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 all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” I Peter 1:14-16
Most of us seem to operate within certain tolerance limits when it comes to the laws of the land. Someone who drives 80 miles an hour in a 55 mile per hour zone is a lunatic, but we are comfortable driving 60 ourselves. If we are shortchanged at the checkout counter, a looooong conversation will ensue, but we may quietly pocket any surplus change we receive.
Unfortunately, our tendency is to apply that same level of tolerance to the law of God. You might never expect to cheat on your spouse, but clicking an online newsfeed that promises risqué photos is OK. You and God have an arrangement, you try to “be good” and He doesn’t hold you to too high a standard.
That sounds like a rational deal, except that God never agreed to it. He requires holiness, like He is holy. That is a whole different level of holiness than our being good. As the Apostle Paul would say, our absolute best behavior is so beneath God’s standard as to be filthy by comparison.
That could be discouraging if you thought the answer was for you to try harder and do better. That is required of us, of course, but it is far from the answer to our lawlessness. We will never become like Christ simply by trying harder. The first thing we must do is to acknowledge our complete inadequacy to be like Him. Only when we lay down all our good intentions and attempts are we able to see ourselves as we are – worthless. And only then can we begin to practice holiness, completely dependent on the mercy of Christ for every forward step we make.
Begin by laying aside everything you ever thought you did well, my friends. As Thomas á Kempis would say, “Account thyself never to have profited till thou feel thee lower than all others.”