Holiness as Nonconformity
If you take a look around you, wherever you are, you will notice that our lives our filled with conformity. Most things plastic have been shaped according to a mold. I have some figurines on my desk that weren’t hand-carved but no-doubt formed from a mold of an original. Artwork on walls often is not original but a print of the original. I’ve even seen woodworking shows where a carpenter uses a mold, clamps, and steam, over time, to bend an otherwise solid piece of wood into a usable shape for a piece of furniture. Yes, we are surrounded by conformity.
What’s more, the societies in which we live bear the marks of conformity. Societal norms work their way into our thoughts, emotions, and actions. Whether we know it or not, we are constantly being pressured to align ourselves with the patterns of this world. Some of these patterns are innocent, inconsequential, or maybe even good; others are evil and destructive. The Bible speaks to the latter set in no uncertain terms.
Both Peter and Paul instructed their readers not to be conformed—Paul, “to this age” (Rom. 12:2); Peter, “to the desires of your former ignorance” (1 Pet. 1:14). These references are one in the same, for Christians have received the knowledge of God in Jesus and have been called to be different like Jesus (we have been given the Holy Spirit to ensure this result).
Rather than conformity to the world, we are to be “transformed by the renewing of [our] mind,” Paul wrote, in order to “discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Peter put it simply—“As obedient children…” And what is the measure of this obedience? Nothing less than God Himself—“Be holy, because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16, quoting Lev. 19:2). So we “are to be holy in all [our] conduct” (1 Pet. 1:15).
Our conduct, and everything behind it, should resist the evil bent of this world and instead line up with the straight, holy rule of the Lord our God.
What Can We Expect from Holy Living?
If holiness is our aim, what can we expect?
- Struggle with Sin
The entire Bible resounds with the difficulty of holy living, which is why the call to holiness rings out over and over and over again. Recall that we are surrounded by conformity and constantly being pressured to conform. Broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many are on it both conforming and being conformed to the pattern of this age, but difficult is the road that leads to life, and few find it (Matt. 7:13-14). Holiness is a struggle, as you and I well know, but the fight is worth it—indeed, it has already been won in Christ!
- Hatred from the World
Holy conduct, fueled by the Spirit, will include a desire to live at peace with everyone (Rom. 12:18). As far as our part goes in relationships, we love, forgive, and tell the truth with grace dripping from every word. As we proclaim the truth of Jesus, our holy words and holy actions bear testimony to our holy God. To some, this is “an aroma of life leading to life,” but to others it is “an aroma of death leading to death” (2 Cor. 2:16). Why? Because holiness has a way of indicting everything that is not holy.
Jesus said the world hated Him because He testified about it, that its deeds were evil (John 7:7). He did this with both His words and His actions, for He is “the Holy One of God” (John 6:69). Jesus also said this would be true of His disciples because He has called them out of the world to be different from the world—to be holy (John 15:18). Holy living on the part of Christians will make it plain how evil are the ways of the world, and this will result in hatred from the world.
- The Pleasure of Our Father
In Christ, we have a sure standing before our God and Father, one that we can do nothing about to improve upon or detract from. That said, Scripture still uses the language of “pleasure” to describe our holy conduct:
- “We make it our aim to be pleasing to Him” (2 Cor. 5:9).
- The Philippians gave Paul a monetary gift for his ministry, “a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18).
- “Walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him” (Col. 1:10).
- “We keep His commands and do what is pleasing in His sight” (1 John 3:22).
When we fall short of God’s glory, again and again, our Father disciplines His children in love “for our benefit.” What benefit? “So that we can share in His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). Why? Because holiness is good—Holy conduct is making the best use of our time on this earth, and holy living receives the pleasure of our holy, loving Father.