“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26
One of our most important shared attributes with God is holiness. The Scriptures repeatedly speak of God as being holy:
Psalm 22:3 says, “…you [God] are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.”
Psalm 89:18 calls God “the Holy One of Israel.”
Psalm 99:9 says, “the Lord our God is holy!”
Isa. 6:3 says, ““Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
The Prophet Habbakuk calls God, “my Holy One” (Hab. 1:12).
1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
His name is holy (Ezek. 36:22). His words are holy (Jer. 23:9). His Spirit is holy (Luke 1:35). Absolutely everything about God is holy. It is unique, set apart, pure, good and true. There is no malice in Him. No evil, “no darkness,” is in Him at all. He is perfect.
More than 600 times, the word “holy” appears in the ESV translation of the Bible. Every time, it refers to God’s name, character, covenant, dwelling place, offerings, statutes, law… and His people.
“You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16, Lev. 11:44)
We are set apart, unique among all creation, just as God is set apart and unique. Humanity in general is the only creature that is said to be made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). However, we are imperfect. Because of the fall of our first parents, Adam and Eve (see Genesis 3), all humanity fell into sin. We are both slaves to sin and lovers of sin. Instead of being holy, we are by nature and choice, unholy and impure. We “loved the darkness rather than the light because [our] works were evil” (John 3:19).
We, left to our own devices and desires, are children of wrath (Eph. 2:3).
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:5).
Rather than leaving all of humanity to bear our deserved punishment for our sin and profaning of God, He, in his mercy, came down from Heaven as the man Jesus Christ. He lived the perfect, sinless life we could not. He died in our place for our sins, nailed to the cross by us, and God’s wrath was poured out upon Him. His righteousness was given to us in exchange for our unrighteousness. “For our sake he [God the Father] made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Because God is holy, perfectly sinless, we are to pursue holiness in Christ. We are to follow his example of a perfect, sinless life. A life that exemplified the Great Commandment (“you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’…’You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” [Mark 12:30-31]).
Jesus commanded, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). In His example, Jesus shows us what this looks like, in His death, burial and resurrection. Because we have been “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24), we are able to say no to sin and yes to God. To pursue holiness.
This means how we speak (Eph. 4:29), how we think (Eph. 4:17), our marriages and parenting (Eph. 5:22-6:4), and how we work (Eph. 6:5-9)—all of life will look radically different as we pursue holiness and we “grow in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15).
So the question now becomes, does my life reflect the pursuit of holiness or the pursuit of sin?
Am I willing to deny myself, take up my cross and follow Jesus, even when it hurts?