Holiness vs. Wholeness
Anyone who knows me knows I have a deep passion for people to know the love of Jesus Christ and to know who He says they are. This world offers us so many sources that try to define our identity and all of them are bad. Because of this we spend our time spinning our wheels to improve ourselves and to become wholly acceptable. We diet, we exercise, we spend mountains of money to make ourselves attractive all in an attempt to cover the fact that we are unhappy with who we are inside. We also strive to do things that make us “good enough”. We spend all kinds of time and effort to be pleasing and good. The truth is nothing we do is going to make us acceptable. It doesn’t come from our actions. No matter how much we try we will always walk away feeling that same sense of failure and disappointment that we are still not good enough, but there is hope! What if I could guarantee that there is a way to be completely acceptable and more than good enough? Wouldn’t we all line up to receive that? To be freed from the incessant insecurity and feelings that plague our heart? Wouldn’t we give anything to be free? To stop second guessing ourselves? To never again worry about being good enough. Well we can!
There is a lot of scripture in the Old Testament dedicated to discussing regulations that were necessary to be considered clean and pure. God knew that man on his own would never be able to enter His presence because of sin, yet God wanted to have relationship with man. The reason for all this law and ritual was so that no one would enter God's holy presence while unclean. Priests would prepare themselves and enter into the the most holy place, where the presence of God dwelt on behalf of the people in accordance with these laws. It was so serious that they would even tie a rope around the priest ankle so that if for some reason he was not spiritually clean as he entered God's holy presence and as a result was struck dead they would have a way to pull the body out of the most holy place.
Touching anything that was unclean would make a person unworthy (or not good enough) to be in God's presence. People spent enormous amounts of time and effort to make sure they remained clean and acceptable, sound familiar? So how did this work? In order to work at being clean God put in place laws and regulations about sacrificing and ritual cleanliness. He knew that they were not going to be wholly pure on their own. He knew that through the fall in the Garden of Eden and through the course of their day to day life it was inevitable that they would have circumstances that would make them unclean. They knew that they could not enter into worship or into God’s presence in an unclean state, nor could they even be around other people in an unclean state.
Now for the good news, God is already holy. The Bible tells us that God is holy and because of this He can not bear any sin or unholiness in His presence. So how do we have any chance to experience his love if we can’t be in His presence? Unlike in the the Old Testament where God's holy presence resided in the temple and people had to work to be holy, in the New Testament Jesus has gone to the cross to fulfill all the requirements of God’s holiness so that we can enter into God's presence. God’s holiness was never meant to keep people away from God, on the contrary His holiness is meant to welcome people in, to be a source of fulfillment and to make a way for relationship with Him. It is here in this relationship where we will experience the freedom from all the feelings of being unworthy and unacceptable. It is when we seek Holiness instead of Wholeness that we receive the freedom for which our souls long. What this means is that when we stop trying to improve ourselves to be good enough (wholly) and we accept God's provision of salvation through Jesus we can become holy not because of us but because Jesus has provided the holiness we need.
The beauty of God’s holiness is that instead of us reaching out to earn our way to God He reaches out to us and transfers our sins and unworthiness to Jesus and exchanges our bad for His good. Because of Jesus sacrifice we can walk boldly before the throne of God as dearly loved children. We don't need to feel unacceptable or unsure of ourselves. In the book of Isaiah we hear about a vision that Isaiah had where he was in the temple, in the very presence of God and he is terrified because he knows that he is not pure. In this vision an angel comes over to him with a hot coal and touches his lips with it and declares that his sins are atoned for, meaning that God's holiness has cleansed Isaiah and made a way for him to be in God's presence. Jesus has done the same thing for all of us, he has made us holy and we are welcomed into the very presence of God because of it.
All we need to do is accept the gift of holiness provided by Jesus on the cross and we can set aside all our efforts to be wholly. Instead of focusing on wholeness we can embrace the gift of holiness and walk in the freedom that only a relationship with God can bring us.