God calls all Christians to do many different things in life. He calls some to religious ministries. He calls others to use the gifts He gave them to serve people through medicine, public service, social work, education, the arts and other areas that can profoundly impact the lives of others. He also calls many people to be moms, dads, husbands and wives, and their impact can be just as tremendous.
No matter what God calls each individual to do, He calls all of us to build the Kingdom of God. He calls all of us to be holy. But it’s frequently easier for us to recognize what we should do rather than how we can accomplish it.
Maybe the answer to the question, “How do I become more holy?” can be found in John 14. In it, Jesus said to His disciples, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if that were not so, I would have told you, because I am going there to prepare a place for you.” When asked by Saint Thomas how they can know the way, Jesus responded, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.”
Since Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, He is more qualified than even the best prophets and preachers to teach us how to be holy. And the best place to learn about the life and teachings of Jesus, Our Savior, is the Holy Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. By reading, reflecting upon, and finding ways to integrate the Holy Gospel into our lives, we can become more holy. Here are seven passages from the Holy Gospel that can form a beautiful path to holiness.
1. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Matthew 22
In Matthew 22, the Pharisees tested Jesus by asking Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied, “’You Shall Love the Lord Your God with All Your Heart, and with All Your Soul, and with All Your Mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You Shall Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.’ Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Although the commandments being discussed are the more than 100 commandments that the Jewish people tried to obey at that time, the Ten Commandments that Christians try to follow are included. The wisdom in the words of Jesus is transformative. All 10 commandments clearly fall under the greatest and the second greatest, and it’s clear that the order of the two is important. If we love God with all our hearts, souls and minds, we won’t want to put any gods before Him, take the Lord’s name in vain or disregard the holiness of the Sabbath. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we won’t want to kill, steal or lie.
2. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Matthew 5
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus begins His teaching with The Beatitudes. He tells His disciples, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted." “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth." “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy." “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in this same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
The Sermon on the Mount is also transformative. It’s so powerful that entire books have been written about it. So, not surprisingly, The Beatitudes continue to guide us. When we’re angry, it’s helpful to remember that God’s mercy will be given to the merciful. If we begin to feel arrogant, it’s good to be reminded of the importance of being humble. And when we’re tempted to berate the people who disagree with us, it’s good to be reminded of how much Jesus cherishes peacemakers. Finally, The Beatitudes teach us to hunger for righteousness.
3. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Mark 1
At the beginning of the Holy Gospel according to Mark, which was the first of the four versions in The Bible to be written, Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He wrote, “Now after John was taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’
As He was going along the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will have you become fishers of people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, who were also in the boat mending the nets. Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away to follow Him.”
The first thing that Jesus tells people to do is to repent. Then, He tells them to believe in the Gospel. Finally, He calls them to follow Him and help build the Kingdom of God. It seems like the order of the actions that Jesus wants us to take might be as important as the actions themselves. If we don’t begin our journey to holiness with acknowledging our sins and atoning for them in some way, the next step of believing in the Gospel might not impact our lives in the same way.
4. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Matthew 25
In Matthew 25, Matthew writes about Jesus telling people one way we will ultimately be judged. In the verse, Jesus says, “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You as a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of Mine, you did it for Me.’”
The verse reminds us of how important it is to be kind and merciful to others. Even though He didn’t have to be, Jesus was kind and merciful to the hungry, the sick and the imprisoned. A big part of following Him is following in His footsteps.
5. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Matthew 7
In Matthew 7, which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us to refrain from judging others. Matthew wrote that Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye!”
If we really want to be holy, we have to understand that we have faults like everybody else does. If we don’t want God to judge us harshly, we can’t judge others harshly. And by sharing God’s mercy with others, we not only become more merciful, we increase in holiness.
6. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Luke 2
In Luke 2, Luke writes about the birth of Jesus and how the good news was shared with the shepherds watching over their flock. He wrote, “And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood near them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. And so the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly army of angels praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among people with whom He is pleased.’”
When trying to be holy seems difficult, we can ponder those words to the shepherds. Jesus came to humbly live among us, so that He could teach us, heal us, suffer, die, and conquer death to save us, and to bring great joy to everyone. God is the Author of holiness. Jesus teaches us how to live holy lives. Because of the Holy Gospel, we know that God and Jesus, Who is God and man, are completely trustworthy. So, we can trust that becoming holy can bring us great joy and peace.
7. Read, Reflect Upon, and Embrace Mark 6
In Mark 6, Mark writes about one of the most well-known miracles in The Bible. Not long after the killing of Jesus’ cousin John the Baptist, whom Jesus loved dearly, Jesus fed thousands of people with very little food. Mark wrote, “They reclined in groups of hundreds and fifties. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He gave them to the disciples again and again to set before them; and He divided the two fish among them all. And they all ate and were satisfied; and they picked up twelve full baskets of the broken pieces of bread, and of the fish. There were five thousand men who ate the loaves.”
It’s possible that one of the reasons Jesus performed the miracle was to show us that He can take what we have to offer and multiply it, in order to do great things. While this applies to our resources and God-given talents that we want to use to help others, it can also be applied to our faith and our ability to live holy lives.
Reading, reflecting upon and integrating each of these Gospel passages into our lives are just seven ways that we can become holier. But every passage in the Holy Gospel is powerful. In John 14, in addition to letting His disciples know that He is the way, the truth and the life, Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. The one who does not love me does not follow My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s Who sent Me.”