–Winter of 2001
What God Requires
In every age there are those who aspire to an intimate relationship with a holy God and to live the godly life resulting from that relationship. It is also true that in every age there are those who have constructed their own brand of cheap grace to insure a minimum demand upon their life. Standing between these two categories is a veritable host asking the eternally important question, “What level of living does God require of His people?”
We know that salvation and acceptance with God comes by grace through faith. Yet no serious Bible student can escape being jolted by the flat ultimatum to “be holy for I am holy.” Nor can we overlook the command to pursue holiness, “without which no man shall see the Lord.” The call to holy living is repeated in various ways throughout the whole of Scripture. If God means what He says, then salvation by grace through faith has some serious behavioral ramifications.
The Old Testament sets the tone and standard for God’s expectation of His people. A summation of the first few books of the Old Testament clearly teaches us that God’s goal for human life is that we should live in real fellowship with Him—a fellowship that requires a correct understanding of who He is and a sharing of His revealed character. Four times in the book of Leviticus (often referred to as the “Holiness Code”) God tells His people that He is holy and, because that is so, they must be holy. He is requiring a holiness of life that is not only relational (meaning, a holiness that is derived and dependent upon a right relationship with God), but one that is also replicational (meaning, a holiness that shares His character and is behavioral, touching every aspect of our personal, social, moral, civil and religious life). This behavioral aspect is presented further when we are given an Old Testament description of true religion, “Thus shall ye do in the fear of the Lord, faithfully, and with a perfect heart” (II Chron. 19:9). Clearly God expects us to serve Him reverently with a life that is totally yielded and faithfully obedient to His revealed commands and statutes.
The New Testament standard is the same as the Old. It teaches that we are redeemed from sinful bondage and brought into a relationship with God by saving grace. This salvation is more than going to Heaven when we die. It is an intimate personal progressive relationship with Christ. It means that God radically and immediately re-orients our lives to the Lordship of Christ so that obedience to Him is a normal practice in our lives. It means that He will also “purify our hearts by faith” through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, enabling the Holy Spirit to reproduce Christ’s character in us. Although this is not done in our own strength, we are fully cooperative participants in this effort by the application of Biblical truths as we see new truth and by the exercise of certain disciplines that help maintain true piety in our lives.
Both Testaments call us to live lives that are morally pure, ethically righteous, and faithfully obedient. This call to holy living is clear, and every Christian needs to take this call seriously. Dr. John Oswalt in his book, The Call to Be Holy, makes the observation, “The fate of the American church and the church around the world depends upon what it does with the biblical doctrine of Christian holiness.” Dr. Oswalt is right. It is also right to note that my fate and yours depends upon what we do with the biblical call to holy living. God requires holiness of heart and life.