Motivations to Holiness

Secular motivational speakers seek to get people to become their “best” for various reasons. Book titles such as Do It For You and The Power of You tell and sell that becoming your best is centered in what you can do and what you can do for yourself. Even in so-called Christian circles, Joel Osteen’s best-selling book Your Best Life Now pushes the same false and deceptive concept. God, in contrast, calling His people to live a holy, Christlike life, is not motivating us with the promise of financial freedom, popularity or an improved self-image. Rather, God is commanding us to be like Him, conforming us to His character by what He has done and will do to us, with us and through us for His glory. “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1Pe 1:16).[1] In contrast to the deception of worldly motivation for self and by self, the motivation we have from God to live holy lives not only secures the very best life now but also in eternity to come.

Paul states in 1 Thessalonians 4:3, “For it is God’s will that you should be holy” (BSB). In the plainest of terms God gives us His will. A.W. Tozer called holiness a “pursuit,” and indeed it is, for while we have been made positionally holy, practically it’s a daily pursuit. “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). But what is the motivation or the reasons for pursuing holiness?


Love is the hub from which every spoke of truth motivating us to holiness connects. It is God’s purpose “that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph 1:4). The Lord challenged Peter three times, “Lovest thou me?” (Joh 21). We likewise are challenged and motivated by the Lord Jesus’ statement, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (14:21).

But a look at 1 Peter 1:16-21 provides other motivations to be holy.


We are redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1Pe 1:19). Redemption is a purchase: “Ye are not your own … ye are bought with a price” (1Co 6:19-20). Christ suffered and died to make that redemptive purchase. We belong to Him; therefore, God has every right to demand holiness. Redemption has also brought us into relationship. By the new birth we have been made “partakers of the divine nature” (2Pe 1:4). Redeemed to God, paid for by the death of Christ, being born into His family making God our Father, and our bodies now a temple of the Holy Spirit – all these should motivate us tremendously. When we recognize His rights, and thus desire to live a holy life, this pleases God.


Even on a purely human level, gratitude is one of the greatest motivators. A thankful person will do for those who have given and done for them – how much more we who are freed from wrath and danger eternally by our Substitute who took our place! How thankful and grateful are we to God who has given His only Son? How grateful are we for the One who is “our Lamb”? He has freed us from the tyranny of sin and Satan and given us eternal life. We can be caught up in this world and so lose sight of this wonder. Gratitude to God will be evidenced by a holy, consecrated life in love and obedience to the Lord. Even the choices we make will be magnetically moved by thankfulness on the compass of a life for God, pointing us to do what will please Him most.


Peter writes about passing through “the time of your sojourning here” (1Pe 1:17). This world is not our home; we don’t belong here. What a motivation this is to live for a coming world which is eternal and in direct contrast to the one in which we live now. The more we grasp the fact that we are just “passing through,” the less likely we will become attached to this world, its attractions and ways.

Reverence and Judgement

But Peter adds, “Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear” (v17). Giving God His rightful place in fear and reverence is an integral, inseparable requirement for holiness. Viewing God casually or dismissively causes us to live selfishly without eternal perspective. Fearing and reverencing God will help us to live holy and wise lives. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Pro 9:10).

Every man’s work is judged impartially. Peter reminds us that the Father, “without respect of persons, judgeth according to every man’s work” (1Pe 1:17). What a motivator! Assessment and accountability to God are always important to keep before us. The fact that His judgement is impartial is also a wonderful motivation. Today, there is so much partiality in judgment as so many groups are given place based on different false, prejudicial and societal favoritisms. God is absolutely holy and thus pure and impartial. His judgment is just.

Peter wrote to saints who displayed God in His holiness to a sinful world. Thus, society oppressed and reproached them. These believers did not pursue the same things the ungodly did, nor did their lifestyles reflect a condemned world and its wants. They recognized that this world is under the judgement of God. Life on the sinking Titanic was not for them! Have we this same worldview? This world is still the same; nothing has changed.

This judgment has two aspects: present and future. Presently, we are accountable to our Father to live faithful and holy lives. In this passage it is not so much the Father’s love that is emphasized but His discipline, which is actually an outworking of His love. Blessing from God will crown a holy life. There is spiritual enablement and enlightenment now for the saint living a holy life. A believer who chooses to live for self can incur chastisement as well as lack of spiritual power, discernment and spiritual direction. Like Lot, wrong choices will be made. Like those Paul used for illustration in 1 Corinthians 10:5, “with many of them God was not well pleased,” such a statement may also be written over such lives. But there is also future reward at the judgement seat of Christ to motivate us. Every man shall give account to God and receive lasting eternal reward for a life lived for God in holiness. Living a holy life has benefits both now and eternally. So, as the wonderful hymn tells us in echoing the command and desire of God, “Take time to be holy.” The motivation is great, and the benefits and blessings are ultimately out of this world.

[1] Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.