From the beginning, God has set His people apart from the culture where they dwell. We are not of this world and should not be comparing ourselves to it. Created in the image of God with the purpose to reflect His character (Sinner, Saint & Sanctification), the command to the Israelites—Be holy for I am holy (Leviticus 20:26) as well as to the early church—do not be conformed this age (Romans 12:2) should not be taken lightly. This is easier said than done, however, and when we take our eyes of the One and only who is Holy we certainly do not stand a chance of obeying this command.
Jerry Bridges in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, points out how Christian society has become more accustomed to comparing ourselves to the holiness of the world than of the God who has pulled us out and chosen us to be holy as He is holy.
Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness.” They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like Himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God (25-26).
There is grave danger in comparing ourselves to the culture around us instead of the character of God. For there will always be someone or something that we can say we are slightly holier than which only breeds pride and contempt in our hearts instead of humility before a Holy God. Maintaining cultural holiness really leads to legalism and bondage to a system not given by God. In the book, The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, discusses the difference between taking the easy road versus the true road to becoming conformed to the image of Christ.
The simplistic way of not conforming is to see what is in style in our culture and then do the opposite…A superficial style of nonconformity is the classical pharisaical trap. The kingdom of God is not about buttons, movies, or dancing. The concern of God is not focused on what we eat or what we drink. The call of nonconformity is a call to a deep level of righteousness that goes beyond externals…When we make dancing and movies the test of spirituality, we are guilty of substituting a cheap morality for a genuine one. We do these things to obscure the deep issues of righteousness. Anyone can avoid dancing or going to movies. These require no great effort of moral courage. What is difficult is to control the tongue, to act with integrity, to reveal the fruit of the Spirit…True nonconformists stop coveting; they stop gossiping; they stop slandering; they stop hating and feeling bitter; they start to practice the fruit of the Spirit (117-118).
What a difference is revealed in our lives when we compare ourselves to the character of our Holy God instead of our culture.
Oh Lord, forgive us for our holier than thou attitude amongst our brothers and sisters. Forgive us for settling for our own good, pleasing, and perfect will instead of Yours. Through Your grace bestow on us Your holiness of love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.