God commands His people, “Be holy, for I am holy.” But what does that look like in everyday life, and what’s our part in holiness?
The concept of holiness may seem a bit archaic to our current generation. Some associate it with an endless list of do’s and don’ts, while others associate it with a repulsive ‘holier than thou’ attitude.
But holiness is a very biblical concept. The word ‘holy’ occurs in various forms more than 600 times in the Bible. The entire book of Leviticus is devoted to it. More importantly, God explicitly commands us to be holy (Leviticus 11:44).
To be holy means to be morally blameless – separated from sin and consecrated to God. It means to be set apart to God and the conduct proper to those set apart.
In the New Testament, Paul used the term in contrast to a life of immorality and impurity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7). Peter used it in contrast to living according to the evil desires we had when we were not believers of Christ (1 Peter 1:14-16), and John contrasted the one Who’s holy with those who do wrong and are unclean (Revelation 22:11).
Thus, living a holy life means to live a life according to the moral commands of the Bible and in contrast to the sinful ways of the world.
Hebrews 12:14 says to ’Pursue holiness, for without holiness no one will see the Lord.’
The word ‘pursue’ implies seeking actively and eagerly, or to press on, figuratively, as one in a race who runs swiftly to reach the goal. Intentionality and diligence are essential in the pursuit of holiness, which is a lifelong process.
God has made provision for us to walk in holiness but has given US the responsibility of doing the walking. Often, we talk about how Christ defeated sin on the cross and empowered us to victory over it but we don’t talk about our personal responsibility to choose and walk in holiness. We pray for victory when we should be acting in obedience.
Dr. Sam Matthews shared an encounter with the late revivalist Leonard Ravenhill who gave him this word: ‘God is more interested in the development of your character than the success of your ministry.’
It’s the compromises on minor character issues that lead to major failures in life.
Only when we see His holiness, His absolute purity, and His moral hatred of sin, can we be seized by the horridness of sin against the Holy God. Realising this is the first step in our pursuit of holiness.