It is good to have something to look at when thinking about holiness. Or better yet someone. It might be a fellow Christian whom you know or someone from the past who, by grace, loved a very holy life. Best of all is Jesus. For in Him we have perfect holiness. And we have it displayed both in a humanity identical to our own and in the context of human life in a sinful world. Here was a holy man who lived a holy life in the midst of a very unholy world. Look at Him and you see what true holiness is.
There is an obvious outward aspect to it–His words, actions, prayer life, his care for His disciples, and His handling of all His enemies. He was always doing things that pleased His Father in heaven. But His holiness was not merely outward. What Jesus was on the outside mirrored what He was in His heart. He was inwardly holy in thoughts, motives, feelings–all that He loved and hated and rejoiced in–were in complete accordance with the will of God. He was holy in heart as well as holy in life, and He was so perfectly.
Now enter Paul the Apostle. He is writing his marvelous letter to the Romans and in chapter 8 he says: “For those whom God foreknew, He also did predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (8:29). What is he saying? He is saying that God’s predestinating purpose for those of us who are His people is to make us every bit as holy as Jesus is. It is what His love has planned for us. It is what His love for us will ultimately bring about.
So we should take it as an encouragement to do the following—
To practice holiness — Conscientiously endeavor day by day to live a holy life. It is the very thing to which He has predestined us. And therefore we can be sure of HIs help. Our very efforts are indeed a sign of His help. God is working in us to will and to act according to His good purpose (Phil. 2:13).
Then to pray for holiness — It was the very prayer of Robert Murray C’Cheyne that God would make him as holy as it was possible for a saved sinner to be. We should pray for holiness as well and with absolute confidence that such prayers are pleasing to God. They are aligning themselves with His eternal purpose. We are asking Him to do the very thing on which His heart has ever been set.
Then we should hope for holiness — It is here that the language of Romans 8 speaks most comfortingly. What a struggle we yet have with remaining sin and don’t you feel at times as if holiness is as far off now as it ever was? Holiness, however, is God’s purpose for us, the very thing to which He has predestined us. And He will have His way. He has begun the good work in us of making us like His Son. And we can be sure, perfectly sure, that having done so, He will carry it on until it is complete.
– David Campbell