1 Peter 1:14,16 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance… be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
I have never been fond of this passage as it makes me feel a little hopeless. Peter not only says that I am to be holy in my conduct, but that the measure of that holiness is God himself. I am to be as perfectly holy as God is? Good one. In what reality could Peter expect this?
The reality is, that in my spirit life, I am already holy. Christ’s death on the cross has done the work of redemption so that in my spirit life, for all time, I am forgiven, free and seen by God as righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is in my flesh life that I struggle. As long as I remain in this flesh body, I will be affected by the decay of this flesh nature.
It can be demoralizing that I will be ever defective in this flesh, but it is my constant need that keeps me constantly dependent on God. Viewed in this light, I can be thankful that the rest of my life can be spent working at bringing the reality of this flesh life into line with the reality of my spirit life. Christ has done the work at making me perfect in my spirit life. Now, in my flesh life, I will spend the rest of my days on earth focusing on that reality.
This holiness that we will strive for is not a list of dos and don’ts in the sense that we can just follow a list of behaviors and claim holiness. That path is legalism, which in pride, still focuses on self. We can use certain destructive or constructive behaviors to introspectively measure our conduct, but we do not live for a list of specific behaviors. To be holy is to perfectly align my flesh life with Jesus life. It is to keep my eyes off self and on God and to insist that my behavior follows. Then, and only then, will my conduct actually be holy.
I will fail. I will sin. I will often need to remind myself that I am forgiven and considered as righteous before God for all time. The great paradox of the Christian life is that though the work of my salvation has been done for all time, I still desperately need my savior. I am perfect in my spirit life but I will not and cannot achieve perfection in my flesh life. Though I know I will never perfectly align my flesh life with my spirit life, I will continue to strive for holiness until I leave this flesh. So, what may seem hopeless is in fact already a reality, I just need to spend the rest of my life making my flesh realize that reality.