The Pursuit of Holiness
“You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.” -Leviticus 20:26 NIV
The word “holiness” evokes mixed emotions among believers and unbelievers, because it is sometimes misunderstood and misinterpreted. Holiness isn’t about the clothes we wear or the food we eat, but about our identity with Christ. Our daily interactions must say to the world that we are set apart for God. In order to be successful in a lifelong pursuit of the holiness to which God has called us, we need to know where we are in relation to the matter of holiness.
Righteousness Vs Holiness
People confuse righteousness with holiness, but righteousness is different from holiness. Righteousness is a gift of position from God through Jesus Christ (2 Cor.5:21). To be Righteous” means “to be made right” (justified, blameless or not guilty), which means we can stand in God’s presence without a sense of condemnation, inferiority or guilt. When we become saved, we are considered in right standing with God and we don’t do right things to become righteous. (Romans 4:3; Genesis 15:6, Romans 3:20-22). What is Holiness?
• Holiness is to be identified with God in all we do (both with God and with men). Mathew 22:34-40 - Holiness starts from within. Christ’s life is meant to be an example for us because, He manifested holiness in his teaching and in his conducts by leading as an example. The pursuit of holiness that is not Christ-centered is just moralism and self-righteousness that leads to futile self-effort which in turn leads to bondage rather than liberty. Galatians 6:1-4 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such one in a spirit of gentleness…” God is patient and gracious with us as we conform to the image of His Son. Likewise, we need to extend the same patience and grace toward each other. 1 Peter 1:14-16, Ephesians 4:20-24.
• Holiness is a responsibility (2 Cor.7:1) - "Holy" means "set apart", as in “set aside for God’s service”. Many Christians have desire to live a holy life, but have come to believe that they simply cannot do it. Our natural flesh has no appetite for holiness, so there’s always a battle between our spirit and the flesh (Gal. 5:17, Eph. 4:21-32). As followers of Christ and believers, we need to always examine our activities, goals, plans, thoughts and actions in the context of “Is this pleasing to God” or “Am I doing this to please myself?
• Holiness is not victory over sin, but obedience to God. - “Run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts that young men often have, but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right. Have faith and love, and enjoy the companionship of those who love the Lord and have pure hearts.” 2 Timothy 2:22.
No athlete in training ever focuses on “how not to lose” but on “how to win”. Holiness is not victory over sin, but obedience to God. Therefore, every time we are sin conscious, instead of love and obedience to God conscious, we tend towards sin. “God hates sin, but loves the sinner”- we need to hate sin as something displeasing to God, not something that is defeating to ourselves. Just like an athlete focuses on his objectives; and trains, sacrifice and endure pain for it. Holiness is “how to win” (desires to love & please God), not “how not to lose” (desires not to sin). The guiding principle is whatever predominate our mind tends to be the guiding force for our actions. our lives supposed to be the desire to follow Christ in doing the will of God, not the desire not to sin.
• Holiness is the fruit of our relationship with the Holy Spirit - Gal. 5:16-18
Time and time again in the Bible, God declared “I am holy, therefore be holy”. God is holy and His holiness is one of His most defining characteristics. Holiness is a word we tend to only associate with purity, but the true meaning of holiness is much broader than purity. Holiness does not only challenge how we approach and relate with God (purity); but also challenges how we relate with others. Holiness is not something we can work out in our own natural strength but with the help of the Holy Spirit. We need the help of the Holy Spirit, because:
Holiness challenge how we approach relationship with God and with others.
Holiness helps keep our relationship with God and with others healthy.
Holiness helps us to grow closer to God and helps us know people better.
Holiness helps us grow in our trust in God and unconditional love for others.
Holiness helps us to live in such ways that identifies us with the holy God.
Holiness is allowing God in the mix of whatever we do in life.