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A new study by the Barna organization shows that though the Bible talks a lot about holiness, most adults are confused and even daunted by the concept. The study found overall, three out of four adults believe it is possible for someone to become holy regardless of their past. While 50 percent of adults said they know someone they consider to be holy, only one in four, or 21 percent, considers themselves to be holy. Results showed very little difference between people who call themselves born-again Christians, and the population in general.

The adults most likely to say they knew someone they considered holy described holiness primarily as possessing a positive attitude toward God and life. Respondents who defined holiness as spiritual condition were less likely to identify anyone they knew as holy. When asked to describe what it meant to be holy, adults gave a wide variety of answers. The most common reply was “I don’t know.” Other responses included making faith your top priority in life, living a pure or sinless lifestyle, having a good attitude toward other people, or focusing completely on God. The study revealed the responses of born again and non-born again adults were almost identical.

The survey’s director George Barna says, “Realize the results portray a body of Christians who attend church and read the Bible, but do not understand the concept or significance or holiness, do not personally desire to be holy, and therefore do little, if anything to pursue it.” Barna says other recent survey results on spiritual maturity, indicate the need to teach the importance of holiness.  He adds, “To align their hearts with the notion of being holy, we must move them away from a ‘cheap grace’ theology and replace people’s self-absorption with focus on God and His ways.”