2013HOLINESS: A Holy God Making aHoly People for Holy LivingDr. James LewisAnderson University School of Theology3/26/2013

HOLINESS: A Holy God Making a Holy People for Holy LivingIsaiah 6:1-9a; 1 Peter 1:13-15; 2:1-3; 9-10Dr. James Lewis, Associate Dean; Director of the D.Min. Program;Professor of Theology and EthicsMarch 26, 2013As we look at the stained glass window, the theme of “Holiness” fits well with what has gone before:o Creation, Redemption, Truth, and Judgment: all themes that feed into and out of Holiness– depicted as the “burning bush”o How appropriate also for the timing of this theme of Holiness during the church’sobservance of “Holy Week”As I reflected on this theme, I realize I am one least qualified to speak on the subject but -- as is mycustom – I will. I could not help but remember how some in the Christian tradition have embracednotions of Holiness that required one to shed or Identify items or pursuits deemed inappropriate forholiness. For example:o Wearing a neck tieo Adorning jewelry [Wedding ring]o Consuming porko Pursuing Higher Education [Academic degrees]o Drinking coffeeo For women, wearing shorts of any kind or footwear revealing the toeso For women, not suffering faithfully any spousal abuse for the cause of Christo Attending movie theaters or watching Televisiono Playing, listening, or dancing to secular or “non-religious” musico Observing or celebrating any holiday deemed of pagan origin--like Christmas or EasterFurthermore, sometimes holiness was and is frequently equated with possession of Items deemed as a“sign” that one is truly holy:o Faithful purchases of religious products from Christian Bookstores: Holy water from theJordan River – slick marketing from the Jordan River at a bargain price; a glossy rockinscribed with scripture; or scriptural mints for bad breath, etc.o Display of bumper stickers substituting for rigorous moral analysis: “honk, if you loveJesus”; “Do you follow Jesus this close?”; “Real Men Love Jesus”; “Adam & Eve, NotAdam and Steve”; “Know Jesus, Know Peace”; etc.o The American flag Bible gestures of nationalism or an American flag pendant put onthe left lapel—signifying that one really gets itBiblically and theologically, however, the basic meaning of “holiness” and its cognates qadosh or hagiosor roots focuses on “separation,” “wholeness”—“to be set apart.” Holiness is fundamentally “a relationalor social” term that highlights separation from all that is “worldly;” that is any philosophy, practice, orthought, or way of life that undermine and contradict thewill and purposes of God. In short hand, holiness is the love of God and the love of the neighbor as oneloves oneself, and the love of other parts of God’s creation.Yet, separation for sake of separation is alien to the biblical notion of holiness. I must admit that there issome appeal to the notion that a changed life should involve a changed lifestyle. Yet, we commit biblicalDr. James Lewis, HolinessPage 1

