I had mentioned a few weeks back in a blog article that I was slowly wading through the Psalms, and I still am, only just last night reading Psalm 17. At the same time, I am also pacing myself through Leviticus. Yep, Leviticus. I am not specifically trying to get every little thing out of it that I can. I am simply reading through it, underlining and circling a few things that jump out at me, growing a little more in my knowledge of the intricacies of the priesthood, sacrifices and other such things associated with Leviticus. It’s simply one of the places I find myself as I read through the Scriptures.
This morning, I read chapters 10 and 11. And as I came to the end of chapter 11, I read these words from verses 44-45 in the ESV:
44 For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. 45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.
The concept of holiness pervades the book of Leviticus. It runs right through the entire book. Even in places like chapter 10 where it describes the death of Nadab and Abihu, though tough to read, we get a glimpse of the holiness of God.
In the two verses I quoted above, we read this refrain twice: be holy, for I am holy. And these specific words are also found in 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; and even in regards to the priests in 21:8.
Not only that, but Peter also picks this concept up and quotes Leviticus in his first epistle:
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Now, what typically happens when reading such passages is that we immediately find ourselves asking this question: What can I do to become more holy?
And, you know what? That isn’t a bad question. For most, it comes from a very noble heart, from a people who want to walk out the heart of God in all areas of life. And that is very much commendable. Yet, I want to give a fresh reminder, to myself and others, that this question should not be our starting place. Our beginning point should never be, ‘What can I do to become more holy?’
Someone might ask , ‘Then what is our starting point to be?’
The answer to that question is simple. We can even pull out the ol’ Sunday school answer on this one.
The answer is………Jesus.
For the new covenant Christian, everything is to be centred in Christ. It’s like the modern hymn, In Christ Alone:
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song…
And this song continues on with powerful words about the centrality of Christ for the Christian. If we, as Christ-followers, have anything, it is that we have a Christ-centred gospel, a Christ-centred Scripture, a Christ-centred faith, and we are to have a Christ-centred life. Everything is to be focused in and around Christ and Christ alone.
I don’t say this to hit you over the head with it. Rather, I remind us of this because it is amazing, beautiful and liberating!
I love these words found in 1 Corinthians 1:30:
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.
Or as the NIV states it:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
One of Paul’s major themes is who we are in Christ. I’ve heard this theme of being in Christ shows up some 164 times in his letters alone.
It is Christ who is our wisdom, He is our righteousness, He is our sanctification, He is our redemption. As that hymn, In Christ Alone, goes on to proclaim, He is our all in all.
We see this in 2 Corinthians as well:
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (5:21)
He became sin for us so that we might become God’s righteousness. That is gospel! That is good news! That is the power of God (Romans 1:16)!
So, the Scripture, the gospel, and our faith are all Christocentric, that is Christ-centred. And do you see how freeing this is? The weight is taken off of us to measure up to some standard, for He alone was faithful to meet that perfect standard.
When we truly get a glimpse into the goodness of God expressed in the Christ-centred gospel, things like self-contempt, perfectionism and legalism fall to the side. And I need to grasp that just as much as anyone.
One of the greatest lies of the enemy is that salvation is by grace through faith, but sanctification is by works. No way! Never! Paul tells us that Christ is our redemption and righteousness, but in the same breath, or sentence, he also reminds us of the truth that Christ is our sanctification. Re-read 1 Corinthians 1:30. Everything centres in Christ. Everything.
Sure, we are called to walk out a life of holiness. I don’t know many who would deny that, and I surely am not. Peter reminded us of that in 1 Peter 1:13-16, as we saw above. And every other Scripture writer reminds us of it.
But, in the end, our wisdom, our righteousness, our holiness, our redemption and our sanctification are founded on Christ alone, not on us. And that is the good news we have believed. And that is the good news that sets the captives free.
So, going back to reading through Leviticus, and specifically 11:44-45. There is a call to holiness found in the text, and rightly so. But, our first question should never be, ‘What can we do to become more holy?’ Rather, it should be, ‘How has Christ, the perfect Son of God, fulfilled this on our behalf?’
If that is our first question, then I believe we will remain faithful to the gospel and faithful to Scripture. But, you know what? I wouldn’t be surprised that, as we stay Christ-centred, we would begin to see more fruit in our lives as we walk in the thankfulness and liberty of the truth of the gospel.