“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but s he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:14-16)
Whenever we think about the pursuit of holiness, we usually define it as being good or bad. We teach our children to do good things because we are right, and because they won’t receive a spanking. In school, being bad is punished with detention or added homework. As adults, the good people are the ones that don’t “drink, smoke, or chew, or go with girls that do…” as the saying goes. We mistake these societal constraints as the practices that will bring us to holiness. We accept this as a godly life because the world around us sees it as godliness.
But what Peter is exhorting us to is not this. In contrast, we are commanded to live as obedient children, holy in all of our behavior, so that we will be holy as God is. This a very different picture of holiness, one in which we must know what our God’s holiness looks like before we can pursue holiness in our own lives; a holiness found through study of Scripture and searching prayer to seek out what pleases our God.
Many in the church today practice the kind of religion where you go to church on Sunday, sing the hymns as loudly as you can, and then go to work on Monday and gossip about the person two desks down. I have to think that God is disgusted by this, as should we!
If God has come to live in us by his Holy Spirit (as we are promised in the Scripture), he should be filling us with his holiness and, in the process, pushing out our unholiness. Holiness is a natural product of our salvation. In salvation we are justified (washed clean of all of our sin and redeemed for heaven). But that is not all I need. It must be followed by sanctification (the working out of our faith in pursuit of holiness) if we are truly changed by the sacrifice of our Lord.
What is the purpose of the cross? We were purchased by Christ’s blood shed for us, to live free from the bondage of sin. The redemptive work of Christ must change our perspective. In humility, knowing the Savior that died on that cross, we must be lead to obedience and holiness. We must always ask ourselves, “Did he die for this?” Did he die so that I could pursue my own desires? Did He die so that I could sit in a pew on Sunday and appear holy to all of my friends and never pursue the work of holiness?”
What is the place of holiness in your life? Is the good that you do in your day motivated by public opinion or by obedience to your Savior? Our Lord paid the highest price. Not only did he suffer physical death, but he bore the full weight of the wrath of God for our sake. Our salvation is not for public applause or self-inflation. Christ died not only to save us from the wrath to come, but to “fit us for heaven to live with thee there” (“Away in a Manger”).
This is the tiresome pursuit of holiness. And yet, “Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 35).
On Sunday we will sing together, “Take time to be holy, speak oft with thy Lord; abide in him always, and feed on his Word…” God has given us his Spirit, and “every grace that brings thee nigh!” (“Come, Ye Sinners,” Joseph Hart). Pursue holiness today, borne out of full and finished work of Christ, that we might show forth our obedience and reverence for our great and mighty God!