In 1 Peter 1:14 and 15, we are told …as the One Who called you is holy, you yourselves also be holy in all your conduct and manner of living. For it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy.
Now that's a tall order because most of us struggle from day to day with issues and actions that make us feel more unholy than holy. We want to be holy…but sometimes that just seems much easier said than done.
Well the good news is you don't have to make that happen! In fact, you can't become holy in your own strength. Yes, God does expect us to live holy, consecrated lives. But not even the best of our intentions can make it happen. Thankfully, He doesn't expect us to make ourselves holy. He just wants us to learn to depend on Him to make us holy.
That's where grace comes in. Now grace is not a license to sin; it is the power to live as God desires us to live. It is through His Holy Spirit that we learn, by obeying Him, to live a holy life. There is absolutely no power in our human effort to live holy. It is only by His grace. And the result of receiving grace is we get better at living like Christ, which is something we all want, right?
But answer this: How much do you want it? Do you want to be better-to live holy-badly enough to give God everything? Will you surrender your all to the Holy Spirit's work in you? Because the truth is, if God is dealing with you at all, it is because He is working in your life. He just needs your cooperation. Romans 12:1 tells us to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.
You see, we can't just get "zapped" into holiness. Holiness must be chosen.
We are each responsible to present our own "all" to God. Sanctification, which is the process of becoming more holy by God's grace, is an individual process. We are all in different places in our relationship with God, and He deals with each of us in our relationship with Him. That's why there is no room for us to be judgmental of one another. When God deals with us about something in our life, we do not have the right to go and try to correct another person's life. This only causes problems in relationships with others. If God wants to deal with that person, He will. We just need to learn how to let Him deal with us personally and mind our own business.
You see, holiness is not something we attain, but a state of being God calls each of us into by His grace. So we need to keep our personal convictions personal. God does not deal with us all the same way or at the same time. Sanctification is an individual…step by step…little by little…slow but sure process that begins with a seed. When Jesus comes to live in our hearts, the seed of holiness is planted. Then the Holy Spirit begins the work of watering that seed by leading us personally according to His plan for each life. And God is always at work in us. We just need to learn to cooperate with Him so the work will go a bit smoother.
So, how does this work happen? Through two main things: the Word and the Spirit. God's Word is Truth. But no matter how much of the Word we think we know, it is only by the power of His Holy Spirit that this truth gets worked into our lives. We must receive His Word humbly and not be prideful, because again, it is the Holy Spirit, not ourselves, doing the work in us!
Here's one way to look at it. The Bible likens the Holy Spirit to fullers' soap, a very strong purifier (see Malachi 3:2 KJV). I remember one time when I was having spaghetti for dinner after a conference and I was wearing white. Well wouldn't you know, I spilled some on my clothes. The first instinct is always to immediately wipe if off right then and there. But how many know that all you get from that is a big messy stain? That's the way it is with our human effort to cleanse ourselves. Pretty much all we get is a big mess in our lives.
Well thankfully, someone who was with me advised me not to touch that stain, but to wait until I got back to my hotel room and then clean the stain with some regular bar soap and cold water. With a little effort and patience on my part, that did the trick!
It is much the same in our spiritual lives. We receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Then the Holy Spirit begins His work. Things come up in us that we want to "fix." But our human effort doesn't really do us a lot of good. We just end up with a mess on our hands. However, when the Holy Spirit gets involved, He is the purifier, along with the water of the Word. With a little cooperation and obedience on our part, the cleansing begins!
Of course, sometimes some stains are harder to clean than others. What do you do then? Well in that case, you may need to add more soap and then soak awhile. Above all, be patient. Because according to 1 Peter 5:10, …the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, [will] perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
By God's grace…and obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit…we will become holy, as He is holy.