Summary: A holy life is characterized by being separated from the world to God. A holy life is characterized by godly sorrow for sin. “I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.” A holy life is characterized by effective prayer.

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“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer,” 1 Timothy 2:8.

A priest was building a trellis for a climbing rose beside the church. He did not think the rickety things at the local garden center were worthy of being used beside the church. He measured and cut his pieces carefully. As he laid them out to nail together, a boy on a bicycle stopped to watch. The priest began driving his nails, thinking the boy would eventually leave. He did not. He sat silently watching.

Finally, the priest asked, “Well, are you trying to learn about carpentry?”

The boy said, “No, sir. I just want to hear what a holy man says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”

The boy assumed that the coat, the collar, and the crucifix made the man “holy.” Many people associate holiness with outside appearances.

In the not-so-distant past, people had to go to church to be considered holy. A woman had to wear her hair in a bun and her dresses down to her ankles, but she could wear no make-up or jewelry. A man had to not touch alcohol, cards, or dice. A pastor I was close to decades ago believed playing monopoly was sinful because it used dice. Holiness is more than outside appearances and actions. A couple can go to church, wear the right things, not wear the wrong things, not touch alcohol, cards, or dice, and still have an affair while they are each married to other people. Outside appearances and actions do not make a person “holy”.

When I was still interpreting for deaf college students, the coordinator of interpreters at one college asked me to give three words that I thought described myself. I already had the job, so I don’t know why she asked. What would you say if someone asked you to describe yourself in three words?

I did not use the word “holy.” Would you describe yourself as “holy?” If you would, would anyone who knows you agree? We are told repeatedly in scripture to be holy because God is holy. Leviticus 20:7 and 1 Peter 1:15-16 are among the clearest of those commands.

The Hebrew and Greek words translated “holiness” literally refer to being “set apart.”

We must be set apart from the world. “‘Therefore, come out from them and be separate,’ says the Lord. ‘Touch no unclean thing and I will receive you,’” 2 Corinthians 6:17.

We must be set apart from the world. Our actions, our appearance, our speech, our attitudes, our thoughts should be different. We are not different because we live a legalistic life. We should be different because we are new creations, 2 Corinthians 5:17. We should be different because after being crucified with Christ we no longer live, but Christ lives in us, Galatians 2:20.

We must be set apart to God. “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory,” Colossians 3:2-3. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light,” 1 Peter 2:9.

Getting this far in my Bible study was easy. Some of you know that I struggled beyond this point. When studying to preach, I have three goals.

My first goal is to understand the passage. “Now I know in part,” 1 Corinthians 13:12. I only have a dim understanding of spiritual things on this side of glory. On the subject of holiness, my understanding is more profoundly dim than usual.

My second goal is to be able to explain the passage. I have heard people say, “If you can’t explain it, you don’t really understand it.” I have observed situations where that was not true.

In colleges, graduate students often teach lower level courses. I have interpreted for graduate students in math when they taught their first “introduction to algebra” class. They could easily set up the problems to be solved. If there was an extraneous variable, they knew it. They would sometimes read a problem aloud and solve it in their head before they finished reading the last sentence. They understood the math. Most of them struggled to explain it to students taking the intro course.

My first goal is to understand the passage. My second goal is to be able to explain it. My third goal is to illustrate it accurately.

Mark 4:33-34 tells us that as Jesus taught, he used parables to teach as much as the people could understand, and without a parable he did not speak. When Jesus taught, he told stories. He illustrated his teachings with stories. He did not teach without illustrating his teachings with stories. He is my example. Once I understand a passage, once I can explain it, my third goal is to illustrate it accurately. Most of the illustrations I find, I reject. I may spend more time searching for the right illustrations than I did trying to understand the passage and trying to explain it.

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