What It Means to be Holy

When I lived in Columbus, Ohio in the mid-80’s, there was a ministry called The Fish, which consisted of hundreds of young adults and teenagers. I attended one of their meetings because I was in that age group and was seeking fellowship. I don’t think anyone there was over 30 years old, including the leaders.

They prided themselves on their liberty as believers to live any way they wanted to live because they had received “revelation” on the grace of God to cover all their sins. As a result of this teaching, many of them lived and behaved exactly as they had done before they came to the Lord. At their meetings, they routinely drank beer, smoked cigarettes and pursued just about any lustful activity their carnal appetites desired. Anyone who questioned their behavior was looked down on as not having been enlightened. They looked down on the rest of the body of Christ and considered them to be legalistic.

It is true that legalism is a big problem in the church and has hurt many people. However, The Fish was just as much in error as the legalists they frowned upon, just at the other end of the spectrum. They had proudly climbed out of the ditch on one side of the road only to fall into the ditch on the other side of the road.

The scripture passage shown below from 1 Peter 1:13-17 makes it plain that God requires dramatic changes in behavior from all those who set their hope on the grace that will come to us at the revelation of Yeshua. To claim this grace is a license to behave in the same manner as those who do not share this hope is a perversion of the grace of God.

Therefore, prepare your minds for action, be sober and set your hope perfectly on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah — as children of obedience, not conforming yourselves according to your former lusts as in your ignorance, but just as he who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all of your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy; for I am holy.” If you call on him as Father, who without respect of persons judges according to each man’s work, pass the time of your living as strangers here in reverent fear: (1 Peter 1:13-17)

Contrary to what was being taught at The Fish, verse 14 calls us children of obedience, not conforming ourselves according to our former lusts in our ignorance. Verse 17 shows this instruction is backed up with consequences which could not be more severe. God will judge each person according to their work. We will not be judged by our great revelation of the grace of God but by our actions, by what we actually did with our thoughts, words and deeds to live a holy life.

What kind of deeds is God looking for from us? We are to be children of obedience, not conforming ourselves to our former lusts as in the ignorance of our youth. Instead, God expects us to be holy in all of our behavior, just as He is holy. As the rest of the world follows their carnal appetites and lusts, we are instructed to be strangers here, living in reverent fear of the judgment to come.

Regarding the grace that some have mistaken as a license for liberty, verse 14 makes it clear this is not something to be taken for granted. We are instructed to set our hope completely, perfectly on this grace. This makes it clear we are not guaranteed anything yet. Right now, we only have the hope of grace, which will be brought to us at the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah. Whether or not we receive what has been promised depends on whether or not we follow these instructions, and doing so will require total commitment from us to live holy in all our behavior.

With so much immorality bombarding the airwaves of television, the Internet, music and movies, it is easy to get de-sensitized and allow compromise. We put our eyes and ears on things that are not appropriate for saints of God. We allow ourselves to entertain thoughts we should not think and imagine doing things we have no business imagining. To some this sounds like legalism, but in fact it is how we prove our love for God. Our heart must cry out for more of him until we turn away from everything that gets in the way. Nothing here in this life compares with the awesome opportunity of knowing our great and awesome God!

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