Songs and liturgy have always been used to reinforce ideals. Some are better at it than others; while some we recite without consideration. ‘Holiness’1 is a praise song with the unique capability of teaching and inspiring if we pay attention and let it.
Verse 1 starts out with, ‘Holiness, holiness is what I long for.’ Do you? Longing is defined as strong yearning or earnest wishful-ness. Scripture characterizes it as hungering and thirsting (Matthew 5:6), as if the object of our longing were of great worth; able to sustain us or impart life. David describing it as a desperate need, associating it with survival. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” Psalm 42:1
‘Holiness is what I need.’ Why? Defining holiness may help answer why we need to be holy, which we can all accomplish – as opposed to being perfect – which none of us can. Holiness is spiritual purity, dedication to religious doctrine, a deep respect and unswerving commitment to a code of conduct (exemplified by Jesus); beneficial to the practitioner as well as to those they come in contact with. Christ calls us to be separate from the world while living among the people of the world, a call to set an example rather than following the influence of others. As such, Paul urges us to, “…live a life worthy of the calling (we) received.” Ephesians 4:1 and in doing so, “…please him (Jesus) in every way.” Colossians 1:10 A secondary goal is to live in such a way, “…that (your) daily life may win the respect of outsiders…” 1 Thessalonians 4:12 Which is accomplished by paying attention to our lifestyle and the doctrine that guides it, which will, “…save both (ourselves) and (our) hearers.” 1 Timothy 4:16
‘Holiness, holiness is what you want from me.’ “…just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:15,16; Leviticus 19:2
Verse 2 then declares, ‘Righteousness, righteousness is what I long for. Righteousness is what I need.’ What’s the difference between holiness and righteousness? In longing for holiness, won’t I be righteous? Righteousness defined is – doing what is just or right – being anchored in sound, moral precepts. Holiness is a purifying of the mind and intent with righteousness being the action that mind-set inspires. These will not be “acts of righteousness” (Matthew 6:1) to be displayed for public consumption but an attitude of loving appreciation expressed heavenward and loving concern shown our fellowmen. This expectation was made clear in both testaments of our Bible, God declaring to those he had reared in the sacrificial system that the end result should be realized in, “…mercy, not sacrifice and acknowledgement of God rather than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 Jesus referring to this principle several times when dealing with those who had failed to heed the fullness of God’s intent as well. (Such as Matthew 9:13 & 12:7)
‘Righteousness, righteousness is what you want from me.’ Our desire should be one with Christ’s – being perfect as our heavenly father is (Matthew 5:4) and in so being bring honor to his name. Realizing we can’t match that standard on our own, he provided a way for our acceptance into God’s presence anyway; which should inspire us to continually strive for that elusive goal. As, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer,…” 1 Peter 3:10,11
And finally verse 3 declares, ‘Faithfulness, faithfulness is what I long for.’ But what does it mean to be faithful? Loyalty, responsible-ness, a conscientious attitude about what we do and how we do it. True believers who practice what they preach! Is that your desire; to keep the faith in fact as well as principle, to apply what you know and claim to believe to your life and response to others? Do you long to exemplify Christ as he did the Father? (Hebrews 1:3)
‘Faithfulness is what I need.’ “…faith is credited as righteousness.” Romans 4:5; even as it creates a willingness to respond to the saving grace of Jesus through obedience to his will. (Romans 1:5) So, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith…” Hebrews 12:2
‘Faithfulness, faithfulness is what you want from me.’ Jesus dealt throughout his ministry with the need for genuineness in living out our faith, about standing firm in doctrine and translating our faith into action; none more succinctly than in Matthew 5,6, & 7. Although salvation doesn’t depend on effort on our part (Ephesians 2:8,9), Paul does assert that we were created anew in Christ Jesus to do good works. (Ephesians 2:10) In fact, scripture declares that, “…faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17 Jesus expressing his feelings dramatically concerning those who didn’t remain faithful, discouraging others from doing so as well – calling them liars, snakes, blind guides and hypocrites! (Matthew 23:1-36) In the Revelation given to John, God declares that anyone staking a claim to faith in Jesus’ name who is subsequently negligent in their faithfulness to His word is unfit for association with Him in heaven. He expects involvement, our lives showing the depth of our love in commitment to him and his way. A lukewarm reception and application of his word bringing only judgment. Warning, “I know your deeds…” Revelation 3:15,16
We are further cautioned to, “…not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” James 1:22 John beseeching us to, “…not love with words (alone) …but with actions and truth.” 1 John 3:18 A life well-lived as opposed to pretense. When asked what commandment was greatest, what his expectations really were, Jesus responded, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. This is the first and greatest commandment.” (For a love that great will render us incapable of doing anything less than seeking his will and doing it.) “And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. There is no commandment greater than these.” Matthew 22:37-40 & Mark 12:30,31
‘So take my heart’, (the place our emotional and motivational treasure reside – Matthew 6:21) ‘and form it.’ ‘Take my mind’, (where more than facts but true knowledge and wisdom are found; where the ideas form that direct our emotions.) ‘transform it. Take my will’, (our resolve, desire and purpose) ‘conform it, to yours, to yours, oh Lord!’
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you… do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;…” 1 Peter 1:13-15
1“Take My Life” – Scott Underwood, c1994Mercy/Vineyard Pub.
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