Living a Holy Life

May God Himself, the God who makes everything holy and whole, make you holy and whole, put you together—spirit, soul, and body—and keep you fit for the coming of our Master, Jesus Christ.

--1 Thessalonians 5:23, The Message

I have a confession to make: I get itchy when I hear the word holiness.

I seem to feel fine when I hear about the holiness of God, the Holy Spirit, that our God is a holy God, but when it comes to ascribing holiness to people, that’s when I get itchy.

Holiness, to me, seems to have legalistic, exclusionary connotations. It brings to mind the phrase, “Holier than thou.” I recall interactions I have had with well-meaning saints whose whiff of “holiness” was enough to make me want to run in the other direction.

And yet, my personal itchiness aside, there is much said in Scripture about the people of God being called to be holy, just as God is holy. We are told that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, to make us holy and to shape our lives into the image of the Son. If holiness means that my life is being shaped and formed along the lines of Jesus’ life, then maybe it is my experience of holiness that needs to be re-examined, to be shaken loose from its negative connotations.

What if holiness is actually about wholeness? I like that Eugene Peterson, in his noted paraphrase The Message, connects these ideas when he translates 1 Thessalonians 5:23 and says God will make us “holy and whole.” How many people do I know who are whole?

Suddenly the image of “holier than thou” is gone; some of the most whole people I know are honest, willing to be vulnerable, grateful, intentional, and funny. (Who would have thought that holiness encompasses a sense of humor?) The people I know who are pursuing wholeness, who are being “put together—spirit, soul, and body” by the Spirit of God, are paradoxes: they are kind, but have boundaries; they are gentle, but firm; they know their personal limits, but are willing to expend themselves for the sake of others. These same people are willing to face the pain of their past and to grieve their losses; they are working to unlearn old patterns and are learning new ways of acting and being in the world. Whole people are conscious of the power that they hold—whether institutional power, cultural power, or personal power—and steward it wisely.

If holiness and wholeness are meant to go together, then I want to be holy. I want my life to overflow with the abundance of God—God’s generosity, gentleness, graciousness. I want to be known for my love, that God’s love flows through me. I want to live in such a way that as the days go by and those days turn into years that I am becoming more and more like Christ, that I am becoming more and more whole because I’ve been in the presence of God.

If holiness and wholeness are truly inseparable, then I want to live a whole and holy life. Itch free.

Alyssa M. Foll is a chaplain for Adventist Health System. She lives in Orlando, Florida.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
1 Like

Elder Richards used tavern this tell this story. early in his ministry he was the featured speaker at a mid west Campmeeting. Following his sermon a farmer approached him and said:“Pastor, I have not sinned in over 10 years.” Richards replied–“Youmust e very proud! The former replied"Yes indeed, oh yes Indeed!” tZ


According to Paul in Galatians 5, the Spirit of God gives us these Holy Attributes
Love – Affection for Others.
Joy – Exuberance about life.
Peace – Serenity [Serenity Prayer - God, Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
Grant me the Courage to change the things I can change.
Grant me the Wisdom to know the difference.]
Patience – A willingness to stick with things.
Kindness – A sense of Compassion in the heart.
Goodness – A conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and others.
Faithfulness – Involved in Loyal Commitments.
Gentleness – No needing to force my way in life.
Self-Control – Able to marshal and direct my energies wisely.
— Peter Scazzero, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, pg 20.
God [not us] Removes:-- impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, greed [idolatry], hatred, enmities, fighting, strife, discord, jealousy. Anger, fits of rage, quarrels, dissensions, envy, drunkeness, wild parties.

God removes by Giving us the Holy Attributes in their place.


Thanks. What encouragement.

1 Like

“We need constantly a fresh revelation of Christ, a daily experience that harmonizes with His teachings. High and holy attainments are within our reach. Continual progress in knowledge and virtue is God’s purpose for us. His law is the echo of His own voice, giving to all the invitation, “Come up higher. Be holy, holier still.” Every day we may advance in perfection of Christian character.” Helps with Daily Living.

