As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1.14-16
The incense which you shall make, you shall not make in the same proportions for yourselves; it shall be holy to you for the Lord.
When we talk about holiness, although we acknowledge that we ought to be holy, in the real world we dismiss it for pragmatic concerns. This is probably due to our misunderstanding of what holiness is and partly due to a reaction against what seems like legalism. So we need to have both a right view of how holiness should be defined and how we should seek to practice it.
The definition according to a few people shouldn’t just be about being separate from something (as it has been commonly understood). In reality, the base meaning of holiness should be understood by how it is used in the Holy Scriptures. A recent book asks the question how can separation be the definition of holiness in God himself when this is the definition from a human perspective, making his holiness dependent on his relation to us or sin? Isn’t our understanding of holiness first explained from who God is? Peter Gentry suggests that to be holy means to be wholly devoted to someone or something. This definition actually makes the best sense of how the word is used in scripture. That means God is holy because he is fully devoted to himself. We are holy to God when we are wholly devoted to God.
We see this in the verse quoted above from Exodus. The incense (and if you read earlier in chapter 30 the anointing oil) is devoted to God. It is holy to Yahweh. This means that it should never be used outside of the context of God’s commands. To be holy also meant that the incense proportions were sacred. It was devoted to God and should not be used to make the house smell better. For the oil to be holy meant that it was to be used for one purpose: the worship of God.
In the same way, we ought to be holy to the Lord, wholly devoted to our God. For Peter this means that we are not mixed at all with the former lusts which we once had. In all of our behavior now we are to be wholly devoted to God alone. That is all of our behavior. It is not legalism to live a holy life, but it is legalism to think that our behavior is what gives us goodness. By ourselves, we were dead. But we were made alive in Christ Jesus. Now we walk in this holy behavior through his Holy Spirit. That means that our holy behavior is a joyful response to the gospel and that we are able to grow in our holiness as we put to death the deeds of the flesh. May we continue to grow in our holiness as we seek to please our Lord.