Holiness is the state of who God is and the acts that He does. A state of holiness in humans is characterized by absolute purity of heart, intellect and will. Acts of holiness by humans are frequently called "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22); they represent acts of Christian love performed by one person and received by another. Christians are expected to reflect God's holiness since we are created in His image (Gen 1:26). In fact, we are specifically commanded to be holy because God is holy (Lev 11:44).
What about the option of just "being" in a state of holiness but not "doing" holy acts? For example, I could allocate Sundays for worship and prayer. During the week I could concentrate on avoiding sinful thoughts thereby maintaining the purity of my heart. I could also participate in the church choir and read the Bible regularly. I could even study the deep meaning of Greek and Hebrew text and become skilled at systematic theology and Biblical exegesis. Of course with all this activity, I wouldn't have time to minister to others or be a servant to anyone. Maybe my daily life could serve as a role model for the unsaved but I certainly wouldn't have time to deal with those people directly. Furthermore, my church comprises old time "saints of God" and is just the right size. There is no need to be discipled or to disciple others in my church; we are beyond that sort of thing.
The commandments in Scripture stand in sharp contrast to the option embraced in the previous paragraph. Read the following passages and judge for yourself: Mat 22:36-40; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; Luke 8:21; Jam 4:17; Eph 4:11-12; John 15:1-2, 8, 13, 16; Mat 7:12, 17-20; Mat 25:14-30.
Here is a vignette touching on the greatest responsibility of the Christian church.
Let us focus on two individuals living in the same community: Mr. Christian and Mr. Non-Christian. Outwardly, they appear to have similar lives; both are married with children, have good jobs and provide for their families. But inwardly they are quite different. Their differences can be illuminated by asking each man three questions: "What do you believe about God, why do you believe it and what should you do about it?" together with a follow up question, "How have your beliefs affected your life?"
What Mr. Christian believes about God is summarized in in Section 1.2 of Theology Corner under the title, "What is Your Theology?" and in Section 1.3 under the title, "What are the Core Beliefs of Christianity?" Why Mr. Christian has embraced these beliefs is somewhat mysterious but has its roots in feelings, intuition and emotion coupled with the influence of an authority figure, in his case, his Christian grandfather. His decision to embrace Christianity was not based on logic, reason, or evidence. This limits his ability to convince others that his beliefs are correct. What Mr. Christian believes he should do in response to his beliefs is work to fulfill the Great Commission (Mat 28:18-20) and the Great Commandment (Mat 22:36-40). Outwardly, Mr. Christian has a peaceful and fulfilling life. But, in the past, one of his children became addicted to drugs and he and his wife contemplated divorce. His Christian foundation helped him and his family work through those difficult times.
In contrast to Mr. Christian, Mr. Non-Christian completely rejects Christianity. He believes an impersonal life force may permeate the universe but the Christian God does not exist. Why he denies Christianity is based on his deep suspicion of Christians and their motives and the complete absence of logic, reason or evidence in support of Christianity. What Mr. Non-Christian believes he should do in response to his beliefs is ignore Christians and get on with his life. But beneath a veneer of success and stability, Mr. Non-Christian has a life in turmoil. By his mid-thirties, he had a good income, two cars and a large home. He did not need God because he was in control of his life. God was for emotionally insecure persons who needed a crutch. He was raised in a godless family and never saw the inside of a church. Unfortunately, by age 35, he had an alcoholic wife who wanted a divorce and three children, on alcohol and drugs, who despised their father. His life was a disaster in spite of the fact that he thought he was in control. He occasionally drove past a sign on a country road that said, "There is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof leads to death." He thought to himself, "What a ridiculous sign. What fool wrote that?" Seemingly, Mr. Non-Christian could never reconcile his views about God with those of Mr. Christian.
But just in time a third party, God, intensifies His work on the heart, intellect and will of Mr. Non-Christian:
- The grace of God that brings salvation grips the spirit of Mr. Non-Christian (Titus 2:11).
- The requirements of the law have long been written by God on the heart of Mr. Non-Christian (Rom. 2:15); now these words are illuminated by a searing beam of light.
- Jesus Christ intensifies His knocking at the door of Mr. Non-Christian's heart, intellect and will (Rev. 3:20).
- The Holy Spirit intensifies His efforts to call, awaken, draw near and convict the heart, intellect and will of Mr. Non-Christian (John 16:8).
