Holiness Unto the Lord
This is the phrase on the crest of the Church of the Nazarene. The holiness tradition permeates the doctrine, rituals, devotions, and even polity of the Church of the Nazarene. I want to ask you the question, though, what does it truly mean to be holy unto the Lord?
It seems to me like there is a solid understanding among those of us in the holiness traditions of being set apart. The definition of holy is, in actuality, just that; to be set apart. This is something that is understood. Being a member of the body of Christ means that we have been saved from the punishment of our sins. As people saved from the power of sin and death, we should live as those set apart and model a different kind of life. Our walk should differ from that of the world (and by world I mean the value systems that are at play in mainstream culture).
This has shown itself prominently in the history of holiness churches in the form of taking staunch positions against such things that could be considered “of questionable morals.” Provocative dancing, vulgarity in language and arts, consumption of mind-altering substances, all around impropriety; these are things that the holiness church has made it clear we are set apart from. In essence, we have been saved from the old ways of life.
If this is where the understanding of holiness unto the Lord stops, we have missed the mark.
As those who have been plucked from the fire, to borrow a Wesleyan saying, we are not only saved from our old ways but saved for God’s use. See, the reason being set apart is the definition of being holy is because you are set apart for some special use. When the children of Israel in the Old Testament were creating holy instruments to be used in service to the tabernacle, what the instruments weren’t used for had nothing to do with them being holy. The only reason these items were considered holy is because they were used for a holy purpose.
Holiness is about being put to work. God doesn’t save us from our old lives in order to set us on shelves as perfect little figurines — trophies of his grace. In truth, the only way we could be a trophy of his grace is by being used to bring others into his presence. Distancing yourself from the corruption of worldly ways is only half of a truth. You cannot live a separate life for the sake of being a cleaner version of who you were before. The transformation that happens in our lives, where God gives us new desires and draws us closer to him, is a testimony to those around us who need that transformation. Jesus does the work of cleaning up our desires and our lives by convicting us of sin and bringing us into a relationship with his bride, the Church. Followers of Jesus are the ones who have access to the power of the Holy Spirit, and in that sense, we should not be using our set-apart-ness to keep that access away from those who need it the most. Standing out as a set apart vessel does nothing for reaching the least and the lost if you are not telling people Who set you apart and for what purpose.
Once we have trusted in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we then need to go out and proclaim the salvation we know in our hearts among those who need the message of salvation. We don’t go out and preach what people need to stay away from…we tell them about the One to whom they need to draw near.
In being called holy, you are to be used to preach the Gospel, reach the lost, and edify the body of Christ.
You’re not simply saved from sin…you are saved for his purpose. You are saved for the mission of Jesus Christ which is to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28-19-20)
This is what it means to be, as the Nazarene Church says, “holy unto the Lord.” It’s much simpler than we make it, and when we walk in true holiness by being about God’s purpose, we find that it is much more powerful than simply attempting to avoid sin for our own purposes.
Be blessed…and may you be truly Holy unto the Lord.