“Free to Be Holy.” By Matt Lozano. Maryland: Word Among Us Press, 2023. 152 pages.  Paperback: $15.85; Kindle: $9.99; E-book: $12.99.

As I read Matt Lozano’s latest book, “Free to Be Holy,” I was reminded of something that the hospital treatment staff kept emphasizing to all of us who were undergoing chemotherapy.  “Remember,” they said, “you have cancer. You are not cancer. Who you are fundamentally as a person has not changed.”

In a similar vein, if I were to sum up Lozano’s book in a couple of words it would be this:  Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are holy people. That is who we are fundamentally, even if we still have sin and imperfection in our lives. The object, therefore, is not to become holy, but to learn to live out our inherent holiness.

“The sacrifice of Jesus makes us holy, a status we could never earn for ourselves,” Lozano begins. “Yet even though we have been made holy, we do not automatically live a holy lifestyle.  Over time the grace of God will teach us how to live as our holy status demands.”

For many people, that is something that can be difficult to get one’s head around. That is because we have some notions about holiness that just don’t stand up to scrutiny. Lozano discusses three of them, telling the reader that though these ideas may seem like holiness, they are actually, in his words, “dead ends.”

The first is what he calls the Performance Approach, in which we believe it is our own actions that make us holy. Lozano reminds us that it is, in fact, “Jesus himself – by his sacrifice, grace and merits – who makes us holy.” The problem with the Performance Approach is that if we fall short – as we inevitably will – we may feel that we are no longer holy. Lozano’s point is that we remain holy but need to recognize that we don’t always act holy.

The second false approach is similar; it states that “I am not holy now, but someday I will be.”  Again, we tie our holiness to what we do instead of who we are. The difficulty with this thinking is that as soon as we compare ourselves to others, there will always be someone who seems “holier” than we are. This leads to the false notion that “well, I guess someday I may be where that person is, just not right now.” We ignore the fact that we are already holy and in the process of learning how to live that reality – works in progress who are already beloved by God.

The third false approach is that to be holy we must somehow set ourselves apart from others.  Jesus Himself disavowed that approach when He scandalized the Pharisees – who were very good at keeping their distance from those they perceived to be sinners – by not only mingling with sinners, but eating with them. As we saw from Jesus’ words and parables, this attitude leads, not to holiness, but to the sin of pride.

These concepts occupy roughly the first half of this book; the second half might be called “practical application,” or living out the reality of our own holiness. “Walking in holiness involves the concrete, practical choices we make in our everyday lives,” Lozano continues.  “This is the territory of the Incarnation. Walking in holiness is not theoretical; it is real.”

This is an important thing to do because it reaches beyond our own, personal sanctification; living a holy life has a direct and positive effect on those around us.  Lozano illustrates this – as he does many things – with an example from his own life. He also includes a very useful chapter at the conclusion of the book describing the common obstacles and pitfalls we all encounter when trying to live out our holiness and how to overcome them.

For anyone looking for encouragement on their journey of faith, this book is a highly recommended read.

Author bio:

Lozano is the director of training for Heart of the Father Ministries and has more than 20 years of experience teaching in the classroom and around the world. He is co-author of the “Unbound Ministry Guidebook” and “Abba’s Heart.” He ministers alongside his wife, Jennifer; together they have five children.