I will sing of mercy and justice;
To You, O LORD, I will sing praises.
I will behave wisely in a perfect way.
Oh, when will You come to me?
I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me.
A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will not know wickedness.
Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor,
Him I will destroy;
The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart,
Him I will not endure.
My eyes shall be on the faithful of the land,
That they may dwell with me;
He who walks in a perfect way,
He shall serve me.
He who works deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who tells lies shall not continue in my presence.
Early I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
That I may cut off all evildoers from the city of the LORD.
What would happen if we made this our declaration today? What would people think of us? Does it matter? As Christians, we are called to stand for holiness and righteousness. The words of this Psalm seem unattainable, legalistic, and harsh. While I believe David does use some hyperbole here throughout the Psalm (for instance, I’ve never seen anyone destroy someone who slanders his neighbor), it is still important to understand the seriousness of the message David is writing. Holiness is not some topic that we can gloss over and sweep under the rug; it is a serious matter, and God expects us to take it as seriously as David did in this Psalm.
The problem today is that people hear the word holiness and immediately think “legalist.” However, the two have entirely different meanings. Legalism is man’s attempt at holiness without the power of the Spirit at work in him. Holiness is the outcome of sanctification, which is a lifelong cooperative process in which God comes alongside us and helps us on our journey in pursuit of Him.
Holiness is what God requires of His children. But notice how I wrote this: of His children. By this, you need to understand that I am not talking about what God requires for unbelievers to be saved. In this sense, He is our righteousness. He is our holiness, because we cannot possibly be holy enough to merit eternal life. However, I am not talking about eternal life here. I am talking about a lifestyle—the standard of living which God has set for those who are already saved by grace through faith.
For the people of God, the standards are set high. The problem is that we often think that because we are saved, we can be lax with how we live our lives. Yet, the opposite is true. Because we are saved, we must respond with the fear of the Lord, which compels us to live godly lives of excellence.
The only way we can do this is by remembering that we cannot do it. That is, we cannot do it on our own. Sanctification is a cooperative process involving God and us. However, just because God is involved in the process, it does not mean we can just pass the buck to Him, expecting Him to do all the work while we just “rest” in Him. I’m not diminishing the value of rest, but too many people are waiting on God to fix them, while I believe that God is actually waiting on them to do their part.
Yes, we don’t have to have it all together, but that doesn’t void us of the responsibility God has given us. My favorite example of this two-way street of sanctification comes from 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
It’s time for the people of God to stop passively slacking off and to live with the standard of holiness constantly set before them. With this in mind, go back and read Psalm 101. Then, write your own version of Psalm 101 as a declaration of holiness. While I am sure that neither you nor I will not always follow it, it still stands as a good foundation to which e can return time after time. This is not about legalistically following a list of rules in order to please God. This is about responding to His incredible gift by living out of love, honor, and respect for His Word, His laws, and His Lordship.