Holiness 101

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” 1 Peter 1:13-16

Peter doesn’t mess around, does he? He says exactly what he means and doesn’t leave any room for misunderstanding – “Be holy.” Isn’t it weird, then, that in this day and age, when somebody says someone is holy, it usually doesn’t sound like a compliment. “Look at him. Doesn’t he think he’s all holy?”

The problem is, as will everything else in this sinful world, the enemy has worked hard to make sure that the qualities that God asks for have been twisted and misused until they don’t resemble their true definition any more.


Image © Lars Justinen from GoodSalt.com

Thankfully, God prepared for that and made sure we had some examples. One of the best of which is His relationship with the Israelites through His sanctuary.

Every part of the Sanctuary was a symbol for God’s desire to be in the midst of His children and to be involved in their daily lives.

If you had asked the Israelites of Moses’ time, David’s time, or even Jesus’ time, what percentage of their lives was “religious,” they probably would have looked at you like you didn’t have any idea what you were talking about Religion wasn’t just a percentage of their lives. Being a Jew was their whole existence. It was their national identity, their religious identity, what they ate, where they lived, and who they married. It was even part of how they washed their hands. The problem is, with a few notable exceptions, the Jews became bogged down in their own rules and traditions instead of allowing God to set them free.

One of those exceptions was King David. Over and over again, in the Psalms, we can read David’s desire to meet with God in His Sanctuary. Psalm 27 encapsulates how David feels about the Sanctuary, specifically in verses 4-13:

“One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in His pavilion; In the secret place of His tabernacle He shall hide me; He shall set me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me; Therefore I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle; I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord. Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice! Have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ My heart said to You, ‘Your face, Lord, I will seek.’ Do not hide Your face from me; Do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my help; Do not leave me nor forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, Then the Lord will take care of me. Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; For false witnesses have risen against me, And such as breathe out violence. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living.”

David’s desire to experience that closeness with God that the Sanctuary represented consumed his life. Yes, we all know that David made some horrific mistakes, but He never lost his hunger for God. And God recognized and honored David for that – being called a man after God’s own heart should be something for which we all strive.

So, how can we find and maintain that “sanctuary relationship” with God? How can we “be holy?”

Well, we have to decide whether we’re going to admire Jesus or are we going to follow Him. Although those two things may sound similar, in this context, they are quite different.

“If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite—to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of ‘followers’ and ‘disciples.’”1

Many of the people who came after Jesus turned out to be admirers – they left Him when things weren’t easy anymore. David didn’t turn back from his love of God, even when he spent years hiding from King Saul or when some of his own sons turned against him and his family was torn apart.

Many of us want to experience the feel good times with Jesus but aren’t committed to sticking around when things get rough.

“Jesus has many who love his kingdom in heaven, but few who bear his cross. He has many who desire comfort, but few who desire suffering. He finds many to share his feast, but few his fasting. All desire to rejoice with him, but few are willing to suffer for his sake. Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the cup of his passion. Many admire his miracles, but few follow him in the humiliation of the cross.”2

Being holy isn’t just being a Christian, going to church on a certain day or however many times a week. It isn’t praying before meals or reading our Bibles for a certain number of minutes every day. We can’t be holy sometimes and then sometimes not. Being holy is not about a particular denomination or how religious you are. Being holy isn’t a part of our lives, it has to be our identity in Jesus Christ.

Does that mean we are exempt from making, sometimes, horrific mistakes? Afraid not. But we will, like David, center our lives on our God, our Savior and Redeemer, and our Best Friend.

“Christ says, ‘Give me all. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there. I want to have the whole tree down. I don’t want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think are innocent as well as the ones you think are wicked—the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own will shall become yours.’”3

That is my prayer. Is it yours?

  1. Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian (1813–1855)
  2. Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ; found in: Tony Lane, Timeless Witness (Hendrickson, 2004), p. 188
  3. C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (HarperOne, 2001), p. 196-197


Holiness 101 — 17 Comments

  1. Lillian,
    Great appreciation for your apt use of the Word. Peter demonstrates that "holiness" is about character - what of Himself, God wants to duplicate in us. "It has to be our identity in Christ", you said.
    You captured well the distinction between a look of holiness, and "being holy". Of course, as Jesus Christ was maligned because He was indeed "holy", so followers of Jesus Christ will also be.
    I love your appreciation for David's longing, desire, passion; his responding to his deep need to be in the presence of a Holy God.
    One day, David's passion will be a reality, as in person He will cling to the feet of His Father in Heaven (unless He is already there enjoying a perpetual dance of joy in the presence of His Father - nearly two thousand years now (first fruits of our Savior).

