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What does the Bible say about holiness?

In the Bible, holiness, as it relates to God, is basically defined as perfection. God's perfect holiness is undisputed (1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 6:3). He is an utterly incomparable, unique being (Psalm 40:5; Hosea 11:9); free from darkness (1 John 1:5; James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18); and above all in authority and power (John 3:31; Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 11:3). God's holiness shapes and defines every aspect of Him. His love is a perfect, holy love. His mercy is a perfect, holy mercy. Even God's hate and anger are expressed in a perfect, holy wrath.

For us mere mortals, it can be really hard to wrap our heads around this kind of perfection, right? When we look inside ourselves or at the people around us, we just don't see perfection happening. How can we ever attain holiness when we could never be as perfect as God?

How is holiness even possible for us?

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light." —1 Peter 2:9

For human beings, holiness refers to being "set apart" and looks more like choosing to be dedicated or consecrated to our holy God. When God asked Israel for their holiness, His intention was to set them apart from the rest of the world by governing their actions (Leviticus 11 & 19). Because Israel behaved differently from the world, they showed they were consecrated to the Lord. They were to live by God's standards—not the world's expected norms.

For believers today, holiness is achieved by starting right at the beginning with Christ. When we accept God's free gift of salvation from the punishment of our sins through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (John 3), we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17)—set apart from the rest of the world as adopted sons and daughters of the Creator of the Universe (John 1:12; Galatians 4:5-7).

How can I be holy in my imperfect life?

God isn't asking us to be perfect. He knows that isn't possible, which is why He sent Jesus in the first place! And living a holy life is NOT what saves us. The commands and advice we find in the Bible are not part of a checklist that must be completed in order to gain salvation or earn God's favor. NO. God's love for us is unconditional. We are saved by God's grace alone, and our acceptance of that gift is what declares us righteous and holy in God's eyes (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1).

And yet, we ARE called to be holy, so how do we do this? Continue to learn from God's Word, strive to live in obedience to Him, discuss your faith with other believers, and talk to God regularly. Our faith is a journey—a lifelong process that will constantly change and develop over time. There's no rush for the finish line. Just keep striving and working toward holiness on a daily basis.

Peter gives us some pretty fantastic, straightforward guidance in how we ought to live holy lives as followers of Christ:

"Prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, 'You must be holy because I am holy.'" —1 Peter 1:13-16 (NLT)

Practically speaking, Jesus made it really easy when He told His disciples, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). Showing a godly love for others sets us apart from a world of darkness and selfishness.

Finally, the apostle Paul gave us a good measure for when we're making life decisions that will reflect holiness: "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2).

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TL;DR

Holiness, as it relates to God, is basically defined as perfection. God's perfect holiness is undisputed (1 Samuel 2:2; Isaiah 6:3) and shapes and defines every aspect of Him. For human beings, holiness refers to being "set apart" and looks more like choosing to be dedicated to our holy God. Our holiness starts with accepting the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3). Holiness, in practice, means learning from God's Word, discussing your faith with other believers, and talking to God regularly. Our journey toward holiness is lifelong process that will constantly change and develop over time. No need to rush for the finish line; just keep striving and working toward holiness daily.

By: Catiana Nak Kheiyn

Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, four socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.

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