Holiness is an uncommon word these days. I mean, think about it—when was the last time that, in the middle of a casual conversation, the other party said, “You know, I’m just all about pursuing holiness.” What is holiness anyway? According to one source I found, holiness is, “a purity of the heart, undefiled and separate from sin.” Why is holiness so unpopular?
Holiness is unpopular because it requires denying one’s desires. Doing wrong has its pleasures, and mankind likes to enjoy them when he can. Romans 12:1 is a call to holiness. Paul says, “I appeal to you brothers… to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” To sacrifice something is very difficult, especially if the sacrifice is you. To sacrifice another person is hard, to sacrifice a loved one harder, but your own self? That is one of the most difficult things you can do.
So then, we realize that it is hard to be holy because of our desire to save ourselves. Yet we are still called to be holy. God says, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). So why are we called to holiness? Because of God’s holiness. God is pure in heart, undefiled, and separate from sin; we should be also. As Christians, we are sons of God (1 Jn. 3:1) and are called to behave as sons of God (1 Jn. 2:29). As sons, and heirs of the grace of God, we are to be holy, sanctified, set apart for His service.
However hard we may try, we can never be completely holy. We cannot, of our own accord, set aside sin and pursue right living. Paul relates this struggle, even as a Christian, in Romans 7:19, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Later he exclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” The conclusion? “Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25) Practically speaking, how often do you want to do the right thing, yet find a battle within, unable to do what you should?
As holy as we may be, we can never earn God’s favor by holiness, nor can we merit salvation through good deeds. As God says in Jeremiah 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued in my faithfulness to you.” God’s love does not depend on what we do, but on His character. Romans 5:8 states “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This demonstrates that even while we were in rebellion to God, He loved us.
However unappealing the idea of holiness may be, we are still called to it and must answer the call. We were bought with a price; therefore, we must glorify God with our bodies as well as our hearts, being pure, undefiled, and separate from sin.