Sunday, May 17, 2020, was originally going to be Graduation Day for Scott City High School. Because of COVID-19, it has been rescheduled for Sunday, June 21st (Father’s Day). Graduation is a special time of year when we celebrate the hard work and sacrifice our High School and College Graduates have made. This is a transition period—a hinge moment—which causes many Graduates to consider the impact their life will make on the world around them. College graduations regularly include urgent calls from commencement speakers for graduates to go out and change the world. There are calls to invent a new product, find a cure for disease, run a Fortune 500 company, fight for justice, etc. While all these things are noble, Graduates, your church issues an urgent call for you to pursue holiness and testify to the goodness of our holy God. Leonard Ravenhill, an evangelist, once said it very well: “The greatest miracle that God can do today is to take an unholy man out of an unholy world and make him holy, then put him back into that unholy world and keep him holy in it.”
What is Holiness?
It’s always helpful to define our words. Holiness is the state of being holy. To be “holy” means to be set apart for a sacred purpose; namely, set apart by God for Himself and His purposes. The Triune God is perfectly holy and is described as “Holy, holy, holy” in Isaiah 6:3. The Old Testament Temple had a Holy place and a Holy of Holies (also called the Most Holy Place) that contained the Ark of the Covenant and was the place where God’s Spirit would dwell on Earth (Lev 16:2). Jesus is the Holy One of God (Luke 4:34) and the Anointed One (Christ/Messiah). Christians are called to be holy because God is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). Another word synonymous with holy is sanctified. To be sanctified is to be sacred (holy). The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor 6:11). We are made holy by God when we are saved. We are “partakers of His holiness” (Heb 12:10) and it is only thorough holiness that we “will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). This means that Christians are declared to be holy and called to live a holy life for Christ.
An Illustration of Holiness
Around the year 850BC, there was a very remarkable young girl in Israel. We are not told very much about her. We are safe to assume she lived with her family and was a pious Jewish girl who loved the Lord. One day her life drastically changed when the Syrian army, enemies of Israel, forcibly removed her from her home and took her captive. Forced from her home, her family, her country, and everything she knows, she began a new life in Syria as a servant to the wife of the commander of the king of Syria. As I said earlier, very little is known about her, but what is revealed tells us a great deal about this young, Hebrew servant girl who lived a holy life for the Lord.
She might have been taken from her family, her home, and her country, but she could not be taken from her Lord. Her mistress’ husband was Naaman. Naaman was the commander of the Syrian army. Naaman was “a mighty man of valor…” (2 Kings 5:1a). He was the one who most likely led (or coordinated) the raid into her town (possibly killing her parents) and he was the one responsible for taking her away from all she knew and loved. Naaman was not just a mighty man of valor, he was also a leper. He had a skin disease that caused him great suffering. It did not escape this young girls’ notice that her mistress’ husband (Naaman) was suffering daily. Rather than delighting in his suffering, seeing it as God’s punishment for her mistreatment; she delighted in God, remembering His great faithfulness and out of great compassion for her enemy said, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy” (2 Kings 5:3).
What compels a young girl like this who has gone through these hardships to respond with compassion? She knew the Lord is gracious and compassionate. She knew the Lord is able to heal and demonstrated it through the prophet Elisha. She spoke up because she loved God and wanted to show compassion to even her enemies. Hardship is not a hindrance to pursuing holiness; it is an opportunity to demonstrate it. Don’t overlook the great faith and love shown by this young girl. She suffered hardship, but she remembered God. Let this be a lesson for all of us; suffering hardship does not disqualify you from God’s plan. It may be what God uses in order to accomplish His will. Her name is not given, but her life is worth remembering. She is only mentioned in three verses in all of Scripture, yet her story has been told countless times over the last 4,000 years.
A Demonstration of Holiness
Graduates (and everyone else) go out and change the world. Maybe you change the world by being the President of the United States. Maybe you change the world by writing the next great American novel. Maybe you change the world by inventing a new product or cure for a disease. Maybe you do something great that earns the accolades and applause of the world. Maybe, however, you change the world by being a Christian who loves God and loves others. Be holy in an unholy world because you serve the Holy God. Pastor Vance Havner once said, “It’s one thing for a boat to be in the water, it’s entirely different for the water to be in the boat.” Graduates, your church issues an urgent call for you to change the world for the better by being holy. Be born again. Be faithful to your boss at work. Be faithful to your spouse and family. Be honest. Be true. Be loving to your neighbor. Be loving to your enemy. Be holy!