Holy Christianity by Tony Capoccia
God saved me years ago in Kokomo, Indiana, USA, from a life of drunkenness, immorality, materialism and selfishness. At that time I was a pilot at Grissom Air Force Base and was witnessed to by a fellow pilot by the name of Bob Hey. He approached me one day and invited me to attend the Wednesday night service at a Baptist church. One may have asked, why would a person like myself, who was then driving new sport cars, drinking and going to parties almost every other night, and whose mouth was filled with profanities and other dirty talk; yes, why would I have responded to an invitation to attend a Baptist Prayer meeting? The answer I can now give as I look back was simply the fact that Bob was a holy man. He had lived that holy Christlike life before me for a number of months before he asked me to church.
It is interesting to note that after I was saved a number of other pilots in the same squadron came up to me to let me know that they were also "Christians." My innocent response was, "Wow, that's neat, I never knew that! I didn't know that you were a Christian." Most of them smiled and went on their way. I wonder if they ever stopped and thought about my answer. Why had these men who were professing Christians not had the impact in my life as Bob Hey had? The answer was the lack of apparent holiness in their lives.
Now don't get me wrong, these other men did not get drunk or swear like the rest of the squadron, but they did act enough like the rest of us that I failed to notice their Christianity. But Bob Hey was different because I could see the Lord in his life. At first I mocked him but then I was convicted; eventually I followed him to Christ. If we are to have an impact on those around us for the gospel, as Bob had with me, then we must be a holy people. In the Book of 1st Peter, Chapter 1, verses 15 and 16, we find a very clear command given to be holy:
"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 holiness that God demands of our lives is a process, consisting of the following steps:
I. First Step: COMMITMENT--To God by our conversion.
Our text declares that we have been called by a holy God, therefore we must be holy. Holiness begins with salvation. Prior to our conversion we are incapable of being holy.
The Bible declares : "all of our righteous acts are like filthy rags. . ." (Isa 64:6).
In other words, before salvation we are unable to do anything that is pleasing or pure in God's sight. To be holy is to be devoted to God, or set apart for Him. In our unsaved state we are not committed to Him; rather, we are doing "our own thing." Often times we may be doing religious acts, but they are for the wrong reasons.
For example, in my life prior to conversion, I appeared very holy (at times). I think back when I served as an "Altar Boy" in the Roman Catholic Church. I used to dress up in a long black robe, with the pure white outer garment, and then assist the priest during the Mass. I would bow and pray in Latin, and ring the golden chimes, and at times hold the sacred incense. The reason I did these things was that I believed that God would be pleased and would thereby give me grace to get to heaven. You see I was trying to "earn" my way, rather than by simply trusting Jesus by faith alone. In effect, I was saying that the death of Jesus on the cross plus my religious acts would get me into heaven.
But the Scriptures say: "It is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." I could not earn God's grace by my religious deeds because it is a gift and I could not be holy at all because I was not saved.
There can be no holiness without salvation, for holiness demands a life of purity and righteousness.
Paul tells us: "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin you were free from the control of righteousness. . .But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness." (Romans 6:19-20, 22).
There is no capability for holiness when in our unsaved state we are slaves to sin. A sinful life is the opposite of a life of holiness, in the same way that Satan is the opposite to the Holy God. As slaves to sin, our master is Satan even though we may not have admitted such a fact. He is a deceiver and most of those who follow his ways are not aware that they are under his control.
One writer put it this way: "every person is either a child of God or a child of the devil, and we can determine which they are by the outward manifestation of their lives. For if they are immoral, or drunkards, or liars, or gossips, or slanderers, or cheaters, or hypocrites, or have any other sinful behavior as the norm of their life, then they surely have Satan as their father for they imitate him. In contrast, if they are pure, and loving, and kind, and honest, and faithful, as their lifestyle then they are surely the children of God, for they imitate their Holy Father in heaven."
2. Second Step: COMMITMENT--To the Word of God.
Our text tells us that He who called us is holy, and that we are to be holy because He is holy. The charge to us is to understand the holiness of God and the holy requirements He has for our lives. There is no knowledge of the holiness of God and the specific commands for our holy walk outside of the Word of God. We live in sort of a "big bubble" which comprises our universe. God's throne room is outside of the "bubble" and, therefore, we have no ability to learn about Him unless He reveals Himself to us. It was Jesus who gave us the greatest picture of the holiness of God when Philip asked Jesus to show us the Father, Jesus replied, 'anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.'" (Jn 14:8-9). It is impossible to walk in holiness without understanding the Scriptures which contain God's Word to us.
Timothy wrote: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2Tim 3:16-17).
