Several years ago I caught myself in this slow fade where I was exclusively focused on my own pursuit of selfish gain. I worked 65 hours a week seeking after what my boss called “the lifestyle.” At the end of the day what was supposed to keep me motivated was advancing toward this lifestyle.
What began as a motivation to provide for myself and also my wife, turned into a life of sin where I was consumed with making myself happier through money.
What’s this lifestyle? On the surface it’s fast cars, big houses, and extravagant vacations. Underneath the surface it’s unhappy marriages, limited connection to family, and an ongoing pursuit of an impossible reality: happiness through money. It’s the masking of sin with materialism.
My foray into this lifestyle changed me, for the worse.
My relationship with God had become a one-hour vacation on Sunday mornings that reflected little in the rest of my life.
But I’m not alone in this. It seems many allow their Christian faith to be a few “beliefs” that we hold in private, using them only to save face with those who agree.
In all our hopes for figuring out life on our own we’ve abandoned the ancient Christian practice of holy living as the reality of sin has become a common landing point for our lives. Most of us are so lost in our own sinful patterns that we can’t see beyond them to the life God has always desired for us to live.
As the next generation of young Christians (including myself) continues to root themselves well within culture, we’ve lost the marks that allow Christ to be seen by a world that denies Him.
We’ve lost holiness.
- The problem: In seeking to create our own legacy and mark within the world, we’ve slowly faded into a life that doesn’t recognize sin.
- The hope still remaining: What we’ve lost does not outweigh what we can gain.
Young believers have pursued life experience at the expense of innocence as we’ve given up on caring about the sin in our own lives. We picture God only as a God who provides mercy, not judgment. So of course we can get away with our sin, because God forgives.
Even though we’ve given up so much of what God desires for us, we can still gain holiness.
As the oldest child of a pastor I have lots of childhood memories within the walls of a church building. Some good, some bad. I can distinctly remember getting cornered by an angry elder who found it unholy of me to be running on the holy ground of the sacred space known as our church building.
He accomplished his goal, which was to put the fear of God in me. I’ve never walked as slow in my entire life as I did that day. But what he failed at was in knowing what holiness is.
Holiness is not following guidelines and rules.
Holiness isn’t found in living the perfect life. If all this were true, we would be practical humanists who could win the favor of the Creator through our human actions.
1st John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.”
This is the beginning of holiness. Not our action, but His. We are holy because of His holiness being worked out within us.
Our lives are often the reflection of a roller coaster, where we have fleeting moments of intimacy with God and many other moments where we wander into the depths of our own depravity. But do not lose hope, because what we’ve lost through our sinful patterns does not outweigh what we can gain through life in Christ.
As we allow the penetrating affection of God to shape us, He begins to create in us His holiness.
(The image at the top is a beautiful painting by Linda Nardelli titled “Holiness.” I think it captures the essence of the word quite well.)