To live holy means to live set apart for God, free from evil and sin, living a pure life. God is holy (1 John 1:5), and He calls us to be holy like He is (1 Peter 1:16, quoting Leviticus 19:2). The first step toward holiness is realizing that it is impossible without God. We need the Holy Spirit to fill us with God's holiness and power for godly living. This is not possible unless you have first surrendered your life to Jesus Christ and become born again, made righteous in God's sight (Ephesians 1:13; Romans 5:1). So, how can we live holy lives? How can we be obedient to God?
One apparent component of holy living that is emphasized throughout the Bible is sexual purity, keeping your physical body holy and reserving sex for within the covenant of marriage. Paul discusses this type of holy living in 1 Thessalonians 4:3–8, when he says: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God" (verses 3–5). In these verses, the ability to control your body and remain sexually pure is considered a quality of those who know God. When you know God, you are indwelled with the Holy Spirit and are able to make decisions that line up with His will.
Sexual purity is an example of holy living, but we are to be obedient to God in every area of our lives as a living sacrifice to Him (1 Peter 1:14–16; Romans 12:1–2). When we are saved we become transformed from the inside out. Reading God's Word is a large component of this process. When we know God's Word, we know what He expects and we learn of the spiritual tools we have to keep us living free from sin (John 17:17; Psalm 119:11). By living a holy and set apart life, we glorify God, showcase His nature to others, and live free from the power of sin in our own lives (Matthew 5:16; Romans 6:6).
Living in God's holiness makes us free—this is why Jesus came to earth (Isaiah 61:1). Making the decision to live a holy life, one that is obedient to God, is not easy, and it will not work if we try to do it on our own. On top of struggling against our own sin nature, our adversary the Devil tempts us to live in disobedience to Christ so that we will fall back into bondage (1 Peter 5:8–9). The good news is that: "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4 NIV). The Holy Spirit empowers us to make the decision to follow Christ day after day. Through Him, we can live above the power of sin—we become dead to sin and alive to God (Romans 6:11).
The more we actively practice submission to the Spirit, the easier it becomes: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). As we walk with Christ, we see ourselves as He sees us—clothed in His righteousness as born-again children of God. When we keep in fellowship with the church, the Body of Christ, we are held accountable and encouraged to press on in the faith. We gain strength by being surrounded by other believers (Hebrews 10:24–25).
Living a holy life is not a method for us to attempt to earn our salvation. Rather, living a holy life is a natural overflow of our salvation. We are saved by God's grace alone and it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon our salvation that enables us to live holy. We all make mistakes, but the important thing is to confess our sins, ask for God's forgiveness, and keep moving forward (1 John 1:9; Romans 8:1). God's mercy for us is new every morning (Lamentations 3:22–23).
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