To be holy is to walk in righteousness and to do good works, and it is the Bible that is to be our guide.
I once met a converted Catholic nun who claimed that she did not need to study the Word of God where it gave specific commands about what we should or should not do. She felt that all one needed to do was to do everything in love and all of the specific commands of God would be satisfied. While she was right in theory, she was wrong in practice. You see, because we are still in the flesh, we have the ability to deceive ourselves when it comes to practice. I may think I can decide what to do in all situations, but in reality I will many times choose that which is most satisfying to my flesh.
I once heard of a Christian woman who felt that she did not need to read the Bible for she was filled with the Spirit who would tell her all that she needed to do. She recounted how when she awoke in the morning she would wait in bed until the Spirit told her to get up and get dressed. Some days she would never get dressed for the Spirit had not told her so. It was sad because one day, she claimed that the Spirit told her only to put on one shoe, so she "hobbled" around all day with only one shoe. She had confused "feelings" with God's direction because she did not know who God is from the scriptures. She was deceived. How easily we can be deceived; so, to really walk in holy ways we must carefully study the Word of God.
3. Third Step: COMMITMENT--To be holy in all we do.
This is where it all comes together. In order to walk a holy walk we need to first be committed to God as our Savior, second to be committed to the reading and the studying of the Word of God, and lastly to be committed to be holy in all that we do.
To walk a holy walk is one of the primary reasons why God saved us and has left us here on earth. He has not left us here on earth just to worship Him, because we would do that better in heaven; we are not here just to serve Him, because we shall serve Him night and day in heaven; we are not here just to fellowship with one another, because our fellowship will be sweeter and unrestricted in heaven. We are primarily here to mirror Christ to others so that all men will be drawn to Him.
God's desire is that, "all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth." (1 Tim 2:4).
That is why God chose Abraham and formed the nation Israel, brought them into the promised land, and blessed them so abundantly so that the rest of the world would "take notice" and hear the message of salvation from the mouths of the Jews. But the Israelites did not walk holy and they kept the knowledge of God to themselves. They even made it a crime punishable by death if a Non-Jew got "too close" to the Jewish worship areas in the Temple.
Even though the Jews failed to fulfill their purpose for God He still wants to use holy people to stand before the unbelieving world to declare His saving grace. God has not changed from what he declared in the Old Testament:
"He does not take any pleasure in the death of the wicked." (Ezekiel 18:23).
God wants to reach the lost peoples. But God needs people who are living moment to moment holy lives, for God declares:
"without holiness no one will see the Lord." (Hebrews 12:14).
Just as in the illustration I used earlier, I never saw the Lord until a man of holiness came along. As Christians, we are God's light in the world, and perhaps the only God our unsaved neighbors will see is us as we reflect Him. But if our lives are not manifested by holiness, then our ability to win anyone to Christ will be severely hampered.
A. PRACTICAL STEPS
1. Lead Pure and Reverent Lives.
How do we project our lives of holiness before the lost world? Are we to be like the Pharisees of the Bible, who used to announce themselves with trumpets whenever they put their offering into the temple treasury? No, our God wants us to win the world by our quiet and holy lives. This is best illustrated in God's command for wives who have unbelieving husbands. Certainly the closest relationship a believer can have with an unbeliever is that of marriage. Listen to what God says about how to win an unsaved husband to the Lord:
"Wives, be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives." (1 Peter 3:1-2).
When our lives speak of holiness, then in time we will get to speak about the Gospel message. This is our goal for:
"faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17).
We will not get to deliver the message until we can live a life of holiness before them, and to do that we will have to be holy in all that we do. This also means that we must live every moment of our lives with a holy heart that seeks to do all that we understand God has commanded us. Even when no one else is watching us we must be holy, for surely our Father in heaven has His eyes on us continually just as His word claims:
"the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous..." (1 Peter 3:12).
We must first live holy before God and then the world will see our walk and give us the opportunity to share with them.
2. Obey Man's Laws.
Remember to be holy is to be godlike, for only God is truly holy. I was challenged to try to imitate Christ in my own life in 1978, when as a new Christian I asked myself while driving to work, "I wonder how Jesus would drive this car?" I realized that he would probably be fully attentive and would not drive over the speed limit of 55 mph. I was on Highway 31 at the time "keeping up with traffic" (doing about 63 mph), knowing that "I could get away with that." So I "throttled down" to 55 and the whole world "passed me by." But it was then that I realized that when you try to live holy as Jesus would you will be different from the world. It was later that I read in the Bible:
Romans Chapter 13:"Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for the authorities that exist have been established by God....and he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment upon themselves." (Roman 13:1-2).
