Living biblically is living holy. The truth of the gospel demands spiritual submission. PERIOD. Yikes! There’s no easy way to say, read, or write that, but now that I’ve gotten that out of the way…
One reason I believe we struggle with the truth of holiness is this: God is perfect, and we aren’t. First off, holiness isn’t acquired by a litany of good works, but it is freely attributed to us because of the perfect sacrifice of Jesus and the blood He shed on the cross. That sacrifice not only covers us but presents us pure and holy (set apart) before God the Father. Therefore, holiness is not subject to, or a result of, your opinion or emotions. By definition, to be holy is to be consecrated unto God. Putting to death our sinful nature requires recognition of causal effect.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.”
Romans 12:1 NKJV
Holiness isn’t about our perfection, it’s about submission to His perfection.
Not only was the sacrifice of Jesus great, but it was complete and necessary to redeem us from our fallen and sinful state. And, if we receive salvation by faith through grace, then we live holy by that same grace. I like to think of it like this: Grace covers the gap. Here’s what I mean. Even in the middle of my sin, which caused separation from me and a holy God, His grace, freely applied, actively fights for me to have communion with God because and through the blood of Jesus. Knowing that, His perfect sacrifice begins to take on a more impactful and practical form and inspires us to present ourselves as an offering to God as well. Holiness isn’t about our perfection, it’s about submission to His perfection. This is the part that keeps us humble. How much are we willing to give over to the Lordship of Christ? Is my sin — my broken patterns of thinking — more valuable to me than uninterrupted communion with my Heavenly Father? Holiness in every essence of the word will make you feel unworthy, and that’s ok because you are. We all are. You’ll begin to realize that the only reason that you are presented holy before God is not because of anything you’ve done or try to do, but because of what Jesus has done. Simply put, the death He died in your stead is what makes you holy.
Pastor Josh in the “How To Be A Christian” series put it like this:
If you underestimate the holiness of God, you will underestimate the severity and consequence of your sin.
If you underestimate the consequence of your sin, you will never understand why Jesus had to come.
If you don’t understand why Jesus had to come, you will never fully understand the finished and complete work of the cross.
If you don’t understand the finished and complete work of the cross, you will never understand the magnitude of your forgiveness.
If you don’t understand the magnitude of your forgiveness, you will never be fully passionate about Jesus.
When you are fully passionate about Jesus, you will pursue a life of holiness.
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.”
Titus 2:11-14 NKJV
The things listed above — the grace of God, salvation, and redemption — are all received by faith. In addition, denying ungodliness and worldly lust requires the grace of God to empower us to do it. When we are convicted of sin it doesn’t always feel good, but it is good. Conviction of sin is a sign that the gospel is working in you and at some point, or many points, our character becomes a better reflection of the character of Christ. If you haven’t caught it yet- Jesus is the beginning, middle, and end of this equation. Because of love, He came to earth. Because of love, He gave His life for us. Because of love, He conquered death, hell, and the grave and now presents us as righteous and holy before God the Father. And because of love, we offer our lives back to Him as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable.