Easter Sunday is one day a church is guaranteed to run short on parking spaces. Most likely, the pews are full of people who might never attend another service. Even regular churchgoers act differently on this special day; we are on our best behavior and more intentional about our faith. But the holy life God calls us to demands that we be spiritually focused every day of the year, not just on special ones like Easter and Christmas.
It’s good to give sacred holidays more attention, but if that’s the only time we strive to live the life God intends, what does that say about our faith? Holiness is more than good behavior. While it includes doing the right things in the Lord’s sight, that’s only part of the picture. Holy living is about experiencing abundant life in Christ, and it should be a daily, even hourly, pursuit. Maybe the problem is that we don’t fully understand the meaning of holiness.
Let’s clarify this issue by examining what the Bible says. The word holy conveys the idea of separation from sin and consecration to God. It can also be translated as “sanctified” (from the same root as saint). When the apostle Paul wrote letters to the churches in various cities, he commonly began each letter by addressing the recipients as saints (Eph. 1:1). If you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, that word applies to you as well!
Holiness describes our new standing with the Lord. He chose us to “be holy and blameless before Him” (v. 4). Our bodies are the temple of His Spirit, and whatever He inhabits, He makes holy. However, our behavior sometimes doesn’t line up with this truth. We are declared righteous, but we don’t always act like it.
The problem is that many Christians don’t see themselves as God does. They say, “Well, I’m not really holy, but I’m not that sinful either.” Therefore, they place themselves somewhere in the middle. But in fact, nothing lies between holiness and sinfulness. You are either one or the other. We must stop trying to straddle the fence and instead begin living out the reality of who we are in Christ. Although the Lord gives us our position of holiness at the moment of salvation, our behavior is changed over time as we submit and obey Him (2 Cor. 3:18).
The Bible calls this process sanctification (Rom. 6:19). In Ephesians 4:1, Paul likens it to a walk, which implies a present tense: it is a continuous action carried out over a lifetime. After urging us “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,” he describes the dramatic contrast between the way we used to behave before salvation and the way we are now called to live (vv. 17-24). This kind of holy lifestyle won’t happen automatically; we must intentionally choose to practice it as we grow in our faith.
Pursue truth. Since our actions flow from our thoughts, we need minds that are filled with God’s truth (v. 23). We can’t expect to live holy lives if we still think the way we did before salvation. According to Paul, unbelievers live “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them” (vv. 17-18). Since we are surrounded by this kind of worldly thinking, it will rub off on us unless we continuously renew our minds with God’s Word. When we anchor ourselves with biblical principles and apply them to our lives, we’ll be empowered and can resist the temptation to return to our old sinful ways.
Become sensitive to sin. The Holy Spirit is the one who warns and convicts us when a particular activity doesn’t fit our position of righteousness in Christ. Before salvation, you and I could “play in the mud” and not feel too bad about it, but now sin makes us uncomfortable. That’s because the holiness of Christ and the sinfulness of humanity can’t live peacefully in the same body.
However, if we repeatedly ignore or resist the Spirit’s promptings, our hearts will become hardened (vv. 18-19). People have told me, “You know, I used to hear God speaking to my spirit when I’d pray and read the Bible, but now I don’t.” My friend, if that’s happening to you, it’s a warning sign that you’re in a dangerous position. You won’t lose your salvation, but if your fellowship with the Lord diminishes, the things of this world will draw you away from Him.
We can’t afford to play around with sin by rationalizing it. Too often I’ve heard people defend their disobedience by saying, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” Holiness doesn’t mean that we’re sinless, but that we’re set apart for God and are to live in accordance with His purposes. Instead of excusing our sins, we must confess, repent, and choose to obey the Lord.
Lay aside your old self. When you were saved, you became a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). However, your old patterns are still with you, which is why you sometimes struggle with sin. Since those ingrained tendencies can never be reformed or improved, the only way to overcome them is with a “zero tolerance” policy. Paul says you have to lay aside your former manner of life because it’s “corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit” (Eph. 4:22).
If you start listening to its lies about the pleasures of sin, you’ll become trapped. You will soon discover that the satisfaction you get from worldly pursuits is fleeting and your desire only increases. The end result of this downward path is seen in Paul’s description of unbelievers who “have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (v. 19). Anything you give yourself over to—other than Christ—will destroy you.
Instead of yielding to our old, sinful desires, we need to surrender to Christ, letting Him rule in our lives. Why would we want to keep the filthy, rotten garments of our old lifestyle when we have been given Christ’s robes of righteousness? Maybe it’s time for a wardrobe change. So “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (v. 24). When we clothe ourselves in Christlikeness, our actions will match out identity.
Make a choice. I want to make something crystal clear to you today: If you’re a believer, you are holy. Instead of seeing yourself as a sinner saved by grace, recognize that you are a saint who has been created in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. It’s time to act like it—every day of your life. God has given you everything you need for a life of godliness (2 Pet. 1:3). As you walk uprightly, people will notice something different about you and could be drawn to the Savior. Although Easter shouldn’t be the only time you choose to live in holiness, there’s no better occasion than Resurrection Day to begin a daily walk in newness of life.