As we begin with Haggai 2:11-14, we are reminded of this valuable lesson … unfortunately, a lesson so many of us just never learn:
Holiness cannot be transferred from one person to another.
But … uncleanness can be.
It is important who your friends are. It is important who-or what- you allow to influence you.
True, holiness only comes from God’s Spirit working inside of us. And, yes, we can all be an example of what holiness in our daily lives looks like. But, the decision (and yes it is a decision, a choice) to live holy is an individual choice. It may be influenced by others, but, ultimately, it is an individual choice. How we live is a choice we make … how we allow others to influence us … is a choice. And, accepting God’s salvation is a choice. Your Mother, your Father, your brothers and sisters … in fact, your entire family may be saved, serving God … on their way to Heaven … But … that won’t get you in. God’s free gift of salvation is just that: A gift. A free gift. But, it must be accepted individually. Jesus is a Personal Savior. Other people’s decisions can’t save you. But, they can sure influence you.
In Haggai 2:11-14, while it is true that Haggai is referring to ceremonial uncleanness under the Law, the message applies to us today: Holiness can’t be transferred from one person to another … but uncleanness can be transferred. So, be careful who your friends are, who you “hang with.” It is important who you allow to influence you. Here’s a tough one, but it may make all the difference in your life … and, your lifestyle: We must remember that to “be separate,” sometimes, we really need to “be separate.” This will always be one of the toughest decisions we’ll have to make.
A couple of examples: I’ve always heard that “If you want to know how your kids act, look at their friends.” I guess this is self-explanatory.
When I was working in the High School Library, there was a young lady who was one of my favorite, and best customers. A real reader. On the personal side, she came from a Christian family, a family which I knew very well. She used to help me out whenever I would ask her; she was quiet, well behaved, and always willing to help. She was a good student, conscientious, and personable. Then, suddenly it seemed, she changed. Her attitude changed. Her grades plummeted. She didn’t seem to be interested in reading anymore. Maybe it does, or does not, go without saying, but the way she dressed changed dramatically. Teachers were having trouble with her behavior. I just couldn’t figure out what had happened. What had caused what seemed to be a total transformation in her attitude and character? Then, one day shortly thereafter, I was driving through town. I saw this young girl walking, but she wasn’t alone. She was walking with another young lady … a young lady whose attitude and demeanor was, shall we say, widely known. A young lady whose attitude and character matched exactly what my young friend had now become. I couldn’t help it, and I was trying not to be judgmental … but, as I saw these two ladies walking side-by-side down the street, there were only three words which came to my mind, and I uttered them in disbelief: “That explains it.”
Since then, I have seen this young lady on occasion around town. I’m not really sure if she finished High School. Let’s just say that her lifestyle has become the result of what could only be considered as “bad” choices.
Just like you, how many times have I seen a complete change in someone … after they started “hanging out” with new people, new friends. And, how about the total change we’ve seen in people after a new girlfriend or new boyfriend? For an example, when I worked in a factory down in Georgia, I can’t say how many times I’ve seen someone’s entire work ethic change, their whole attitude and character change, after they began dating someone new. I’ve seen their production numbers drop, from being one of the best workers, to someone who needed to be replaced.
Throughout my life, I have made some really bad, bad choices. While it was ultimately my decision to do certain things, much of my mistakes have been a direct result of allowing myself to be influenced by others. That’s about as honest and truthful as I can be. Elbert Hubbard was an American writer, publisher, artist, and philosopher. Here’s a quote from him, which someone gave me, just yesterday: “We are not punished for our sins, but by them.” I only use this quote to make the point, as given.
This idea of “being separate:” It would be easy to just say that, “Hey! It was God’s idea!” But … it was! Repeatedly, in the Old Testament, for example, when God was leading the Israelites out of captivity (interesting), into the Promised Land, He would warn the Israelites about “making new friends.” I am paraphrasing, in a way, but God warned the Israelites about remaining separate, to be careful “who they hung with.” God’s concern wasn’t that the Israelites would influence these new people … but, that these new “friends” would influence them!
It would also be easy to give examples about being a good example to others … how we’ve influenced others in a positive way … and, that’s true. The whole idea of Christianity is to show forth God’s glory in our lives … to be that light to influence and lead others … But, let’s not forget how vulnerable we are to someone else’s influence. And, the closer we are to someone, the more they will influence us. My Pastor used to say that, “What we attach ourselves to, we become a part of.”
My prayer is that I, and us, will use discernment, as we are supposed to do … in all we do, for the principle remains the same: Holiness can’t be transferred, but uncleanness can be.”