How to be holy

Jesus is the only one of us who lived undamaged by sin. He walked among the wreckage of fallen humanity as a beacon of wholeness and health.

Jesus knew no sin yet the writer of Hebrews tells us he “learned obedience” and was “made perfect” (Heb. 5:8–9). That sounds like a contradiction, as though Jesus started out as a disobedient sinner but came good in the end. Perhaps he signed up for one of those sanctification courses and sweated his way to sinlessness.

No, that didn’t happen.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that the full beauty and purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not realized until the cross. Before he died, Christ’s ministry was incomplete or imperfect. But on the cross everything that needed to be done to save and sanctify you was accomplished:

Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” … When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28,30)

Look at the words used in that passage to describe the climax of Jesus’ ministry; completed, fulfilled, finished. If Christ is your life, this is the sort of language you should use to describe your own pursuit of holiness: completed, fulfilled, finished. You don’t have to work to become holy; you have been made holy through Jesus’ completed, fulfilled, and finished work on the cross:

For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. (Hebrews 10:14, KJV)

Jesus did an astonishing thing for you. Through an act of his will and by the sacrifice of his body you have been sanctified for all time. This was the purpose of his ministry. He was numbered among the transgressors so that you might be numbered among the holy.

In all history only one person ever succeeded in sanctifying himself, and he did it on your behalf. Jesus said “I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified” (John 17:19).

Was Jesus-as-high-priest made perfect on the cross? Yes! Then you are well and truly sanctified. In Christ, you are 100% holy. You will never be more holy than the day you met Jesus. Believe it.

You are like the newlywed who wakes up on the first day of the honeymoon and says, “I don’t feel married—this is all new to me—but because of what happened yesterday I am well and truly married.”

This is not a gradual process requiring many years of slow laborious self-improvement. Just as you are either married or unmarried, you are either holy or unholy. The moment you said “I do” to the Holy One you entered into union with him and became just as holy as he is.

“Really? I’m not sure I can believe that, Paul.”

Well the good news for you is that the unbelieving spouse is sanctified by the other.

“But I don’t feel holy; in fact, I feel most unholy.”

Stop living on the basis of your feelings and align your thinking with God’s word. Go to language school if you must and acquaint yourself with the new vocabulary of holiness. You are not a sorry sinner in need of sanctification; you are a holy saint and the holy temple of the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine the Holy Spirit living in an unholy dump? Of course not. Yet he lives in you. You must be holy.

“You have said holiness means completeness or wholeness. But I come from a broken family and a broken marriage. I feel incomplete.”

A husband or wife won’t complete you and neither will raising children. We put unholy pressure on others when we expect them to do what only God can do. “You are complete in him” (Col. 2:10, NKJV). Jesus completes you.

You were broken, but in him you are whole. You were in lack, but he who has Christ lacks no good thing. Your life was a sinful mess, but he gave you beauty for ashes. You don’t need to be made perfect because in Christ you are perfect forever.

Being holy is not trying to attain what you have already received, nor is it trying to do what Christ has already done. The exhortation to be holy is an invitation to live the holy and abundant life that is already ours in Christ.

___________

Extracted from The Gospel in Ten Words.

Need some encouragement for troubled times? Check out Henry Moorhouse’s classic sermon, “The Good Shepherd,” on Patreon now!

27 Comments on How to be holy

  1. The inexpressible goodness of God to make me holy at justification was a difficult concept for me…until I understood Romans 11:16 in relation to the First Fruit Offering. “And if the first piece of dough be holy, the lump is also; and if the root be holy, the branches are too.” Also reference Exo. 34:26, Lev. 23:10-14. The offering of the barley, coarse meal or dough lifted up by the priest before the Lord (Num. 15:20-21) made the rest of the crop holy and fit for use. Jesus was our First Fruits Offering (1Cor. 15:20-23). He even said, “If I am lifted up…[I] will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32). Because He was our First Fruits Offering, all those who put their faith in Him are made holy as a result of being joined to the offering. The rest of the crop doesn’t have to do anything to receive the benefits gained from association with the First Fruits Offering…just accept it and enjoy its benefits!

  2. Amen amen!!! Completed, fulfilled & finished! Good thing to remember.

  3. John Adriaans // June 9, 2020 at 12:03 pm // Reply

    My understanding of John 12:32 is a bit different. In the original text the word ‘men’ is not there – it has been added by the translators. So the text may be better read ‘if I am lifted up..I will draw all judgement to myself’ ie. I take the judgement for sin so you (us) don’t have to. We are justified and made righteous by or through our faith (trust) in Jesus sacrifice to make us acceptable, righteous, whole and adopted as sons.

    • Sibusiso Mavuso // June 13, 2020 at 12:50 am // Reply

      Great understanding. Indeed he drew all judgement to himself so that believers in him shall never come into judgement. This truth is too much for religious fanatics…

  4. Wow, just wow…Thank You Jesus!

  5. Our obedience is about believing. Jesus was more concerned with the inside of the cup than the outside. The inside is about what we believe and the outside is about what we do.

  6. Brandon Petrowski // June 9, 2020 at 5:43 pm // Reply

    As usual, well said. Good news!

