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"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:14-16).

In writing to the church, the apostle Peter first reminds the believers of the living hope that they possess through faith in Christ Jesus. Following this reminder, Peter begins by saying "therefore" (v. 13), effectively saying, "In light of the faith you have and the inheritance you possess in Christ live holy lives." In fact, Peter views the believer's change of life after conversion so highly that he states, "be as holy as God himself."

Yet Peter isn't making this up as a new command. He is quoting the words of God himself to the people of ethnic Israel from Leviticus 11:44-45. If holiness was demanded of ethnic Israel, though they were not all God's elect, then this command is superbly important and relevant to the spiritual seed of Abraham, spiritual Israel. That is, this demand for holiness was written for all those who believe in the Christ - you and me.

What is holiness? In short, holiness is sanctification. Sanctification is frequently used to describe the process of being made holy, but it is also used in the Bible to describe one's being instantaneously holy at justification. In short, holiness means to be set apart.

As an illustration, let's "pretend" that one of my kids makes a mess at the table. He gets a towel to clean up the mess. Then he sets apart that dirty towel to be cleaned. The dirty towel is instantly set apart, yet there is a process to make it clean again; namely, washing and drying. Similarly, sanctification and holiness can be thought of in these terms.

It is apparent, therefore, that the Christian be holy, that he be set apart from the world in all manner of living, thinking, and speaking. He ought to look, sound, and behave differently. This is not as a means to salvation, but because salvation has come to him by the regenerative grace of the triune God.

So, we must be holy. The question then becomes, what does holiness, in practice, look like? Does it mean wearing dresses and skirts, not conforming to the world's standard of dress? Does it mean not cursing, not conforming to the speech patterns of the unregenerate? Does it mean refraining from the celebration of historic pagan holidays, such as Halloween? These and many other questions are all worth the Christian's time to consider if he is, indeed, to be sanctified from the ordinary things of the world.

Typologically in Leviticus and explicitly in 1 Peter, God is obviously concerned with the Christian abstaining from sin, to be set apart as a sinless people. But, practically speaking, what is sin? And why are some things considered sin to some and not to others? (This is not to be discussed here; in short, we are to live with one another in charity.)

For practical purposes, I will submit to you a few things my family and I are currently practicing and will continue to consider as we seek to live as Christians pursuing holiness, exiles in a foreign land. Yet I anticipate your question: Are the standards I list below actually sin; are they actually that big of a deal?

I think the apostle Paul offers some helpful insight for us to consider at this point: "'All things are lawful,' but not all things are helpful. 'All things are lawful,' but not all things build up" (1 Corinthians 10:23). Paul's teaching comes in the context of the battle between the Christian's conscience and the Christian's freedom. When the gray areas of life come up, how will you and I decide what is sinful and what is not? We can apply Paul's words to these situations: while it may not be strictly forbidden for us to participate in certain activities, we ought to consider what we are gaining from participation. In other words and only a few verses later, "Do all things to the glory of God" (1 Corinthians 10:31). This is one of Paul's conclusions on the matter of the Christian's conscience and his freedom. Is the activity or behavior you and I are participating in actually driving us toward Christ or away from him? We would do well to constantly calibrate our consciences so that we are sure to live holy lives to God.

1) We are teaching our children (and along with them, ourselves) that we will look differently than non-Christians. This has most recently manifested itself in clothing, specifically female clothing. The other day a girl in our neighborhood took her dog for a walk. She was wearing a "crop top" (a shirt that exposed her abdomen). Without condemning the girl, I instructed our daughter that we wouldn't be dressing like that as it is immodest and self-glorifying. (Actually, our daughter pointed the girl out to us. Since the fall, all humans regardless of age know when one is naked.)

Anticipating some of the arguments already forming in your head, I want to redirect you to something I said earlier: we are not legalizing Christianity, as some have done. We are simply teaching practical, biblical truths in order to live holy and pleasing to God.

2) We are teaching our children that we will not celebrate cultural holidays that do not exalt Christ. Yesterday was Halloween. Halloween began as a pagan holy-day of sacrifices to false gods in order to achieve a successful harvest. Now, while I do not know anyone today who sacrifices to the gods for a good harvest, let me ask you: what are you celebrating on this day? Candy? Costumes? For some it truly is a celebration of darkness and demons.

We recently went through the holidays we celebrate with our family: we celebrate Easter for Christ's resurrection (I just threw away a children's book the other day that I found on our shelf that spoke of Easter with bunnies and chicks, with no mention of Jesus!); we celebrate Christmas for Christ's birth; we celebrate Thanksgiving as a day of thanks to God for his provisions; we celebrate Independence Day because God achieved victory for our nation (read the stories of George Washington and others who experienced miracles during the Revolutionary War!); and we celebrate birthdays because God is the creator of life.

If the holidays we celebrate are not recognizing the truth of God nor worshipping him directly, then I question their significance and value in the life of the Christian family. We must consider what we are celebrating.

3) We are teaching our children that we should expect persecution and harassment for living differently - and we, the parents, are learning this too. For too long have Christians lived at ease and comfort in the United States. For nearly two centuries, God has blessed our land with peace and prosperity because the nation has honored God first. But the time has come for the Christian to count the cost and to live contrary to the world. We must expect persecution and become battle-hardened, for the enemy has mustered and is already laying siege to the Church - and he would devour her, if he could.

In closing, the apostle Peter encourages believers who are to be holy, to be different, with these words:

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you" (1 Peter 4:12-14).


Finally, consider, O Christian, God's command to be holy! Think about it:

  1. What do you value? Think about how you spend your money, Christian.
  2. What do you enjoy? Think about what you spend your time doing and thinking about.
  3. What do you worship? Add up what you value and what you enjoy and you will figure out what idols you worship. Tear them down! "Thou shalt have no gods before Me!"

"As for me and my house, we shall serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15).