High and holy attainments are within our reach God has invited us to experience such attainments. That is such a gift! And we may have it!

"A View Of The Father’s Love

Faith now took possession of my heart. I felt an inexpressible love for God, and had the witness of His Spirit that my sins were pardoned. My views of the Father were changed. I now looked upon Him as a kind and tender parent, rather than a stern tyrant compelling men to a blind obedience. My heart went out toward Him in a deep and fervent love. Obedience to His will seemed a joy; it was a pleasure to be in His service. No shadow clouded the light that revealed to me the perfect will of God. I felt the assurance of an indwelling Saviour, and realized the truth of what Christ had said: “He that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” John 8:12.CET 31.1

My peace and happiness were in such marked contrast with my former gloom and anguish that it seemed to me as if I had been rescued from hell and transported to heaven. I could even praise God for the misfortune that had been the trial of my life, for it had been the means of fixing my thoughts upon eternity. Naturally proud and ambitious, I might not have been inclined to give my heart to Jesus had it not been for the sore affliction that had cut me off, in a manner, from the triumphs and vanities of the world.CET 31.2

For six months not a shadow clouded my mind, nor did I neglect one known duty. My whole endeavor was to do the will of God, and keep Jesus and heaven continually in mind. I was surprised and enraptured with the clear views now presented to me of the atonement and the work of Christ. I will not attempt to further explain the exercises of my mind; suffice it to say that old things had passed away, all things had become new. There was not a cloud to mar my perfect bliss. I longed to tell the story of Jesus’ love, but felt no disposition to engage in common conversation with anyone. My heart was so filled with love to God and the peace that passeth understanding, that I loved to meditate and pray." Life Sketches, 39, 40

I was speaking to an operator on the phone once, and mentioned how it would be wonderful to be perfect. She said, “Oh, I think it would be so boring!”

I said, “How could that be? It would mean that you never offended, that in every circumstance, instead of hurting, you only brought blessing. Oh, I think that would be the pinnacle of happiness.”

After thought, she said, "Yes, to be so, would be indeed happiness.:

When I think of holiness, the two quotes from EGW always come to mind. We all have the invitation to come up higher and be holier. It is not so that we may lord it over others, that is not holiness at all. But that we might live lives without remorse. No regrets! So that when you look back, you see that you have been a blessing and not a curse. To live so that no shadow clouds your mind, and every known duty is performed. That is holiness, and would be a delight.

I have no negative thoughts when holiness comes to mind. Yes, I have seen those who are “Holier than thou”, but they do not understand holiness at all. I have seen real holiness in the lives of some of the saints. They are humble, teachable, lovers of their fellow men and women whose lives glow with a certain sweetness so that you know the presence of Jesus is there. They are not unnecessarily critical, but see the best in all. The other is shallow selfishness, not even close. The true never even intimate that they are holy, but even confess their mistakes freely. Yet you know they walk with Jesus.

We have been blessed as a church to have the first few chapters of Life Sketches where a struggling human comes to God. They are worth careful study.

Edit for Ray:

You have to explain Ps 119 where the psalmist glories in God’s law and contemplating it and longing to keep it. Was he a legalist? I think not. One loves the law when it becomes clear that Christ has given us the power to live in him doing it.

I point out Ellen’s experience because it can be an encouragement to others.

Edit Harpa:

I think we are capable of following God’s law, or why would he have died if we are never able to be perfectly obedient? I think Jesus died so forgiveness would be possible, but also so that holy living would be. To just forgive, and not give power to be able to live a godly life would leave us most miserable.


What a blessed heritage in reminding those having passed away ad furtheron live in our memories : Those in my church really having lead a life in holiness, those dear people !

The idea of holiness as the Bible presents it should be far more and intensely dispalyed to us and our fellow believerfs !

