Holiness, that’s probably a word you hear about a fair wee bit in church. Many of our songs speak about God’s holiness. Preachers describe God as holy, and rightly so. But how often do we talk about, sing about or preach about our own holiness?
Maybe you’re part of a generation that saw holiness in terms of the things you don’t do. For example, “you’re a holy Christian if you don’t drink, smoke or go to the movies”. Maybe this is why you don’t hear about holiness much, because Christian holiness seems to you like following a big long list of rules.
Or maybe it’s the other way, I think my generation is afraid of talking about holiness much because we don’t like to tell people that they shouldn’t be doing things. Sure, we talk about discipleship and growing in our faith. But how often are we reminded of the fact that we are to live lives that are set apart? Many preachers might be tempted to stay away from the word holiness because they don’t want people to feel that they’ve got a list to follow. I get that. However, we are commanded in Scripture to be holy, we are chosen and set apart and we’re called to live that way.
We are not saved by our works, but by our works we glorify God. Therefore, the burning desire on the heart of every Christian should be to live a holy life.
We are not perfect, we will not reach perfect holiness in this life, but our feeble attempts to live for the Lord are a sign of a transformed heart. When we fail, which we all do, our sin should take us to our knees and weep over our sin, it should make us run to the cross and repent. Not just a quick “sorry God” nor just a “I’ll try my best not to do it again” but a fervent plea for forgiveness and strength, through the Spirit, to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord.
Holiness is not a stick that we need to beat ourselves with, it is our identity that we are to live our through the empowering and enabling of the Holy Spirit. If we don’t pursue holiness, if we have no desire to live set-apart lives, have we truly grasped the holiness of God? I don’t think we have.
Likewise if we see holiness simply as a not-to-do list, then we haven’t grasped God’s goodness.
We need to get better, in the pulpit and at the coffee table, at discussing how we are doing in our holiness. Are we living in such a way that honours God? Are we living, through the enabling of the Spirit, a life that is worthy of bearing God’s name?
We need to leave behind our middle class comfortable culture and ask the hard questions. We need to be real people, not polished, airbrushed and fake puppets. Ask the tough questions and see how the conversation becomes more honest, more real and yes, more messy. Pursuing a life of holiness isn’t going to be easy, it isn’t going to be a path of red roses, but it is a path which ends with those wonderful words “well done, good and faithful servant”.
Holiness is a joy, holiness is a privilege, holiness is a command and holiness is God glorifying. Let’s throw polished politeness out of the window and get real, let’s chat about the realities of holiness and be challenged and comforted by the Lord who enables us to be holy.