The New Testament has an extraordinary calling for ordinary people to live a radical lifestyle, a lifestyle that reflects the character of our God in cultures that have rejected God. Scripture uses one word to sum up this radical lifestyle: holiness. Peter in just a couple of verses gives us perhaps the best concise summary of what holiness is all about.
Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ 1 Peter 1:13-16 New International Version – UK (NIVUK)
So what does Peter tell us about holiness that we need to know?
HOLINESS IS A LIFESTYLE
“So be holy in all you do.”
Holiness is not just a status. When we become disciples we are not simply made holy in God’s sight because of what Jesus has done for us but remain unchanged as people. Neither is holiness just about how well or often we do “Christian” things like going to church, praying, etc. Peter says we are called to be holy in all we do. So holiness is expressed in our behaviour in every part of our everyday lives, holiness is about a entire lifestyle – not an occasional hobby.
A LIFESTYLE SHAPED BY GOD
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”
God is holy, when we come into a relationship with him his great plan for our lives is to enable us to become like him; and as holy is a one-word summary of God’s essence it’s also a summary of what we are called to become. Our Holy God gives us the Holy Spirit so that our lives and congregations can increasingly be holy as he is holy. God wants to enable us to increasingly reflect his character through our lives.
A LIFESTYLE FOR ALL BELIEVERS
“He who called you is holy.”
I have checked, there are no exemption or get-out clauses: everyone in a relationship with our Holy God is called to be holy. An “unholy Christian” should be as much an oxymoron to our ears as “dry water.” To resist and be uncommitted to allowing God to make us holy and to live as holy people is to defy and disobey God, not to mention grieve him deeply.
A LIFESTYLE THAT IS RADICALLY DIFFERENT
“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.”
Holiness, because it’s a lifestyle shaped not by the culture we are surrounded by but by a Holy God, is a radically different lifestyle. When we are empowered and guided by the Holy Spirt to live lives that reflect God’s holiness our lives will often be in marked contrast to the way we used to live and how most people in our culture live. This radical contrast is not just about what we don’t do, but more fundamentally about what we do.
Holiness at times in church history has been preached in a way that it makes it sound like God is teasing us. The message has been God calls us to be holy but actually, this side of heaven, we can’t really be holy in any meaningful or significant way.
But what if God means what he says? What if God not only calls us to be holy but will enable us to be holy? That would mean that people like us could become ordinary radicals, ordinary people who live radically different lifestyles that are shaped by and reflect our God’s character in powerful and attractive ways.
Rev. James Petticrew blogs at abrahamsfootsteps.wordpress.com.