Holy. קדוש. ιερός. Literally, it means to be “set apart.” It’s what we as Christians are called to be.
I’m sure most of you have an understanding of this concept. But whether you do or do not, the whole ‘holiness’ thing can be a little intimidating. I mean, God is big. God is perfect. He created everything, loves infinitely and unconditionally, etc.
Typically what happens is we get instructions from someone above us, like a manager or a teacher, and we go do what they say. This is the point where we take God’s instructions of being holy into our own hands and end up with a bunch of green eggs and ham. Usually we interpret holiness as a standard we must attain in order to ‘roll’ with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having this mindset is probably a huge reason we get so overwhelmed. Are we trying to compete with God or something to lock in our salvation? This is horribly off from the truth of the Gospel of grace, but do our actions and motives line up with what we know? It’s really lame that our sin has to affect everything we do.
Really, though, holiness means that God looks at our sin and warped interpretations and says, “You don’t need that. You are better than that.” It’s like picking up your alcoholic friend from the bar he just couldn’t keep away from. You really care about your friend, so what does the conversation in the car on the way home sound like? “Bro, you are much better than this. You don’t need this alcohol crap. I believe in you.”
God calls us to a higher standard because he looks on us lovingly with amazing plans for our lives. Part of those plans is to have a people that look different than the rest of the world, but when we enter a relationship with Christ, his selfless spirit gives us a burning desire to be like him (which happens to be MUCH different than the rest of the world). This paints a better picture of holiness. Remember that angry teacher from the Little Red Schoolhouse? The one who was ready to slap you on the wrist with her oversized ruler because you looked outside the window without permission? Yeah. I think that’s the old, distorted picture of holiness we typically see.
Maybe one way of defining holiness is by faithfully seeking and following God’s plans. Since his will is “set apart” and unique, when we trust him and do his will we are being set apart and unique as well.
Keep in mind, too, that Christ has already made us holy in God’s eyes. This doesn’t mean we are to brush off the command found in Leviticus or 1 Peter 1:15, but in Christ we are declared holy and righteous — think legal terms — for all eternity. Paul reinforces this in his first letter to the Corinthians: “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,…” (v. 30).
We still have sin to deal with here and now, but I’m hoping holiness seems easier to coalesce with your life now. It lifts a burden off my back. and it puts me in even more awe of who God is. Have you been reading between the lines in this post? In terms of holiness, the focus must always be on God. Not us. We usually screw things up when all we are concerned with is ourselves. And that is what Paul was getting at in that verse from 1 Corinthians, because in the verse just after that he explains that no man may boast as a result of what Jesus did at Calvary.
Stop worrying about how different from the world you have to be. Stop worrying about how good you have to look as a Christian. Just be obsessed with God. Your life will definitely not be of this world, and God will provide everything you need.
Nobody ever said that trying to be like Jesus would be easy, but be comforted in knowing that the most holy person that has ever existed is the one inside of you, lovingly coaching you on to live a life that looks like his. He has been in your shoes. He’s been tempted in the way you are daily, and yet he believes in you. When he’s pushing you forward, who can stop you?