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What is Holiness?

There are many difficult passages in the Bible. One that has puzzled me for decades is found in 1 Peter 1:15-16:

But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.” (quoted from Leviticus 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7)

First of all, how can anyone be holy living in these dirty, uncivilized conditions we live in here on earth? Seriously, try to remove yourself from the scum of sin! There is no place you can go. Even monasteries are affected by the stink of sin. I discovered this spiritual truth cleaning my house and doing the laundry. You can never have all the laundry completed because the clothes you are wearing while you do the laundry are becoming soiled as you work. Moms of young children know the futility of believing they can have a clean house; the very moment they are cleaning the bathroom, the bedrooms are coming unglued! In my opinion this command to be holy is just as impossible.

Yet, God not only told the Israelites (before Christ) to be holy; He insists this message be repeated to His church through Peter! Hasn’t He figured out the impossibility of this request?

If He remains insistent to challenge me to holiness, I need to think this through. What is holiness? I can’t see holiness in myself. However, God claims it is in there. He insists it is a possibility. He also gives me the motivation. He tells me that the holiness in me is the same holiness of Himself because He is the one who put it there. He breathed into mankind an indestructible holiness.

I have to overcome my false ideas of holiness in order to recognize my own potential to be holy. When I think of holiness, I think of a little old lady wearing a black dress, frowning, with her hair in a bun. Why? I’m really not sure. I guess it is because holiness seems old-fashioned, unappealing and just blah! Why would God want that for me?

I love bright colors. I enjoy fashion. I feel really good when I laugh or have something to smile about. Can that be holiness for me? If I want to be holy as God is holy, perhaps I should start my quest for holiness by considering the ways I feel most connected to God. Am I holy when I choose my outfits carefully and without overspending to create an atmosphere where people are drawn to me (or at least not repelled by me) so that I can be a light for Christ? When do I feel God is most alive in me? It is when I am used by Him to help other people learn to make a deep connection to Him. I would claim that those are the moments that I am most holy. How I live my life with God while paying my bills, driving, and eating dinner with my husband are opportunities to live out my holiness as well, yet I’m not in touch with this part of me as often in these experiences.

I encourage you to discover your potential for holiness. Ask yourself the same question I asked. When are you most who God created you to be? Remember that experience and ask God to help you experience that while you are watering your plants, when you are confronting the company who overbilled you, and other seemingly unholy times.

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About Dr. Deborah Newman-Riesling

Dr. Deborah Newman

Deborah Newman-Riesling is a licensed professional counselor, and licensed marriage and family therapist. Deborah serves as Minister of Congregational Care at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, TX.

ADDITIONAL TITLES BY DR. NEWMAN:


How to Really Love God as Your Father

“How to Really Love God as
Your Father: Growing Your
Most Important Relationship


Passion on Purpose


The Thin Disguise

The Thin Disguise:
Understanding and Overcoming
Anorexia & Bulimia