fraud to identify the Christian life only with a checklist of Do’s and Don’ts, or the holy cry from theperiphery, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate!”However, the Scriptures of the Church—from Genesis to Revelation—remind us of a much deeper truthwe should embrace: All understandings of Holiness, or what it means to be holy and to live a holy life,must have God and God’s agenda as the undeniable standard. Human-made standards do not andcannot ever serve this purpose perfectly. How many of us, or persons in the world today, have beenmaligned or screwed up by religious practices and understandings that took away “liberty” in Christ,saddled us with moral, unbiblical, or extra biblical moral demands we could not maintain with a clearconscience, and/or hindered our capacity to think critically in the context of a vital faith and piety?The God who creates out of love is a holy God; the God who calls God’s creation into divine relationshipis a holy God; the God who judges our sin, but initiates redemption is a holy God; the God who callsAbraham, Isaac, and Jacob into covenant and lavishes them and their descendants with promises is a holyGod; the God of Hagar and Ishmael is a holy God; the God of the Exodus, the God of the burning bush,the God of the wilderness wanderings, and the God of the Promised Land, is a holy God.The God of the prophets of Israel is a holy God. To say that Yahweh is a holy God is to identify asintegral to God’s agenda the condemnation of the nations, even of Israel and Judah, for how they treatedthe poor, the widows, the orphans, aliens, and anyone else whose lives were lived on the ragged edge:Micah prophesied that the Lord will punish the land barons, the judges, and the religious leaders. Amosprophesied about the people’s perversion of morality --how Yahweh’s sympathies lie with the poor whowere cheated and exploited by the rich and the powerful; how he denounced the upper classes’ luxuriousliving based on an unjust exploitation of the poor; emphasizing how true worship cannot be separatedfrom God’s justice and God’s righteousness; and how they had rejected the responsibility that comes withprivilege.Huldah, the prophetess, affirmed the authenticity of the Law and contributed to the spiritual renewalunder King Josiah. Hosea also prophesied against oppression and exploitation of the poor, especiallythrough the perversion of the court system by the wealthy and the powerful; he also identified Israel’sinfidelity to the covenant—i.e., its religious apostasy and broad-based immorality.As we think further on the holiness of God, what more poignant passage can we identify of the holinessof God than to turn to Isaiah’s call narrative in Isaiah 6:1-9a.Just as Isaiah “saw the Lord,” we also must “see the Lord” this morning. The God he saw is the same Godwe must see if we are to leave here charged, changed, and challenged. What God did Isaiah the prophetsee? HE SAW 1. A Vision of a God who sits unequaled on a throne (1) Exceedingly High and Lifted Up Having no rivals / His reputation unparalleled He is so full of Himself that just the “hem” of his flowing royal vestments is enough to fill everyspace of the temple: no place left for any speck of dirt to hide A perspective on our own times: Regardless how large our sanctuaries or church campuses are,there is no human construction big or awesome enough to contain all of God’s holiness,righteousness, glory and presenceDr. James Lewis, HolinessPage 2

2. A Vision of a God who is entirely holy and supremely glorious (3-4) Even the Seraphs flew around with their three pair of wings, shouting: “Holy, Holy, Holy is theLord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” – that is, ceremoniously set apart andindescribably pure He is the Lord “Almighty” – unsurpassable in power to conquer everything that needs to beultimately overcome and overwhelmingly defeated His glory fills and encircles the entire rim of the earth—A glory of blinding light, supreme honor,inexhaustible wealth, and unexcelled majesty Read 2 Chronicles 5 where the priests minister in the temple and are confronted by God’s holypresence: I wonder whether as a seminary community, as people also who worship, as pastorsand preachers, we too come into the presence of a holy God--the very One about whom we read,preach, study and teach-- bringing even our intellects into subjection to the ultimate purposes ofGod?3. A Vision of a God who causes God’s creation to confess their unworthiness [even as they shake inGod’s awesome presence] (5) We can never see God as God really is, without seeing ourselves as we really are A true vision of an exalted, holy, glorious and mighty God makes us see who we really are One and All are “unclean” before the Holy One [Crying, “Woe is me! I am unclean!”) For we are made to see the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords! Who is this King of Glory? Yahweh is the Lord Almighty!4. A Vision of a holy God who thoroughly cleanses the unclean (6-7) I remember the times when I could only yearn to be cleansed—yearned for something better—yearned to be changed. I yearned for all my habits to be brought under subjection. All my bestefforts could not do it. But there was the community of God who reminded me that there was aGod who could transform and change our lives. God remedies and heals us of our sins and rebellions God takes away our guilt arising from our disobedience to God. It was a scene of transformation God forgives us, pardons us, empowers us and releases us ------"FINALLY;5. A Vision of a God who commissions us for ministry and sends us out to serve in God’s world (8-9a):[Who will Go? Send Me. Go, Show, and Tell .]Isaiah’s vision of a Holy God has it right—“Holiness” begins with God. Our sense of what it means to beholy—while often commendable—pales in comparison to the holiness of God. For those, however, whofeel we need not be concerned with being holy people of God just don’t get it, either. Railing againstpietism, relativism, fundamentalism, postmodernism, liberalism, capitalism, and socialism and so forth,may prove popular and enlightening, but ultimately woefully unsatisfying. Why? Because God does callevery believer to live holy—to love God and to love the neighbor – even when that neighbor is yourenemy. This is a hard saying.Dr. James Lewis, HolinessPage 3