    • Hurford. David lies resting with all the kings who have gone before. Jesus will ressurect him soon and thus fulfil His joy.

      • Lincoln, I hear your general statement. Question: Were some saints resurrected at the time of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Well, could David likely be one of them? Peace to you, unto the coming of Jesus Christ. God bless.

        • Hurtford,

          Some writings alluded to the fact that there were ‘first fruits’ taken back to Heaven with Jesus (some of which will form the ‘four and twenty elders’).
          I would not think that David was among them his bones are still in Hebron. On such matters I must admit to be out of my league.

  2. It is my prayer to be holy too. It has been years since I gave my life to Jesus and start the journey to holiness. Once I lost direction some other times I step back. I feel I haven't attained holiness till now and it is still not my identity. I'm debited with Jesus kindness and mercies. I have never fall short of His blessings and supplies. Then I ask myself, who am I to receive such a special attention and care? The answer is the same always, I'm just a sinner whom Jesus has not yet given up on his plan to save me. It means a lot when we are given second chances to do right things, now is the right moment to do so. Be holy

  3. Rebecca, You are right -- who am I to receive? And He answers: I created you. You are mine. I came to save you. Just accept His death for our sin, and His resurrection for our new life. Believe John 3:16
    We surrender to Him and receive His grace and salvation, by faith. If we lack faith, we ask, and He responds: Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. He says, "My sheep hears my voice and follow me".
    The Lord's prayer: I only want to do His will, as it is done in Heaven ......Father, Thy Kingdom come

  4. how i love and ask God to help me be holy.........as my heart strive to do good but my body is weak....... please God mek me holy

  5. God does not call us to do impossible things. When He calls us to be holy, it's because He has provided all things needed for us to reach his standard. Let's pray that it becomes our will to do His will and allow Him to do His plans in our lives.

    • Charles, I think God has asked us to do the "impossible" so that we might give up on ourselves and surrender fully to Him.

      When we ask Him to be Lord of our lives - when we surrender ALL of ourselves to Him - He does the "impossible" in us and through us. (See Luke 18:24-27; Mark 9:23-24)The power is not in ourselves.

    • Whatever God asks us to do, it is possible ONLY with God's guidance. One young woman who has done impossible things for God says that it isn't true that God only gives us as much as we can handle. He always gives us more than we can handle unless we lean on His strength.

      • Lilliane, I think that young woman is "right on." As Paul says, "When I am weak, than I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10)

        In fact, we can only be "strong" when we recognize our weakness. (The gospel is full of such paradoxes.)

  6. There is something known as righteousness, holiness and perfection. Since we are dealing with holiness, I personally felt no one knew if the are holy. It is only by revelation of the Holy Ghost that we are told about this. Holiness is a character trait. Holiness had to do with every dimension of us; body, soul and spirit

  7. I think that sometimes we confuse holiness with sanctimonious. These is a very big difference to being holy and putting on a show of holiness. It is easy to look holy. You can be seen reading your leather-bound Bible, watching DVDs of TV programs by "approved" preachers, having a knowledge of the contents of red cloth-bound books, eating raw foods and so on. Being holy is something that happens inside you. We can debate how that happens, but ultimately you make a decision that you are one of God's mob and that you are going to stick with that decision.

    David made that decision and even though he was a bit of a ratbag at times, his commitment to that decision meant that he recognized when he was wrong and accepted his responsibility for his actions.

    Being Holy was never about putting on a show. It was always about where you stand in relation to God, even when nobody is looking - even when it hurts.

    • To me holiness comes from God, He is the one that sets us apart, sanctifies us - makes us holy, while being sanctimonious comes from man who has a tendency to set himself apart from others because he feels that he has attained a higher status.

  8. Jesus takes my death and gives me HIS Life.
    He takes my uncleanness and gives me HIS Purity.
    He takes my sin and gives me HIS righteousness.
    He takes my false,fake, pretentious garb and gives me HIS Holiness.
    It is not by my futile striving to be what I cannot ever become;
    But by His free gift of grace, taking my place, and offering me His.
    He dies, so I can die with Him. He lives so I can live with Him.
    "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me."

  9. Praise God for using you in such a way to bless and encourage myself and others in the Lord.God bless ,keep allowing the Lord to use you.

  10. Thank you, Lillianne. I very much enjoyed reading this. It really caused me to rethink what long held views and understanding I may have on the topic of holiness; In the context of The Sanctuary message, I think it means living a life wholly consecrated to serving God and his people. The 'look' of holiness, I think, may sometimes be the easier thing to accept for a majority of believers if/when they just haven't understood what it means. Thank you for offering us some little more insight. God bless you in your ministry.


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