The Christian life is not about becoming more holy!


“The Christian life is not about becoming more holy!” Phil Drysdale


Many people think that the Christian life is about becoming holy, sinning less and doing righteous acts more. The truth of course that this is not only a lie, but it’s flat-out ridiculous.

Nobody can become more holy any more than they can become less holy. Holiness is not something measured on a scale. You are either holy or you are not holy. Holiness by its very definition means to be absolutely perfect, set apart and “other”. You can’t be those things partially. Nothing is kind of perfect, or partially pure.

If you were to have a bottle of water that was 99.9% water and 0.01% poop you wouldn’t label it pure water would you? Would you even be able to call it 99.9% pure? Of course not because pure means 100%. Even the slightest fraction of a percent taints the purity.

It is the same with holiness. We can’t become more holy. What do we think we are doing? Do we start out 0% holy and work our way up? Where are we today? 18%? 40%? 80%? And what is enough to consider yourself living a holy lifestyle? Is it when you break the half-way mark and your good outweighs your bad? It certainly isn’t 100% because we’ve all failed, the best we could hope for is that in the light of eternity we make it to 99.99%.

What we are effectively doing when we try to measure holiness on a scale like this is we turn salvation and spiritual maturity into a system of works all over again. We reject grace and make it all about our performance again.

The truth of course is that Jesus has made us absolutely holy. His standard is not what we do, or what we say, or how much our good outweighs our bad. Rather His standard is who He has made us to be, how far we fall short of that is irrelevant as He chooses to see us as perfect and holy.

Will our actions become less and less sinful and more and more righteous as we mature in who we are in Christ? Yes! But lets not fall for the age-old trap of thinking we are earning something or growing in something based on our own effort. We are not overcoming our sin and becoming more righteous, rather we are merely discovering who Christ has made us to be and as we believe it is manifesting in our lives.

Prayer for the day

Jesus I thank you so much that you are my standard of holiness. That my old sinful self died with you on the cross and that my new righteous self was raised up with you. Thank you that you see me as holy and righteous regardless of my actions, and that I am free not to try to grow in holiness but rather just to walk out the holiness you have already given me.

This devotional is an excerpt of my book “Renew Your Mind in 30 Days”, a collection of my 30 most popular devotionals re-written and added to. Designed to help you experience transformation in your life as you renew your mind. You can work through the entire 30 days of mind renewal as a free course via email by signing up here.

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  1. Hi Phil, you rightly said that ” I thank you JESUS, that you are my STANDARD OF HOLINESS”…so I ask you this question , what is the STANDARD OF HOLINESS OF JESUS?

    • Hi Franklin,

      Jesus does not have a standard of holiness. Jesus is holiness.

      Hope that helps, bless you my friend.

  2. For many I’m sure this brings the scripture to mind in Heb 12:14 “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” I bring this up just to point out something interesting because if you keep going it says “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God.” and it starts talking about Mount Sanai and Mount Zion. Then you hit verse 28 and it says “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” Thus based on the context and other scriptures that come to mind I believe a system of works is not gonna cut it or grace is no longer grace.

    • Absolutely my friend,

      Works just won’t cut it. If you are going to see holiness in your life, you will only find it by accepting His grace.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. God has given me a wonderful bride,35 years.she was not saved I was.through his light she accepted Christ…times were good times were bad…the bond we have is what He she’s sick to see the Lord…I cannot fix this…no hammer…no wrench…no tool to use.I fixed so much for all these years…she looks to me through saddened tears.the wood was there He hung upon.His Grace will carry you my dear.we’ll be forever in His loving care.Thank you brother for your message.

  4. ‘Jesus is Holiness’…..this is true Mr. Drysdale, hence as Jesus Lived so must we. If Jesus is our standard we should LIVE this standard by growing daily IN JESUS and hence HE IN US. How do we grow in Jesus? , or you think we are……not supposed to Grow in Jesus?

  5. Hi Phil,

    thanks for your post. I enjoyed your water illustration about holiness in relation to God’s Holiness and how silly it is for us to think we can match that. Jesus indeed lived the perfect life for us so that we are free not to earn our way to God, though I was a bit confused to the devotionals view on Sanctification~ I get the sense near the end of the devotional that there isn’t supposed to be much effort or “work” involved in spiritual growth. And indeed, passages like John 15 speak about God pruning us to become more fruitful. But just like in a dance, the one being led still needs to respond, and I tend to think that in terms of our discipleship, while God leads, there is some effort and growing pains involved.

    Anyways, perhaps you can speak more here?

    Blessings in Christ,


  6. Hate to break it to you, but you’ll never have drunk a bottle of pure water in your life by your definition – pure H_2O doesn’t get sold, and yes some part of the water you’re drinking will probably have passed through an animal first.

    Suggesting holiness exists as a percentage measure is also a straw man argument – have you ever met a christian who claims to be pursuing holiness and also reports that they’re 68% of the way there?

    I was hopeful when I saw the title of your post, but if your argument for us being holy rests on water quality, it doesn’t seem to carry much weight. Do you have any grounds for claiming Jesus says we’re fully holy that come from what he actually said?

    • Thanks for sharing Tom – I feel like you are kinda missing my point here.

      I’m not saying that Christians are sitting there noting down their percentage of holiness. But we do tend to go on and on about becoming more holy. We focus on making progress towards holiness when holiness is an either or thing.

      The whole point of talking about percentages or purity levels of water is to point out exactly what you are saying… They are irrelevant!

      • Sorry, I don’t think I got my point across clearly – what I’m saying is that you don’t seem to back up your claim that holiness is a yes/no rather than an issue of growing maturity (surely a claim about God that needs some example given from the bible to show why you think that!), other than giving an example of a naive christian who tries to quantify holiness and pointing out how silly that is.

        If you want to argue it from logic, of course it’s silly – you wouldn’t say your 68% in love with someone, but you could still say that you love them more than you did ten years ago, or that you’d like to become more loving! Likewise just because you wouldn’t put a number on holiness, that doesn’t mean that it is therefore something you must have in fullness now, and there’s nothing to grow in to. It doesn’t add up.

        If you really think that holiness is something that we don’t have opportunity to grow in, please show it from scripture. I personally think there are scriptural grounds for saying that we can progress towards holiness, such as Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” What is it that made you understand holiness the way you do?

  7. Hey Phil,

    Could what you are saying be described like this: We are learning to become more in the natural what Jesus has already recreated (or declared, redeemed etc) us to be in the supernatural? Or perhaps I am learning to become more of who He sees me to be?

    This is the tension I see played out in scripture. For eg. We are declared holy in Christ (Col 1:22, Heb 3:1) but we are also called to be holy (1 Cor 1:2, 2 Tim 1:9, 2 Cor 7:1)

    It’s as if there is a finished work in our human spirit but an unfinished work in our soul (mind, will, emotions)

    • Hey Geoff – that’s exactly right – the work is done but we are definitely on a process of discovering it! It’s a game of catchup – it’s like the coyote in road runner… when he runs over the edge of the cliff it’s only when he realises it that it becomes a reality for him… until then he kinda overs over the precipice.

      To me I see Paul, John, James etc constantly encouraging us in who we are but also calling us to believe it, declaring to us what our lives will look like if we grasp this truth and calling us out of a life in darkness and into the light we have been placed.

      Thanks so much for sharing – it’s a great way to put it!

  8. Yeah I see your point bro we can never really make ourselves holy, because were already muffed things up already to the point that we need a SAVIOUR and jesus is that redeeming sacrifice. I think that we can be empowered through him to come to that enlightenment but it is jesus working through us not us working on our own accord. We have to trust and hope wholeheartedly in our triune god and believe he will see us to the end.

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