  7. Right as this exhortation is not only an “invitation to live the holy and abundant life that is already ours in Christ.” but also our “reasonable service”. As “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things:” thus giving Him glory, by ‘presenting’ our bodies holy. Romans 11:36 & 12:1.

  8. This is too good to be true! But praise God by His mercy, it is true.

  9. Well done. You don’t hear this taught much, but it’s necessary. Necessary to free believers from the slavery of holy performance. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Marjorie Keenan // June 10, 2020 at 11:34 am // Reply

    Paul did it ever occur to you that sin is such a big issue because most believers try to keep the law and the ten commandments. Jesus often broke the law by healing on the Sabbath, declaring He was God etc. This angered the Pharisees to the point of calling for His death. This came to me the other day that it was the law that brought death to Jesus, just as it brought death to the Jews and to anyone who tries to follow it. The bible calls it a ministry of sin and death. I don’t think that sin was the reason Jesus died, I think that LOVE was the reason. He revealed the true message of Grace and Unconditional LOVE!! He revealed the true character of His Father. Before law, sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed to man when there is no law. The law brought sin-consciousness. Under Grace, when “sin” abounds, Grace abounds much more!!

    The real definition of sin is “missing the mark”. I think we have missed the mark in discerning the Real GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL. God’s LOVE is Unconditional..always was always will be.

    • Very true, Marjorie, but Jesus never broke any of God’s Law. He did, however, make it His favorite pastime to break the man-made oral laws the Jewish rulers held so dear. Had He sinned, He wouldn’t have been a perfect sacrifice for our sin.

  11. Deborah Kean // June 10, 2020 at 2:31 pm // Reply

    Thank you Paul!
    I knew that in my head, you’ve helped me to know it in my heart.
    Deb

  12. Was it in the 17th chapter of Mark where Jesus told us to go by our feelings ? We thank God for your ministry to the saints !

  13. Amen Paul. We have such a hard time accepting our acceptance. Our religious tendencies push it away and consider it “too good to be true”. Because in our minds, our Jesus is too small, too weak, too lacking of commitment and concern to have gone all the way and actually made such a thing true. We don’t see that OUR holiness is forever forged and sustained by HIS resurrection and ascension. We don’t get that it is our salvation that saves us! We tend to construct our understanding of everything about the gospel in a legal framework, as if Jesus came to satisfy a system that required his death before the Father could be OK with us. We need to re-calibrate our minds to grasp the gospel in a relational framework and see the brokenhearted Father and Son not willing to watch their beloved creation laps into darkness forever, but from the start would be satisfied with nothing less than we come to know and walk in their eternal love and fellowship – the very reason for creation in the first place. Jesus didn’t just do something FOR us, he’s done something WITH us and TO us. We have to start believing the full extent of the work of Christ. He’s done the unimaginable and come to us in our fallen flesh and alienated minds as a fellow human being and taken our sin into the black hole of his death and in exchange has given us HIS right relationship with his Father. He’s united himself with us in our humanity (and he still is a human to this day) and we are forever as right with the Father as he is – whole and complete. From the beginning we were always predestined to be adopted in and through Christ – Adam was just the shadow, Jesus is our reality and always was! We have a great and powerful gospel to believe!

  14. When I saw to stand in belief we are set free in the risen Jesus given to us by Father, in Son’s one time death for us to be given new life to see new in his Spirit and Truth
    Yet I needed to see I am forgiven, even if I sinned again ( that I do not want to do again) yet have, Yet Father took it all away in Son for us
    John 1:29 testifies this to us, and what was is done is: Col. 1:21-23

    When I saw this, I saw to just say thank you and begin to just trust and watch all that old stuff begin to fall off, as this old man still tries not to let go of.

    When Paul talked of 2 Cor. 12:7-10 I vegan to see I stand forgiven, not to ask for anymore, just to say thank you in trust to God Father of in risen Son to teach me new

    Thanks Paul Ellis for being you in being led too.

  15. Sarah Grace // June 11, 2020 at 8:08 am // Reply

    I love the reminder to not go by how I feel but to stand by the truth that I am holy. It’s so easy to get down on yourself when you mess up, but God doesn’t do that. He just looks at you and says, but you’re still holy. It is finished!

    • Not to take away from your point or Paul’s, they are both solid. But our feeling do count. They are impossible to ignore. When I’m down it is usually a sign that it’s time for some inner reflection and an opportunity to discover how my beliefs are off.

  16. to Jason B
    I see this about feelings: when they lead I am like on a train where the Caboose leads
    When my feelings are in check, God leads the trtain and my feelings follow his lead, being the caboose in this case

    Thanks, me learning still, to see when my emotion is leading and not being led

    As I see a long way down the tracks, I see only ONE as Father and Son are Won (One) for us

    I appreciate everyone’s comments in learning one to another thanks

  17. Such good news!!! Not the religious garbage that is propagated as the Gospel. Jesus death is our death. Jesus burial and resurrection is our burial and resurrection. Jesus resurrection life and holiness is now ours. Once I understood that His work on the cross finished sin forever, I stopped “working” to make myself “holy”. And amazingly enough, by knowing and believing the glorious truth of Christ and him crucified, I am holy, and I walk in holiness! The truth shall truly set you free indeed. (Keep telling the TRUE Gospel brother Paul!!)

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