Does your church talk much about living a holy life? It doesn’t seem to be a very popular topic – even in Christian circles. And yet hypocrisy is the number one reason people give for not wanting to have anything to do with Christianity. Or Christians. When we claim to follow Christ, but don’t look like Him we push people away from the One source of eternal life.
In his book “The Pursuit of Holiness,” Jerry Bridges defines holiness like this:
To be holy is to be morally blameless. It is to be separated from sin and, therefore, consecrated to God… To live a holy life, then, is to live a life in conformity to the moral precepts of the Bible and in contrast to the sinful ways of the world.”
The apostle Paul described it as “putting off our old self,” which belongs to our life before Jesus, and to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Sometimes we compare ourselves to the world or other Christians and think we’re doing pretty good. But, God doesn’t call us to “pretty good.” His holiness is our standard (1 Peter 1:16). Jesus died so we could be holy. (For more on living a life of holiness see my study “Embraced by Holiness.”)
5 Benefits of Holiness
Holiness may seem hard, but the benefits far outweigh anything we might need to “sacrifice.” The gain is far greater than the loss of any worldly activity, behavior, or attitude.
Usually what it comes down to is simply our desire. Why would we want to live a holy life? The following five benefits are not the only reasons, but they’re ones Scripture mentions repeatedly.
- Holiness fosters intimacy with God and builds spiritual strength and stability (Psalm 15:1-6).
- Holy living makes us useful and effective for God’s purposes (2 Timothy 2:20-26).
- Our holy life causes people around us to glorify God (1 Peter 2:9-12).
- Holiness builds peace with God (2 Peter 3:10-18).
- A holy life pleases God and produces “fruit” (Ephesians 5:1-17).
I especially like the first benefit on that list. Perhaps you too long to experience a deep, intimate relationship with God, but often feel disconnected. According to Scripture, there is a direct connection between a holy life and experiencing God’s presence.
Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts. Psalm 15:1-2, NLT
The opposite is also true. Unholy living floods believers’ lives with the natural consequences of sin, including distance and strain in our relationships with God.
5 Ways to Foster a Holy Life
Humanly speaking, holiness is an impossible task. Only the Holy Spirit can spiritually transform us and produce holiness in our lives. Here are a few practical things we can do to cooperate with His ongoing work:
- Practice an awareness of the presence of God– God is always with us. He knows our thoughts, attitudes, and motivations. Intentionally reflecting on this truth will nourish holiness in our lives.
- Stay in the Word– The Creator of the universe has revealed Himself, His will, and His ways to us in the Bible. It describes the holy life to which God calls us. But we cannot live by God’s Word unless we know God’s Word.
- Be proactive in our battle against sin– Sin takes root in our lives, growing and multiplying. To be holy, we must dig it out by the roots and get rid of it. Ask God to also help you recognize areas of weakness in your life so you can guard against potential sin.
- Respond quickly to the Spirit– Have you ever responded to the prompting of the Spirit with “in a minute?” I certainly have. If you’re a parent, you understand that “delayed” obedience is simply disobedience. Sometimes, we even intend to obey – later. Unfortunately, our delayed obedience causes us harm and dishonors God. We may miss out on God’s best plan for us or even put ourselves in danger. Immediate obedience is always best!
- Make the most of trials– God uses persecution and the common trials of this life to refine our faith and shape our character. Rely on His strength and trust Him with the process.
- Keep an eternal perspective– If we allow the things of this physical world to dominate our thoughts and priorities, the temporal will drive our emotions and responses. But if we stay focused on God’s bigger, eternal picture we will be able to reject sin and stand firm in trials.
How have you thought about holiness in the past? Have you thought a holy life was too hard? Simply undesirable? Would love to hear your thoughts!