If we have given our lives to Jesus, we are completely righteous before Him. We are God’s adopted sons and co-heirs with Christ. We stand before God in complete righteousness. We do not need to seek or work for God’s approval. We have been completely justified freely by the blood of Christ. When God looks at us, He sees the righteousness of Christ, because as we repent and turn to God, we have redemption in Christ, we can enjoy a relationship with God, as He sees us as holy. Through Christ we have a position of holiness.
But our behaviour often doesn’t reflect this yet. We still have to pursue a practical lifestyle of holiness.
Before we were born again, we were slaves to sin. Being a slave takes away one’s choice. We keep on sinning. We know things are wrong but we have no power to stop ourselves from doing them. It’s impossible to live a life that is holy.
But when we are born again. God makes us slaves to righteousness.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.Rom 6:17,18
What is holiness?
Let’s begin with what holiness is not. It’s not some form of superiority. It’s not that we are better, or our church is better. It’s not being a Pharisee. It’s not about really wanting to sin, but forcing ourselves to stop. It’s not about being nice, because anyone can be nice. It’s not even morality. Because this can be achieved by willpower, and this leads us to believe in our own self righteousness. It’s also not about the minimum we can do to make Him happy. We don’t ask ourselves, ‘how close to sin can I get without sinning?’. If we walk around on the edge of sin, it won’t be long before we fall in!
It’s also not avoiding good things. God has given us lots of good things to enjoy, within His design. He has given us good food. He has given us lovely music. As Christians we need to enjoy the good things in life far more than any unbelievers. We should be enthusiastic about life. God rejoices when we enjoy things. Obviously too much of anything will be destructive, so it’s not about over-indulging or becoming dependent on the gifts. But rather it’s about celebrating the gifts with the Giver.
Holiness is not being harsh and judgemental towards others, because that’s also self-righteousness.
Holiness IS about being ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ (Rom 8:29).It’s becoming more and more like Christ. It’s a cleaning. A removal of things we don’t need. It’s about being free, being teachable and being humble. Everywhere Christ went, He was an incredible blessing. Even when He spoke to the Pharisees, because He was bringing them truth. Holiness is a true heart dedication to God. It is being gracious to ourselves, and also being gracious to others.
Holiness is extending grace to others who are battling with various issues. We are all a work in progress. We all have room for improvement. God may be working on a particular issue with one person, and he’s working with you on another issue. So we don’t get judgmental or critical about the weaknesses of others. But rather love, support and encourage them to become more like Christ.
Holiness is endurance in times of difficulty. It’s not giving up on being righteous for God, when circumstances get difficult. We often look for comfort in sin. When life gets difficult, we look for comfort in sin, and then make life even more difficult for ourselves. Rather in times of difficulty we look to God, who is our Comforter, the one who brings peace, strength and healing.
Holiness means we have declared war against evil in our lives. Sometimes we lose a battle but the war is on and never stops. If we get knocked down, we get up and keep fighting. When we lose a battle, we find out what we did wrong and equip ourselves so that we don’t lose the battle again, or repeat the same mistakes.
Holiness is also patience, love, joy and peace (Gal 5:22-23). It comes from within. We cannot manufacture patience or joy. Holiness is giving ourselves to the Spirit of God to lead us. Walking in the fruit of the Spirit and becoming more Christ-like. It comes through bearing fruit for Him, as we submit to Him, and not through work and self-effort. It is participating in the work of the Spirit.
How do we get holy?
Cultivating a lifestyle of holiness is not about putting together a list of rules that we need to follow.
It’s not about a set of ‘do’s and don’t’s’ that I try and live by. Walking in holiness is trusting God constantly that He knows what is best for us. Do you believe He has and wants the best for you? What He has stated in Scripture is what is best for us. If He’s really good, then walking with Him brings love and goodness into our lives. We become more like Jesus because we believe that God is good.
Walking in holiness is participating with God as He moves us. It is co-operating with God, as we yield to His wishes, as we are guided and strengthened by the Holy Spirit who is at work in us and with us. God’s ways will always lead to eternal blessing, and walking away from Him, and sinning, will always bring death and destruction.
