Today is my 40th spiritual birthday. I was born again on a Thursday night, March 29, 1973, fully convinced I could no longer live without acknowledging Y’shua as Messiah. I have never regretted that decision. He became real to me that night and has never stopped being real. His presence has been with me ever since and I look forward to eternity.
I was having a fascinating (to me) chat with my friend Cristian the other day, about a space he’d opened up on his webpage, Guardadores de Verdades, for people to share. He wanted to include my blog. I wasn’t sure I wanted the whole world commenting on my blog (and I don’t, so far – it’s my space to express myself, but I want to share it in a more limited way at the moment). So we got to talking about how as Christians who have learned what the work of grace means in our lives (an ongoing process, certainly), we are free to truly revel in life. Like enjoying the smell of the mangoes in the market (see my first post), he pointed out.
We see how so many believers, for so many centuries have been so legalized and traditionalized (acc. to Tom – taught legalism and traditions of men) – a work of deception – that they are convinced that if they don’t talk just so and dress just so or even eat just so, they won’t be acceptable to God. They have learned to separate their “worldly” everyday life from their “church” or “Christian life.” Is it any wonder so many can shout till they’re hoarse at a soccer game, but can’t uninhibitedly (I don’t mean in disorder!!) worship God even in church? They’ve been taught that a little “victory shout” is the way to do it. What about the tumultuous sound of praise in David and Solomon’s day when the noise was heard miles away and people thought it was an earthquake?
When did we get so dichotomized? Wherever does the Bible teach that our secular beings are separate from our “holy” selves? And what is holiness, anyway?
I remember hearing two great Bible teachers – Steven Fry and Randy MacMillan – expound on “the holy and the profane,” based on Ezekiel 44, leaving it quite clear that anything that isn’t God’s explicit will is profane, and that which is His will is holy. Now that’s greatly simplified, but true in a nutshell. Our good intentions that don’t go against God, no matter how great, when not God-breathed – are also profane. That was quite a sobering revelation. So I’ve always striven not to fall into the profane (though not always with success – maybe because it was with my efforts, not His grace). It didn’t have to do with my language, but with my heart attitude. And holiness isn’t about our external works, but about our heart. And if He lives in our heart, He does the work, not us. Anything I do with the purpose of helping God out or trying to seek His approval is works, and works is not grace. (See www.liberatedliving.com for excellent teaching on the subject by John Sheasby.)
Now, those of you who are rabidly evangelical may hate the following, because I’m going to quote a Roman Catholic. I think Kevin has a biblical point, and therefore I feel free to use him as a source. I am not “ecumenical,” but I have the Holy Spirit to help me discern truth.
St. Irenaeus, an important second-century bishop, is credited with saying, “The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God.” Kevin states in his blog that
The glory of God gives life; those who see God receive life. For this reason God, who cannot be grasped, comprehended or seen, allows himself to be seen, comprehended and grasped by men, that he may give life to those who see and receive him. It is impossible to live without life, and the actualization of life comes from participation in God, while participation in God is to see God and enjoy his goodness. [Kevin. (2011) Man alive. Liturgical Year. Retrieved March 25, 2013, from http://vocationblog.com/2011/06/man-alive/]
People like Francis of Assisi could see God’s hand in the small details of creation and revel in nature. As those who are perhaps more cognizant of His goodness expressed in nature, in art and creativity, why should we not revel in the sunset, in the feel of the waves against our skin as we dip in the Caribbean (sorry, I know some of you are knee deep in snow right now), in the taste of a ripe strawberry. I used to have some friends who said that since Christians “can’t drink or indulge in other vices; the only thing left is for us to enjoy eating.” And do we ever! Hey, wasn’t Jesus called a wine-bibber? I didn’t say a drunk…Can you not imagine Jesus going to Bazurto market to get supplies for his carpentry shop or groceries for his mom? I sure can! And I bet He’d sample the fish chowder along the way and not worry about dirtying His sandals.
When you give someone a tip or give a beggar a coin, often you hear, “Vaya con Dios” – “Go with God” I often think, yeah, well, with whom else would I go? And I know He goes everywhere with me. I remember that little poster or saying we’re supposed to remind ourselves of when in doubt – “Is this some place you’d be ashamed to take Jesus?” or something like that. Well you know what, there are few places – maybe none – that fit, because there is no place on earth that wouldn’t be improved by His presence. Didn’t He come to bring light into darkness? Now hold on and don’t imagine I am saying I can indulge in anything, anywhere, ‘cause Jesus will redeem me. In the first place, He already redeemed me once for all, and secondly, I don’t believe in greasy grace and have never preached it. I’m talking about His redeeming presence. His holiness.
I have learned that there really isn’t anything in my life He doesn’t know about. He really isn’t scandalized by me. He really has forgiven me and is ready to apply His already-shed blood when I blow it – again. It really is HIM doing the change and making me more like Him, not my effort. He receives glory when I am fully alive. He spends time with His kids. He is the Holy God before whose face I fall in awe. But He is also the one who put me on this beautiful earth to enjoy it. I am IN the world, even if I am not “OF” it.
What is real holiness? It’s wholeness. It’s being fully alive. And if you want to see God in ALL of your life and being, you need to be whole/holy. Isn’t that what Hebrews 12:14 says? And because years ago Jack Hayford did an incredible job of explaining that, I’ll just point you to this article in Charisma magazine where you can read it yourself. http://www.charismamag.com/spirit/spiritual-growth/14575-wholly-holy
So holiness isn’t about externals, or about our performance, it’s about being fully, vitally and wonderfully alive in Him! Are you?