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“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.’” (1 Peter 1:14–16)
The church in our day is known for many things; some great, some laughable, and some embarrassing. But what will our individual local churches be known for?
Slick services? Music cranked to eleven? Disney-fried children’s ministries? It’s easy for a church to become known for a product, but we are more often known for the people—the actual church. What will the living and breathing church, not the commodities we produce, but the people that fill the pews, what will we be know for?
We will be known for being mean, angry, and “get off my lawn” kind of people? Are we perceived as gossipy, grudge-holding, hypercritical holier-than-thous? Our doctrine matters, and so does our doctrine in animation—in life and in the culture of our churches.
We ought to be known for being holy people.
The Lord is calling us to be holy people. Holy, not in the sense of some religious shaman, but holy in the sense of being God’s obedient children in all of our conduct—not just on Sundays or small groups, but out to the edge, the circumference of life. We are called to be obedient children of God under the reign of grace. Holiness is concerned with living for the glory of God, in all of life (1 Cor. 10:31). We no longer conform to our old desires and the patterns of worldliness we’ve known all too well. Because we have been transferred from one kingdom to another, we have a new ethic, a new way of living as children of the Most High. Christian holiness is realized from our new identity in Christ. It is vital to know our positional holiness (justification) and it is demanded that we live a practical holiness (sanctification). We are to be holy. Which, according to Peter, isn’t just knowing you are children of God. It’s being obedient children, living it, and not conforming to sin.
In a sense, the whole holier-than-thou slam isn’t entirely off. Aren’t we to be holy people? “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” We aren’t to be self-righteous people, which is usually what brings on the criticism. Holy people realize holiness isn’t self-made—it’s Christ-wrought and Spirit-grown (Gal. 2:20, 5:22–24). Holy people are humbled people. We were dead in our sins but we’ve been made alive in Christ. And now, we are being conformed to Christ (Rom. 8:29). Christlikeness is our mold, our goal, our aim, our destiny. We have been crucified with Christ, and we have been raised with Christ, and we are seated with Christ in the heavenly places—practical holiness comes with following Christ (Matt. 5-7).
One of my greatest concerns in the Bible belt is that many are ok with being “Christ-followers” who have no concern for actually following Christ in all of our conduct. The blood that flowed mingled down at Calvary saves us, and by that same grace, it’s changing us.
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:11–14 ESV)
Jesus, as the obedient Son, is training us to renounce, as obedient children, all that isn’t fitting for Christlikeness. Jesus is equipping us to conform to our identity as children of God. Holiness is more than the sanctificannots, the things we aren’t to do, it is also the things we are to do. Love one another, serve another, pray for one another, etc.
Jesus is purifying us, removing our old leaven, and making us a people who are zealous for the mission of the gospel and the good works he has prepared for us to walk in (Eph. 2:10). So, how are we pursuing holiness? Where are we not obeying Christ in his word? Let us confess, repent, and pursue holiness—set apart and ready to be useful for the fame and mission of Jesus.
“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:21 ESV)