What Does It Mean to Live a Holy Life?

Lisa Loraine Baker

Author of Someplace to Be Somebody
Updated May 20, 2024
What Does It Mean to Live a Holy Life?

Men have tried to compare God’s holiness to white hot burning metal — so fiery and eye-scorching, one cannot look at it. God’s holy nature is such that it radiates outward and impacts anyone or anything which comes near, to the ends of the cosmos.

Many people declare the scariest prayer a person can pray is for patience. But praying to live a holy life ranks right next to or even above the petition for patience. After all, how can a person live a holy life without patience? What, then, does it mean to live a holy life?

What Is Holiness?

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines holiness as, “The state of being holy; purity or integrity of moral character; freedom from sin; sanctity.” When we apply this to God, “holiness denotes perfect purity or integrity of moral character, one of his essential attributes.” There is no arguing God is set apart in His holiness because He is the sovereign LORD — Almighty God.

When Moses encountered God’s presence at Horeb, “the mountain of God” in Exodus 3:1-6, God manifested His holiness as a flame in a bush, “Then He said, ‘Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’ And He said, ‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” Men have tried to compare God’s holiness to white hot burning metal — so fiery and eye-scorching, one cannot look at it. God’s holy nature is such that it radiates outward and impacts anyone or anything which comes near, to the ends of the cosmos.

John Piper describes it this way, “The glory of God is the manifest beauty of his holiness. It is the going-public of his holiness.” As Moses met with God on Mt. Sinai, the glory of God radiated from his face and the people could not meet with Moses unless his face was veiled. God told Moses no one can see Him and live, but we are given a glimpse via His manifested glory.

Yet God’s glory is so tied to His holiness, He proclaims, “I am the LORD; that is My name; My glory I give to no other,” (Isaiah 42:8a). Earlier in the book of Isaiah, we read, as Dr. Paul Tripp says, the “most potent declaration” of God’s holiness. ““Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3b).

Does the Bible Tell Us to Live a Holy Life?

The Bible is explicit in its teaching a true believing Christian to live a holy life. God says, “Be holy for I the Lord your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:1-2; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Understanding a bit about God’s holiness, we see His glory is unattainable for humans. None of us is white hot and eye-scorching; we’re simply sinners saved by grace (Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:5). We are not God. So how do we define being holy as it is used in these verses?

God in His essence is holy; He can’t not be holy. We, in our limited capacity as created beings, can only mimic God’s holiness as He sanctifies us more and more into the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, for us, our holiness is a reflection of His Holy Spirit in us. It is God who is at work in us. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Knowing God is helping us by working in us, let’s look at how we can live a holy life.

What Does Scripture Say about Living a Holy Life?

We notice God does not limit the command to be holy to either Testament.

Old Testament

When Moses spoke to the Lord on Mt. Sinai, God reiterated the Ten Commandments and the other accompanying commands for the people as they sojourned into the Promised Land (Leviticus 19; Exodus 12:25; Deuteronomy 6:3). In Exodus 19:5-6, God said, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”

Notice the promise is conditional on the Israelites’ obedience to the LORD God. He sets the terms of holiness. God’s glory was on display through His people, and the nations would come to an awareness of Him through them.

Blessings came as the people obeyed (Deuteronomy 28:1-14). Part of the blessing was the LORD would establish them as a people holy to Himself (Deuteronomy 28:9) and “all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the LORD, and they shall be afraid of you” (Deuteronomy 28:10).

In the prophets and Psalms, we see a petition for the Lord to do His work in and through them for the sake of His name (Psalm 79:9; Ezekiel 36:22). Their holiness sprang from their obedience to God’s commands.

Deuteronomy 28:15-68 spells out the consequences (curses) when the people sinned against God through disobedience. Included were curses on their belongings, their locations, their interactions with each other and with other nations, and their very lives. How much more their relationship with God! The list is understandably frightening; sin makes God angry. As Hebrews 10:30-31 tells us, “For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

New Testament

Our lives are vastly different from those of the Old Testament. At the moment we surrender to the Lord Christ in repentance and faith, we are filled and sealed with the Holy Spirit.

