Holiness defined: God is separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own glory. (Grudem, 202).
There are two parts to this definition. First, God’s relation to sin-he is physically and morally separated from it. Second, He pursues His glory through that separation.
1. God is separated from Sin.
In the Old Testament we see the Tabernacle. God has separated Himself to the Holy of Holies. In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it. Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life. (H G Bosch: Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries). The ermine doesn’t like getting dirty. He isn’t happy when he gets dirty. In the same way, God finds no happiness in sin either. He hates sin. In Isaiah 46:9-10 we are told is God finds joy when He pursues His own glory. “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘my counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” God hates the planning (Proverbs 6:18; Zechariah 8:17) and committing (Psalm 5:5; Proverbs 6:18) of sin. He hates Idolatry (Jeremiah 44:3-4) which is sin directed against Him and sins committed against others including murder and lying to only name a few. He hates these and through it we see his holiness. He must be separate from the filth that is sin, but as we will see not simply in his relation to it, but in his devotion to His own glory.
2. God is morally separated from Sin and devoted to seeking His own glory.
This animal, the ermine, desires to be separate from any type of dirt because he hates being dirty, and also because he loves his purity. God, too, is separate from Sin (any impurity or stain), but embedded in that separation is a moral commitment to seek what is best and most glorious in universe, His own glory. God’s separation from Sin leads Him to glorify Himself because He is the ultimate being! He can’t pursue anyone greater than HIMSELF or He would no longer be God! Our pursuit of holiness leads us to glorify God, because He is the greatest being we could ever pursue. God commands us to imitate His pattern. God says, “BE Holy as I am Holy.” (Leviticus 19:2; 1 Peter 1:16). This pattern becomes the way we should also live our lives, if we are followers of Him. HOWEVER: God doesn’t deal with us based on our level of holiness, BUT out of His mercy, He deals with us based on Jesus’ level of holiness. Never think “…if I were more holy, GOD would love me more.” It is the miracle of what Jesus accomplished for us. God protects His holiness, exalts His Son, and joyfully receives all those cling to Jesus. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER does our level of holiness get us into heaven. It is rather a by-product of the heart and mind that is finding joy in pursuing the glory of God in the person of Jesus.
AW TOZER said, “Holy is the way God is. To be holy he does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is. Because he is holy, all his attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy”.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT:
Whatever belongs to God MUST BE HOLY, but does that mean it’s devoid of happiness? Lots of people say our greatest goal is not happiness but holiness. It seems to me that they are ultimately synonymous, and that these ideas of happiness and holiness are tied together. What do you think?