It seems to me that Christians often want the holiness of God, but not His wrath. We want the presence of the Lord, but not his judgement (unless it is directed at people we don’t like). Believers tend to gravitate towards passages about God’s love and grace and mercy, and tend to avoid any passages describing His vengeance or anger or wrath. However, if we really want a holy God, we cannot expect Him to allow sin into His presence. He cannot tolerate hypocrisy; he cannot ignore wickedness.
However, this begs the question: can we even live up to God’s standard? Is it possible to become holy, as we are commanded in 1 Peter 1:16? I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians dismiss this as an impossible task. It’s like we expect sin to find its way back into our lives. In other words, we say, “well I’m definitely not going to get through today without sinning…good thing there is grace!” This is exactly what Peter warns against later in his book:
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil.”[1]
Why would God command us to do something He knew we couldn’t do? My answer is: He hasn’t. Think about all of the seemingly impossible things that the Lord accomplished through men and women in the Old Testament: parting seas, raising the dead, and giving life to barren wombs. And we, as Christians, maintain that we have His Spirit within us. We claim that the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is dwelling inside of our very souls. And yet we don’t think He can have victory over sin in our lives? That’s just sad. Either we do not understand how powerful the Spirit of God is, or we are not aware of how intimately He has become a part of who we are. God is not waiting until we die to make us holy. That’s not good enough for Him. He has already begun.
Will temptation continue to find its way into our lives? Of course, always. Must we give in to it? No, never! Paul claims that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we can bear, and that He will always provide a way of escape.[2] There are therefore no excuses. We have the power to resist (through the Holy Spirit) and the opportunity to resist (through the way of escape). Now if (and I mean if, not when) you do fail, then ask for repentance and get back on the road of holiness. That’s the beautiful thing about the Christian walk: you can always get back up. But please, please, please, don’t expect to fall.
I know that not all of my brothers and sisters will agree with me when I say that it really is possible to maintain a holy life, down to every word and thought. And I certainly do not claim to have achieved this myself. However, I hope that together we can all strive together in the Spirit towards holiness, because God expects it from us. We are His covenant people and, as His people, may we seek Him in total surrender. For if we turn away from the Lord, we will see His jealous side. Sure, He will give us over to our sin for a little while in hopes that it disappoints us and we return. But when His patience runs out, when He gets tired of waiting, He will send the Church a Babylon to put us in our place.[3]
Now let me be very clear. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, believe that we can somehow find holiness through human effort. You cannot by sheer force of will choose to never sin. It is only when we completely submit our spirits to the Spirit of God, devote our time and energy to His Word, and come constantly to Him in prayer that we no longer find Sin has a hold on our lives. It is by His power and His power alone that we are free from Sin.

It is by His power and His power alone that we are free from Sin.

For those outside of God’s covenant people, His fire destroys them. However, for those of us within the Body, His fire refines us. Being in God’s presence makes us more like Him, as His holiness transforms us. In those moments when a Christian sins, grace is there to restore him. However, it is when the Christian avoids sin altogether that he is able to truly enjoy the beauty of God’s grace. To the sinner, God’s grace is a timely rescue. To the saint, God’s grace is an infinite delight.
When you choose to live in this delight, you are choosing to embark on an impossible journey- a journey which can only be completed through the power of God’s Spirit. Beginning this journey should not be taken lightly. When you are baptized into the Church, know that you are entering into the divine presence of a holy, dangerous, and jealous God- a consuming fire. And if you don’t become like Him, you’re going to feel the heat.
So ask yourself every morning: will sin reign over me today, or will Christ? Make a declaration to God that He alone will be your master. And then live it out- not by putting in enough effort, but by completely submitting yourself to Christ. As Eric Metaxas said, “Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”
-E
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[1] See 1 Peter 2:16; for Paul’s perspective also see Galatians 5:13.
[2] See 1 Corinthians 10:13.
[3] Babylon was sent by God to punish Israel for her idolatry. It was not until the people of Israel found themselves exiled to a far away land that they finally realized their sin and developed a truly monotheistic religious system (Judaism). By God sending the Church a Babylon, I do not necessarily mean that He will send a political power to persecute the Church (although He could). I just mean that He will do something. God always takes drastic steps to ensure the purity of His Bride, whether that means raising up an empire

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