A Call to Holiness
Holiness can be an intimidating word. I know from personal experience, especially in my earlier years of following Christ, that we can embody a tendency to detach ourselves from this word. God is holy. Church is a holy place. Holiness in reference to our own lives is a difficult concept to grasp, and even more difficult to live out. We are apt to compartmentalize our faith by assigning holiness to Sunday morning, and then living like the rest of the world Monday through Saturday.
Yet, God calls us to holy living. He calls us to be morally upright and pure in thought and action. The Greek word for holy used in this Scripture was hagios. This word gave the impression of one who was set apart from common to sacred use. The word hagios is also from which we derive the word saint. Sainthood then, contrary to popular belief, is not reserved for an elite few who have achieved some form of superior spirituality. Rather, it is a word which is to be assumed of all who profess the Christian name. This word is used all throughout the New Testament in reference to ordinary believers, just like you and me.
So guess what? If you have made Jesus your Lord and Savior, you are a saint! Therefore, as saints, our behavior should always reflect our faith. We are not believers merely in name...but in action and deed. Our lives follow a different trajectory than the lives of those who don't know Jesus. We love Jesus, and we obey His commands. Our obedience is the proof that we love Him. Our changed lives are the evidence that His Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside us.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old is gone, the new is here. 2 Corinthians 5:17
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15
God commands us to be holy, as He is holy. There are different types of holiness we need to consider regarding our Christianity. The first is positional holiness. This refers to our holiness in light of what Christ has done for us. Because God requires absolute perfection and sinlessness, something we can never achieve on our own, we need the imputed righteousness (holiness) of Christ.
When we repent (change our mind regarding sin and, by faith, embrace the finished work of Christ on our behalf) His righteousness becomes our own. Jesus' sacrifice washes us clean of sin and facilitates peace between us and the Father. The purity of Christ becomes ours. God sees us in a different light: holy, clean, and righteous.
Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.
Positional holiness is a cause to rejoice! Without this type of holiness, it would be impossible to please God. Yet, at the same time, we must strive to walk in practical holiness. This is equally pleasing to Him, and a crucial part of our Christian lives. Practical holiness is exemplified in many ways.
It is the words we speak, the attitude we possess, the thoughts we nurture. It is the respect we embody, the love we have for others, the forgiveness we extend to those who have hurt us. It is portrayed in the way we honor our bodies as God's temple. It is depicted in the conversations we have, and our choices in entertainment. We are called to this type of holiness, as God's chosen people.
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor...For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7
A common cultural misconception is the belief that, because we are saved by grace, our behavior is irrelevant to God. This overemphasis on grace and underemphasis on the necessity of living a life that is holy and pleasing to God has resulted in many who profess belief in Christ with their lips, yet deny Him with their lifestyles. Let me be clear that it is our faith in Jesus which saves us, not our own good deeds. Yet, those who truly believe will truly follow. Their faith will be evident in the way they live their lives.
The same grace that saves us is also meant to empower us to holy living. We must cling to the grace of God as we pursue holiness in all of our conduct. We will never do this perfectly, but a person who desires to please God will make continual progress in aligning their lives with His standards. They will put aside their own opinions, ideas, and pre-conceived notions about the way their life should be lived, and instead look to God's Word as their ultimate authority. They will allow the Bible to shape their perspective, and not try to twist God's Word to suit their lifesyle.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
So how do we go about aligning our lives with the holiness of God's Word? First and foremost, we must familiarize ourselves with the character of God. A proper view of God will result in a desire for holy living. As we get to know Him through the Bible, a true love and reverence for Him will manifest itself in our lives. As we meditate on aspects of His holy character that we may not have been aware of, this will spur us on to emulate that holiness in our own lives.
Secondly, we must prioritize knowing His Word. In a world of constant distraction and to-do lists a mile long, setting aside daily time to read the Bible may seem a daunting task. Yet, we will never be transformed into the women God created us to be if we don't make God number one in our lives. Unwavering commitment to God on our part releases the Holy Spirit to do His part in re-orienting our thoughts and actions around God's Word.
As we read, we will be confronted with areas of sin and disobedience in our lives, areas where we are not conforming to God's standards or reflecting His holiness. As God brings these areas to the forefront, our job is to repent, ask for forgiveness, and enlist His help to live the way He desires us to live.
For example, a sin I overcame a few years ago was my foul language. The way I spoke
was a part of who I was before Jesus came into my life, and was a result of living life apart from God. If you knew me back then you can attest to the fact that I would be the first one to make an inappropriate joke and my language was anything but decent and respectable. My behavior had been shaped by the world around me, rather than by what God's Word says about how a woman should conduct herself.
I discovered through my dedication to reading the Bible that this type of language was disrespectful to God, and it did not bring Him glory. My words were not reflecting His holiness. With a commitment and a desire to obey Him on my part, and the work of the Holy Spirit on the inside, over time my words began to reflect the faith I professed.
It was a domino effect: the more I read Scripture, the more I learned who God truly was, not merely who I had perceived Him to be. The more I knew Him, the more I loved Him and desired to live life His way. The more time I spent In His Word, in prayer, and nurturing my spiritual life, the more I was transformed, by Him and for His glory. This is true heart change, not just behavior modification. True heart change is God's goal with each and every one of us. God has always wanted our whole hearts, from the beginning of Scripture to the end.
You shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5
Remember Dear Friend, as a believer in Christ, you have been set apart for His good purposes. You were not designed to blend in, but to shimmer with the goodness and holiness of God wherever you go. You were chosen to live a life that honors Him and reflects Jesus to everyone you encounter. Live a life worthy of your calling!
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. 1 Peter 2:9-12 (MSG)
If you would like to know more about living a life of holiness that is pleasing to God, check out my book: Created to Thrive: Becoming the Woman God Designed You to Be. This book will help you to discover God's will for your life and provide practical steps for you to live the life you have been created to live, a life of peace, joy, and purpose that honors your Creator.