In their recent book, The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell chronicle the obsession that many Americans have with, well, themselves.
The book lists various examples that show a very different mindset than that of a Christian trying to humbly seek God and His way of life: "A girl planning her sixteenth birthday party wants a major road blocked off so a marching band can precede her grand entrance on a red carpet...A popular song declares, with no apparent sarcasm, 'I believe that the world should revolve around me!'" (p. 1).
The book goes on to explore vanity, materialism, uniqueness and a way of thinking that convinces people they are entitled to things they haven't earned.
We live in a world that is increasingly crass, selfish and anything but holy, which is evident from the enormous unrest around the world. These characteristics seem to be a world away from what the Bible describes as holiness. The apostle Paul told the church in Corinth to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).
How do Christians today perfect holiness? We need to examine what it means to be holy and how we can become a new person in true righteousness and holiness, which the Scriptures also admonish: "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24).
What Is Holiness?
First, let's define our terms. The words "holy" or "sanctified" are often interpreted to mean "righteous" or "pure" or something similar. But the basic concept of the Hebrew word qadosh and its variations is that of "apartness" and "distinction." Each of the nouns, adjectives and verbs from this root express these ideas with a view to a specific purpose or limitation. A survey of the way the words are used will help solidify the concept of holiness used in the Bible.
Easton's Bible Dictionary explains, "In the highest sense holiness belongs to God (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 15:4), and to Christians as consecrated to God's service, and in so far as they are conformed in all things to the will of God (Romans 6:19, 22; Ephesians 1:4; Titus 1:8; 1 Peter 1:15). Personal holiness is a work of gradual development. It is carried on under many hindrances, hence the frequent admonitions to watchfulness, prayer, and perseverance (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:23, 24)."
Are You Holy?
Some might be surprised that God calls individuals out of this world into a relationship with Him. We are called "brethren," which is a family term, demonstrating that we are to be a part of a close relationship with our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus the Christ. Notice what Peter says: "But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
With this understanding we need to realize that the values and focus of this world are not what we are called to emulate. Rather, we are to come out of this world figuratively and live our lives representing the values reflected in God's law.
Notice what Christ taught when asked about the intent of God's law: "'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?' Jesus said to him, '"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets'" (Matthew 22:36-40).
Holiness is our association with God and His revealed way of life. Living our lives to love God and our fellow man is a quest that takes us away from a narcissistic (selfish) lifestyle and turns or changes our focus from self to seeking to serve others—helping giving, sharing, etc.
The apostle Paul says it well: "If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:21-24, emphasis added).
Challenges for God's Saints
If we are holy due to receiving God's Spirit and are temples (carriers) of God's Holy Spirit, we need to ask ourselves what is appropriate in a world that does not value humility and discretion as much as individual rights and personal desires. We know that the world we now live in will be replaced with the coming government of God, but while we are waiting we are challenged to live our lives differently than many who don't have God's Spirit working in them.
"But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, 'Be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:15-16).
It might be good to ask ourselves, when watching a movie, reading books or discussing our views, would we be doing this if Jesus Christ were standing next to us?
I remember playing golf with a few Church members and being shocked when after a poor shot (I make those often), one individual used a vocabulary word that was not appropriate. I wondered if Jesus Christ had been among our foursome, would He have approved?
Actually, He was with us in spirit. I don't expect to play golf with Christ in my lifetime, but I have played with those who have the same earnest of His Spirit that makes us holy or set apart. Why not carry a mental picture with you of your elder Brother and soon-coming King of Kings as a part of your daily life? When we pray, we talk to the Father and know that Christ is at His right hand. We do have a special relationship that doesn't end when we leave our prayer closets but continues all during our waking moments.
Ask the following questions when you feel like lashing out or showing your frustration with yourself or the world in which we live:
What would Jesus Christ do?
Are my thoughts and actions reflecting holiness—behavior of a potential king and priest?
Is it my right to judge others?
Do I feel I'm an exception to obeying God's law?
These might seem to be difficult to do; but while we are waiting for God's Kingdom to come to the earth, we are challenged with setting a higher standard—not one of entitlement, selfishness and personal excess but a standard that reflects decency as defined by God's perfect law. The book of Hebrews says it well: "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled" (Hebrews 12:14-15).
Many people do not fully grasp holiness or may think it is something for religious people. Little do they realize that holiness is to be a part of the lives of each called-out one! This is someone who repents, is baptized and is an ambassador for a new way of living; one that is good, right, pure and, yes, holy.
The book of Ephesians mentions this challenge that is as applicable today as it was centuries ago: "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24).UN