Trying to conform to the world’s definition of living can cause great pressure to a Christian who wants to live the call to holiness. Many Catholic Christians are not even aware that this call is for all baptized persons. Some wrongly think it is meant only for people in the religious vocation. Whenever I take time out to attend a renewal conference or retreat, I find myself convicted to try again living the call to holiness. I feel my conscience drawing me to live this holy life in light of the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and after the holy character of the Lord God, who calls us every day to salvation. There are many lessons in Holy Scripture and also from the lives of the Saints on how we can do this. One such lesson comes from the first letter of St. Peter, where he suggests that all you need to do to live a holy life is be obedient (cf. 1 Peter 1:13-16).
Change the Mindset
St. Peter starts by asking us to gird up the loins of our mind, meaning to get our minds ready for action. We must be alert, vigilant, faithful and expectant of the action that is to be taken. We must have the energy for it, and the willingness to carry it out. We need not know what action it is; but we must be prepared for something different, not the usual. Since we know that everything begins in the mind, we do first things first. We change the mindset.
We need to be mentally prepared for action or combat in the realm of holiness. Our actions must indicate that we mean serious business in this matter of being holy. Holiness will begin in our thought life because how we think determines how we live. For this reason, we must first deal with sin at the thought level. Any wicked thoughts we have shall be judged in the instant, confessed to God and replaced with thoughts of Him and His Word. Whatever the issue might be – whether envy, lust, revenge or covetousness – we will judge it, confess it, and ask God to replace it with His love for that person of whom we had the sin-thought.
St. Paul says that every thought must be taken captive in obedience to Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 10:5). The character of our Christianity becomes real or fake right from the thought level. Whereas we may fool everyone, we cannot fool God who knows all our thoughts. The Christian life cannot be faked outwardly when inwardly we are not living in holiness. When we fake it and do not cultivate a holy thought life, sooner or later it will come out in some form of sin, and everyone will then see it.
Be Spiritually Alert
St. Peter wants us to be alert, self-controlled, with a clarity of mind, so that we can make good judgments. He charges us to live soberly, so as to remain awake to the goings on around us. He reminds us that our adversary, the devil is out there on the loose, prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). And, that person should not be you (and I). We must take every precaution, lest we become its next meal.
He is supported by St. Paul who says that we cannot afford to be asleep like the others (non-Christians). We must be alert and sober (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:6) and temperate (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2 &11), doing everything in expectation of the coming of the Lord Jesus. Inasmuch as we guard what enters our mind, so must we as carefully guard what we eat. We cannot feed our thoughts daily on the sensual, materialistic garbage presented on every other media and seldom ever feed on God’s Word, and yet expect to become holy.
Focus on the Coming of the Lord Jesus
We are implored to fix our hope completely on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ because a holy lifestyle is motivated by God’s grace. We have already begun to enjoy what God is going to unveil completely when Christ returns. We have tasted it, but there is more to come. Although we may face trials, God will bless us beyond our very imagination with a blessing that is based solely on His undeserved favor.
So we set our hopes perfectly and with completeness until the end, in our living hope. With the Lord Jesus as our firm foundation, and we were built into His House, our hope shall not be half-hearted or dispirited. We must hold fast to our confidence and pride in this our Hope (cf. Hebrews 3:6), even as we become partners of Christ, and hold the beginning of this reality firm until the very end (cf. Hebrews 3:14).
Obey The Father In All Of Life
We will do this like the obedient children of God, who we really are, through faith in Christ Jesus (cf. Galatians 3:26). We claim this identity for ourselves when we separate and come forth from the world, declaring God to be our Father (cf. 2 Corinthians 6:17-18). We are empowered to do this by the Spirit of God who leads us (cf. Romans 8:14). It is the Spirit, who enables us not to act in compliance with the desires of our former ignorance. Before we came to this realization, we did not know much; for we were in the darkness of not knowing. But now we choose to move forward, aware of the worthy call we have received. Thus, ignorance can no longer be our excuse for not living the holiness call.
