A Wholesome Holiness

Seeking silence & reflection @ Lake Tahoe

I was deeply encouraged by the feedback and encouragement from others for my last post on October 17, 2012 titled “ALL things work together for good”. Thank you for your love, prayer and support through this transition period!

I actually typed a few pages for this blog, but decided to simplify this to a simple thought on the topic of holiness.  If you want to explore the topic of holiness with me, you can listen to my sermon at Living Stones Christian Church, my former church’s website, and look for “Hope & Holiness” on 9/9/2012.

During my own times of study and prayer, I came across an entry in the Charles Ringma book titled, “Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton.”   It was regarding holiness.  Essentially what Ringma points out is that people tend to be people at extremes in their pursuit of a holy life. These extremes can be seen as those that are very “holy” but not very outward focused in their love, to the very outward focused in their love, but that have very little inward focus towards their Savior.  Then there are other textures such as those that are greedy, or falsely spiritual, to those that are empty shells merely teaching theological truths but that feel no passion for what they teach. Ultimately, we are creatures of extremes and it is often assumed that a life of holiness is a life that is either bound in intimacy with God and for others tied to their spiritual ministry.

“Does holiness equate to intimacy with God or with spiritual ministry? Can one be a businessperson or a politician and still be holy? Is one holy because one is a priest or monk? Has holiness to do with one’s being or one’s actions or both?”

What Merton says about holiness is this:

“sanctity is not a matter of being less human, but more human… this implies a greater capacity for concern, for suffering, for understanding…and also for humor, for joy” (Ringma, 23).

Holiness is this then:  

“God’s grace operating in our lives” (Ringma, 23).

It draw us closer to God and turns our attention to the world. Holiness then is living the will of God by the power and grace of God.  This life is not one of prideful, self-holiness awareness, but one of great humility and enjoyment of life as much as it is a life that seeks to be holy.  It truly does reflect this focus on God and yet this connection to the world; a balance of being and doing. I find this balance then to be a better and healthier picture of holiness in Christ lived out by the saints, and seems to be confirmed in how Christ lived out his life too.  My hope and blessing is that you may continue to grow and model your life towards this wholesome holiness in Christ as well!

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1)

If you do a word search for the word “imitator” you will find that it is used 6 times as a noun.  Paul used it 5 times (1 Cor 4:16, 1 Cor 11:1, Ephes. 5:1, 1 Thess 1:6, 1 Thess 2:16) and the author of Hebrews used it once (Hebrews 6:12).  It is used 3 times as a verb, Deut 18:9, Heb 13:7, and 3 John 11.

Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me (1 Cor 4:16)

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ (1 Cor 11:1)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children (Ephes 5:1)

You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit (1 Thess 1:6)

For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, (1 Thess 2:14).

When I read these words, I was convicted to the core of my being.  I asked myself the question can I say what the apostle Paul said in 1 Cor 4:16 and 1 Cor 11:11?  Paul lived a life that so mirrored Christ that he was able to tell people be an imitator of me for I am an imitator of Christ.  How many of us can echo these words of the apostle Paul?  I would be ashamed if someone would imitate my life.  Paul’s life was all about Christ,

For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. (Phil 1:21)

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him… (Phil 3:7-9)

Jesus’ ambitions was to glorify the Father on earth (John 8:54, John 14:13, John 17:5), die to save everyone (the Father’s ambition is the Son’s ambition – John 3:16, Mark 10:15), and  live a life of service (Matthew 20:28).  Now look at Paul’s ambitions in life, it was to glorify Christ in everything (1 Cor 10:31), to preach Christ to everyone (1 Cor 9:19-23), and to live Christ (Phil 1:21).  Paul’s ambitions mirrored Christ’s ambitions.  This was why Paul was able to say imitate me because I imitated Jesus.  What’s our ambition in life?  Beloved, let us examine the totality of our being and ask God to burn away the dross so we can echo the words of the Apostle Paul, Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.  The refiner’s fire will cause pain, if you are not ready for hardship, please give up now.  There are no shortcuts to holiness.  It requires divine surgery, are you ready for it?  The feat to change the whole person is a daunting task therefore, I urge you to pick one thing and change that first, then move on to the next.  Don’t try to change everything at once.  Remember the reason for the change, it is not so that you can be a better person, boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife, friend, or a Christian.  The reason for the change is for the glorification of Christ.  Let me encourage you that we can all do it.  Paul was a man filled with the Spirit, so are all Christians.  Therefore, if Paul can do it we can as well.  The degree and effectiveness of change will depend upon the degree of dependency upon the Holy Spirit.  Flesh and blood can not and will not imitate Christ.  Flesh and blood will fight against change.  It will try to justify against change.  It is only through the Holy Spirit,who’s job is to glorify the Father, that we can change.  Change can happen, the question is do you want to change?

I hope this post encourages you and may we spur one another on to holiness.

blessings in Christ