Editors note: The purpose of this series is to help our readers think through what discipleship is and how to embrace the Cross of Christ in all of life.

Discipleship-greenThe cultivation of holiness is demanding. Thomas Watson called it “sweating work.” To encourage us in the pursuit of holiness, we need to keep our eyes focused on biblical truth.

God has Called Us to Holiness

            “For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” (1 Thess. 4:7). Whatever God calls us to is necessary. His call itself, as well as the benefits which we experience from holy living, should induce us to seek and practice holiness.

Holiness augments our spiritual well-being. God assures us that “For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” (Psalm 84:11). “What health is to the soul,” John Flavel noted, “that holiness is to the soul.”[i] Most importantly, holiness glorifies the God you love (Isa. 43:21).

Holiness Fosters Christlikeness

            Christ is a pattern of holiness for us—a pattern of holy humility (Phil. 2:5-13), holy compassion (Mark 1:41), holy forgiveness (Col. 3:13), holy unselfishness (Rom. 15:3), holy indignation against sin (Matt. 23), and holy prayer (Heb. 5:7). Cultivated holiness resembles God and is patterned after Christ and saves us from hypocrisy and from resorting to a “Sunday only” Christianity. Holiness gives vitality, purpose, meaning, and direction to daily living.

Holiness Promotes Assurance (1 John 2:3; 3:19)

            “Everyone may be assured in himself of his faith by the fruits thereof” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 86). Daily assurance of Christians is reached gradually in the path of sanctification through careful cultivation of God’s Word, the means of grace, and corresponding obedience. An increasing hatred of sin, by means of mortification, and a growing love to obey God, by means of vivification, accompanies the progress of faith as it grows into assurance. Christ-centered, Spirit-worked holiness is the best and most sound evidence of divine sonship (Rom. 8:1-16).

Holiness Purifies Us

            “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15). Holiness cannot be exercised where the heart has not been fundamentally transformed through divine regeneration. Through the new birth, Satan is deposed, the law of God is written upon the heart of the believer, Christ is crowned Lord and King, and the believer made ”willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him” (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1). Christ in us is an essential complement to Christ for us. The Spirit of God not only teaches the believer what Christ has done, but actualizes the holiness and work of Christ in his/her personal life. Through Christ, God sanctifies His child and makes his prayers and thanksgiving acceptable.

Holiness is Essential for Effective Service to God

            Paul joins sanctification and usefulness together. “Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” (2 Tim. 2:21). God uses holiness to assist the preaching of the gospel and to build up the credibility of the Christian faith. Our lives are always doing good or harm; they are an open epistle for all to read (2 Cor. 3:2). Holy living influences and impresses as nothing else can; no argument can match it. It displays the beauty of religion; it gives credibility to witness and to evangelism (Phil. 2:15). Holiness manifests itself in humility and reverence for God. Such are those whom God looks to and uses (Isa. 66:2). As Andrew Murray notes, “Humility is the bloom and beauty of holiness.”[ii]


[i] Cited in John Blanchard, Gathered Gold (Welwyn, England: Evangelical Press 1984), 144.

[ii] Andrew Murray, Humility: The Beauty of Holiness (Old Tappan, N.J., Revell, n.d), 40.