We cannot make ourselves holy. It is God who works out His purpose in us, through the power of the Holy Spirit. We choose to follow Him, and then give God space through our obedience. God loves perfectly and this should make us want to serve Him. I desire to become holy because I love the Lord, and love people.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Rom 12:1
This passage speaks of choice. We have a choice. We can choose to participate in God transforming us. God is not forcing or co-ercing anybody, but rather He is working with us. As we see the goodness of God, and the freedom from sin that destroys our lives, we choose to follow Him and His ways.
Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness…. I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.Rom 6:13,19
As we give ourselves to God we begin to make war on sin. We crucify ourselves and present the members of our body to God to work through us for His righteousness rather than for sin. He will work everything He has for us, and everything He has for others through us.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.Rom 12:2
The only way to do this is submit to God. Some people become legalistic. They set standards and when they meet them they think they are better than others. But it’s not thinking of ourselves as greater, but rather that God is greater. We continually submit to God, trusting that He knows best.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.Matt 5:20
The Pharisees tried to attain holiness through following rules, and through self-effort. But we are to go beyond the Pharisees, because first it starts with the heart, and then moves on to our actions, through an overflow of love for God, and for others. The law can never change our heart. God changes hearts. It’s not about not doing something, but about loving the Lord, putting our faith in Him, knowing that He knows best. Obedience and holiness is not a set of rules, but loving the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and enjoying Him.
God loves us and He is good. This does not mean that He sees everything we do is great. It does not mean that God is permissive and allows all our behaviour. Sometimes we get the impression that God approves of everything and we can do whatever we want. Rather, there is discipline in love.
We don’t show love to a drug addict by telling Him what He’s doing is brilliant. Because the drugs are destructive to their lives, their families, finances etc. As a responsible and caring person we would tell them to stop, and put them in a centre where people can help. It would be tough, there would be work, but there’s fullness of life and freedom on the other side. That’s the true expression of love. And that’s how God treats us.
And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,Heb 12:5,6
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
God disciplines us. He puts us in circumstances where we see the wrong we are doing. Or He stops it. He puts us in a ‘drug centre’, we go through withdrawal, and we think we can’t make it. For our healing God sometimes disciplines us.
Being a Witness
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; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”1 Peter 1:14-16
To be holy means to be set apart. But not set apart from the world in the sense that we withdraw from the world. Rather we are set apart to be different from the world, to behave in a different way, to shine God’s light, and to act differently, see differently, and to have different ambitions and goals. We are called to be salt and light.
The gospel is about telling the world there is physical and emotional healing available. Darkness has been defeated and has to flee before the One who has come to remove it.
And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.1 John 3:23,24
Believe in Jesus and love others. The whole law and regulations are summed up in these two things. Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and strength, and love others. To do the best for them. When I live a righteous life before God, I reflect that love through my deeds, and show the world around me there’s a way to life. When I sin, I don’t show people love, rather I reflect that God is not really worth it. But when I have love, I can point people to Jesus.
We are set apart by God and for God. Instead of holiness being something we avoid, we give ourselves to it, and with it we walk into the world, not separating ourselves. The world needs to see real holiness; true holiness, which is not living by religious laws where it’s apparent that I want to do something else. The world can see our motives. When we’re being religious it stinks. The world is searching for something real. They want to see real righteousness. God has plugged us into the world, not to be influenced by, but to influence it. God has placed you where you are because He wants you to shine brightly to those around you. There’s something a whole lot different about you that people can then see. You are passionate about God, and righteousness. You love God so much you can’t help but do the things He wants. This is what the world needs.
We are to be like Jesus in our heart and soul. It is God working in us, but we participate with Him. He will never stop working in us. He will continue to make us the best us we can ever be. He is absolutely committed to making us perfect. So God brings us into more and more life.
We’ve gone from being slaves to sin and doing things we couldn’t stop, to being slaves to righteousness. We give ourselves to God, giving God the power and influence in our lives. Putting Him first, and living as He wants us to live, with the strength given to us by the Holy Spirit. Righteousness now is much more powerful than sin ever was. However we need to work this out in our lives. We can choose to resist or participate with the Holy Spirit in this.
We…are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.2 Cor 3:18