Holiness and Human Life

Thursday, July 01, 2010

I've been doing some research for a series of devotions that I'm writing for a work project. The original idea was to write the devotions on the subject of abstinence and it will accompany some presentations we are going to be doing with church teens/parents. But as I'm getting into this more, the topics of holiness, purity and the sanctity of human life keep coming up. So, that's where I'm going with it. And I just have to say, my mind has been swimming the past few days just thinking about all this stuff.

The subject of the sanctity of human life—that is, the idea that there is value in every person regardless of age, sex, race, condition of health, etc—goes so much deeper than I'd ever really imagined. I've always just thought of the term in relation to the pro-life/pro-choice argument and leave it at that. We celebrate "Sanctity of Human Life" Sundays in our churches but don't speak much of it the rest of the year. However, as I've been reading and studying today, I'm a bit surprised and humbled at how I've let the phrase "sanctity of human life" lose its capacity to communicate what it truly means. The weight of those words hit me like a ton of bricks. It's like the proverbial light just switched on and I realized: We are not just talking politics here… when we talk about human life, we are approaching a holy subject.

It all goes back to Genesis (doesn't it always?), which is where I began my study this morning. God created humans—us—in his own image. I've always known that. Duh! Isn't that one of the first verses you memorize in VBS?

Genesis 1:26-27: "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…' So God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

It's right up there with John 3:16. So I dug a little deeper… how are we created in God's image? I've zeroed in on at least three (though I'm sure there are more) key attributes in which we are likened to God:

First, we are living beings. Likewise, God is living and active in the world (and in our lives) still today. Acts 17:29 tells us that we are not to think that God is like silver or gold or stone—an image created by man. Rather, he is a living God, as was revealed to Peter when he confessed to Jesus, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (Matthew 16:16) The psalmist echoed this in Psalm 84(v.1): "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God."

Secondly, God has given man free will which also reflects God's image. We have the freedom to choose between doing what is right and what is wrong. We have intrinsic knowledge, a moral understanding, of what is good and what is evil.

And finally, God is holy and he calls us to be holy, too. And this is where I've planted my feet for the day. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says "But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy because I am holy.'" The first two points—being alive and making choices—are things that we do every day, usually without thinking about it. While each point could be explored deeper in individual articles, it is the last one that most intrigues me. The call to holiness. This truly is the root of everything. Our holiness (or lack thereof) colors all other things in our lives… the decisions we make, the people we associate with, the views we hold to, etc, etc. A.W. Tozer wrote:

"A holy man is not one who cannot sin. A holy man is one who will not sin."

Again, this goes back to our likeness to God in that we have choices. And our choices either lead us towards holiness (and God) or they lead us away from holiness, and ultimately away from God. Obedience or disobedience. Jerry Bridges wrote in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness:

"It is time for Christians to face up to our responsibility for holiness. Too often we say we are 'defeated' by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated; we are simply disobedient! It might be well if we stopped using the terms 'victory' and 'defeat' to describe our progress in holiness. Rather we should use the terms 'obedience' and 'disobedience.'"

When we pursue holiness, we seek out the very core of our being. We seek God, in all his greatness, glory, honor and holiness. Too often we think this life is about being happy… making it through the hard times so we can 'just be happy again.' But as Oswald Chambers reminds us, that's not really the point of life:

"The destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness. God's one aim is the production of saints. He is not an eternal blessing machine for men; he did not come to save men out of pity; he came to save men because he had created them to be holy."


Likewise, A.W. Tozer wrote:

"No man should desire to be happy who is not at the same time holy. He should spend his efforts in seeking to know and do the will of God, leaving to Christ the matter of how happy he shall be…"

And he encourages us:


"Go to God and have an understanding. Tell Him that it is your desire to be holy at any cost and then ask Him never to give you more happiness than holiness. When your holiness becomes tarnished, let your joy     become dim. And ask Him to make you holy whether you are happy or not. Be assured that in the end you will be as happy as you are holy; but for the time being let your whole ambition be to serve God and be Christlike."


Wow… how many of us are willing to go to God and ask him never to give us more happiness than holiness?? Do we ask God to make us holy regardless of whether or not we are happy? Even more than that, do we ask God to make us holy, knowing full-well that the refining process could indeed make us very unhappy (in the sense of happiness as a human pleasure)? Is our whole ambition to serve God and be Christlike? Or is it just to be good and stay happy? There is a canyon of difference between the two.

The Hebrew word for holiness is kadesh which means something which is cut off, separate or set apart. It describes that which is anti-secular (secular = of or relating to the worldly or temporal), in a category all its own. Kadesh describes something that is elevated out of the sphere of what is ordinary. The New Testament word hagios also means set apart, separate and so in a class by itself. We are set apart unto God, both to worship Him and to serve Him.

Unquestionably, the greatest example we have of holiness here on earth is Christ. In Jesus Christ, the holiness of God appeared in human form. This brings us back around, full-circle, to the value of human life itself… God sent his son to earth, as a human being (John 1:14), to die on our behalf, so that our sins would be cleansed and we could once again (being purified from sin) commune with him. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) This act of the greatest sacrifice demonstrates without question both the love God has for us and the value he places on human life.

Now this is where it all ties back into the idea of sexual purity. Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit! Where the Spirit of the Lord resides!! When we engage in sexual immorality, we are directly defiling the residence of Christ's precious parting gift—the HOLY Spirit. That's why 1 Corinthians is so specific when it speaks out again sexual sin!

"Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one     does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body. Don't you realize that you body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself."

When we see the command for holiness in our lives and truly start seeking it with unwavering conviction, we can't help but run from sexual sin. In the process of pursuing holiness, we truly begin see each human life as precious. Sexual sin devalues and cheapens individuals. Holiness builds it up and protects it. I could go on and on about the connection between holiness and rejecting sexual sin, but this is more of a sub point in what I really am trying to say…

Because human beings bear the image of God, no other human has the right to take that life away from another… God is ultimately the giver and taker of life. Psalm 139:16 says

"You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." (NLT)

And as Hannah so poignantly prayed in 1 Samuel 2,

"The Lord brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and     raises up."

Two things will be true of every single person you or I will ever encounter: This is one who bears the image of God; and this is one for whom Christ died. These two truths verify human life as sacred, holy and precious. Believing this begs us to recognize the undeniable sanctity of human life. Furthermore, we are not only to recognize human life as holy, we are to respect it and uphold it. So the question now is, when does life begin? Through the wonders of science and advances in technology, we are able to witness the development of a human being from the moment of conception. Theologians, philosophers, politicians and ethicists have argued for centuries the question of when life begins. But one thing they all agree on is that we value and protect a baby as she emerges from the womb. Was that little one's life any less valuable an hour before her birth? Was her heart beating any less? What about an hour before that? And before that? At what point in the development of a baby can you affirmatively say, "Ah, now this child has value?" The only conclusion that affirms life in its entirety is to consider each and every life valuable—nondisposable—from the moment of conception.

The value we place on human life directly relates to our pursuit of holiness in Christ. When we seek God and come to know just a fraction of His goodness and holiness (for as humans, we cannot comprehend more than merely a glimpse of this), we see individual lives as he created them—holy, sacred and precious… Set apart for a specific plan, for HIS kingdom, HIS glory and HIS honor. And when we see this, we will reach the conclusion that our only response to human life—regardless of the stage or condition—is to protect it, so that God's glory may be seen through that person.

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1 Lovely Words

  1. Wonderful post, so full of His Truth. This are topics near and dear to my own heart.

    I am a great fan of Tozer and Chambers. I loved their uncompromising stand on Truth and their boldness to proclaim it.



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