"The highest holiness for you is to be like Christ," said Charles Spurgeon.
Exactly. If you want a perfect model of human holiness, look to Christ. Kevin DeYoung explains this point in his new book The Hole in Our Holiness: Filling the Gap between Gospel Passion and the Pursuit of Godliness [(Crossway, 2012), pages 38, 46–47].
He begins his point with a return to creation.
Adam and Eve were created in God’s image, after his likeness (Genesis 1:26). But in Adam’s sin, the human race was given over to corruption (Romans 5:12–21). We are still image-bearers (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9), but the image has been distorted (Genesis 6:5; Ecclesiastes 7:29). The goal of sanctification is the renewal of this image. The holy person is being renewed in knowledge after the image of the Creator (Colossians 3:10), which means growing in righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:24).
Jesus: Perfect Human Holiness
Christ is the perfect image of God, exemplified in his perfect human holiness in practice.
If holiness looks like the restoration of the image of God in us, then it shouldn’t be surprising that holiness also looks like Christlikeness, for Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the exact imprint of his nature (Hebrews 1:3). The whole goal of our salvation is that we should be conformed to the image of God’s Son (Romans 8:29).
We see in Jesus the best, most practical, most human example of what it means to be holy. He is our model for love (John 13:34), our model for humility (Philippians 2:5–8), our model for facing temptation (Hebrews 4:15), our model for steadfastness in the midst of suffering (1 Peter 4:1–2), and our model for obedience to the Father (John 6:38; 14:31).
We see all the virtues of holiness perfectly aligned in Christ. He was always gentle, but never soft. He was bold, but never brash. He was pure, but never prudish. He was full of mercy, but not at the expense of justice. He was full of truth, but not at the expense of grace.
In everything he was submissive to his heavenly Father, and he gave everything for his sheep. He obeyed his parents, kept the law of God, and forgave his enemies. He never lusted, never coveted, and never lied. In all that Jesus Christ did, during his whole life and especially as his life came to an end, he loved God with his whole being and loved his neighbor as himself.
Christ is more, but not less, than our beautiful model of holiness on display for us to watch.
The Pattern and Power of Holiness
And then comes the punchline:
If somewhere down the road you forget the Ten Commandments or can’t recall the fruit of the Spirit or don’t seem to remember any particular attributes of God, you can still remember what holiness is by simply remembering his name.
We focus on Christ and seek to imitate his model of holiness, all by the power of the Holy Spirit flowing from our union with Christ.
Kevin DeYoung is a speaker at our upcoming National Conference. Visit the event page to learn more and register. You can also purchase Kevin's new book, The Hole in Our Holiness, from Amazon or Westminster Books.