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Can We Truly Be Holy?

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:14–16 (ESV)


We have all heard the phrase “like father, like son.” And as some others put it, “The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.” The basic point of these two statements is that children are heavily influenced by those they look up to, and especially, by their parents. As we continue our study of 1 Peter, we now see the practical implications of the wonderful things that we have received through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. In summary, we can put it this way, “We have been adopted by God, given a new nature, and we are now able to truly become like Him in His holiness.”


This is what many of us must be thinking at this point: You don’t know how wretched I am! Hence the title for today’s devotional. Is it really possible for us to be holy? Many of us struggle with this point because we are very aware of our sin. We know all the areas in which we continue to fight (and sometimes lose) when it comes to sin and temptation, and therefore any call to holiness feels like a judgmental reminder that we are not there yet. But we must not be surprised that this struggle exists. Notice from our section that we are those who are being saved from “the passions of our former ignorance.” Everyone who is now in Christ was born a sinner, and used to live according to their sinful passions. The corrupt nature inherited from Adam (like father, like sons) was perfectly at home in us, leading us to all sorts of corrupt and rebellious actions. Because of this, we deserved God’s condemnation. But the good news of the gospel is that God saw us in that state and rescued us through His Son Jesus, saving us through our faith in Him. And the Bible testifies that we are now new creatures in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17).


But the battle continues. As we see in Galatians 5:16-24, there is a war inside the believer, between the spirit and the flesh. And it is going to take a deliberate, soldier-like understanding that we are in a war, to help us live, not like civilians, but like the soldiers for Christ that we are. That is why Peter’s instruction is like a call to arms, “Do not be conformed…!” In other words, “Resist! fight!” And the biggest weapon we have is the understanding of our new nature in Christ: We are the children of God!


As the children of God, we obey Him. Not because we are afraid, but because we love Him. When you read the opening sections of the chapter, it is hard not to be filled with gratitude and joy when you see everything God has done for us in giving us Christ! He has given us new life and a living hope, a secure inheritance, and He sanctifies us even through suffering. And when we see all of His goodness, our cry as children is, “O how should I respond in light of your grace?” And here in our section we see the response: Be holy, for I am holy.


This quotation is drawn from Leviticus 11:44, and is a constant refrain in Leviticus. Our motivation for holiness is not primarily to escape judgment (our Lord Jesus has paid it all), it proceeds from our understanding that we now have a new Father (not Adam, but God). So now, we must desire to be like our Father. And He is holy. Because the One who calls us is holy, we are now to respond by not conforming to the passions of our former ignorance, but rather by embracing the holiness and purity that pleases God. Remember that in His grace, He has caused us to be born again, and we are therefore able to truly grow in holiness. It is now in our DNA.


Therefore, dear Christian, it will be a war. The passions of our former ignorance do not go down without a fight. But the One who calls us is gracious enough to help us overcome them. And so we fight! Standing on His loving grace toward us, we wage war against that which offends Him. May we, in all our conduct, be holy, for the One who called us is holy. May we truly grow in this, that we might look more like our Father. We may not attain perfection, but may we indeed live as His obedient children.


Reflection Questions:

  1. What are some of the lies you have believed regarding God’s call for you to live holy? Have you been striving thinking that your own holiness will somehow improve your standing before God? Or perhaps the statement ‘no one is perfect’ has made you comfortable in sin?

  2. List down two areas in which you have allowed sin to thrive. Take this to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to forgive you and to strengthen you as you seek to wage war against them.

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