It was a time of emotional praise and worship during a service at our church. The whole congregation was on their feet. Sprinkled throughout the sanctuary a number of worshipers had their eyes closed, hands lifted toward heaven, sincerely singing, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty’. I feel quite certain that many of us were struck with awe of our Almighty God and His absolutely unmatched holiness during that particular time of worship and praise. It evoked a set of feelings I shall never forget.
Years have past since, and as I recalled that memorable worship service, I was suddenly struck with the words, “Be holy, for I am holy.” We find those seemingly impossible words in1 Peter 1:16. Wow! What was Jesus thinking!? In the Greek Lexicon, the very first definition of ‘holy’ indicates ‘perfection, reverence, awe’. According to that definition, only Jesus was and is able to fulfill those lofty traits; only Jesus attained perfection, only Jesus deserves our utmost reverence, only Jesus should be held in awe. That being the case, how in the world could our holiness ever be compared the His holiness? How could we, as lowly sinners, ever be expected to measure up to the attributes exhibited by our Lord? He set the bar too high! As a matter of fact, just the opposite is true. We are imperfect, irreverent, and should be considered as no more than lowly sinners saved by His amazing grace. Is He is commanding us to do something we absolutely cannot do! No human alive can emulate the awesome standards set by our Lord and Savior.
Or can we? Is it actually possible? Is it actually possible for us to ‘be holy as He is holy’? Apparently so! He never asks us to do something that we cannot do. So, let’s jump to the next definition in the Lexicon to see if we can find some answers. There we find that ‘holy’ is also defined as ‘Set apart’. Let’s insert those words into that command, “Be ‘set apart’, for I am ‘set apart”:. Hmm, maybe we have touched on the answer to this conundrum. We can do that! Now He is asking us to do something for which He has already set the example. Surely we are all aware that He was ‘set apart’ for a special mission during His time here on earth. And He accomplished exactly what He was sent here to do! It should be noted that we too are to be ‘set apart’. He has specifically gifted us for a special mission while we are here on earth and He expects us to accomplish exactly what we were sent here to do. He further instructs us how to be set apart in 2 Corinthians 6:17, “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate” says the Lord. “and do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you (NASB).”
With that in mind, let’s see if we can find God’s reasoning in commanding us to be ‘set apart’. Set apart for what? Our nature wants to know, “what’s in it for me?”’ It seems that any task is easier to preform when we are aware of its purpose, the eventual outcome and the ultimate reward. Surely God had some divine purpose in mind for each of us when commanding us to be ‘set apart’. Otherwise, why would He purchase us with His own blood, make of us new creations, indwell us with His Holy Spirit, promise us an abundant life, and prepare for us an eternal dwelling place in heaven, only to leave us here, conforming to the world’s standards of living until He finally calls us home? No way! There is work to do, souls to be saved, crowns to be won.
As a fan of basketball, I am reminded of the various roles each member of the team plays. In the NBA each team consists of 15 active players. Each one has been ‘set apart’ for a particular task, but only 5 are in the game at any given time. The other ten are on the bench awaiting their call. They better not be playing checkers, or distracted by their cell phones or talking to the cute chick sitting behind them. No Siree! They better be concentrating on the game, familiarizing themselves with the opponents moves, and planning their strategy of attack. If they are to be successful when their time comes, each and every member needs to practice together with the team, work out in the weight room, and be acquainted with the play book, Then when the coach calls their number, they are immediately prepared to jump up, strip off their warm-ups and run to the scorers table, ready, willing and able to enter the game. The goal is to win the game, make the playoffs, and finally win that highly coveted championship ring. Although they earn millions during the course of their careers, their most sought after possessions from their playing days is that ring.
Consider God’s prophet, Moses. During the entire course of his playing days, surely he would he would have been qualified and considered as MVP of the entire nation of Israel. He was one of their greatest players of all times. His memoirs were so important that they became the complete Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. It should be noted that He was ‘set apart’ from his conception till his death.
Although he had no earthly idea what God had in store for him, he was actually spending a whopping four score years in training for the awesome task that lay ahead of him. He would spend the first 40 years of his life training in Egypt, learning every aspect of the Egyptians. While living in Egypt, he became totally familiar with their way of life, their strengths and weaknesses, their habits and vulnerabilities. Then through a personal error of judgment, he was forced out of Egypt into the Sinai peninsula. There he would spend the next 40 years of his life becoming totally familiar with the lay of that land. He learned where all the springs and water wells were located. He became acquainted with the climate, the fauna and flora of the entire region. He became accustomed to life in the desert and how to survive.
Wow! Eighty years! He was in training 80 years before God called his number—80 years old before he actually entered the game. “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh and say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me (Exodus 8:1 NASB).” After 80 years in training, Moses’ very first assignment was to march right into Pharaoh’s throne room and inform him that the LORD said, “Let my people go!” Good Heavens! According to Exodus 12:37–38, the Israelites numbered “about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides women and children” at that time. Numbers 1:46 gives a more precise total of 603,550 men aged 20 and up. One can only imagine how many that would be if all the women and children were added into that figure. That was a huge order! Yet that was the task that God spent 80 years training him for; that was what he was ‘set apart’ to do.
Let’s personalize this illustration. We are all well aware of many who are obviously ‘set apart’, who are visibly exercising their spiritual gifts; pastors, teachers, caregivers, counselors, and the like. On the other hand, many, many of us are seemingly sitting on the bench, awaiting our number to be called. Yet unbeknownst to us, we may very well may be in training at this very hour for a specific task. Our number may be called to enter the game at any time. So Jesus commanded us to “Be holy, for I am holy.” Or, in other words, “Be set apart, for I am set apart.” Here is a little advise on how we can be training for whatever task we are ‘set apart’ to accomplish. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him (Colossians 3:17 NKJV). This is how we can be ready when He calls our name.
Then we can say with the great prophet Isaiah, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8 KJV).” Don’t you know God is pleased when He hears those words. And, when we have finally accomplished all that we were ‘set apart’ to do, we can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV).”
Ah, those ‘championship’ crowns will be our most treasured rewards when our ‘playing days’ here on earth are over.