- God's eternal power and divine nature begin to reveal their essence to Mr. Non-Christian in the world around him (Rom 1:20).
Mr. Non-Christian begins to be convicted of his own sin nature and behavior; he finally realizes his heart is black as a lump of coal. God initiates, advances and perfects a sprouting seed of confession, remorse and repentance in Mr. Non-Christian. God leads him from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition for obedience. In the past, Mr. Non-Christian always viewed himself as a "good" person whose behavior could always be justified. But now, he is beginning to be convicted of his own sin. What can he do? Where can he go to find some relief from the great weight that is settling upon his heart?
Mr. Christian belongs to a church which Mr. Non-Christian drives by every day on the way to work. Could this church have some answers? Would these people know how to relieve the burden? This church, like all churches, lies between two extremes: (1) an introverted, self-serving country club for the saints of God and (2) a light house whose beacon draws the lost into a hospital for sinners. If Mr. Non-Christian enters the church and discovers an introverted, self-serving country club (where even the Holy Spirit is not welcome unless He sits in the balcony and behaves Himself), Mr. Non-Christian will not return more than twice and may be lost forever. If, as he enters the church, Mr. Non-Christian is greeted by Mr. Christian who says "Welcome! Whatever your burden or struggle, we have the answer. Furthermore, we can justify our answer by logic, reason and evidence. We would like you to become part of our family and hear about our solution to life's problems." then Mr. Non-Christian may keep returning until he realizes that the great weight on his heart can be removed by confession of sin, remorse, repentance, faith and obedience which gains him the great gift of salvation.
The wealth of Jesus Christ comprises the sum total of all saved souls. Jesus expects Christians to increase His wealth by helping those who are being convicted of sin to make it across the finish line. If we refuse to use our great gift of salvation to help others cross the finish line, then we are no better than the wicked and slothful servant who hid his master's wealth in the ground (Mat 25:14-30).
But who, in the church, does God expect to accept this great responsibility? Is it only "big, important people" occupying "big important places" who are expected to help others cross the finish line? Francis Schaeffer answered this question many decades ago using an analogy with the shepherd's rod of Moses: (Schaeffer, v3, p 8-14)
"Though we are limited and weak in talent, physical energy and psychological strength, we are not less than a stick of wood. But just as the rod of Moses had to become the rod of God (Ex 4:20), so that which is "me" must become the "me" of God. Then I can become useful in God's hands. The Scripture emphasizes that much can come from little if the little is truly consecrated to God. There are no little people and no big people in the true spiritual sense, but only consecrated and unconsecrated people. The problem for each of us is applying this truth to ourselves.
But if a Christian is consecrated, does this mean he will be in a big place instead of a little place? The answer, the next step, is very important. As there are no little people in God's sight, so there are no little places. To be wholly committed to God in the place where God wants him – this is the creature glorified...
The people who receive praise from the Lord Jesus will not in every case be the people who hold leadership in this life. There will be many persons who were "sticks of wood" that stayed close to God and were quiet before Him, and were used in power by Him in a place which looks small to men. Each Christian is to be a rod of God in the place of God for him. We must remember throughout our lives that in God's sight there are no little people and no little places. Only one thing is important: to be consecrated persons in God's place for us at each moment. Those who think of themselves as little people in little places, if committed to Christ and living under His Lordship in the whole of life, may, by God's Grace, change the flow of our generation."
If you begin to think of yourself as a little, unimportant person occupying a little unimportant place, you might read this poem by Ruby Zeafla:
I don't know how to say it, but somehow it seems to me,
That maybe we are stationed where God wants us to be.
That the little place I'm filling is the reason for my birth,
And just to do the work I do, He sent me down to earth.
If God had wanted otherwise, I reckon He'd have made,
Me just a little different; or a worse or better grade.
And since God knows and understands all things of land and sea,
I fancy that He placed me here just where He wanted me.
Sometimes I get to thinking, as my labor I review,
That I should like a higher place with greater things to do.
But I come to the conclusion, when envying is stilled,
That the post to which God sent me is the post He wanted filled.
So I plod along and struggle in the hope when day is through,
That I'm really necessary to the things God wants to do.
And there isn't any service I can give which I should scorn,
For it may be just the reason God allowed me to be born.
(See also Sections 11.2, 11.3, 11.4, 11.5, 11.6, 11.7, 11.8, 11.9, 11.10, 11.11, 11.12, 11.13 and 11.14 of Theology Corner)