(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Holy Living Isn’t Old School Christianity
By Jasmin Patterson
Do you ever think about old words that people don’t seem to use anymore? When I was a kid and there was a song we really liked, we used to say “that’s my jam!” Today that lingo has been replaced by “it’s a bop,” and every time I hear my friends who are a few years younger than me say it, I wonder whether I’m actually cool enough to start saying it too. (Still undecided, by the way).
In the Christian traditions I grew up in, there was another word we talked about a lot that we seem to not hear as much in Church anymore. That word is “holiness.” It means “set apart,” “pure,” or “blameless” and it’s used in the Bible frequently to talk about a Christian’s lifestyle. I know it seems like old school Christianity. I know it seems “churchy” and not cool. I know you may not have seen a video about it on your favorite Christian YouTube channel or TikTok feed. May I suggest to you, though, that living a holy life is Christianity 101?
It’s popular today for both Christians and non-Christians to believe that God’s love, grace, and forgiveness for us means He doesn’t care about how we live and whether we obey His commandments or not. Let’s have a quick chat about why that’s not quite the case, according to the Bible.
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 1:9, NLT)
“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people. And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God…” (Titus 2:11-12, NLT)
What happens when we believe in Jesus and God saves us? He forgives us and frees us from the eternal penalty for our sins. He gives us an identity and personal relationship with Him as His sons and daughters. He gives us access to His blessings and care. We hear these truths emphasized in Church a lot when salvation messages are given. And God has done all those things, but His Word says He has saved us and called us to live a holy life. Why don’t we equally emphasize the holy life part when we’re sharing the gospel and teaching believers how to follow Jesus faithfully?
You see, God’s undeserved grace towards us in salvation and His call to holy living aren’t mutually exclusive. Now, does this mean you and I are earning our salvation? Not at all. The Bible is clear that none of us is saved by our own good works (Ephesians 2:8-10). It simply means that as followers of Jesus, we are called to think and live differently from the world around us. God calls His people to be distinct.
There is a manner of conduct that’s worthy of the Good News of Jesus and a manner of conduct that’s unworthy of it (Philippians 1:27). As believers, it’s possible for us to either please God or grieve God by the way we live (Ephesians 4:30). It’s possible for us to either help or hinder our witness of Jesus to unbelievers based on the way we live (1 Peter 2:11-12). You and I need to take these thoughts seriously, but we don’t need to be overwhelmed by them.
Our spiritual growth and maturity in living a holy life are progressive, lifelong processes that God works in us. What’s more amazing is that while a holy life isn’t optional for Jesus followers, we don’t have to live for God in our own strength. He works in us to give us the power and the desire to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13). Through His Word, He teaches us how to think and live. He encourages us in our faith through the support of Christian community. He is full of love and patience with us even when we make mistakes, and He’s committed to us even as we grow in spiritual maturity.
What a privilege to live wholeheartedly for a God like that and represent Him rightly to a watching world!