Ephesians 1:4, Colossians 3:12, Ephesians 4:17-32
- When you think of the word “holy” what comes to mind? What would your definition be?
- Make a list of everything in these verses that Paul says to “put off” (or no longer do) and then make a separate list of everything Paul says to “put on.”
- When you read passages like this, what do you usually feel? Why?
Have you ever described the Bible or heard the Bible described in one of these ways?
“It’s a moral code that God gave us to follow.”
“It’s God’s road map for us to live in his way and get to heaven.”
“It’s God’s way of telling us how to live—what to do and what not to do.”
“We can find out what we should and shouldn’t do by reading the Bible.”
When we read passages like Ephesians 4, it can feel like a list of what to do and what not to do. It can start to feel like following Jesus is all based on sticking to the “Do” list and staying away from the “don’t do” list. And thus, the word “holy” to us has become another word for “perfect.” Another word that reminds us that we have to work really hard to be a perfect Christian all of the time.
What if I told you that being holy is so much more than that?
When you are in a relationship with Jesus, you are made holy.
Holy means to be set apart from the world so that we may reflect God’s character to the world.
According to Ephesians 1:4, God called us to be holy before he even created the world. He set us apart so that we may reflect his true character to the world. He made us holy to engage in the extraordinary privilege of being set apart from the rest of the world.
Look at that list you made of what Paul called us to “put off.” That isn’t just a list of “bad” things that we aren’t supposed to do. God isn’t just telling us what not to do because he’s our authority and we should listen to him. That is actually a list of what we were not created to do.
Lying isn’t bad because our parents told us not to lie, lying is bad because it’s Satan’s native language (John 8:44), and we have been set apart to be holy. We were created to speak truth. When we lie, not only do we speak a language of pure darkness, we are speaking in a way we were not created to speak.
We are called to not be greedy, not because it can be deemed as selfish to other people, but because we weren’t created to hoard all that we’ve been given and seek out more than we need for ourselves. We were created to give and receive freely.
This is why rage, stealing, hurtful speech, bitterness, speaking badly about others, or selfish ambition are not just a list of what not to do because it puts us on the “naughty list,” they are completely out of place for a child of God who is holy. The rest of the world is full of hate, rage, bitterness, slander, greed, gossip, ill will, and selfishness. The rest of the world lies, cheats, and steals—but not the children of God.
Why? Because we are holy. We are set apart. We are God’s own children set apart to look just like him, do his work, and enjoy the freedom of life lived with him.
Holiness is a free gift given to us through Jesus’s holy life, redemptive death, and powerful resurrection. Holiness is not something you earn by trying your very best to do all of the things on the “good” list.
And yet, we can only continue in our gift of holiness by drawing near and remaining close to our holy God. That is why Paul tells us “to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
If holiness is our identity freely given to us, it’s time we start living in that identity. It’s time we start throwing off everything in us that looks like the darkness of the world and, instead, putting on the new self that is created after the likeness of our Father.
You are holy. It’s a beautiful thing when you live in that identity.
- Look at the list you made in the beginning that says “put off.” Pray and ask God for what in that list still has a hold on you. Take time to repent of it. Confess it to a close friend and have them pray for you and hold you accountable to pursuing holiness instead.
- Pay attention to the way you speak this week. Is your speech set apart from others or are you blending in with the world’s gossip, slander, complaints, malice, envy, anger, hurtful joking, or dirty language? As Ephesians says, God’s holy people speak in a way that builds others up and gives life.
- Pray for God to give you his eyes as you look at the world. Pray that you would see the joy in being holy—set apart—from the rest of the world. Pray that you would see the difference between holy and unholy as you look at the rest of the world.