Summary: God demands holiness, but He understands that we cannot be holy on our own. He promised us (and He always fulfills His promises!) that He is Jehovah M’Kaddesh, God who Sanctifies. Only through God can we be sanctified.
Since we were all small children, we were taught that things fall. I drop a pen, it falls to the ground. In fact, everything in this world, at some point, falls down, right?
In Tucurui, Brazil though, sometimes things fall up. I’m serious! Lumberjacks in the area cut trees, but don’t have to worry about being smashed by a falling tree since the trees fall up.
Allow me to explain. In the mid 80s, three dams were constructed in Brazil. These dams provide electrical power for the nearby cities, but resulted in the flooding of 6 million cubic meters of forest. Since Brazil has a booming construction industry, this wood is necessary for use as construction material.
Enter Brazilian entrepreneur Juarez Cristiano Gomes. Where others saw millions of tree trunks, he saw opportunity. He invented a power saw that can run underwater and began cutting the trees to sell the wood. Lumberjacks equipped with air tanks go down as far as 164 feet, but are never in danger of being smashed by trees they cut since they 'fall' upward to the surface. The trunks are then towed to sawmills along the water’s edge.
In Tucurui, Brazil, trees fall up. This happens because Tucurui is a place that follows a different set of laws. This is just as true for the Christian who lives by the laws of the Kingdom of God. Empowered by the love of Jesus, we can defy the laws of this world.
This does not mean you’re allowed to break criminal laws! But, instead of following the law of this world that says you must seek power and fame, the humble believer seeks small things. Instead of wanting to be served, he serves. Instead of only loving those who are easy to love, she loves those who hate her. In the Kingdom of God, what’s up is down and what’s down is up. Matthew 20:16 says, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” Like trees falling up, to the world this doesn’t make a lick of sense. The world spends all of its time trying to be first in everything! Why would we want to be last? The world doesn’t understand it; and like many things that are not understood, the world also hates it.
That’s OK, though, because we don’t really belong to this world. In John 15:19, Jesus says, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” God, through Jesus, has chosen us out of this world. Personally, I’m grateful for that -- if I had a choice between living on earth or living in heaven, I’d choose heaven every time! There is a fancy word for what Jesus did, though, in pulling us out of the world -- sanctification.
All sanctification really means is to set something apart to make it holy. It’s just a big word for a simple concept -- at least, it should be. Too often, though, we over complicate things. For example, if sanctification means to make something holy, what does it mean to be holy? in the Old Testament, something that was sanctified meant that it was set apart for use in the temple. What was the difference between a lamb used for sacrifice and a lamb that was eaten for dinner? The lamb used for sacrifice was sanctified -- set apart by the priest specifically to be used for God. The priest killed a lamb for sacrifice by following God’s rules, where the village butcher killed a lamb for dinner by following the rules of the world. By following God’s rules, the lamb was made holy.
Similarly, sanctification also applies to days of the calendar. The Sabbath day was sanctified by God to be a day of rest, set apart from the rest of the week. The various feasts and fasts of Israel were times specifically set apart from the rest of the calendar to be celebrated by the people. The Year of Jubilee -- which came every seven years on the Day of Atonement, promised a new beginning of redemption and liberty for all, and was also set apart from other years.
Setting apart also applied to places on the map -- the camp of Israel, the hill of Zion, Jerusalem, the Temple, the Holy of Holies (which was even set apart from something that was already set apart!), even the Holy Land itself is specifically set apart by God for the people of Israel.
Even people were set apart for the service of God. Jeremiah was sanctified to God’s service as a prophet. Samuel was promised to God. The high priest was set apart from the rest of the people, who were also set apart from the rest of the world to God.