When we think of holiness, our first thought can’t be “I need to try harder to obey.” Rather, our first thought must be “I am set apart for God.” When we dwell upon that reality and all that means, the rest will follow as the tail follows the dog.
If we are going to take holiness seriously and see progress in our lives in the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit, the place to start is…
To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:2, NIV84)
We try so hard to be holy. After all, doesn’t the Bible tell us to strive for holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). The pursuit of holiness is constituent of the Christian life (1 Thess. 4:1-8). God’s will is for our sanctification, wherein we die more and more unto sin and live increasingly unto righteousness. We are to be holy as He is holy, a calling expressed in terms of obedience and the conduct of our lives (1 Pet. 1:14-15).
Yet we regularly, often emphatically and even willfully fall flat on our faces, plunging back into the dissipation from which God rescued us, despite scriptural warning to the contrary (1 Pet. 4:1-3). The Spirit convicts us of our sin and, once again, we repent and confess our sin, claim forgiveness in Christ, and purpose with the Spirit’s help to try harder – all quite sincerely.
And on it goes. It’s reminiscent of the cycles in the book of Judges. We forget God, presume upon our position as His people, and give ourselves over to sin. From the bondage into which we have subjected ourselves, we cry out to God and He points us to His Deliverer, only for us to wander again.
What can we do? Simply try harder? God shows us a better way.