There are no options for the Christian when it comes to the law. God is the creator of government, and when we willfully break man's law then we become guilty of sinning against God.
a. In Our Cars.
1) Speed Laws.
I once heard a pastor joke about receiving a speeding ticket while driving back from a baseball game. Sin is never a joking matter to God. As Christians we like to rationalize certain sins away; for example, take the 55 mph law. Some say, its really unsafe to go slower than the "general flow" of traffic. Another rationalization may be, "well I once talked with a State Trooper, and he said that they don't give tickets for anyone unless they are driving faster than 63 mph." No matter what the rationalization it still doesn't change the law. The "sign" says MAXIMUM SPEED 55 MPH, not "Maximum Speed 55 MPH or traffic flow whichever is higher!" And that trooper is not hired to determine the laws, but rather to enforce them, and he must answer to God for his advice. We are commanded to keep the law and that means driving no faster than 55 mph, in this example.
Some of you may be saying this is not important! What does driving the Speed Limit have to do with my witness to the lost. Everything! It is these seemingly little sins that hamper our testimony, just as those "little foxes ruin the vineyards," in Song of Songs 2:15.
I have had many unbelievers ask why I drive so slowly? I simply tell them that as a Christian I am commanded to obey all the laws of the land (in so far as they don't violate God's higher law). I have been driving the speed limits for over 8 years now and can affirm that every time I look at my speedometer and watch all the cars that pass me by, I am always reminded of the holy God that I serve and am encouraged to walk holy in other areas too.
I remember one day as a new Christian pulling up to a Christian Book store in the shopping center, and as I parked my car in front of the store, I noticed the sign there, "No Parking - Fire Lane." In my heart I said, "but everybody does, look at all the cars, besides its cold out there." Again the Holy Spirit won as my mind was reminded of God's call to holiness...obey the authorities and move the car.
3) Paying all required Fees.
In California, I sold a car to a lady who was a Christian. She was praising God how the car was exactly what she had prayed about and that it was so neat that I was a Christian too. It seemed that every other word from her mouth was "Praise the Lord." Even her glasses had "Praise the Lord" engraved on them! When I was signing the title over she asked if I would mind putting down a selling price about $1,000 less than she was paying so she would not have to pay so much tax. I was shocked and replied that "I would not do such a thing, because it would offend my God!" I know where the lady was coming from, for that was the way I would have acted as an unbeliever--but she was supposed to be a believer! I now see that it would be a plain and simple act of stealing money from the government. God says that we must obey the authorities.
We could go on an on about a Christian and his car, but I think you get the idea. What I am trying to do is to give some hints on how to apply holy living to our lives.
b. At Our Jobs.
1) Honest Day's Work.
How can we be holy in our job? Again its a matter of obedience to the authorities. In fact the Bible is very specific about service to our bosses; listen to the Word of God:
"obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men...It is the Lord Christ you are serving." (Colossians 3:22-24).
That means no shoddy work! Christians should be the best workers there. Normally we spend most of our waking hours at the workplace and this makes it the ideal place to share the Gospel. But, let us remember that in this we must be careful. It is our holy lives that will speak for us, and when the opportunity to speak for the Lord is available we must be sure that it in no way interferes with the job we are getting paid for.
I once had an unbeliever tell of a employee who was a Christian, but that he was a problem worker in the fact that he spent undue time in the restroom reading his Bible and sharing with other workers the Gospel message. While that Christian may have thought that he was doing good, in effect he was bringing discredit upon the Name of Christ. I had to learn this lesson myself, and I find that when I am given an opportunity to share in the office I ask the individual if we can finish "talking" over lunch or after work. Some may say, "but what if they won't be interested later?" Well, that the Sovereign Lord's problem. All I know is that I am required to be holy in the workplace.
2) Truthfulness in Documentation.
I find that in my job as a pilot that there are many pieces of paper that need to be completed in association with each flight. In fact, it is often said, "that when the weight of all the paperwork equals the weight of the airplane, then we can takeoff!" But with each document there is the temptation to "sign it off" without accomplishing the requirement. In this age where most people are a law unto themselves, I find that as I honestly try to fill out the papers others will often make fun of me, but I remember that without holiness no one will see the Lord.
Being honest in everything we document not only pleases God but is a powerful testimony for Christianity.
c. In Our Homes.
When we are not at Church or at work, or at school we are usually in our homes. This is an area where we must be holy, for it is the place where our batteries should be recharged with a fresh charge of Holiness before we face the unbelieving world. Here are just a couple of suggestions.
