The life of a believer, one who worships Jesus as King, requires the willingness to deliberately seek personal transformation.

In Professor N.T. Wright’s newest course, Paul: A Biography, he introduces two compelling questions about the Apostle’s conversion: ‘What was it that Paul came to believe was true that he formerly did not believe, and how did that happen?’

What happened to Saul of Tarsus influenced not only the formation of what we call ‘Christian Theology’, it also changed him personally.

Many people embrace new experiences and discover the changes God wants to make in their lives. Others prefer stability and are resistant to new opportunities for personal growth because they would rather avoid the unknown.

Regardless of the group to which you relate, God’s command to ‘Be holy as I am holy’ can be daunting for many. However, we are not robots controlled by a god who forces us to do things against our will. Transformation does not occur in a vacuum; it requires our cooperation and it takes shape in community.  Holiness requires participation in intentional transformation.

Some may protest, ‘Why can’t everything just stay the same, Lord?’

His reply, ‘He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus’ (Phil 1:6).

To be ‘holy’ is to be ‘set apart’.  A life of holiness reflects what God has already done by making us into a new creation. It is not an attitude of self-righteousness that views one person above another on a scale of perfectionistic performance.  Holiness cannot be earned. Holiness is an aspect of who you already are in Christ Jesus the Lord.

Holiness cannot be earned. Holiness is an aspect of who you already are in Christ Jesus the Lord. Click To Tweet

But, I have often heard it said, ‘God isn’t finished with me yet’.

The Christian life is not one that operates on auto-pilot. One of the most lasting ideas for me from Prof. Wright’s course, Paul: A Biography, is that Paul challenges the follower of Jesus to be a certain kind of person:

Paul realized that if things are going to happen that transform communities and the world, then you cannot just drift along. Something new has happened, and there is a new lifestyle. It is genuinely a new way of life. It looks different because it is different.

A life of holiness in the Kingdom of God naturally creates resistance against the ‘ordinary way’ of doing things. In Christ, the ‘old me’ is dead and gone, but the ‘new me’ is not yet fully revealed.  In the midst of this tension, Prof. Wright reinforces how Paul not only taught, but also continually sought a new way of being human in the world.

My father recently gave me some great advice about holiness. He said, ‘Act like His kid and prove that He is’.

I asked, ‘Prove that He is what?’

He grinned and said, ‘God’.

I still did not understand.

He explained, ‘When I act like I am His child, then the world around me knows who my Father is’.

When I think of holiness in this way, it does not seem so daunting. Rather, it simply reflects the kind of person I already am–a new creation–and the family to whom I belong. This mindset encourages me to intentionally seek and embrace the changes God wants to make in my life.

In the recently released eBook, ‘Thinking in a New Way’, Prof. Wright observes:

Paul invented something, which with hindsight we can call ‘Christian Theology’, to sustain the church as the united and holy people of God. This can only be brought about through the transformation of the mind.

We must learn to focus in a new way. We must learn to think in a new way. Only then will we learn to live in the new way.  

Being set apart reflects a sacrificial way of living that can be demonstrated in many ways. It may begin with embracing personal change in practical ways such as:

  • Exercising self-control
  • Choosing mercy over judgment
  • Responding to difficult people with compassion

What is one practical step you can take in order to embrace thinking in a new way about holiness?

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Jennifer Loop

Jennifer Loop is Director of Ministry Engagement for the Wisconsin Centre for Christian Studies. Currently, she is working towards her doctorate in the study of practical theology at Durham University, centering her research on forgiveness. Jennifer has served as a leader in Celebrate Recovery, a Christian 12-step recovery program. She is married to Gary and they live in West Bend, WI with their twenty-one-year-old cat, Caleb.