Who’s Afraid of the ‘H’ Word?
What do you think about when you hear the word ‘holiness’?
It isn’t a word that we use often, and for some it comes with strong negative connotations. It might bring to mind strict rules, unreachable purity, stern conduct, and bland obedience.
But holiness is a common theme in the Bible, and it is never described as a bad thing! In fact, holiness is described as something great, which leads to true happiness. Holiness in the Bible is a key part of a Christian life, and is something to strive for. Holiness describes absolute moral purity—to be holy is to be completely good, to not only do what is right, but to never do wrong.
God, of course, is the perfect embodiment of holiness. God is not only perfectly good; he is the very source and standard of goodness. As the one who created everything, God defines what is good and what is not!
This means, seeking to be holy is about lining ourselves up with the source of all goodness. This is something which God calls us to do. As we read in 1 Peter 1:14-15, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
But there is an obvious issue here: we are not particularly good at being holy! How can people who are not at all holy (e.g., all of us!) be tolerated by a holy God? If he is not only perfectly good, but is the source and standard of goodness, how could we even begin to relate to him!
This is one of the many reasons why the good news of Jesus is so good. Because Jesus acts as an ‘in-between’ for us and God. He is fully holy, fully God. But he is also fully human, and has lived a completely holy life. So he acts as a bridge between us and God—it is only through Jesus that we can approach a holy God “with confidence” (Heb. 4:16)! “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
This shows us the motivation we have to seek to be more holy. If we understand how good God is, we want to be like that! And this is exactly what God calls his people to be. This is, of course, a process. Following Jesus doesn’t cause us to suddenly become more holy. But as the Holy Spirit works in us, we will, bit by bit, start to reflect God’s holiness more and more.
So what are some ways that you can practice holiness this week? Let me encourage you to look carefully at yourself and your life, and identify just one or two key things which you want to see God transform in you. If you (like me!) find yourself overwhelmed by the number of flaws you see, just pick out a couple for now. If you don’t see them easily, ask someone close to you to help you find them! Bring these to God in prayer. Ask him to grow you to be more like Jesus in these areas. Hand them over to him and ask that the Holy Spirit will give the power for them to be changed. And I think you’ll be surprised by the number of opportunities that God will give you to become more holy!
God can and does grow his people to be more like him. And as we grow in holiness, we will find that it isn’t a boring or restrictive approach to life. Rather, holiness is how we find true, meaningful life in Jesus.