If I had to write a list of adjectives to describes myself, it would be in the second ream of paper before I came up with the word holy. Maybe that’s because at some point in our imaginations, “holy” became “holier-than-thou,” and we don’t want any part of that. Or we picture seclusion, scratchy clothes, bland food and lots of praying and chanting. In 1 Peter, the apostle writes to a group of believers who are living in a hostile culture facing continued persecution. While encouraging them to faithfulness, or perseverance, might seem more logical — and he does both of those — Peter stresses holiness.
What is holiness?
The short answer: holiness is the expression of God’s perfection. But it also denotes those that have been set apart by God, for His purposes. So Peter’s advice on how to live a Christian life in the middle of a hostile culture under the ever-increasing threat and reality of persecution is to be set apart by God, for God.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 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. 1 Peter 1:13-15 ESV
Holiness requires mental preparation.
The mind can help us push through when we’re ready to give up, or it can feed us devastating lies that cripple us. Paul reminds us it is one of Satan’s favorite avenues of attack, (2 Corinthians 10:4-5) and he encourages us to have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:16)
Mental preparation for holiness means identifying the goal and committing to the steps it takes to get there. The steps include things like identifying thoughts or attitudes that are not Christlike and getting rid of them. It means opening up to the Holy Spirit’s inspection when we think we’ve done the job of getting stuff cleaned out. And it means understanding this is not an afternoon or even a weekend project. Holiness is a lifetime discipline. Discipline comes from the same Latin root as the word student. It is important to remember that students sometimes fail. When that happens it doesn’t mean we give up. It means we begin again.
Holiness requires obedience.
Obedience, not conformity. Obedient to God, not conformed to the world around us. In the ways we analyze our situations. In the way we seek solutions to our problems. In the way we conduct business. In the way we work. In the way we relate to others. Holiness means we follow God’s standards and not what feels right, seems right or looks right. We don’t act one the basis of what we deserve, what is justified, or what is owed to us. We act on the basis of God’s grace and mercy.
Holiness requires action.
It’s not enough to agree that holiness is a good thing. It’s not enough to acknowledge that I should be living a holy life. I must do it. I must put forth the effort and do the work. ‘Be holy’ is as much of a commandment as ‘thou shalt not kill’ or ‘love thy neighbor.’ So I have to be diligent. I must not allow ungodly, unloving thoughts to stay in my mind. I must take action when the Holy Spirit prompts me.
Peter began verse 4 with “therefore.” If the commitment to holiness is a burden or we don’t feel particularly motivated or obligated to it, then we don’t understand the wonder that salvation is. We don’t comprehend what it cost. We don’t realize what it’s worth. I’m pretty sure the two are directly related.
The measure of my holiness and the passion with which I pursue it are a direct reflection of my love for and devotion to a Savior who suffered and bled and died to accomplish it.