Obeying Jesus means living a holy life. The term holiness has fallen on hard times these days. Just try avoiding something that might be morally questionable and wait for it. People will say you have a “holier than thou” attitude or will call you a “holy roller.”
The word “holy” itself is often misunderstood. What does it mean to be holy? First, you need to understand that God is holy. Holiness is His primary attribute. While the Bible says that God is love or God is merciful, only one attribute of God is repeated three times. In (Isaiah 6.3 ESV) the angels shouted in antiphonal praise, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” God declares Himself to be holy in (Ezekiel 39.7 NIV), “I will no longer let my holy name be profaned, and the nations will know that I the LORD am the Holy One in Israel.”
Holiness means to be completely separate and sinless. The Scriptures tell us that God is sinless and cannot tolerate sin. “He is perfectly pure,” (Habakkuk 1.13 ESV). “He is not like any petty or tribal god, rather He is altogether great and matchless,” (Psalm 40.5 ESV).
Holiness pervades all of His attributes. His love is a holy love. His mercy is a holy mercy. His justice is a holy justice. His wrath is a holy wrath. Holiness is what sets Him apart. It is the essence of His complete “otherness.”
While it’s hard to wrap our minds around, holiness is the character and nature of God. Therefore, when God called the Israelites out of the bondage and decay of the pagan Egyptian culture, He called them to be holy like Him. “For I, the LORD, am the one who brought you up from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. Therefore, you must be holy because I am holy,” (Leviticus 11.45 NLT).
They were to be set apart, separate, different, special and distinct from all the other nations of the world. They were set apart to worship and serve God and Him alone. He called them to be different than the pagan culture around them and to obey and serve Him only.
Over time, the Israelites disobeyed God and slipped back into the dark culture around them. But in Christ, God called a new community — His church — to live holy lives. The Apostle Peter writes, “Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy’,” (1 Peter 1.14-16 NLT).
When you came to Christ, He called you to follow Him. Following Him means living a holy life. Actually, the moment you were saved, the sacrifice of Jesus made you perfect. He washed you and cleaned you. From God’s perspective, you are already holy. But now as you live your daily life, you strive to live out in practical ways who you already are in God’s eyes. (Hebrews 10.14 NLT) says, “For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.”
Did you get that? By the offering of Jesus, you were made perfect, but now by the Spirit’s work in your life, you are continually being made holy. That happens one step at a time as you daily obey Jesus and follow Him. In the words of bestselling author Jerry Bridges, “Obedience is the pathway to holiness.” The more you choose to obey Christ and say no to the allurements of this world, the more you grow in holiness. The more you disobey Christ, the more you fail to live a holy life.
You might ask, “Why should I pursue holiness?” First, you should pursue holy living out of gratitude for all Jesus has done for you. When you are truly overwhelmed with the price Jesus paid to redeem you and pull you out of your sin, why would you ever want to go back?
Second, pursuing holiness is motivated by your love for God. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love,” (John 15.10 ESV). Loving Jesus leads you to holy living.
Another reason to pursue holiness is usefulness. Only when you are obeying and following Jesus can God use you to your fullest potential. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, his young trainee, that just as there are nice dishes in the cupboard that are set apart for the finest occasions, God wants you to be holy and set apart to be used in a special way. He concludes with this charge; “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work. Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts,” (2 Timothy 2.21-22 NLT).
Obedient living leads to holy living, and it all comes down to a choice. It requires choosing to run away from things that are not pleasing to God and choosing to run full stride toward those things that are on God’s heart. When you do, God will transform you from the inside out and use you to reflect His love to the world around you.
Photo Credit: Samantha Sophia