What does it mean to be holy? When I was a teenager I thought that to be holy meant that you shouldn’t do certain things (e.g. have sex outside of marriage, swear, listen to the Backstreet Boys, etc.). This version of holiness says you are holy if you avoid the wrong things. This is what I think Christians generally mean when they talk about holiness.
But there is something missing with this view of holiness. Actually not something missing but someone missing. Notice how Jesus is missing from this view of holiness? Because Jesus is missing from this view of holiness it not only is it not Christ centered but it can be legalistic. I I am only concerned with doing the right things and not doing the wrong things my life therefore becomes about me and what I am doing but as Christians we know that our lives should be all about Jesus.
Having Jesus at the centre of our holiness also reminds of us of where our holiness comes from. It doesn’t come from a certain will within ourselves. It comes from Jesus who made us holy by his shed blood on the cross.
What does this look like practically I hear you ask. It means now we live out of who we are. The Bible says we are new creations and therefore we live like we are new creations. We don’t do the things we did once because that is not who we are anymore. As you can see a Jesus centered holiness is less about striving to be someone or something and more about becoming what we already are. Sure it means that we will not do some things (like listen to the Backstreet Boys) and we will do other things (read our Bibles and pray). But our motivation for doing these things is different. We are trying to be who we are because, in Jesus, we already are holy. It means because Jesus has made us right with God we are totally dedicated to him and therefore we will be apart form anything that is sinful. As Anthony A. Hoekema says
Contrary to popular opinion, therefore, holiness means more than doing certain good things and not doing certain bad things; rather, it means being totally dedicated to God and separated from all that is sinful.