Becoming holy

All of us have probably heard people qualify their lives with something like, “Well, I might not be saint, …”

While some of their ideas about sainthood may be awry, the core of that confession is right on target. All of us are currently, or we have been previously, unholy and corrupted by sin.

Human lives are like chimney’s coughing up the soot of sin. We stain our own dwelling and brick as well as negatively affecting all those living around us.

Our lives might not be an industrial smoke stack belching out a commercially sized cloud obscuring the sun, but our little fireplace flue is not holy, pure, godlike and innocent.

So how does a life whose dark chimney walls testify to the stain of sin become holy? God’s answer throughout scripture remains the same.

To the Israelites encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God revealed, “I am the LORD, who makes you holy” (Leviticus 22:32). Lest the newly minted priests be filled with a false sense of superiority, God repeatedly proclaimed concerning them, “I am the LORD, who makes them holy” (Leviticus 21:23; 22:9, 16).

It was God, not human effort, who made possible their holy lives. Israel was then charged with obeying God to avoid exasperating the situation.  And yet, a question lingered: How did God transform unholy lives into holy ones?

God instructed Israel to offer sacrifices to clean up their messy lives. Nevertheless, God was clear.

“I have given the blood to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11).

It was God, not they, who made them holy.

Moving beyond how Israel related to God through the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, we arrive at the foot of the cross where Jesus’ sacrificial death created the basis for a new way to relate to God through the new covenant. Nevertheless, a certain similarity persists.

“By his [God’s] will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all … for by one sacrifice he has perfected for all time those who are made holy” (Hebrews 10:10,14, NET).

Once again, not only do we discover that God is making people holy, but from other texts we learn that we are responsible to appropriate God’s gift to us. We must rely upon the blood of Jesus to be forgiven and atoned (Romans 3:24-26; Ephesians 1:7).

Accordingly a familiar note rings out, we are not capable of cleaning up our lives or producing holiness within ourselves.

Since God makes us holy through Christ’s death, we ought not to denigrate God’s work in our lives under the pretense of a false sense of humility by describing ourselves as sinners.

God’s people are holy! Along with the apostle Paul, we should rightly describe fellow Christians as being saints, that is holy ones.

“To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1).

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