Holiness is such an interesting concept and sometimes, it is presented like it is something you can conjure up; like it is a quality you should have simply because you gave your life to Christ. However, many a christian will agree with me that the realization of holiness in the life of a person appears to be for the most part, unattainable. But why? Lets break holiness down into its fundamentals…
Holiness is not the same as righteousness.
Righteousness is to be in right standing with God; free from guilt and sin. It is also known as justification. Justification (righteousness) is by grace, through faith and comes to us by way of the redemptive work of Christ on the cross.
And this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. Romans 3:22-24 Berean Study Bible
We are righteous because of Jesus. Period. We cannot do anything to make ourselves righteous because our own righteousness is comparable to filthy rags and does not measure up in the presence of His majesty. Holiness on the other hand, is a different ball game all together. Where righteousness is a state of being, holiness is a transformative process where you become more like God. Holiness is the very nature, the very essence of God. God’s Holiness is as necessary as His existence and we cannot separate one from the other.
One cannot become more like God without God as the author and architect of that process; hence, no one can attain a degree of holiness without God. God makes it possible for us to walk in holiness but we must do the walking. Let’s look at this scripture carefully:
But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do, for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 Berean Study Bible
This passage of scripture does not minimize our responsibility. As Jerry Bridges states in his book, the pursuit of holiness, some Christians are quick to talk of the provision made by Jesus Christ’s death and relinquish the process of holiness to God. Others simply do not understand the distinction between God’s provision and our own responsibility for holiness.
Unlike righteousness, where Jesus did all the work, in holiness we do some of the work.
Pursue peace with all men, as well as holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 Berean Study Bible
The word pursue suggests that it is a process; not something to be acquired like a trophy. As Jerry Bridges put it, as we begin to conform to the will of God in one area of our life, God reveals to us our failings in another area. In essence, the more you want to become like God, the more refining you will have to go through. So how can we be holy?
The idea of exactly how to be holy has in many instances, been misrepresented. To some, holiness is obeying a long list of prohibitions- usually in the area of smoking, drinking, sexuality, dressing, mannerisms, and associations, and this list varies depending on religious grouping or church denomination. While some of these ideas are accurate to an extent, they miss the true concept of holiness and are in danger of following the model of the Pharisees with their endless lists of do’s and don’ts and self-righteousness. So then, what does it really mean to be holy?
As you journey with me through the intentionality of living a holy life, I pray that you make the deep commitment to walk this journey faithfully by allowing God’s Spirit to convict and challenge you as he will me, to do whatever it takes to pursue holiness.
Stay tuned for the rest of this series and be intentional in living out your faith!
P.S. check out Jerry Bridges’ book, the pursuit of holiness.