The passage in the New Testament which specifically calls us to live holy lives is 1 Peter 1:15-16, and Peter is quoting Leviticus 19:1-2 (another affirmation that the whole Bible is relevant).

The entire passage of 1 Peter 1:13-16 is a great template for how to live a holy life. It reads, “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’”

Yet as a preface, a person’s motive to live a holy life is love for and gratitude to our holy God for the life he has given us in His Son — our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Here then are 6 steps to living a holy life.

1. Prepare Our Minds

The Apostle Peter tells us to prepare our minds for action (being holy is a daily and active undertaking). Preparing our minds to be holy involves:


Sit still before the Lord with your Bible in hand. Whether you act out the process or simply envision it, put on the whole armor of God as found in Ephesians 6:10-18 (it’d be great to memorize this passage). 


Pray for the Lord to calm and prepare you for what He has for you each day. Pray for wisdom and understanding as you read His Word, and to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus and to love Him more. 

Study of God’s Word

Learning how to live a holy life involves more than a cursory perusal of Scripture. You’ve heard it and/or read it before; if you have to get out of bed an hour earlier than usual, do it. The rewards of knowing God through His Word and living in the light of Christ are eternal. Not only are you affected, but you affect all others with whom you interact. God’s glory fills the earth. Isn’t it wonderful to know He is using us as His ambassadors! But we don’t make great ambassadors unless we know all about our homeland — the kingdom of God. Peter addressed exiled Christians in his letters (1 Peter 1:1; 2:11). We too are sojourners and exiles here on earth.

2. Be Sober-Minded

Peter warns us to be sober-minded. How can we strive to be holy if our minds are not ruled by self-control, a fruit of God’s Spirit within us? In this passage, sober-minded is not related to alcohol (although that could be a factor); it instead addresses the state of our minds. Are we fuzzy to the truths of the Word, or are we crystal clear in our thinking and in our beliefs as Scripture so clearly states? Preparing our minds for action will keep us sober-minded.

3. Set Your Hope on Christ

Peter then tells us to, “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Peter set this bar in verse 3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

That’s the hope kept in heaven for us, never to be lost. The recipients of Peter’s letters were enduring persecution just for being true Christians (much like many believers are today). Our hope is secure in Christ and in His return (the revelation of which Peter speaks). Ligonier Ministries adds, “…our present possession of this hope necessitates that we act in certain ways as we wait to be glorified. We have been saved from the penalty of sin, and so we must take steps to make sure that we are free from anything that would not make us soberly and diligently wait for the grace that is yet to come.”

4. Be Obedient

Peter then calls believers “obedient children.” Because we are Spirit-filled from the moment of conversion, we have everything we need to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3), namely God’s Word and the Holy Spirit. We can and are expected to be obedient because of everything God has done for and given to us. What a wondrous inheritance.

5. Be Transformed

Peter’s progression toward the call to holiness continues as he tells us, “do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.” With all He has given us to do as inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are prepared to live a holy life. Now we know what we are to know; we no longer claim ignorance of the Gospel and the life we are to live as believers. Our past is now past and, “as far as the east is from the west, so far does He [God] remove our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:12). We are now to be conformed to Christ. Once we know Jesus, we have no excuse but to long and strive to be like Him. And remember, this is the formerly impetuous Peter speaking these words of wisdom.

6. Continue to Grow

Lest we miss it, in this passage and all throughout Peter’s letters, he is admonishing and teaching. Both are necessary for our growth as Christians and in our ability to live a holy life. As we read through the Bible, it’s good for us and glorifying to God to listen to His voice speaking through Scripture as He sanctifies us.

Living a holy life is hard work. We seek maturity in Christ through holy living, as did the Apostle Paul, who said, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that He powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29). A holy life is patterned after God’s own nature. All humans are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); therefore, we should act in a manner that reflects Him. And He has not left us alone in this endeavor. 

Praise God! 

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Viacheslav Peretiatko

Lisa Baker 1200x1200Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.