(I do not and never mean the kind of “holiness” - for example just whispering , when praying in public an d so demonstrating theirmeekness - that also also brings me into a state letting me feel itchy, very itchy !)

1 Like

What happened at the end of the six months?

Edited: Allen, Life Sketches p70.1 “At length the sweet peace I had so long enjoyed left me, and despair again pressed upon my soul.”

I hear what EGW is saying about her experience but maybe a reading of passages such as Colossians 3 is a better source of power, realising we have been chosen of God, holy and beloved…" v12.

The verses that follow in Colossians 3 seem to be the Biblical basis for the Alyssa’s itch free life of holiness and wholeness.

It seems to be about letting the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, having laid aside the old self and put on the new self.

I am still non-plussed as to why the SS lesson keeps promoting obedience to the law as the path to holiness when we know that righteousness comes apart from the law. The indwelling Christ is our righteousness.

If ever the editor or author of the SS lessons pass this way, perhaps they can explain why they quote 1 Timothy 1:8 but ignore verse 9 - “the law is not made for a righteous person.” The alternative that follows surely is not describing a born again person. Paul always addresses church members as saints, never as sinners. (I’m not saying that saints never sin.)

Holiness is Christ plus nothing.

Edit: [quote=“gideonjrn, post:10, topic:12904”]
For almost 50 years I have heard touchy, itchy people respond critically & negatively to “holiness, blameless, sinless, perfection, law, obedience”

Gideon, we should have no problem with any of these words you list. All I’m saying is that when we understand them in terms of the righteousness that comes apart from the law there simply is no itch or negativety. If righteousness comes through the law then Christ died for nothing.

What is Paul’s answer to not even one righteous in Romans 3:10? Law! But what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.

Righteousness under the new covenant is a gift of grace by faith in Christ who lives in us. As Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:8, the law is good if one uses it lawfully. The law cannot be used to produce the righteousness that is found only in Jesus Christ.

When will we as Christians stop trying the mix law and grace, human effort and Christ’s finished work? Only then will we begin to understand holiness. It’s Christ plus nothing.

Edit: [quote=“gideonjrn, post:10, topic:12904”]
Contemporary Adventism is so contaminated by evangelicalism & Calvinism that it just parrots antinomian religious clichés rather than scripture/truth

Gideon, I simply read verses like Rom 5:21, Rom 6:14,15, Gal 2:21, Gal 5:18, 2 Cor 3:7,8 and I read them in context. I also recognise that Paul received his gospel by direct revelation from Christ. The gospel revealed the new covenant in Christ’s blood. It’s not a repeat of the old covenant centred on the ten commandments written on tables of stone.

Nowhere do I find Paul admonishing us to live by obedience to the law. Paul was not antinomian. I do not find Paul telling us to go out and break the law and neither does he teach that it was abolished. I repeatedly find Paul teaching that we live in the Spirit, the Spirit lives in us, we are led by the Spirit and we walk by the Spirit. It’s not about law. It’s about Jesus Christ.

The role of law is to reveal sin. Beyond that it is powerless even though it is holy, just and good. It’s a law of condemnation and death. Christ who is our life brought grace and truth. The law came through Moses.

It’s always grace with Paul. In other words it’s all Christ and His righteousness. It’s about His death, burial and resurrection. It’s about forgiveness and the new birth. It’s about Christ living in us by His Spirit. It’s about a righteousness from God apart from law. Rom 3:21 and on.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Gal 5:18. Rom 8:4 is saying much the same thing if we read it in context.

The gift of Christ’s righteousness that He writes into our hearts by grace has a glory that completely outshines the glory of the Law that was displayed at Sinai. The old covenant is obsolete and has passed away.

It’s Christ plus nothing. That’s how we live.

Edit for Allen: [quote=“ajshep, post:5, topic:12904”]
You have to explain Ps 119 where the psalmist glories in God’s law and contemplating it and longing to keep it. Was he a legalist? I think not.