Such obedience requires us to make a break with our past lifestyle. We must prove or discern the will of God – that which is good and acceptable and perfect (cf. Romans 12:2). We cannot let the world squeeze us into its own mold; instead, we allow God to re-mould our minds from within. All kinds of self-seeking desire that is directed towards wealth, power, or pleasure must be resisted. As Christians growing in the knowledge of God, we do not have to be controlled by selfish desires. We cannot claim to truly live under the Lordship of Jesus and for His purposes and yet remain self-centered.
We do not just invite Jesus into our hearts because He will give us life in abundance; we must let Jesus stay in and run the office. That break with the past life must involve a sincere repentance of sin and a total yielding to Christ as Lord. We will stop running our own life and stop living for the same selfish desires that we formerly lived for. We will stop using Jesus to fulfill our selfish desires. We will establish a habit of obedience to our Heavenly Father. We will live by His Word and always ask what God’s Word says about a thing, and then obey it. Our obedience will be a conditioned response to holiness which is His nature.
There will no longer be a distinction between sacred and secular because we are holy in all our conduct. Our church activities will not be separate from our daily life because secular life is sacred. All creation is sacred, and all our activities must be sanctified and done to the glory of God. We will eliminate hypocrisy, and live with integrity. When we blow it, we confess our sin and make our Christianity practical in every aspect of life. We become the only “Bible” that many unbelievers will ever read. The world must learn about our Heavenly Father by watching us, who are His children.
Grow In Personal Knowledge Of God’s Holiness
Since He who called us is holy, we must be holy ourselves. This holiness will be in every aspect of our conduct because “I Am” is Holy, and you and I are now the image and likeness of “I Am”. If we are to be like the Holy One who called us, and to be holy because He is Holy, we must know Him, who is a Holy God. Our life is a process of growing to know God as He has revealed Himself in Scripture. This knowledge of the Holy One should have a transforming effect on our lives.
The word “holy” when applied to God, inevitably points to His Perfection. His transcendence makes Him to be above and beyond His creation in such a way that He is distinct from it. And His purity makes Him totally separate from all sin. We too, are to be set apart from the world and unto God. But herein lies the problem, because sin dwells in the very core of our being fallen creatures. The fact is that we can never be as holy as God is holy because such absolute holiness belongs to God alone.
Is There Hope For Us Being Holy?
The truth of the matter is that we will never get to heaven simply by striving to be holy because our good works cannot pay the penalty for our sins. We can and we must grow in personal holiness as we come to know our Holy God. The more we gain insight on the holiness of God, the more we will gain equal insight on the magnitude of our sin and the realization that only the Blood of Jesus Christ can satisfy the justice of God. What we must do, is to put our trust in Him and not in our good works. We must have genuine faith that Christ saves if we hope for a life of progressive holiness. Our faith cannot be a saving faith if we seek to grow in holiness, and yet do not strive against sin. Without holiness, there is no seeing of the Lord (cf. Hebrews 12:14).
The good news is that we are already holy (or “sanctified”) as God’s people. The moment we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour, we place ourselves in that good and appropriate position or place to be sanctified and set apart unto God. However, for as long as we remain in the flesh, the process of sanctification will not be complete. We need to be progressively sanctified by growing in holiness. We must find ways of actively working at it. We may do this by living by the Spirit so that we do not gratify the desires of the flesh (cf. Galatians 5:16). Our aim should be to live by the spirit, in order to put to death the deeds of the body (cf. Romans 8:13). We must keep looking forward to the day we finally meet the Lord, trusting that we will be perfectly sanctified. This is a promise – that what we shall be is not yet revealed; but when it is revealed we shall surely be (holy) like him (cf. 1 John 3:2). So, we revel in the amazing grace of God who saved us through the Cross of Jesus Christ; and this knowledge is what will make us more holy in all our behavior.
There is, of course, the possibility to fall from time to time; but we are encouraged by what Prophet Isaiah says about the high and lofty One, who dwells forever, and whose name is holy. That He dwells on a high and holy place, and dwells also with the contrite and lowly of spirit, in order to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite (cf. Isaiah 57:15). This means that God will always welcome us back! By living the call to holiness, we become the greatest miracle that God does today.
We must let God take an unholy person out of this unholy world, and make this person holy. And then He puts the person back into the unholy world and keeps this person holy in it.