Saturday, January 14, 2012

Homily Magnus: On the High Calling (as proclaimed by an orthodox rebel)

"This is the law of the house: Upon the top of the mountain, the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house." Eze. 43:12

Ezekiel is met by an angel who's holding a very large ruler (Eze. 40:1-3). This angel takes Ezekiel through a vision of the temple and spends three whole chapters measuring it down to the last detail (Eze. 40-42). Then God's presence appears in the temple, promising to return in like manner to His people if they will turn from their sinful ways (Eze. 43:5-9). He then lays down this one law of the temple: since it is the abode of God, every single inch of it is "most holy," a holiness beyond holy, for God is most holy, being the Most High God.

Now, holiness does not merely mean that someone or something is "nice" or even moral. The word itself, of course, means "sanctified" or "separated," but what that means is lost on us today. To understand it better, a modern equivalent for "holy" would be "different" or "other". When someone or thing is "holy," it is other than you. Its "niceness" is not your niceness. Its morality is not your morality. It is beyond you, completely and absolutely other. Thus, when we say that God is holy, we are actually saying that simple yet profound truth that God is not like us. His "niceness" is not how we view niceness (Is. 55:8-9), and His idea of what is moral is worlds beyond ours (Is. 64:6), because God is worlds beyond us. He is farther than we can imagine, for He is not just holy: He is "holy, holy, holy".

The truly startling thing, however, is this: the God who is absolutely beyond us has come and dwelt with us. "I will dwell in the midst of them forever" (Eze. 43:9b), says the Most High God. The Most High has brought Himself low, and the place wherein He dwells is "most holy". That is no small thing, and yet we treat it like a small thing. For all the gushing sentimentalism that people laud upon God these days, He is still a small God. He is not the God who is "holy, holy, holy," whose presence instantaneously makes the surrounding area "holy ground" (Ex. 3:4-5). Our church houses are too stuffed full of our own flippancy to make room for such a God.

But that is not even the half of it; for you see, God does not dwell in temples made with men's hands. At least not anymore. He has found a new dwelling place, and that is within each of us (I Cor. 6:19). We have been made the house of God, and the law of that house is one: every square inch of it, body and mind and soul, shall be "most holy". This is the goal which we press towards (Phil. 3:14): not lavish and successful ministries, and not even saved souls. Our goal, our mark, our high calling is the otherness, the holiness of God Himself. This is the truth of the Old Testament (Lev. 19:2, 20:7) and the New (I Peter 1:15-16). Even Jesus set the same standard (Matt. 5:48). God has not saved us to be "good' people by some convenient standard of our own. He has saved us to sanctify a people unto Himself, to make us holy, to make us other, to make us like Him. God is the goal and nothing less.

This is no cause for pride. God does not say that we are holy. Rather, He calls us to be holy. It is a process, a "working out," and ultimately an act of God (Phil. 2:12-13), the God who is intimately with us. The point here is that our focus is entirely skewed. We obsess over irrelevancies or secondary issues: with social agendas and Bible translations and worship styles, with ministry stats and conferences and even evangelism. We do not realize that unless God and His holiness are our goal, all of our agendas and argument, our conferences and creeds and converts, all of our herculean activity is in vain, just as an arch with no keystone is in vain. Until God is the center, all is wood and hay and stubble, fit for the fire. We must set our affections aright, acknowledging with awe and humility the great weight of glory to which we have been called. That glory is not in amiability or moralism or political activism, but in becoming as holy, as different, as other, and yes, even as scorned as Christ was. For we are not of this world, but of God. Amen.

-Jon Vowell (c) 2012


  1. Perhaps political activism and such is a way of becoming holy, different, and other?

    What are some other ways you would suggest actually putting this into action?

    1. I can't tell you "other ways". The ways that God draws us unto Himself are wholly unique to the individual. The only consistent element is this: God must be the center of your life--knowing Him, loving Him, following Him wherever He leads.

      Political activism can easily be another "way" that God draws you unto Himself. Just make sure that the activism doesn't become a rival to God. 8^)