Most if not all religions designate holy men or women. Shamans, Buddhist monks and nuns who are afraid to step on an insect because it may be the soul of their dead mother or grandfather, imams, witches and witch doctors who will bless or curse others for money, or those who simply live apart. In the time of the patriarchs in the Ancient Near East, the designation was used for temple prostitutes to pagan gods – they were ‘holy ones.’
I love this definition. AB Simpson, the founder of what became the Christian and Missionary Alliance, gave us probably the easiest, best, comprehensive definition of what it means to be holy (see AB Simpson’s The Fourfold Gospel Annotated) - SEPARATED, DEDICATED, FILLED:
Separated from anything and everything sinful in ourselves and our society;
Dedicated to God, not to ourselves or anything else in God’s creation;
Filled with God’s Holy Spirit.
Why are all three important?
A person can be separated from the rest of society, but for nefarious intent. For those old enough to remember, that describes the ‘Unabomber’ or Osama Bin Laden.
You can be separated and dedicated, but that’s every gang member, cult follower, or – watch out – any die-hard zealot whether of a corporation or a country or even a sports franchise. All those years I attended church twice a year at Christmas and Easter, I was no more holy than any convicted murderer on death row - separated from others but dedicated to myself.
What about someone who is separated, dedicated, and filled. The question is, filled with what? There are more than one kind of spirit, and in this country we are too quick to forget that there are demonic powers at work all around us. We blame everything from abuse to mass murder on mental illness or a bad upbringing, and we blame destructive and deadly authoritarian regimes committing genocide on simply ‘bad ideology.’ There is evil at work in the world around us.
I am so thankful for modern medications and therapeutic counseling. But these are not going to solve the problems that Holy Spirit acting through the church was meant to combat. Jesus sent his followers out to preach, teach, heal and cast out demons, to take light into dark places, to take Him – who is the Light – into the darkness.
So, what makes a person holy? It’s really simple. In the Bible, Leviticus is an entire book on holiness. At one point, it speaks to the priests who offered up sacrifices to God, but almost as an afterthought it gives us the key: “Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the LORD am holy--I who make you holy.” Leviticus 21:8 NIV (emphasis mine)
The ONLY thing that can make a person (or a time, or place, or thing) holy is the power and presence of Almighty God. Anything we do is merely preparation.
What do you need to do to prepare? From what do you need to be separated? What of your time and effort and possessions are to be dedicated to God? And would you pray and seek to be filled with Holy Spirit?
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” Colossians 1:21-23NIV
Jesus is the only thing that will save us and the world.