I think the modern church today has a completely skewed and limited view of holiness. For the most part, holiness is seen as a list of ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’. Be loving. Be kind. Be morally pure. Don’t cheat on your taxes. Don’t have sex outside of marriage. Don’t get drunk and carouse. And the list goes on…
But holiness is so much more than this…
Holiness is an invitation.
As a younger Christian, I was often plagued with the verse: “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16b ESV). I used to ask myself, “How is this even possible?” Simple answer, “It’s not”. Why is this the case? I think the answer lies in the fact that we generally misunderstand holiness.
The Greek word for holy in the text is a derivative of hagios. There is an obvious implication that suggests moral purity is an aspect of holiness, but the definition goes much further than that. The confusion comes with equating this solely with right actions etc…. Holiness is in fact, more accurately, the state of being ‘consecrated’ or ‘set apart’ for God.
Holiness vs righteousness
I think the confusion comes with equating holiness with righteousness. These words are often used interchangeably, but they are in fact different things. The Greek word for righteousness is dikaiosune. It means to be in ‘right standing’ with God. This is only achieved through the redemptive work of the cross of Jesus Christ and can only be received by faith. According to Romans 5:17 it is a ‘gift’ that we are to actively receive. The Greek verb for receive in this verse, lambano, is a present, active participle. This means that receiving righteousness is an ongoing and active process.
So how is this different to holiness?
If you are in Christ, righteousness is a done deal. You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. You are no more righteous now than you were when you first received Jesus. It is not about you. You have been made ‘right with God’ through the blood of Jesus shed at Calvary. The blood speaks for all eternity. That being said, when we struggle with sin, we need to recognise it is no longer part of our nature and resist it as a fiery dart of the wicked one (Eph. 6:16).
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Cor. 5:17)
Holiness, however, is a state of being sanctified and set apart for God. The mistake many well-meaning Christians make is to try and accomplish this in their own strength. They try to live their life according to a ‘set of rules’. I did this for many years. I promise you it is a fruitless exercise. Trying to be holy = extreme frustration. But then I had a revelation: holiness is an invitation.
“Be” rather than “Do”…
1 Peter 1:16 says “be holy”. It is a state of being not doing. So what is this state of being? It is an invitation to be ‘in Christ’. All of the requirements of the law were fulfilled in Christ (Matt. 5:17). Paul speaks of us being “hidden in Christ” (Col. 3:3). Those who have surrendered their hearts to the Lord Jesus Christ have become a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). We are in a process of “being transformed into” His “image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Holy Spirit is not interested in behaviour modification. He is after heart transformation. A heart that is surrendered will, over time, fall out of love with the things the world has to offer and fall in love with the goodness of God. This is a matter of stewarding our holiness. The Holy Spirit will change your desires. As you step into this invitation to intimacy, you will not want to participate in anything that puts a roadblock between you and Daddy God.
So then, run after the mind and heart of God. Desire only a close and intimate relationship with Him. Surrender your heart completely. Holiness is an invitation. Will you accept it today? He desires a closer walk with you. I promise you that if you put Him first, everything else in your life will fall into place (Matt. 6:33). “Make God the utmost delight and pleasure of your life, and He will provide for you what you desire the most” (Ps. 37:4 TPT).
Blessings in Christ,