“What does is it mean to be holy?” I searched Google today using this phrase and got about 129,000 results. If you do the same search without using quotation marks, you’ll get about 890 million. For the most part, the word holy is associated with God. This makes it a unique word, of sorts since anyone using holy is probably talking about God. This is why I find 890 million results interesting. It tells me people are interested in holiness.

As I perused the 129,000 results related to my question, something occurred to me. It cannot be that difficult to explain holiness and what it means to be holy. It just can’t. I think we have many questions about what it means to be holy because we’re looking at a state of being. A state of being wholly isolated to God, and no human being can relate.

We can tell each other what it means to be happy, sad, angry, depressed, afraid, furious, alone, content, and so on. We even differentiate between similar states of being. For example, we can be sad without being depressed, happy but not content, and angry but not furious. Again, the list goes on and on. However, there is only one state of being that is Holy.

God is holy. Really though, God is Holy. We can try, and be Holy, but while we’re on this earth, we will never be more than holy. Just as we use a capital “G” in “God” to differentiate God from everything else we worship as “gods” we could do the same with Holy. Even if we don’t realize it. Because God is Holy and without sin or defect. Perfect, He gets the capital H. Jesus too, is Holy, and so is the Holy Spirit. However, I’m just going to continue with the person of God right now.

If God is perfect without sin or defect, and he is also good, how can we be holy? In case you missed it, the answer to our first question, “What does it mean to be holy?” is “to be God.” Instead of listing every characteristic that makes God, God, it’s much easier to say God, and leave it at that when we define what it means to be holy.

Perhaps a better question might be, “How can we be holy?” The problem with this question is the capital “H” I mentioned earlier. When people ask how they can be holy, they are really asking, “How can I be [like] God?” Again, remember we’re talking about a state of being alien to the human experience. So the holiness question and how it might be framed could be like this; “How can we be like holy?” but that’s doesn’t make sense in English. This is why I like the question of how we can be like God or Jesus better. I slipped Jesus in there because it is who most Christians will identify with more. I rarely say, “I want to be more like God.” It’s just an issue of semantics and word choice.

Since I am limited by my own humanity, let’s stick with the question of how we can be holy. A search of that question as a phrase brings up about 377,000 results. Once again, it’s a hot topic. The Bible gives a lot of examples of how we can try and be holy. We separate ourselves from things that are not holy. If you’re thinking about the capital “H” then that’s good. As Christians, we endeavor to separate ourselves from this world and everything in it that’s not of God. We can’t get away from ourselves, but we can decide not to follow behaviors that don’t represent Godly values. A few of those would be sexual immorality, drug abuse, murder, lying, and stealing. Not a comprehensive list, I know.

Some of you might be thinking about something God said in the Bible.

“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:44a (NIV)

God tells the Israelites to consecrate themselves and be holy. Rather than try and explain what that means in my own words, let’s take a look at something God said to Moses before appearing to all of the people at the foot of Mount Sinai.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people.

Exodus 19:10-11 (NIV)

The people needed to consecrate themselves before appearing before the Lord. Part of this process was to wash their clothes. They also needed to prepare themselves mentally and spiritually. After the people have washed their clothes and been consecrated, Moses tells them this:

Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”

Exodus 19:15 (NIV)

Part of the preparation for meeting the Lord was to abstain from sexual relations. Sexual relations were not sinful, but they were asked to abstain. Why? Because thinking about sex and having sex would take their focus off of meeting God. This was part of the consecration that helped them to focus on God.

Let’s go back to Leviticus 11:44a and being holy because God is holy.

“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

Leviticus 11:44a (NIV)

What do we think of when we see the word “because” in that sentence? We’ve already seen that they needed to consecrate themselves because they were meeting God. Does the command to “be holy, because I am holy” mean the same thing? Considering what I’ve said about being holy could we write it like this? “Be holy, because I am Holy”? How about this? “Be holy. Because I am holy.” Could it be that the people are holy because God is holy? That God is the one who makes them holy? We can only try and prepare ourselves to be in His presence?

Elsewhere in Exodus, God is giving the law to Moses and He says this:

“Say to the Israelites, ‘You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy.”

Exodus 31:13 (NIV)

In Leviticus 21:8, when God is giving Moses instructions about priests and whom they should marry, He tells them this:

Regard them as holy, because they offer up the food of your God. Consider them holy, because I the Lord am holy—I who make you holy.

Leviticus 21:8 (NIV)

The only way we can be made holy is by God. When God makes things holy, those things are holy, and anything that touches them becomes holy.

We see this throughout the Bible.

For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy.

Exodus 29:37 (NIV)

You shall consecrate them so they will be most holy, and whatever touches them will be holy.

Exodus 30:29 (NIV)

This is why there were people set apart to handle the devoted things of God.

I believe the only way we can be holy is if God makes us holy. It’s not something we can do on our own. We can have a holy lifestyle and such, but if we never enter into God’s presence, then are we holy? Just as we are not saved by our works, we are not made holy by them either. It’s only by the presence of Jesus in our lives that we can be made holy. This is how we are set apart and recognized by the world. This is how we are the light of the world. When Moses had spent time in God’s presence, he was changed.

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.

Exodus 34:29 (NIV)

Unlike Moses, we don’t need to go up on a mountain to be with the Lord. We become holy when we enter God’s presence because He is Holy. In our sinful and fallen state, God makes us holy, and He can’t help it. It’s who He is.

Do you know God? God knows you, and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe that you died on the cross, were buried, and on the third day, God the Father raised you from the dead. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart, and I receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.