"But, as he who has called you is holy, so be holy in all manner of life,
because it is written, "Be you holy; for I am holy.'"
I Peter 1:15-16
Do you ever feel overwhelmed when you read a verse like the one above? I do. God is so holy and we so aren't. Paul's writings made it clear that we are holy because of Christ's payment for our sin and our position being in Him. The above verse tells us we are commanded to live out that holiness. Yet, I find myself often struggling with living up to the holiness of God, which is hard to wrap my mind around. Paul's writings in Romans 7:14-19 normalize my struggle as the passage describes his own struggle with holiness. He says that he finds himself not doing the good he desires to do and finds himself doing the evil that he desires not to do. There are a few practical principles that can help us grow in holiness.
First, we are called to a life of holiness that is patterned after the Lord's – not the world's view of holiness. Holiness is not relative to the various situations we find ourselves in, but it is according to God's word. We must realize the world taints our view of holiness or we become desensitized to sin. We would do well to ask the Lord to give us His perspective of holiness and sin. We can even ask Him to give us sensitive consciences. It’s important to realize we will automatically grow in Holiness as we develop our relationship with the Lord. The more we learn to love Him the more we will desire to obey Him and to turn away from all that hurts our relationship with Him.
Secondly, we need to remember God has given us everything we need in the scripture that enables us to live holy lives. (2 Peter 1:3) That includes instruction, reproof, correction, exhortation, and encouragement. He also has told us He will not give us more than we can handle, but with temptation He will give us a way of escape. (1 Corinthians 1:13) These truths indicate living a life of holiness requires faith that God has provided what we need to grow and will provide strength in the face of each temptation. Every temptation is an opportunity to see God work in our lives.
Next, a very important part of the process of growing in holiness is reaching a point we are in tune enough with God’s Word we actually consistently call evil evil and good good. It is God’s desire we learn to love the things He loves and hate the things He hates. (Romans 12:9) If we are neutral about evil and don't hate it, we have the potential to move in the direction of it. This doesn't mean hating people – just the evil they do.
There are several reasons to hate evil. First, it doesn’t reflect our Creator. Second, evil damages the person who is acting evilly and it damages those around him. For example, premarital sex has spread painful horrible diseases that kill. It also has done tremendous emotional damage to the people involved in it. Pornography does not just affect those who look at it. Several years ago a county in Florida took all pornography out of it and the number of rapes and childhood perpetration decreased significantly. Sin has its roots in pride and self-centeredness and it results in pain and broken relationships. The scripture uses strong words to describe sin. It is not a disorder, nor is it a developmental issue; it is sin. Sin is serious because it separated us from God and made us His enemies. It helps us to abhor evil if we look at sin as God does in the Scripture, calling sin sin.
As we learn to hate evil we will be driven with the desire to replace wrong behavior with righteous behavior. Romans 6:13 says, "Neither yield you your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin, but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God." To overcome sin we need to do something that is incompatible with what we are trying to overcome. If we have struggled with hatred, we need to do something loving. If we have been lying we need to practice telling the truth. If we have stolen, we need to find a way to give. If we have been disrespectful to authority figures, we need to look for ways to honor them.
Lastly, our motives for trying to be holy need to be loving and honoring God – not just hiding our faults, getting other people to look up to us, or making us feel better about ourselves. It is simply to show God love and to return to the place that we bearer his image as He originally designed us to do. We would do well to remember that sometimes all an unbeliever knows about our great God and Savior is what they see in us.
Prayer: Father, we praise You because You are Holy. We thank You that You have declared us righteous because of Christ's death. We ask that you help us to hate evil and to cling to what is good. We also ask that You help us to recognize temptation in its earliest stages and that You will help us make choices that will replace sinful habits with Godly behavior. Amen.