Starting a relationship with Jesus a little over three years ago extended my vocabulary to a variety of new words.
Saying things such as, “salvation,” “grace” and “mercy” suddenly became as common to me as, “yes, please” and “thank you.”
I was now a bible-touting Christian—redeemed, forgiven and made new. God’s redemptive power and forgiving heart meant I could be a young and contemporary Jesus-lover, hallelujah! It appeared to be a sweet deal where the onus was on God. All I had to do was show up; or so I thought.
Apparently, I hadn’t read the fine print in the Christian Walk clause. You know, the charge to a life of holiness.
I wasn’t fond of that word. They very sound of it made my eyes roll and gave me visions of elderly women sitting in pews with lap napkins and oversized church hats turning their noses up when coming across someone like me. At that point in my life I was far from holy, and I was perfectly content with being that way.
FOR MANY OF US, HOLINESS CAN SEEM LIKE A FORM OF CHRISTIAN PRETENTIOUSNESS, THE UPPER ECHELON OF PIETY.
For many of us, holiness can seem like a form of Christian pretentiousness, the upper echelon of piety. We fear that “becoming holy” will turn us into those type of Christians who become detached from the realities of life. We’re afraid that embracing holiness means we have to reject those who don’t share our beliefs.
Worst, the call to a holy life can feel like an attack on our personal identity. If we choose to closely align our hearts toward the pursuit of a holy life, would that mean giving up our interests and parts of ourselves that we’ve grown to love?
At some point in our Christian journey, many of us find ourselves at a crossroad. We battle between desiring more of God and wanting to honor His commands, but also feel a certain level of conflict in trying to love and pursue Jesus while remaining authentic and relatable to those who had yet to accept Him.
We don’t grasp that in God’s love, holiness is the sweetest part of the deal.
It maybe that—as was in my case— poor teaching and misinterpretation of God’s design for holiness are two of the many reasons that keep people from chasing after Him with fervency.
We are told true relationship with Christ is not about rules or being “legalistic,” and yet so much of the modern Church’s teachings, unknowingly, browbeat new believers into a cookie-cutter standard of Christianity. We’ve outlined a template for what holiness should look like.
We sometimes say to the young man who listens to hip-hop music that there is no place for his interest in the Kingdom because hip-hop is not of God. We often tell the young woman who’s hoping to chase after her dreams that she must wait on God’s timing lest she step outside of His will. And we say these things believing them to be wise counsel that leads people to a holy throne.
Yet, for many believers, both old and new, this can be seen as a fear tactic that places pressure and emphasis on their actions, while completely missing their hearts. What we are left with is Christians who reject the notion of holiness as unimportant to their faith, or those who aren’t sure how to accept holiness without feeling burdened. Even worse, some people walk away from their faith altogether.
It took time and is taking constant spiritual maturing for me to truly understand God’s design of holiness. In the New Testament the Greek word used for holy is hagioi meaning to sanctify, set apart or hallowing.
Within this context, we can best understand holiness as a state of being set apart for cleansing. Thus, God does not call us to holiness under the premise of rules and regulations. He doesn’t seek for us to be legalistic. In fact, He doesn’t require us to do the sanctifying. What He desires is for us to bear His image.
Bearing God’s image was His plan since the beginning of our creation, but that plan was perverted by sin. The fall not only created a gap in our relationship with God, it also blinded our ability to see and display God’s Spirit and power residing within us.
UNEARTHING THE SPIRIT OF GOD WITHIN …DOES NOT DIMINISH OUR IDENTITY. IT ENHANCES IT.
The call to holiness is the call to unearth the character of God through our lives. Yes, unearthing the Spirit of God within requires shaking bad habits and leaving some things behind. It requires some polishing, but this does not diminish our identity. It enhances it.
In this way, God takes everything we are: our characteristics, our interests, our dreams and desires, and cleans them up to be set apart for His glory. The same young man who expressed interest in hip-hop walks into a holy life and becomes the next Lecrae. And the same young woman who was told to wait on God’s timing embraces the call to holiness and learns how to follow the voice of the Holy Spirit. Holiness gives us a glimpse of heaven on earth.
The more holy we are, the more like God we are. The more like God we are, the more light we shine in a darkened world. In the same manner that no diamond is truly “flawless,” but is regularly put to the flame until it perfectly reflects the image of the creator, we are constantly put to the fire until we bear the image of Christ.
Our call to holiness is not a quest for perfection. Rather, it is a journey of being perfected.
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