We live in a day when sin and defeat is presumed (and sadly often encouraged) within the Church.

While the world is marked by darkness, Christians are supposed to be a “light on a hill”—distinct and different from the world around us.

All throughout Scripture, especially the New Testament, we are reminded that God’s people have always been counter-cultural, never truly fitting in, or as Peter describes the Church, “sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11).

Though we live in the world, the world is not to live in us. We are called unto holiness.

Called to Holiness

In the same passage that Peter calls believers “sojourners and exiles,” he says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul…” (1 Peter 2:11).

Earlier in his letter he writes, “As obedient children, not being conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your conduct; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

Peter exhorts believers to live holy lives because our God is holy. If God is holy and He rescued us out of darkness and depravity, we should live lives that reflect the new nature that dwells within us (see Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Colossians 1:13–14, etc.).

Paul loved this concept and often talked about it throughout his letters. For example, in Ephesians, he contrasts our former way of life (living like the world) with the new life in Christ. He says,

“And you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience, among whom we all also formerly conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” (Ephesians 2:1–5).

Is Holiness Negative or Positive?

Holiness in our generation is often seen as a negative—it’s a list of things we can’t do, or people call it “legalism.” In short, we’ve turned holiness into rules.

But throughout Scripture, every time holiness shows up (which is a lot), it is always in the positive.

Holiness is always a good thing because our God is holy.

Holiness simply means “different than” or “set apart” or “unlike” something else. In Scripture, God is so different than the world, so set apart from all things, that in describing His holiness it is said He is “holy, holy, holy.” God doesn’t have a tiny bit of holiness, He is holiness itself—He is the fullness of it. He has a trifecta holiness; He is holy, holy, holy … He is set apart, set apart, set apart … He is unlike, unlike, unlike all else.

And because He is holy, God calls us to be holy.

We are called out from the world to be “sojourners and exiles;” we are called to live lives that don’t look like the culture around us. When the world looks at us, we should be easily identifiable as Christians because we are known for our love and for holiness.

In short, we look like Jesus because we are being conformed to His image (see Romans 8:29). Therefore, we don’t act, think, talk, or live like the dark world we came from. We are light in the midst of darkness.

The Problem with Holiness

All that said, there is a problem with holiness.

You can’t be holy … on your own.

While you are called to holiness, living a holy life is not something you can do with grit, determination, talent, or self-effort.

God makes this clear in Isaiah 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, carry us away.” Our best effort at living a righteous, holy life is merely “filthy rags.”

So what option do we have?!

There is only one.

The only way to be holy is to embrace the One who is holy. God is the only one who is holy in and of Himself; so if we desire to be holy (and you should long for it), then it demands that we don’t grit our teeth and attempt holiness on our own (that only produces filthy rags); rather, we must cling to Christ. We become holy by allowing Him (the One who is holy) to be our holiness.

This incredible truth is found throughout Scripture:

  • Moses was told to take off his sandals at the burning bush because the ground was holy. Yet the ground was made holy because God was there. See Exodus 3.
  • Exodus 31:13 – “… that you may know that I am Yahweh who makes you holy.”
  • Leviticus 20:7–8 – ‘Therefore, you shall set yourselves apart as holy and be holy, for I am Yahweh your God. And you shall keep My statutes and do them; I am Yahweh who makes you holy.”
  • 1 Corinthians 1:30 – But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption …
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • Romans 5:17 – For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
  • Ephesians 4:22–24 – … lay aside, in reference to your former conduct, the old man, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
  • Philippians 1:11 – … having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
  • Philippians 3:8–9 – More than that, I count all things to be loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own which is from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God upon faith …

More Than Conquerors

Over and over, we are told in God’s Word that we are to walk in victory, live triumphantly, and to overcome. 

Romans is a great treatise on the victorious life of the Christian (I encourage you to read the entire book, especially chapters six and eight). Sin is not to have dominion over us (6:14) and we are to be dead to it (6:11). Perhaps one of the greatest statements comes in chapter eight where Paul declares, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (8:2). Later at the end of the chapter, Paul talks about us being “more than conquerors” (NKJV/ESV) in Christ: “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (8:37).

Paul makes it clear throughout his letters (especially Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians) that the Christian life is to be marked by triumph, not defeat. God has “rescued us from the authority of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).

We have been bought with a price and we are no longer our own; therefore, we should honor and glorify God with our lives (see 1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

While the world is marked by darkness, sexual immorality, impurity, greed, anger, jealousy, selfish ambitions, drunkenness, and every other form of evil and sin, we are to put off such works of darkness and walk as children of light (see Galatians 5:19–24, Ephesians 4:17–24; 5:1–9; Colossians 3:1–17).

As Paul reminded the Galatians, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).

No matter the sin or what you may have been defeated by in the past, you can, from this moment forward, walk IN Christ as more than a conqueror. You can have triumph and freedom and victory in your life.

How to Walk in Victory

Again, the victorious life of a believer is ONLY found in Christ Jesus. You can’t, but He can.

One of my favorite statements by Ian Thomas is: “You can’t, but He never said you could. He will, and He always said He would.”

The secret to walking in continuous victory is not self-effort, but a full dependence, surrender, abiding, and reliance upon Jesus Christ.

Here are three ideas to get you started:

1. Take sin seriously

Leonard Ravenhill once commented, “You know, we live in a day when we are more afraid of holiness than we are of sinfulness.”

I think he’s right. We shy away from truth, righteousness, and holiness and embrace all kinds of sin.

John and Betty Stam, missionaries and workers with Hudson Taylor, talked about the “Seven Steps Upward” and “Seven Steps Downward.” They said that if you want to move forward in your spiritual life, you must start by taking sin seriously (the first step). The first step downward into a life of sin, defeat, and “hell” is to take sin lightly.

What about you? Do you see sin as serious or do you take it lightly?

Ask God to burden your heart with the gravity and seriousness of sin.

2. Abide in Jesus

D.L. Moody has been quoted as saying, “Sin will keep you from the Bible or the Bible will keep you from sin.” The same statement has been made about prayer.

But simply, if you want to have greater freedom and victory in your life, spend time with the One who is holy. Saturate yourself in Christ and His Word.

Jude reminds us that Jesus is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24). And Paul declared, “And God is able to make every grace abound to you, so that in everything at every time having every sufficiency, you may have an abundance for every good deed…” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Or as John wrote, “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9).

What if you held tight to Jesus in the abiding relationship you are to have with Him (see John 15) and allow His life and victory and holiness to be demonstrated in you?

3. Walk in Obedience

You have been given everything you need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 1:3). Yet we often forget in the midst of temptation that we CAN have freedom, victory, and triumph. 

One “secret” to a victorious life is to actually, practically, walk in obedience to God and His Word.

He said “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). So what if we walked in obedience to His Word?

What if, in the midst of temptation, we remembered that sin is to be dead in us and have no dominion over us (Romans 6:11, 14)?

If we agree with Scripture, come into alignment with it, and walk in obedience to it, we will soon find victory and triumph as we live by His life (1 John 4:9) and experience His sanctification (making our lives holy—see Exodus 31:13; Leviticus 20:7–8; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

You can’t, He can

Remember, you can’t … but He can.

So begin to wage war against sin (see Romans 8:31), pray for victory and against temptation (see Matthew 26:41), and fear the Lord (see Proverbs 14:27; 19:27; 25:14).

As Peter exhorts, you DO have everything you need for life and godliness, you CAN escape the corruption that is in the world by lust … because you have Christ indwelling your life through His Spirit.

… seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the full knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Peter 1:3–4).


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