I we aim at happiness in this world, we will probably miss the mark of holiness. But if we aim at holiness, we cannot fail to be happy.
A s we consider the subject of holiness, we must remember that it is God’s will that we be holy. Paul wrote that in I Thessalonians 4:2,3. being holy may seem theoretical and theological even irrelevant. But being holy is extremely practical.
People who are truly holy are much easier to live with because certain things characterize their lives. First, holy people are selfless. They have not thought whatsoever of themselves. Also, holy people are characterized by serenity.
The real definition of holiness from the Old Testament is “set apart.” The holy vessels of the tabernacle in the wilderness were not made of a different kind of gold than a king’s vessels or a different kind of brass than any common person would have in his house. They might not even have been a different shape or design. The vessels used in the tabernacle were holy because they were set apart for God from the ordinary.
Every Christian is meant to be a holy vessel, bearing the life and death of Jesus. And the life and death of Jesus are not commodities assembled on an assembly line but a living work accomplished in personal sanctification.
Paul used the term “vessel,” in one form or another, over and over in his epistles. “We have this treasure in jars of clay,” he said, “to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” )II Cor. 4:7). If we call ourselves Christians, then we are saying that we are willing to identify ourselves totally with Christ’s death and resurrection—to come to the cross and to be crucified with Christ. That is the prerequisite for being raised with Christ. It is a living work accomplished daily and continuously in our personal sanctification.
The Apostle Peter begins, “From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ to those of God’s scattered people who lodge for a while in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia [he is writing to exiles]—chosen of old in the purpose of God the Father, hallowed to his service by the Spirit” (I Pet. 1: 1,2.
We say the world “hallowed” when we say the Lord’s Prayer, but what does it mean? The word “hallowed” means set apart or holy, Peter used the expression for these exiles who were Christians. If this applied to the exiles who were Christians. If this applied to the exiles in Peter’s day, then it applies to all who have come to Christ in faith.
Peter went on to say, “The inheritance to which were are born is one that nothing can destroy or spoil or wither. It is kept for you in heaven, and you, because you put your faith in God, are under the protection of his power until salvation comes—the salvation which is even now in readiness will be revealed at the end of time” (v.4,5).
God has said that we were chosen to the holy, Notice that these verses do not say that we are chosen to be made happy, even though in God’s Book holiness is synonymous with happiness. We have to sort that out from our computed notions of happiness that the world gives us.
What does it mean to be holy? In Ephesians 1:4 we read: “In Christ he [God] chose us before the world was founded.” We have been born again “into a living hope” (I Pet. 1:3). That tells us that our future is a perfect inheritance, which is being kept or guarded for us beyond the reach of change and decay. And this means joy, for in verse six we read: “This is cause for great joy, even though now you smart for a little while, if need be, under trials of many kinds.”
Are you smarting from trials of many kinds? Almost every one of us is smarting at least a little from something somebody said to us yesterday, some rudeness, some lack of gratitude or appreciation. It may be just a little thing, but it hurts or smarts.
Peter went on to say the this is no accident. “Even gold passes through the assayer’s fir, more precious than perishable gold is faith which has stood the test. These trails come so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (v.7).
Going through trials is cause of joy. It is not for nothing that God has allowed that “smart.” It is planned. That gives us hope a
nd confidence. So it is true that if we aim at happiness in this world, we are probably going to miss the mark of holiness. But if we aim at holiness, we can’t fail to be happy. One of my life verses is Psalm 119: “I have found more joy along the path of thy commandments than in any kind of wealth.”
Every experience in your life, if offered to Jesus, can be your gateway to joy. It can also be the context in which God will bring you closed to the model of holiness set by His Son, Jesus Christ. We don’t have to be perfect to be holy, even though perfection is our object and Jesus commanded us to be perfect. But God begins by calling us apart, separating us from the world , and then working in us as we respond to Him in faith to make us holy.
by Elisabeth Elliot