Allen, I have no need to explain Psalm 119. It’s an old covenant psalm written when the law was the basis of the covenant with Israel. We find quite the opposite in the writings of Paul, Peter, John and James who wrote as the exponents of the new covenant of grace. To live by law is legalism. To live by the Spirit is freedom - freedom to grow more and more like Christ.

The love that is often expressed for the law really belongs to Christ. He changes the heart, writes His love, righteousness and holiness into our hearts and then provides the power for daily living. The flesh is weak and sin lurks. Our challenge is to learn to live up to who we are spiritually in Christ. Law breeds sin. Christ sets us free.

Speaking of the commandments of God under the new covenant, 1 John 3:23 is the key. This leads to a higher standard of righteousness and holiness than the law could ever provide. The law is powerless. Christ is our all and in all.


See Life Sketches, pg 69 and following. Although this episode in her life may not have followed immediately after the one mentioned, it does show that she experienced trouble and trial, and that duty became difficult.

I quoted thesis passages not to show that there would only be sunshine in a Christian’s life, but to show that a life of peaceful holiness was possible and that it was not a negative, “holier than thou” life. But one of rather joyful submission to duty that leads to a life of remorselessness and pleasure. There is a pleasure in right doing that the wicked no nothing of. And it is a lasting thing that grows even more pleasurable on reflection.

Life Sketches is a real gift to us. It shows how God deals with humans on a personal level. Very instructive.

1 Like

Same writer said…“as it is written, there is none righteous…no not one”. Rom 3;10

So the law is made for everyone???

For almost 50 years I have heard touchy, itchy people respond critically & negatively to “holiness, blameless, sinless, perfection, law, obedience”

I wonder if they think that anyone who mentions these words is a closet, LGT legalistic, proud fanatic


When one understands the authentic definition & concept of grace they will MIX it…since it is supported by scripture.

Rom 8:4, Tit 3:5, Ps 19:7 & 40:8

Contemporary Adventism is so contaminated by evangelicalism & Calvinism that it just parrots antinomian religious clichés rather than scripture/truth


Are you a perfectionist? Do you believe that Christ is waiting for a “perfect” generation before He can come?

I thought the article was right on and Ray Smith. Your comments were appreciated as well.

Like happiness, holiness is a by-product of something else - perhaps a life with less navel-gazing. Maybe we shouldn’t be concerned with how WE can become happy, holy, whole. “What gets our attention, gets us.” - a friend often quotes.


I think we must be very careful when we speak of being “Christ like” and receiving power to overcome sin. There are aspects of Christ teachings that most of us would not embrace as a virtue or a sin. Being Christ like is relative to what the majority of our fellow Christians hold as admirable qualities. In history, Christian virtues reflected cultural norms. For instance, Martin Luther held beer as normative and saw no moral conflict in slaying revolting peasants as one would a “mad dog” or denouncing Jews. Note the following:

Following the advice given to the rich young ruler: Sell all that you have and give it to the poor and follow Jesus with a zero balance bank account.

Tell some of our religious leaders that they are hypocrites, blind guides, serpents, their fathers are of the Devil, whitewashed tombs and they cannot escape being sentenced to hell.

Attempting to cast out demons as a final solution for the mentally troubled.

Teaching that the unfaithful servant that suggested delay of the Advent should be cut asunder.

Teaching, even symbolically, if lust cannot be controlled it would be better to cut off the offenders hand.

Teaching that the divorced adulterer continues in adultery even if they remarry. Forgiveness is impossible for the unfaithful divorcee unless they remain celibate. Death or adultery is the only way to dissolve marriage and remarry.

Counseling youth to love God more than their parents. To renounce their family if service to God conflicts with their wishes. “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine.”

Few of us would echo Jesus’ Woes: “Woe to you who are rich…Woe to you who are full…Woe to you who laugh now…Woe to you when all men speak well of you…” These are virtues not vices we celebrate in our culture.

1 Like