Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Leviticus 20:8

The call to holiness is repeated throughout the Old Testament and yet it’s only the Lord who can make us holy. In Old Testament times sacrifices expressed a heart’s desire to be right with God but even the penitent person couldn’t make themselves holy this way.

The Sabbath was a sign, a reminder, a prompt to acknowledge God’s work and man’s inability to save himself. “You must observe my Sabbaths. This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so you may know that I am the Lord, who makes you holy” (Exodus 31:13).

Unfortunately, religious leaders turned Sabbath-keeping and other laws into rituals. They taught people that outward observances would make them righteous by their own efforts. It’s a trap new covenant believers also fall into—trying to make ourselves acceptable to God.

Jesus makes us holy as we receive his forgiveness and enabling into our lives and he does his work so completely that he calls us his brothers and sisters. “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Hebrews 2:11).

It can be difficult to acknowledge that our righteous deeds are never going to promote us to a state of holiness. Even deeds we’re doing for God and in his name won’t achieve righteousness if they are self-initiated and self-driven. When we attempt to create our own holiness we become evildoers. We may prophesy, drive out demons or perform miracles but Jesus will say: “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23).

Let’s trust God to make us holy.