The final text read is 1 Peter 1:13-15. The text carries on the theme of Isaiah 6 and even Leviticus 11.This is a letter written to the chosen people of God, who are exiles, aliens, sojourners, or pilgrims. Theseare people who understand that the world they live in is not their home, but they are willing to livefaithfully where they are until they continue to move forward with Jesus. They are willing—in themeantime-- to live among those who reside there. They become resident aliens -- but they are calledpilgrims. God calls holy people today to live among the peoples of the world, but in such a way that ourvery living becomes a witness and embodied presence of what it means to be people who have beentransformed by the power of the living and holy God. The audience of this text is people graced with anew birth and an inheritance, protected by faith through the power of God, and sustained by a love forGod that evokes joy unspeakable and full of glory; thus we read: “Do not conform to the evil desires youhad when you lived in ignorance. But just as God who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for itis written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” – vss. 14-16 One focus of this text appropriately is our seminary context where we use our minds. This textkeys in on minds—girded for action-- mentally prepared for action [mind the seat of the heart:thinking through, meditating over, processing information into understanding, including makingmoral decisions – disciplined, self-controlled, clear-headed decisions]. Think about that. Second, this text is a call for decisive action to set our hope completely on the benefits and thegood that comes through God’s grace [Grace God’s kindness, love, and favor toward us]The text, moreover, also emphasizes the humble embrace of our status as God’s obedient creation– creations incapable of being and doing God’s kind of holiness, except as God’s calling, gift, andfavor to us.In addition, the text admonishes us of the following: Do not conform outwardly to a pattern ofevil desires alien to God’s purposes and divine agenda – For Christ-followers this pattern marksthe former life caused by “ignorance” [i.e., when we did not have knowledge and refused even toaccept guilt for our immoral behaviors]. The “Not” is a strong negative – if you are beingconformed to the world—STOP! If you are not being conformed to the world—DON’T START!This part of scripture ends with this:“BUT [a strong conjunction] be holy in all you do”—in every area of life – “even as the God whocalled you is HOLY.” [See also 2:1-3, 9-17]o Holiness not just an individual or personal achievement. Diana LeClerc, in a Presidentialaddress to the Wesleyan Theological Society in 2008, entitled “Holiness and Power,”recounted her and her husband’s joys and challenges with their twelve year old son,diagnosed with ADHD. She believed in holiness. She believed in the transformativepower of God to entirely sanctify us. She believes, however, that our theologies ofholiness often leave out some people—like her son. Though he was high functioning, hestill found it difficult to be able to morally embrace what God required. He had a moral“dis-ability.” With the way we talk about perfection, we often do not understand theways that the requirements of moral perfection might leave out some people. What doyou do with someone with ADHD, with Down’s syndrome, those whose bodies arecontorted with disease, and those with Alzheimer’s? Holiness is not just an individualachievement. We all have some form of brokenness. We all have issues. Yet, whilepersonal piety is important, God’s community—the body of Christ-- is also called to beholy. The community embraces those who often are labeled as non-functioning orunproductive or abnormal or broken. What kind of community do we need to be in orderto reflect the holiness of God in a broken world? We are called not just to be a holyperson, but more fundamentally to be -- as the body of Christ -- a holy people. Dr. James Lewis, HolinessPage 4

oHoliness is God’s gift to God’s people – the body of Christ. As we follow Jesus, Jesuscalls a people- A chosen people A royal priesthood A holy nation God’s own [special] people [2:9]As we follow Jesus this week, along the Via Dolorosa, to Golgotha’s hill, we see our savior clothed indespair, on a Cross where power is cloaked as weakness, where victory masquerades as defeat; we learnthat we all are still in process and often broken in one way or another.However, the good news is that a holy God—embodied in the crucified and resurrected Jesus-- createsand makes a holy people, so that they may live holy live