Holiness is a topic you don't hear much about these days. When I scan church websites and look at the volume of sermons preached from pulpits in American churches, I see a lot of topics such as marriage and family, finding fulfillment, discerning God's will, and overcoming anger, fear, disappointment, etc. All of these are important, but I wonder if the reason we struggle so much in marriage and family and finding fulfillment, etc. is because we're not addressing a deeper issue of God working deep in our souls to transform us into the likeness of God Himself (Ephesians 4:24).
Perhaps part of our struggle is that we view "holiness" as either unattainable or unadvisable; unattainable, because we never measure up, and unadvisable, because we don't want to come across as "holier than thou." The harsh reality, however, is that the Bible teaches us we are to strive for holiness, "without which no one will see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). So, apparently, holiness is a pretty big deal. If we want to see the Lord, i.e., enter His heavenly kingdom, we must be holy. I don't know about you, but I don't always feel holy. Is holiness a scale of right and wrong, and if you reach the tipping point of, let's say, 80% on the "right" side, then you're holy? Would 85% of right behavior be enough for being labeled holy?
Fortunately for us, holiness is what we become in Jesus Christ, and not what we make of ourselves. Holiness is about the alignment of our lives with the holiness of our Lord and Savior. This is why "holy" people can at times do "unholy" things. The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing" (Romans 7:19). Ever experience that? These inspired words come from the Apostle Paul—if there was ever anyone who walked planet earth whom we would say lived a holy life, in addition to Jesus, it would be Paul.
Herein lies the spiritual reality of growing into our new identity in Jesus Christ. We are new creations in Christ. "The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Corinthians 5:17). In the Greek text, the old passing away is an "aorist tense" verb which means it has been done away with in one past action—the action of the cross of Jesus Christ. "The new has come" is a "perfect tense" which differs from the aorist in that it emphasizes the continuing result of the action which was completed in past time. In other words, the past action of Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross takes away our old self and it continues to bring results of the new self.
The point is that we are made holy through Jesus Christ, and we continue to become holy through Jesus Christ. Therefore, do not give up and grow weary in doing good, for you will reap a harvest if you do not give up (Galatians 6:9). You are a work of holiness where you continue to yield to the Holy Spirit in your life as He uses His scalpel to remove and infuse. He removes the things from your life that keep you from growing in His holiness, and He infuses you with His holiness. To put this in the words of Oswald Chambers, "A holy man is not one who has his eyes set on his own whiteness, but one who is personally and passionately devoted to the Lord who saved him" (Conformed to His Image, 380).
"For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness" (1 Thessalonians 4:7). If you ever think that means you have to become a monk living in a monastery, guess again. You can live a life of holiness in the ordinary moments and routines by keeping your eyes on Jesus. There are times we need to narrow our focus in order to have a broader vision. Holiness does not come because we keep all the rules (which is called moralism) but by keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). This is an ongoing process of walking with Jesus (Colossians 1:10), dying to the things of the world (Colossians 2:20), being raised with Christ (Colossians 3:1), and setting your mind on things that are above (Colossians 3:2).
When you're driving down the interstate, it's a whole lot harder to keep your car in between the lines if you're only looking at the lines. It's when you look ahead that you're able to have a greater vision of keeping your car moving in the right direction. Likewise, it's a lot harder to live a holy life if you're only looking at the rules, lines and boundaries. It's far better to keep your chin up and your eyes on Jesus, and He will guide you in the right direction.