In these first few weeks of 2014 our men’s Bible study has begun reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges on Tuesday nights, so I have been considering the implications of Biblical holiness. As he writes about the Christian’s obligation to live a holy life in chapter 3, Bridges says, “Scripture speaks of both a holiness which we have in Christ before God, and a holiness which we are to strive after. These two aspects of holiness compliment one another, for our salvation is a salvation to holiness.” In other words, it is really impossible for one to separate the truth of our being saved from the penalty of sin and our salvation from the power of sin. And so Paul wrote to the Ephesians to say, “For you were once in darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” But, of course, this is not an easy or light task in the midst of this wicked and corrupt world (James 1:27), while we continue to wage war with our sinful flesh (1 Pet. 2:11), and our enemy actively seeks our destruction (1 Pet. 5:8).
I was reminded of this recently as I read the account of the Israelites and the golden calf in Exodus 32. Moses had gone up to the top of Mount Sinai with Joshua for his only companion, and had left his brother, Aaron in charge of the people. While Moses spoke with God over a period of 40 days and nights, the people became restless, thinking that something had happened to God’s servant and that they were now on their own in the wilderness. No longer satisfied with obeying the One who had secured their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and protected them from any further attack by the armies of Pharaoh, they began to plead with Aaron to make idols to satisfy their anxious need for a tangible object of faith. And Aaron complied with their demands, instructing them to gather golden earrings with which to cast a calf-idol. Once the idol was completed the people began to worship it, following the pagan and immoral practices common to every nation that surrounded them. In response to their wickedness, God interrupted his communion with Moses, saying, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. (v.7)” And God, in his fierce anger at the people’s sin threatened to destroy the entire nation and raise up a new people from the descendants of Moses, but Moses intervened on behalf of the people and God spared the majority of them.
One statement from this chapter illustrates the necessity for each of us to be especially watchful against the threat of sin, which corrupts our holy life. After God told Moses to go down from the mountain, he said, “They [the Israelites] have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. (v.8)” All too often, I think, we become careless, distracted, or overconfident, thinking that the danger of sin is not that close at hand, and we become easy targets for temptation. In reality, like these Israelites, we can be turned aside quickly out of the way in which we have been commanded to go. The reality of sin is an ever-present threat to our holy life, and we must be always on guard against it. Let us take seriously our calling and strive to live a life that is worthy of the new life we have received in Christ.