We were made to image God.
In other words, we were created to reflect the glory and radiance - the very holiness - of God. As children of our Father in Heaven, we were made to display His perfection and radiate His light to a world that does not know Him. The holy life is a mirror image of the character of the Holy God we serve. To many of us, however, ‘holiness’ sounds like no more than abstract religious jargon. Perhaps it conjures up pictures of morbidly dull moralism, or the pietistic pursuit of righteousness by withdrawing from society. Attaining it seems impossible, and living in it seems utterly unattractive. This picture of holiness couldn’t be more distant from the truth.
“How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets the real thing, it is irresistible.” C.S. Lewis.
The call to holiness is a divine invitation into the fullness of life that the Father created us for. To be holy is to be truly human, for we were made to be like God, in whom there is no imperfection or lack or darkness. To be holy is to be set apart. To be whole.
‘Holy living’ is not primarily about being particularly pious or merely attaining moral excellence. Of course, holiness does manifest itself as good works. But so much more than that, the holy life is one marked by wonder and awe at the incomparable beauty of the Father, radically orientated around His goodness and majesty.
Holiness is the distinctive mark and defining characteristic of the children of God. The holy life is the upward call of sons and daughters of God who have been clothed with the righteousness of our Father. It is a demanding call, yes; a narrow road, no doubt.
But the life of holiness is the embrace of grace for us who are being saved. It is a privilege; God does not stop at just making us right with Him, but transforms us to be like Him. Salvation is not a one-off event, but a journey of growing more and more in the likeness of the Holy One who saves us. We are to pursue holiness, then, because sin is not befitting a child of God, in whom the Spirit of adoption dwells. Where there is sin, there is only destruction and death, but where there is righteousness, there is life in all its fullness. Holiness is how we were made to live.
The impetus to live a holy life is not one driven by fear but by love, born not of a spirit of slavery but of freedom. Holiness is not God’s burden - but God’s best for us. The Bible doesn’t describe this transformation as an optional extra to “tack on” to our lives. It is intrinsic to what it means to be a child of God.
Sanctification - the means by which God makes us holy - is the outworking of our salvation. The message of the gospel is that God loves us just as we are - enough that He would send His Son to die for us that we might be righteous in His sight and reconciled to Him. But He loves us too much to leave us as we are, conformed to our sinful nature.
Holiness is a work of God’s Spirit in us (1 Peter 1:2). God has promised to finish the good work He started in us: holiness is the inevitable conclusion of our salvation (Philippians 1:6).
The call to holiness is so much more than just private transformation, though. It is a call to live distinctively in a world that does not know God.
A godless society will not see God unless His people authentically, radically radiate His character. When we are clothed in holiness, we are a light on a hill that cannot be hidden, a salting influence, the fragrance of God and aroma of Christ in a world that does not know Him.
The pursuit of holiness, then, is integral to our mission.
In short, holiness is no less than becoming more like the One who made us, the One we were made to image - separate from sin.
If we have been captured by the better vision of the Kingdom, our lives will be fashioned after the Holy God who sits enthroned above it.
Where, then, do we begin? We begin in worship. We will become what we adore; our actions will be an outworking of our adoration to God. As we fix our eyes on our Father who is Holy, our lives will be conformed to His image. The beginning of the life of holiness is a life of worship.
We start our journey by simply saying, with John the Baptist: