A Deep Talk about Holiness with Jackie Hill Perry

Jennie Allen
April 15, 2021

Jennie Allen

Bible teacher, founder of IF:Gathering

This is going to be a good day. We are going to talk with Jackie Hill Perry about the holiness of that God. Some of you have never thought about this for more than one second. This is going to be awesome. 

Jackie Hill Perry, I feel like I got a special treat because I got your book before even copy edits, and I've read a lot of it. I texted you this morning, and I feel like I just read some Tozer. This is saying something; he's one of my favorites. I read him every year just to center myself and remember the power and the glory of God. I hope that everybody that reads this is going to feel this way. I'm excited to talk to you about this because I think the word holiness is intimidating to people. Was it intimidating to you when you started this project

No, because to me, I made holiness about God, and to me, God isn't necessarily intimidating.


To the people listening, holiness feels like a word that they don't even know what it means. So why don't we start there? Let's start with the definition. What does holiness mean?

When people think about the term holy, they only think about it in the context of something being moral, pious, righteous, without sin, or religious. When we apply to God or even ourselves, we say, I am holy so far as I don't sin. Right? However, holiness is broader than that. Holiness has two meanings, and I'll explain it the way I explained it to my daughter. I said, "for God to be holy means that God is good and that God is unique. The good part is that he is without sin. He cannot sin and will never sin. The amazing part is that God simply exists differently than us." That's what holiness means. It means that God is morally pure and that God is different and distinct from everything else that exists.

So those of you that don't know the scriptures that talk about His holiness being imparted to us. Talk about that and what that means because that's not evident in my everyday life.

When Jesus died for us, and we believed in His name, I think it's in Hebrews that we were sanctified. 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, "For such were some of you, but you were washed, and you were sanctified, and you were justified by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." To be sanctified is to be empowered now to live a righteous and a pure and a good, holy life, but it also means that I've been set apart from the world to do God's bidding.

The difference is God is set apart from us because He is different from us and exists differently from us. I'm just like you in terms of humanity, but I'm set apart from the world in that I don't function like the world. I'm trying not to think like the world. I'm trying not to listen to the world. I'm trying to serve the world by introducing Jesus to them. Our holiness is really that I want to be righteous like Jesus, and I want to be different.

This was one of my favorite quotes. If God is holy, then He can't sin. If God can't sin, then He can't sin against me. If He can't sin against me, shouldn't that make Him the most trustworthy being there is? That is why this matters. We can't just keep this as some definition in our head. This has got to move into our hearts because it should build trust.

It's huge. I don't remember how it started, but I remember when it began to form in my brain. I was at church and my pastor quoted from Jeremiah 2 when Jeremiah quotes God by saying, "What wrong did your fathers find in me?" I think that's the question that God is constantly asking us. Is that I am so completely good that I really should be trustworthy. So what is it about me as a person, as a being, that you don't think that I'm more worthy to you than idols? I think that's an excellent question.

I'm a theology girl. That's my greatest passion. When I went to seminary, I would sit in theology classes and cry because what I believed about God would and did leak into every part of my life. It scared me for people because I thought this feels so essential to understand for me to have a perspective of how to parent, for me to have a view of how to make choices about money, and for me to have a perspective of why it matters that I believe this and not this. It was down into the everyday grind of the relationships in my life that I felt like my theology was required. I know you think this way, but I am looking at a generation that they want more of a simple understanding of this verse and that verse. What's your passion for people to truly understand something like the holiness of God? 

Romans 1 indicts us by saying, "All people have sinned against God and fallen short of His glory." And one of the indictments is that we choose created things over the creator. We don't honor God as God. I always wonder, are we not praising God as God because we're not spending enough time studying who God is? I think if you tapped into the being of God as good, as faithful, as accurate, as wise, as eternal, as self-existing, as all the things that He is in reality, and then you compare that to the creatures that you tend to love more than Him. Then you start to see; I'm chasing after broken cisterns that can't even give me what I need when God has positioned Himself or revealed Himself to me as living water.

The contrast about serving God and idols in the scriptures is continually comparing the fact that God is sufficient and idols are not. Thus my passion is to say; we will not understand how good and worthwhile He is if we are not reading the Bible where He is revealed how good and how worthwhile He is.

To the people reading your book who don't understand what you're getting out of this. What would you say to them?

Well, I would want to affirm that God has given us, as image-bearers, the ability to comprehend. So we do have the ability to learn and to understand. In this TikTok culture, we don't have the patience to sit with a passage long enough to understand. We get to John 3:16, "for God so loved the world that He gave His own Son," but I don't want to read the rest of the verse because that's going into some dark places. I don't want to read Judges. I'm not messing with Ezekiel. Jennie is going to have to teach me that. All of scripture is God-breathed; all of scripture is profitable. We need to walk by the Spirit, and what does the Spirit empower us to do? To be patient and to have long-suffering, and to sit with a passage until we get from it what we need. I think there's a lot of blessing in that kind of endurance.


 Another quote from the book that I love. It says, "The soil from which all sin grows is unbelief. We sin because it is our nature to do so, but it's not as if we always sin unintentionally like deprived robots without the ability to behave according to reason. We are thoughtful with our rebellion. There is a level of reasoning within us when we decide which golden calf we'll love on any given day."

I think we tend to think, yeah, we're sinners, we're all sinners, but that's way more offensive to God than we give it credit for. I do think that unbelief is at the root of this. However, it's a hard thing to wrangle down. It's a hard thing to say; this is the root of my sin. It's unbelief. Tie it for everybody, tie sin and our rebellion, which is real and we're guilty of, to our unbelief.

I think one of the clearest examples is to look at the garden. God told Adam, "Hey, eat from every tree except the knowledge of good and evil. The day you eat of it, you shall surely die." So that's God speaking. God is giving a law. That's God's word, right? Then Satan comes, and he says, "Hey, the day you eat of it, you won't die. You'll be like God." That's another word. That's another option. So now they have two words. If one is believed, then God is obeyed. If another is believed, then God is disobeyed. What did they believe? They believed the word of the serpent over the word of the Lord. And so their behavior or the way they function began with what they believed about God, which was that God was not telling the truth.

So because we all have come underneath Adam and have inherited this sin, everything we do, consciously or even unconsciously, at its core is what we believe about God. So like when I spoke at IF: Gathering, most of us don't give our anxieties to God. Why? Because we don't believe He cares. That is why God says, "Hey, give me your anxieties." Why? Because I care for you. So it all works in tandem.

There are many people listening that are thinking, I want that to be true, but I do blame God. It doesn't feel like He's perfect. It doesn't feel like He's loving. It doesn't feel like in my personal life, I have experienced the goodness of God. What would you say to them?

That's the idea of suffering. If God is good, why would he allow all these kinds of things to happen? I was molested. I dealt with sexual abuse, fatherlessness, all kinds of stuff. Even in this pandemic, I mean, my Lord, many people have gone through some crazy suffering that they did not plan for. I think our circumstances can never have the final say on what we believe about God because God himself has revealed himself.

There's a level of trust where we have to say, what does God say about himself? Not only that, what does God say that he's going to do? God has promised that He's going to restore this world. God has promised that all things will work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose. God has promised that our trials are doing something good in us. I think that that's one odd but hopeful way to look at it. Even the bad things, God is so sovereign over them and they'll work out for my good. God is not distant from our suffering as if he was some god that could not hear and could not see and could not come down, like the idols. In Exodus, God saw his people in suffering and He came down to do something about it. God saw our suffering, saw our sin, saw our rebellion, and he did not ignore it. He came down himself in the person of Jesus Christ, and He lived and suffered too.  I think there's a way in which we can say, man, even Jesus empathizes with my suffering in a way that I never will even understand.


You and I both believe that the more that we gaze upon God, the more we change. It's not necessarily just about our behavior modification in life that changes us; it's as we know God and believe God more, we are motivated to change, and we change. Practically, there is still work for us to do. We've got to pursue holiness; we've got to not give in to our sin. Speak just a bit of what it looks like to believe in God and do the work because it's not easy not to sin.

Well, I have a chapter in the book towards the end called Beholding We Become. When I was growing up, I heard the messaging about how to live holy was more about stop. Stop sinning. Stop being rude. Stop being a meanie. Stop watching porn. Stop having idols. Stop drinking too much. It was always stop. I don't think this helps us. I think what helps us is to say, behold, look up, look at God, see Him, watch Him, learn Him, observe Him. By beholding, we become. This is 2 Corinthians 3, which says that when we look at the glory of God, we become like Him.

One motivation that I would encourage people to do is open the scriptures and pay attention to the Son of God. Open the scriptures and watch how He moves. Open the scriptures and watch how He loves. Out of that flows a faith in God that then helps us to live like God. There's also beholding isn't passive, because you can think, okay, just read the Bible and I'll become holy. It's like, no, beholding by nature is already active. I have to do something to behold. I also have to obey. There are times when I know God is good, but I want to break up with this person. I know God is good, but I don't want to leave the job that is making me greedy. The Bible says work out your salvation with fear and trembling. God has given us his Spirit and helps us to obey.

God has given us a church, a community, and other believers that can pray for us toward obedience and challenge us and hold us accountable for obedience. I think at the end of the day, with that, there's joy. If you are in Christ Jesus, you know well that sin has never made you happy. It might have momentarily, but it did not last. There was a shame, and there was condemnation. There's all this messiness and all this nastiness. But man, in Christ Jesus, when you obey, real fruit and real joy overflow.

You have a dramatic story you told in your first book,  Gay Girl, Good God. I want to ask, though, how do you experience this now in your life?

Two weeks ago, I got a booking request to participate in a ministry event, and they were offering me a very high amount of money that I don't even ask for. This will cover a couple of mortgages. I felt convicted -  not because only specific numbers are righteous. I think it's a matter of walking by the Spirit and engaging with what the Lord is saying. I felt kind of compelled to ask God about it. So I talked to the Lord about why I was feeling that way. I felt as if God was saying; I want you to take literally, maybe set 15% of that number. What came to my mind is the passage where it says that people shouldn't desire to be rich. When I'm obeying God, I'm guarding my heart against the greediness that's present within it.

Does that hurt? Did it sting a little? Sure. I also had joy in knowing, do I trust God to be my provider or not? Because often underneath greediness is the fear that God will not provide for you. So you're hoarding. You want manna to keep coming even though He said it's going to come every day.

Well, what you're saying is so cool because it's not something that's written out, right? It isn't just; this is how much you can receive for something and no more; it was something you had to seek God and get His counsel on and His conviction about. Let's go into that a little bit deeper because a lot of people listening are going, oh gosh, I don't live that way. I don't take something to God and just say, do you want me to have this or not? I mean, what does that look like for you to process that with God specifically?

When I was writing this book, I'm going to be honest because it's taken me about two years; I prayed during it. God help this change me. I didn't want it to be a book where I learned a lot of stuff and it not change my life at all. I now see God as better and more of a Father than I did before I started. It isn't the book itself; it's all of the Bible studying I had to do for it. I say that because now I feel like God is safe. I feel like what He leads me to do or not to do is good for me. That sounds simple, but that's how I feel.

I've been so much more willing to take everything to God in prayer because I believe His yes and His no are all I truly need in this life. That's why I am convinced in the season, and I say in the season because some suffering might hit me across the head while I'm struggling. In the season, I really do believe that God is just good.

When you look out to the generation that is your age and younger, are you discouraged?

No. I am fearful of what is happening and what is to come because there seems to be a distinct separation from reality in our day and age with just our feelings and ideas. It's like we believe that our laws are authoritative. I don't mean judicial laws; I mean as this person should act like this. You shouldn't say that. You shouldn't think this way. I am what I believe I am, that type of thing. I think that scares me for this society. It scares me because God is the King and He is the creator, and He gave us a law that should be obeyed. If not, the judge is on the way. However, I'm not discouraged because I believe that God will do what He said He's going to do, which is to use his church to bring light into this world. I'm not worried about the Church. It's the world.

I'm encouraged because I see the division happening where the religious are kind of; it's not necessary anymore. There's not this sense of I'll attend church because that's what people do. That kind of old Christianity is gone, and what's rising up, I see in my daughter and her friends, is something that contains a lot of zeal and passion. I also see a diminishment of knowledge, that there's not this understanding. There might be a lot of zeal, but there's not this coupling with training and learning the scriptures. What would you say to that age group about the essentialness of knowing God through the scriptures?

I would ask the question, are they reading in general? What is the content being consumed? This is an ancient book that is so incredibly relevant. Every believer, young, old, middle age, whatever, has questions about how to be themselves, who God is, what to do with the world and culture. There're answers in this book. It has 66 books; it's a whole lot. You have questions; God has answers. Go to the source, and trust and believe that you can understand what's being written through the Spirit of God. Also, my charismatic self has to warn people; we are in a spiritual war. The devil does not want you to read the Bible. He hates the Bible. He only uses it to tempt you toward sin as he did with Jesus in Luke 4. Hey, if you want to fight the devil for real, outside of Twitter, read your Bible.

Amen. So good. Thanks for being here, girl.

Jennie Allen

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