I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. Leviticus 11:44a (NASB)
Holiness is the core value of the Nazarene church that is most often met with resistance and criticism, not just in the Nazarene church, but in all the Christian churches. To better understand why, we first need to understand what holiness is. In the simplest sense, when something is made holy, it is declared, or ritually prepared to be set apart for God’s use alone. In the most real sense, it means loving God so much that it turns into a love for others, and that love compels us become like Christ for the sake of others.
When a person seeks holiness, this is the goal, to have their entire life dedicated to serving God—this is to be Christ-like. For some, this is a tall order. “God is fine and all, but you don’t want to get overboard with your religion!”
As a husband, and a parent, I have learned that, if you really love someone, you will have no problem living your life for them. The same is true of God. As I get to know Him and His work, I will fall in love with Him and find that He really is worthy of all my devotion. This is also commanded as part of being the people of God. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5, we find the beginning of a very important command and Jewish prayer.
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NIV)
Jesus quoted this scripture and then added an important aspect to it, from Leviticus 19:18, that was commonly missed—and may still get missed today. Jesus said:
“'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40 NIV)
Everything that was spoken of in the scriptures, according to Jesus, could be boiled down to two basic tenants of holiness: love God and love your neighbor. The first will always result in the second. When we seek holiness, we seek to dedicate our lives to God. When we dedicate our lives to God, He will always require that we live to share that love with others. This is also where holiness comes in.
Too often, we treat the gospel like it’s a get-out-of-hell-free card. Say a prayer, promise to mean it in your heart, and “Voila!” you are saved! We check that off our bucket list and then go about our lives. The problem, then, is that this type of “faith” has no real implication in our life nor in the lives of others. Nothing gets changed; not to mention that this is not scriptural. In fact, Paul repeatedly expresses that the individual needs to intentionally change their lives as a response to their love for God and for the sake of others. Christ-like holiness is not something that “magically” happens when you follow Jesus—it is something that the Christian must choose to do—it is a conscience choice.
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV).