What does it mean to live in holiness? Are we forcing ourselves to live a holy lifestyle due to religious laws and pressure by church leaders, barely able to keep up with what is expected with us? Or perhaps we have totally forgone holy and righteous living, writing it off as dated and the way of the Old? During this time of hyper-increased and ever-rapid developments in our ultra-modern society, where does the preservation of holiness take place in our lives?
“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1, RSV).
In the above verse, Paul explains that since we have the promises of God living in us, being a father to us, and us being His beloved sons and daughters, it is extremely important for us to live in complete holiness, keeping clean from every defilement. So, how exactly do we do this? How exactly do we live in complete holiness throughout our lives?
Since being saved by Christ, I have had this intense and burning desire to live in holiness, fully following God’s ways without compromise. Part of the reason for this is that because I have previously lived in the world as a “non-believer,” I can firmly and confidently state that the ways of the world are of death. Perhaps because I have so strongly known the ways of the world, that once being saved I developed such a deep yearning within me to abandon anything even slightly related to such living and completely embrace the ways of God. And without a doubt, this is definitely one of the primary reasons.
However, more fundamentally and the driving factor of the “intense and burning desire” and “deep yearning within me” that I discussed, is the presence of the Holy Spirit living in me. Once I was saved, I received the Holy Spirit. I had this Spirit of Holiness within me, the Spirit of God living within me, that was now urging and convicting me in ways that I had not previously experienced. Thus, having been saved and receiving the Holy Spirit, I diligently read the Bible, the Word of God, as fast as I could during this time period, reading entire books in one sitting due to my intense desire to gain all of this newly revealed knowledge. I absolutely could not get enough, hungrily devouring every reading material, teaching, and spiritual concept I could get my hands on.
And through the process of reading God’s Word, as well as the different teachings and readings that I was exposed to, I radically cut out anything even remotely connected to unrighteousness. Whatever God’s Word said not to do, I would not do. Whatever God’s Word said to do, I would do. I created entire lists of everything I was abandoning in my life, as well as lists of everything I was now adopting into my life. For me, this did not only include actions, but it included the words I spoke, the thoughts I thought, and the company I kept. It was a complete lifestyle shift. And it was completely led by the Holy Spirit within me.
Moreover, while my method of adopting a holy lifestyle was absolutely acceptable, I discovered that there is even more. This brings me back to 2 Corinthians 7:1: “…and make holiness perfect in the fear of God”. Aha. That is the key. The fear of God.
How do we obtain the fear of God? Recently, I shared an encounter I had with God’s holiness, feeling God present in the room so intensely that it felt as though He was standing right in front of me. In fact, I was sure of it, and I could sense His presence next to me as powerfully as I would sense another human being being present right in front of me. While having God’s Holiness in front of me in such a tangible way, I felt emerging within me this potent and convicting reverence for and holy fear of God, driven out of a deep-seated love I have only experienced with God.
After this small yet moving encounter with God’s Holiness, one of the insights that was revealed to me was the majesty of who God is in relation to who we are and what the world is. In my encounter, I became very aware of God’s greatness and divine magnificence. However, and even more startlingly, I became just as aware that this great and magnificent God was not just my God. But He was my Father. And He cares enough to just show up in my room as I am getting ready to sleep. My room. Me. Who am I for God to notice me? “Woe is me, for I am undone,” said Isaiah in his encounter with God.
Receiving the realization of who God is, and who God is to me, changed everything. Now, I was not only living in holiness because of God’s intense conviction and urge within me to follow His ways, but I was living each moment in time, forming each of my actions, as a loving devotion to Him, with each action as a brush stroke of an artist, carefully and intently forming my masterpiece to gift to Him, my divine Creator. All I now wanted, all I now cared for, was pleasing my Father, living as He lives, seeing how He sees, thinking how He thinks, being as He is. I became spoiled for the world, ruined, damaged, only hungering and passionately craving the things of the Kingdom. Redeemed. Transformed. I fell in love even further than I had previously experienced with God, and all I knew is that there is so much more.
Now, after having this realization, I live even more zealously to follow God’s ways completely; living to wholly realize Heaven on earth. However, it should be noted that this does not mean, by any means, that I am perfect or close to perfect in living in full holiness. I do still struggle with some concepts, especially ones related to the thought life and taking thoughts captive (thankfully, I am improving with God’s help each day and God loves me regardless of what I do). And it should be noted that it is a conscious decision to live in a holy manner, at least for me, daily and constantly clothing myself in Christ to keep myself living in the Spirit rather than of the flesh, tapping into the well of the holy awe and love for God I received during this encounter with God’s Holiness.
Nonetheless, make no mistake. There is a cost. This type of lifestyle, this type of movement for holiness, will shift your atmosphere. It will turn your previous life upside down. Those of the world will want nothing to do with you. Even some fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who still dabble in a form of sin will want nothing to do with you. You will be marked by God, forever changed. Forever noticed because of your uniqueness. You will stand out like a sore thumb among those around you. And it will become ever-important for you to find similarly yoked community to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
But, being in the place of having this personal relationship with God, this intense love-relationship with God, it is never an obligation or inconvenience to live in the Spirit, eagerly choosing to have my ways marked to be that of God’s. It is my greatest delight to imitate God and live a life pleasing to Him. He has become all I want. All I truly need. Everything else is supplementary.
Thus, what does that mean for you? How can you gain this same gift of living in a holy and righteous manner? I would say it is gained by actively and hungrily desiring it. And that hunger comes from feeding yourself in the ways of God. Whether it be immersing yourself in God’s Word, praying, worshipping, regularly seeking God in the secret place, exposing yourself to different Christian resources, or asking God for personal encounters with Him. It is not achieved by following a set list of laws or ways of living. It comes from deepening your relationship with God, growing your intimacy with Him, and being personally led by the Holy Spirit.
So, if you are in a place of knowing there is more for you in terms of living a pure and righteous lifestyle, I pray that you experience the awe of God, the intense love for God, the wonderful fear of God, that you may be forever changed into following God’s ways wholeheartedly and with intense devotion.