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Mission Possible: Holiness

by Eric Reynolds
via Biblical Insights, December 2012

Are you living in holiness?

"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as 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" (I Peter 1:14-16).

Many dismiss this instruction as impossible. The standard of holiness is perceived to be beyond the reach of mortals. Consequently, some who claim to be Christians will at the same time describe themselves as flawed and sinners, never grasping the Lord's intention and ability to transform them into His image.

In Christ and through His power, we escape from sin and become partakers of His nature.

"His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire" (II Peter 1:3-4).

The Lord calls us away from sinfulness and into godliness, "out of darkness and into his marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9). This transition is also described as a rebirth: "you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God" (I Peter 1:23). John emphatically declares that this rebirth changes the way we live: "no one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God" (I John 3:9-10).

Not only is holiness in the life of a Christian possible, it is required. We simply cannot claim to be a child of God while living in sin. Christians do not walk in the shadows, half in and half out of the light. "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth" (I John 1:6).

Jesus came and showed us how to live. He showed us the Father. If we would have fellowship with Him, we must live as He lived. Jesus instructed His apostles to go and make disciples, baptizing them and "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:20). Our Lord clearly expected that people of all nations would be able to learn, understand, and obey. Through faith and the grace of God, the Christian life is one that anyone can choose to live.

Two questions often arise in connection with holiness. First, what about growth? Without question, learning to walk in holiness is a growth process. Hebrews 5:12-14 illustrates this with milk and meat. The ability to discern good and evil requires spiritual maturity, the ability to digest the "solid food" portions of the word, and practice. These things come with time and effort.

However, the inspired author does not suggest that no one will ever reach maturity. In fact, he chastises his readers for their stunted growth, declaring that sufficient time had passed for them to have matured (Hebrews 5:12). The message is clear: God gives us time to grow, and He expects us to do it. He supplies what we need; we have to bring the appetite. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6).

A second question that comes up in discussions of holiness is: what if we sin? The Lord has called us into His marvelous light, which means leaving all sin behind. Yet temptations abound, and the old man of sin seems determined to return to life. What happens when one of God's children, one who is trying to walk in the light, sins?

John addresses this as well. "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 2:1). If we confess our sins, He forgives us. But John clarifies that this is no license to walk in darkness: "no one who abides in him keeps on sinning" (I John 3:6).

The bottom line: if you are a Christian, live in holiness like Christ. "Let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous" (I John 3:7). By His grace and to His glory, you can do it.