I was astounded when I read about a year ago that the average American Family watches over 7 hours of TV per day. Amazing! I don't know where they get the time. Whenever I think of TV I am normally reminded yet of another passage of Scripture that speaks of our need for absolute holiness. Paul writes to the Ephesians:
"Be imitators of God...among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving." (Eph 5:1,3-4).
I will make a statement that many of you may not agree with, but it needs to be made, and that is that I do not believe that a Christian can watch TV with any regularity and still maintain a holy walk with the Lord. I base this upon the verses I just quoted. God says that as his Holy people we cannot have "even a hint of sexual immorality, impurity, obscenity, foolish talk, or coarse joking in our lives!" The majority of what you will see on TV is sexual immorality, impurity, obscenity, foolish talk, and coarse joking. Very little is spiritually uplifting.
Basically the TV, and that includes Cable, entertains the public with what God calls sin. On TV one can hear the name of the Lord taken in vain, over and over. On TV we are entertained by such scenes as murder, theft, adultery, drunkenness, slander, and on and on it goes. These things God calls sin and they are never to be used as entertainment to Christians. Some may reply, but that's simply a portrayal of life. I will agree that many of these same things go on around us each day. I hear the Lord's name taken in vain each day at work, but the difference is, God has commanded that I be a "light" in that darkness. But TV is a one way avenue, it just blasts the garbage into the home. I do not have much of a chance to witness to the TV personalities as they parade across the screen. I cannot influence them at all.
The Apostle Paul, by the Holy Spirit, gives us a rater's guide to TV viewing in Philippians 4:8. Use the guide to measure your programs. If whatever show you want to watch meets these requirements, then by all means watch:
"whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about these things." (or watch these things!). (Php 4:8).
TV not only brings impurity into our lives but it also waste the valuable time that the Lord has given to each Christian. People like TV because it takes no skills to watch it. One does not have to even think because it all happens before his eyes. Oh, how much time is wasted by Christians sitting before the TV, when they could be learning God's Word, or raising the children that God gave them, investing time into their lives, or communicating with their spouses, or helping others with their needs. My wife and I have a TV, but it is only on for some major news event. I realize that I don't have enough time right now for all the tasks that are before me. There are times I am on the floor playing with my children, when I wonder how Christians who watch TV survive. Remember the average viewer spends over 7 hours a day watching the TV screen!
4. CONCLUSION: Holiness is a process.
We must first be committed to Christ by responding to His call of Salvation. Secondly, we must commit ourselves to the study of the Word of God. And Lastly, we must be committed to be holy in all that we do.
Someone may ask, "So what if I don't? I'll still get to heaven, because I am a Christian!" My answer to you is this, as Christians, walking in complete holiness is not an option. It is a command that in the Greek literally means "BE HOLY IMMEDIATELY!" RIGHT NOW!" To refuse to commit oneself to a life of holiness can have some of the following results:
1). Discipline from the Holy Father.
He is a Good father who will discipline any child of His that refuses to follow His commands. To refuse to be holy is the same as refusing to be baptized, or refusing to abstain from immorality, or refusing to be in fellowship with other believers, or refusing to return a portion of our wealth back to the Lord. These commands are not options, they are directives from the Lord God! And discipline is painful.
2). A Lack of Real Blessings in this Life. The Word of God is filled with statements about blessings for those who are obedient to God. We find such statements as, "He Blesses the home of the Righteous; Blessed is he who keeps God's statutes (laws); blessed is the man who listens to me; blessed are the pure in heart." God blesses the Holy person.
3). Sufficient doubt of One's Own Salvation.
God said that without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Another application of that verse is that if we will not seek to be holy, the we have every reason to doubt salvation. The truly saved must be holy for they will see the Lord.
4). A Lack of Rewards.
The Lord has promised rewards in heaven for the good we do while in the body. In Ephesians we read:
"the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does." (Eph 6:8).
You may say, "I'm not concerned about how many rewards or honors I'll have in heaven." Or perhaps you think its crass to focus on what you'll receive or earn in heaven. But God says that He's going to reward us. I only know that He gives good and perfect gifts and whatever rewards He wants to give will be wonderful. I don't serve Him for the rewards, but I acknowledge that He is going to give them.
Dear Friend, I have shared from my heart. Our Sweet Precious Savior wants to use us and bless us, but He demands holiness. He knows we are weak, and He does not look on the outside but rather inside at the heart. He wants a heart that seeks holiness. We will fail many times in our attempts to be holy, but we must have a heart that continually seeks holiness, and is grieved when we fail. Our Lord and Savior wants us to mirror Him to an unsaved world. May He help us to walk in holiness.
© Copyright 2007 by Tony Capoccia. This file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved. Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, ©1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Article printed with permission of Tony Capoccia