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 1:15-16
What is Holiness?
The idea of us being holy would be fully unthinkable if it were not for this command. Holiness seems to be reserved for God alone. He is called holy. How can we be holy?
If God desires this of us, we should learn how we can be holy. And, the first thing we need to do is understand what holiness actually is.
There are two common thoughts about what holiness means.
- The state of being set apart.
- The state of being without sin.
Can We Be Without Sin?
It is this second part of the definition that gives most Christians pause. Can we truly live a life without sin? I mean, we have all sinned and fall short (Romans 3:23).
But, where in the Bible is sin and holiness connected? We have things, which we consider as sinful acts, being improper for us because we are holy (Ephesians 5:3). And, as we purify ourselves from those sinful acts, we will perfect holiness in us (2 Corinthians 7:1).
Which Comes First, Holiness or Sinlessness?
It seems to me that a life without sin is an overflow of a holy life rather than the means to live holy. Since we have set ourselves apart, offering ourselves as living sacrifices, we no longer conform to the patterns of this world (Romans 12:1-2). Our minds are renewed, and our lives are holy and pleasing to the Lord.
Our focus is not in stopping sin in our lives; it is remaining set apart. We are not defensively trying to keep bad things from our lives, but we are offensively remaining set apart in every area. As we remain set apart, sin has no hold on us.
Being Set Apart is Not Conformity
How do we remain set apart? The patterns of this world want to conform us to its way of living. It wants to convince us we don’t need God. The world wants to steal your holiness.
Religion also wants to conform us to its way of living. By trying to convince us we need to act a certain way, religion also tells us we don’t need God. It tells us that if we conform to its ways of behavior, God is pleased, and to not conform to its specific behavior is sin.
Conformity steals our connection with God. By creating rules we think we know what to do, so we don’t go to God to get His mind. However, anything that doesn’t proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23).
Therefore, giving thanks for your food before you eat can be sin. Having family devotions can be sin. Putting a Christian bumper sticker on your car can be sin. Behaviors that do not originate from faith are sins.
Being set apart is not trying to look a certain way. Being set apart is to commit your life to God, being connect to Him, and living from that place. We are not worried about sin; we are focused too much on connection. Our recognition and work to stop sin is a desire to remove things hurting our connection with God.
We Are Holy Because That Is What God Calls Us
Finally, be holy because God is holy. To be holy is a place of being not an act of doing. We are holy. God calls us this, therefore we will be holy as long as we believe it to be true. God is holy because there is none like Him.
The angels are not flying around Him saying you have no sin, you have no sin. But, You are so amazing, there is none like You.
And, God said we are are like Him. We are created in His image. Therefore, if we live as we were created to be, we also will be holy. It is our identity. It is who we are.
How can we be holy? We transform our mind from the world’s way of thinking to God’s. We realize who we are and remain set apart. We fight to stay connected to God, because that is who we are made to be… we are made to be holy.
List of Books on Holiness:
I tried to give a quick overview and hopefully bring some life and hope into this topic. There are so many books on God’s holiness and our role in response that I encourage you to research it more. Below are some books from a few of the most read authors. Feel free to let me know if there are others you would add.
The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. This is one of the first books I think of on the topic. Bridges looks at our role in being holy and how we are rely on God to live it out.
Holiness: Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots by J.C. Ryle. This is a classic on the topic. Even though it is over 100 years old, it has powerful truths for how today’s Christian can live in holiness.
The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. Sproul is a theologian that applies Christianity to our times. In this book he displays God’s holiness in a way that encourages us to to be holy as Him.
Rediscovering Holiness: Know the Fullness of Life with God by J.I. Packer. Packer pulls from an exhausted list of classical authors from many different denominations to give a comprehensive and practical resource on holiness.
Holiness: The Heart God Purifies by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. DeMoss challenges us to make our focus to pursue holiness. True holiness begins with God but there is still a response on our part.
Holiness: God’s Plan for Fullness in Life by Henry Blackaby. Blackaby lays a path for bringing revival through holy living and a healthy fear of God. After Experiencing God, I’m a fan of about anything Blackaby writes.
Coming Home to Holiness: Embracing the Life You Were Meant to Live by Shawn McMullen. I don’t know this author, but I was drawn to the explanation and desire to give another view of the topic. McMullen is a minister in Indiana, and his book takes practical path toward holiness for the believer.
The Fire of His Holiness: Prepare Yourself to Enter Into God’s Presence by Sergio Scataglini. This book will challenge you that 98% holy is just not enough. You will be encouraged to a deeper relationship with God and a more exciting life with Him.
Return to Holiness by Gregory Frizzell. This book is more than something you just read straight through. There are several questions to get you to think and deepen your understanding of holiness.
Hosea: The Heart and Holiness of God by G. Campbell Morgan. Take a journey through the book of Hosea to gain a greater view of God’s heart for holiness. Morgan’s writings are simple yet profound.
Holiness, Truth, and the Presence of God by Francis Frangipane. Frangipane takes you on a journey toward true holiness that leads you into the presence of God. His writings will challenge you and provoke your thinking.
Kevin Shorter is the founder of this prayer-coach site and have served for several years in ministry and churches teaching on a variety of Biblical topics. Go to the contact page to request him to speak at your conferences and seminars.