Religious people like to talk about being holy. Holy is this buzzword that church people talk about all the time, speaking of it as though it’s a grand state of existence that only those who follow the rules can attain.
And simply because something is associated with the church, people get the idea that it’s holy. There are holy altars and holy goblets and holy candles and holy robes and holy hymns. I used to watch the reruns of the Adam West Batman television show as a child, and I loved all the different “holy” things that Robin would come up with. And sometimes I think that people in the church are the same way with religious icons and habits. We slap “holy” on it and suddenly it becomes something more important and superior to anything like it. And this doesn’t just apply to inanimate objects. It applies to people too.
And even though most everyone gets that the word holy means “set apart,” I think a lot of the time we get confused about how to be holy.
Today’s verse is John 17:17.
17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.
John 17 is a chapter in the Bible that is called The High Priestly Prayer, where Jesus is praying for the disciples and for all the believers that would follow them. It’s an example of how Jesus intercedes for us. If you have a moment, you should read the whole chapter. How Jesus prays for us tells us a lot about Him and a lot about why we are here on earth.
But I want to focus on verse 17, this morning. Verse 17 is Jesus asking God to make us holy by His truth.
What does that mean?
I’ve been in a lot of churches and I’ve known a lot of church people, and the prevailing attitude among the churched is that being holy means you have to act holy. You have to dress holy. You have to speak holy. You have to sing holy. You have to look holy. You have to eat holy. You have to teach your children holy and work holy.
But what I have discovered about many churched folks is that even though they are trying to act holy, holy, holy, in actuality, they are no holier than a drug-addicted bum on the street. At the end of the day, even if you’re dressed holy and you’re eating holy food, on the inside you’re still the same rotten person you were before you covered it up with your clothes and your habits and your speech patterns.
It’s not our actions that make us holy. God’s truth makes us holy, and that holiness is (or should be) reflected in our actions and our habits and our lives.
If we don’t have God’s truth in our lives, we have no chance of being truly holy at all. So where does God’s truth come from? The Bible, of course.
Now, am I saying that we don’t need to behave differently than people who don’t believe? No. As believers, we are to live according to the Bible. We are to be modest. We are to be pure in speech and thought. We are to be separate, made obvious by our love for each other and for those who don’t believe yet.
But living that way doesn’t come automatically. Holy living is something that comes from having the Holy Spirit in you. If you’re trusting your actions to make you holy without trusting in Christ’s sacrifice to save you, it won’t do you any good. Because all you’ll accomplish is turning yourself into a hypocrite.
But if you let God’s holiness change you from the inside, your life can’t help but change as a result. If you let God teach you His truth — His Word — the holiness will come along with it. True holiness — like God’s holiness — is different and set apart from any earthly holiness. And we are called to be like God, not like the religious churched crowd.
So if you want to live a holy life, for real, first get into the Scriptures. Read about what being holy really means. And learn who God is. Because you can’t be holy just by changing the way you dress or the food you eat or the music you listen to. Being holy is outside our capability, and it’s something that God does inside us, not something we do for God.