… 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”.
—1 Peter 1:15-16
What comes to mind when you hear the terms “holy” or “holiness?”
It’s not a top-10 question asked as an icebreaker at a social meet-and-greet gathering, but if asked among family, friends, or even a Bible study gathering, the reflex responses would likely be uncomfortable laughter or thoughtful reflection.
Even if images of solemn monastics clad in worn sandals and threadbare robes come to mind—or think Church Lady from a Saturday Night Live skit from years ago—the otherworldly weight of the question elicits staggering reactions. It may be a non-believer’s fleeting ripple of fear or the redeemed’s fear out of awesome respect for God. But the thought of a holy and righteous God and accountability to Him is and should be unhinging.
“Holiness, at its root, has the idea of apartness,” says David Guzik in his Enduring Word Commentary. When it comes to the holiness of God, He “is set apart from creation, in that the Lord God is not a creature, and He exists outside of all creation. He is set apart from humanity, in that His ‘nature’ or ‘essence’ is Divine, not human.”
This is where God’s seemingly unattainable command to us in the Scripture above of “Be holy, for I am holy” trips us up. Against the unapproachable perfection of God, we don’t feel holy. Our words, actions, and attitudes as accomplished sinners speak volumes to that. And we aren’t holy—that is, in our own striving outside of Christ. Holiness is imputed to us only through Christ “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of His own purpose and grace” (2 Timothy 1:9). The “so that” of our holy calling is endeavoring to pursue God’s will and purpose for our lives by submitting to Him.
Among far too many churches and far too many Christians, the “who saved us” portion of 2 Timothy 1:9 concerning Christ is where the anchor is dropped. The continuing journey of “and called us to a holy calling…because of His own purpose and grace” doesn’t go much further, if at all.
Oswald Chambers hits the biblical bullseye by reminding us that the “destined end of man is not happiness, nor health, but holiness.” Pursuit of Holiness author Jerry Bridges points out that “an ever-increasing realization of the holiness of God” is the greatest need in the Church today that often only views Jesus as a benevolent buddy.
To be truly set apart for God’s highest purposes requires humility, a growing cognizance of the infinite gap between His utter holiness and our downright sinfulness. It’s the path Isaiah took toward becoming a major prophet for God (Isaiah 6:1-8). In the unapproachable light of God’s holiness, he was both unhinged by and took ownership of his sinful depravity. He recognized the desperate need for his sins to be atoned for and to submit to God’s cleansing fire.
It’s only then that God calls and commissions the refined and willing Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me’” (v. 8). It’s something He asks each of us today in His calling to the set-apart life of holiness.
“God wants willing, surrendered servants,” writes Guzik. “This means that the missionary, the Christian worker, the witness of Jesus Christ, is sent.” It’s a “divine commission,” where the called decide to respond to God’s calling to pursue His will and purposes for their lives.
OCF prayer warrior teammates, as we consider God’s calling of us to live and serve Him as set apart for His kingdom work, what are the ways we step into the divine commission He designed for us, for such a time as this? What are your praises? What are your prayers?