example of the ideal Christian through our words, conduct, love in action, spirit, faith, and purity. And we are to be pure and holy in all that we think and say–we will get to speech momentarily–and do.
If we are merely vessels for His honor (2 Timothy 2:21), then our thoughts, words, and actions are not to be used for our own pleasure. They are to be used to glorify Him.
Imagine an empty porcelain cup on the cupboard shelf. When I am not drinking from that cup, I do not open the cupboard door and expect to see that cup dancing a jig or galavanting with the other cups and saucers. The cup just sits there. It sits there and it waits. It waits to be used by me. And when I am done using it, it will be returned to the shelf where it will once again wait.
That is how a vessel behaves.
2 Peter 3:11-12
11 Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
12 Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?
2 Peter 3:11-12 is a sobering passage that reminds us that we should keep the end in sight. If the end of this ungodly world is fiery destruction, we would do well to keep our focus on Christ and to live in a way that honors him.
Speech is, I think to some extent, a sub-topic of the topic of Conduct.
We talk about what we think about. We typically think about things we have seen and heard.
Moreover, people typically talk passionately about things they are passionate about.
I worked with a well-known gamer a few years ago. Considering that he spent much of his free time playing video games, it was not too surprising that he often talked about games or the gaming industry.
Several years ago, while traveling out of town, by train, my mother and I met a strange little man. He was middle-aged and somehow he struck up a conversation with us. All he talked about was The Wizard of Oz.
I do not recall if he was obsessed with the Baum books or the film adaptations of these books or both (likely both!), but he yammered on and on about them for a good 15-20 minutes. That train could not come fast enough! I remember thinking it odd that a man that age was obsessed with something so silly and juvenile.
Of course, sports enthusiasts typically spend a great deal of time excitedly talking about sports (it always amazes me how so many so-called Christian sports enthusiasts can scream at sporting events and gab nonstop about their favorite teams, yet during the music/worship portion of church services, their behavior mimics that of stoic vigil attendees).
The Lord Jesus also noted the connection between our hearts and our mouths:
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
So what should the Christ-loving Christian talk about? How should lovers of Christ guide their speech?
Psalm 71:8 – Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honour all the day.
Psalm 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Colossians 4:6 – Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.
1 Peter 4:11 – If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
And, according to the scriptures, how should the Christian not speak?
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. (emphasis added)
Ephesians 4:29, 31
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. (emphasis added)
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: (emphasis added)
3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;
4 Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. (emphasis added)
According to these passages, we should not use our mouths for filthy and corrupt communication, evil speaking, foolishness, or jesting.
Remember my former coworker, the gamer? Though he claimed to be a Christian, it was almost as though he sat around thinking of foolish things to talk about, both during our work time and during lunchtime; he always had a silly anecdote to share. I speculated that perhaps clowning around functioned as a sort of defense mechanism for him.
Sometimes I was in a good enough humor and able to deal with his stories, but, more often, they tended to irk me. I am a serious, reflective person by nature (I do not even lean toward silly and comedic movies), and during the time that we worked together, I was really trying to focus more on my spirituality, on meditating on Christ and on His Word, and did not have the patience for jokes and silly stories every 5 minutes.
It is interesting that the Bible speaks against jesting. Jesting is not only a waste of time, when our mouths should be used for praising God, but also has the potential to turn serious and ugly. I know one young woman, who professes to be a Christian, who is always at the ready with a dis. She probably considers this to be innocent fun and joking, but these jokes can be hurtful to others.
This is why our mouths should be used for Christ and not for ourselves.
Like Speech, Dress might be also considered a sub-topic of Conduct (an outward expression of what is going on within an individual). This area probably affects women slightly more than it does men, but with so many men wearing fitted pants and shirts these days, this area is arguably just as important for men to address as it is for women.
Acquaintances and relatives are always encouraging me to dress more stylishly, which usually means painted-on jeans and fitted, cleavage-spotlighting blouses. I have even seen many young women, including professing Christians, publicly wearing workout pants with revealing slits and cutouts, showcasing their thighs and lurking dangerously close to their derrieres. When I have questioned the appropriateness of these articles of clothing, I am typically met with remarks like, “That’s the style.”
I think we should ask ourselves the following:
What is more important to me: praise from the world, because I am so shapely and sexy, or approval from Christ?
What is more important to me: Facebook Likes on my sexy photos, or honoring Christ?
It is a sacrifice, especially for individuals who are physically beautiful, but it is a sacrifice we should be willing to make for the One we love.
Psalm 29:2 – Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
Proverbs 31:25 – Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
1 Timothy 2:9-10
9 In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array;
10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.
We need to remember that God is spiritual, not carnal. The world sees carnal beauty; the Lord Jesus sees spiritual beauty. He wants His beautiful bride to be pure and holy.
Holiness is beautiful and when we do not put our bodies–God’s temples (1 Cor. 6:19)–on display, either to satisfy our own egos, or to entice others, when we conduct ourselves in an honorable and holy manner, Christ sees us as beautiful.
I try to watch Christian movies and programs most of the time. If I feel the need to indulge in secular entertainment–though one could argue that the time is at hand (Rev. 1:3) and that secular entertainment is a luxury Christians can no longer afford–I try to watch shows and movies from bygone eras–you know, like back when husbands and wives were shown sleeping in separate beds. But, more and more, I am watching fewer and fewer contemporary secular television programs and movies. The more you saturate yourself with the Word of God and become conformed to Christ, the more you begin to see secular movies and television programs for what they truly are–blasphemous, Christ-dishonoring wastes of time.
I am also very careful about what I listen to. When I am not listening to an audio version of the KJV, I may listen to Christian music or Christian programs, but I scrutinize these closely to ensure they are scripturally accurate.
I do not talk nearly as much as I used to. When I do talk, I try not to get sucked into foolish conversations, and I am more aware of the impact my words have on others.
I no longer dress provocatively, the way that I used to–though I still have some youth and shapeliness on my side! 😉 But that is the sacrifice I have chosen to make for my Beloved, to honor my spiritual Husband (Eph. 5:31-32).
I do not say all this to brag. Getting to this point has been a long, gradual process and I have had to ask forgiveness many times for my many failings. I used to indulge in contemporary secular entertainment on a regular basis, but I eventually tired of feeling like I had to shower or pray Psalm 51 after watching one of those movies, or television shows, or listening to a questionable song.
I did many things that the scriptures forbid, things I do not even feel comfortable discussing, and I felt like a lousy servant. Heck, I was a lousy servant! But I have made a great deal of progress and I pray that I will continue to make even more.