Fire flickered by the stone hearth and I turned a coffee-stained page. I’d come straight from the gym to work and was doing some reading before heading in to my desk. Absently flipping through pages, not exactly sure what I was looking for, a stripe of orange highlighter caught my eye and I read the verse within it.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?… For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Cor. 3:16-17)
I stared at it.
I stared at it and read it again and I cringed.
God’s temple is holy, and you are God’s temple: therefore, you… you, Phylicia, are holy.
I looked into the fire and thought to myself, No. I’m not holy. I might be God’s temple, but I am not holy. Has he seen the things I’ve thought, said, and done? Maybe this was true of Paul… maybe of the Corinthians, but not of me.
I am on board with striving for holiness. I will dedicate to holiness, read about it, pray about it… but to take the title Holy? To stand before a perfect God and claim worthiness like this? Not me.
But in contrast to my cringing, God’s word slices through my hesitancy.
“…By [His] will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:1)
“…And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption…” (1 Cor. 1:30)
“…Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless…” (Eph 5:26-27)
He says I am sanctified, I am cleansed, I am holy. Why then do I feel like sewing fig leaves? Why do I run from my position in Christ?
I run because I am more focused on who I am than on who Christ is in me.
When I look at these verses through lens of me I can see the sacrifice applied to my account, the debt paid in full, but my unworthiness casts a shadow over it all.
Yes, Lord, but I…
I am unworthy.
I am unacceptable.
I am unholy.
“Do you not know that you are My temple and that My Spirit dwells in you?”
This isn’t about you, Phylicia. I can house my Spirit where I will, and My very presence makes that place Holy.
Is the question really Who am I? or is it Who is He? When we feel overwhelmed by guilt or inadequacy it is evidence of our utter failure in the perfect light of a holy God. And we should see it. We should acknowledge when we have transgressed the will of God: the One who loves us and calls us be ‘perfect, as He is perfect’ (Mt. 5:48). But the joy of our salvation is our freedom from sins past, present, and future:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-26)
The truth of the matter is that the Corinthians were as unworthy of holiness as I am. It was the Corinthian church whom Paul rebuked for immorality, dissension, and judging, wronging and cheating other members of the body. And yet in the midst of this rebuke he reiterates who Christ has made them to be: “you are God’s temple… therefore you are holy.”
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” (1 Peter 2:9-10)
We need to change how we think about ourselves. Yes, we fail, but the more we focus on our failures as wives, mothers, sisters, and friends the more depressed we will be in our endeavor to change. After all – we cannot change ourselves. The same nature that leans toward sin will remain within us a week from today when that temptation comes again. Willpower will not change it.
But who He is will transform that willpower into a motive for good. He makes us holy. We are Holy.
“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)
When we have confessed our failures at the throne of grace the great Intercessor stands before the Judge and says, “She’s one of Mine.” The judge looks at the blood over my name and reads Forgiven.
And I stand before him Holy, with renewed hope and strength to act according to who I am.
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16)
If you wish to read more about Christ’s work of sanctification, read this article by Scott Parish.