Dear Hope family,

Thought for the Week

Living in Holiness

1 Peter 1v16 “Be holy because I am holy.”

Holiness is not a popular idea today. Many consider it antiquated, fit to be replaced by words such as freedom and love. The word may create images in our minds of a list of “Do not”s .

Did you know that “holy” and related words occur nearly twice as often in the New Testament as in the Old? Far from Jesus doing away with holiness, he brings it in! Hence, he says to his disciples “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees … you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 6v20) The Pharisees were seen as the super-holy people of the day: they had all sorts of rules about right behavior.

Jesus went on to give the “Sermon on the Mount” where Jesus typically takes an Old Testament saying about behavior and applies it to our whole way of thinking. So for example, “If you even lust, you have committed adultery in your heart.” (Matthew 6v28).

This is a disaster for us if we are looking to get into heaven by our own efforts. We cannot. But Jesus has brought us holiness by taking all our unholiness on the cross. He took it all so that we could be set free. And he did this because he loved us. So to receive holiness is to receive freedom from guilt and to receive the most amazing love. Yes, freedom, love and holiness are linked.

But the New Testament goes further, because it says we are now “saints” (literally, “Holy Ones”). Our new identity in Christ is “holy”, and God calls us to live according to that new identity. “Our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with. … count yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Romans 6v6 & 11.

True holiness begins from within. It begins from a heart set free from sin and filled with God’s love instead. It means that true freedom and true love are not opposites of holiness, but actually lead to holiness. Just as “God is Love” and “God is Holy”, so we as his children are called to be full of both love and holiness.

May the Lord keep you in his paths of righteousness.

With love and blessing,