Don’t Shortchange the Holy Spirit When It Comes to Holiness

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of holiness. What it means to be set apart for God, for the new creation to begin.

It seems to me that many Christians basically act as if the new creation has really started yet. That although they are forgiven for their mistakes and are going to heaven, now they play a passive waiting game for Jesus to come back. There is sometimes as sense of powerlessness, that holiness is an ideal that will never be fully accomplished in this life, and so…why even try?

Yet, the Scriptures teach that the new creation happens in real-time as one submits to the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17), that holiness happens as result (1 John 1:9), and that although it is ultimately God’s work, we should strive after this (Hebrews 12:14).

To do anything less than commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the spiritual disciplines (which is really just the practice of submitting to the Holy Spirit in obedience) is essentially saying that we don’t believe holiness is possible or worth effort.

At this point wouldn’t be setting ourselves up in opposition to the teachings of St. Paul?

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.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.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:20-22, ESV)

Photo: Depiction of the Christian Holy Spirit as a dove, by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, in the apse of Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, stained glass, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican)