Live a holy life? In the twenty-first century? Are you kidding?

Yet, one New Testament writer said, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

We can readily see that God expected this from the ancient Israelites, as recorded in Leviticus: “Be holy, because I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). And certainly, in New Testament times, the command is clear: “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life” (1 Thess. 4:7). We can even understand John Wesley’s teaching in the 18th century, calling people to live a holy life.

But today, when all manner of unwholesome thinking and living parade blatantly before us on television and the Internet, how are we supposed to live a holy life?

None of the Scripture references above contain a conditional clause, indicating these teachings are for everyone except those who live in the 21st century. Ours is not the first generation to be plagued with temptation.

So, we read about holy living in the Bible, but …

Is it explainable?

Paul said, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through” (1 Thess. 5:23).

The word “sanctify” means to set aside for a holy purpose. It also means to cleanse and make pure. When we come to Christ, he sets us apart for the holy purpose of serving him and honoring him. He also wants to cleanse us within, to purify our inward nature, to be sure we are not just called holy, but are indeed holy. Besides being forgiven, we need to have our inner nature cleansed so that our tendency is not to do the wrong thing continually.

Is it attainable?

It is certainly not attainable in our own strength or by our own efforts. But in Christ, it is possible. He not only purchased our forgiveness on the cross. He also purchased our cleansing.

This is good news for those who think we must achieve this on our own.

Picture a sail boat on a windy day. The sailor has his oars out, struggling valiantly but making no progress. Would we shout, “Row harder”? No, we would say, “Raise your sails! Let the wind do the work!”

We cannot row against the contrary seas of life. But Christ can fill our sails.

So, it is attainable, but only in Christ.

Is it maintainable?

If he cleanses our hearts, can we stay clean?

Years ago, our family lived in a home with a beautiful in-ground swimming pool. As with everything else, it required maintenance. If we did not add certain chemicals on a regular basis, especially in hot weather, the water became contaminated and algae would begin to grow.

One summer we went away for two weeks. We asked a neighbor to take care of the pool for us. We carefully explained how small amounts of chemicals added every day or two would keep the water clean. When we returned from the trip, we were shocked to see the water in our beautiful pool had turned greenish-black. The neighbor had neglected it. I imagined I would have to drain all the water, clean the pool and refill it with fresh water.

When I called the company from which we bought our chemicals, they said instead of draining it, we had to “shock” the pool with chemicals. They told me how much to add and to watch it carefully for two or three days.

We did as instructed and in three days, the water had turned crystal clear.

Why did the water turn black? Because the pools exist in an atmosphere full of algae and fungi that multiply rapidly if not controlled.

We also live in an atmosphere that will pollute us spiritually unless we regularly maintain our walk with Christ. Through regular doses of fellowship with Christ through prayer, Bible study, worship and regular fellowship with other Christians, we can “keep clean” in Christ.

You may think today’s atmosphere is not ideal for producing a holy life. Actually, the atmosphere has never been ideal. But with God’s help, we can attain a life of holy living and maintain it in the power of his Spirit.

Ron McClung

Ron McClung has served as assistant General Secretary for The Wesleyan Church since 2009. He previously served as a pastor for 33 years in Delaware, Indiana, Michigan and Kansas and as district superintendent for the Iowa-Minnesota District for 10 years. He and his wife, Carol, have two sons, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They live in Fishers, Indiana. He has written his weekly article, Positive Perspective, for 31 years.

Read more from Ron McClung.