“You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy

(Leviticus 19:2, NKJV).

I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard people—Christians included—say, “All I want is to be happy” or “I just want my children to be happy.” But how many times have I heard people say, “I just want to be holy” or “I just want my children to be holy”? Not nearly as often, I’m afraid.

I expect that mindset from unbelievers, but as Christians we really have no right to say it, as it flies straight in the face of God’s purpose for His people. True, there’s nothing wrong with being happy if it’s a byproduct of serving God and living in the middle of His will. And really, there is no other way to be truly happy. Any other sort of happiness is fleeting at best. But to say that our primary focus or desire is happiness is to show how very shallow we truly are. It confirms the sad fact that we still think life is all about us.

God says otherwise. God is holy, and He desires that we would be holy as well. The problem comes when we think holiness is something we can achieve by doing or not doing certain things. Being holy means being set apart by and for God. By definition, that makes us different from the rest of the world.

One of the biggest threats to seeking holiness in our own lives or others’ is the misconception of unconditional love. Yes, God loves everyone unconditionally. But that love didn’t wipe out the need for a horrible, bloody sacrifice to restore sinners (as in you and me!) to relationship with God. Jesus didn’t willingly go to the Cross simply to set a selfless example for us to follow; He went there because nothing less would satisfy a just God and provide forgiveness for our sins.

Jesus may not have been happy when He hung on the Cross, but He was holy. That’s the example we are to follow—and that is NOT legalism. That is God’s Word to us, His call to us, and the work that only He can do in us. Our part is to have a paradigm shift that says, “Yes, I will allow God to set me apart from the world and do a work of holiness in me—even if I don’t always feel happy about it.”

Ultimately, we will find ourselves overflowing with joy as a result, and that joy will spill over onto others. May we heed God’s Word to be holy…even as He is holy.