Friday, October 19, 2012

Set Apart

specially recognized as or declared sacred by religious use or authority; consecrated: holy ground.
dedicated or devoted to the service of God, the church, or religion: a holy man.
saintly; godly; pious; devout: a holy life.
having a spiritually pure quality: a holy love.
entitled to worship or veneration as or as if sacred: a holy relic

Holy...a little word with a big meaning.

We are called to this, holiness.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do;  for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”   
1 Peter 1:14-16

What does it mean for a Christian to be holy?  I am sure if you asked a hundred different Christians you would get a hundred different answers.  I do know, in layman's terms, it means to be different-to be set apart.  Jesus was obviously different.  Yes, he ate with tax collectors and sinners, but he did not mimic the behavior of the tax collectors and sinners.  He was his same perfect and sinless self no matter where he went or with whom he spent his time.
He was different and they knew it right away...and they were drawn to him.  He had something to offer that was not like anything they had been offered before.  He had life.  True, eternal, no-boxing-it-up-and-selling-it life.  He didn't participate in their jokes or crude language.  He didn't engage in their boastful stories.  I have to add here that, of course, there was no media or electronic entertainment, but I can safely assume he would have been very selective as to what he would allow before his eyes and into his mind.  He walked and functioned differently and he was effective.
He was not tolerant.
He loved (and still loves) hard, sending His disciples to the ends of the earth to bring the lost into a saving relationship with Himself.  He called sin what it was and rebuked those who tried to justify rebellion.  He called people to a new way of living, offered the means to get out of the status quo and live a life worthy of the God who was about to give His all for them.  He was orderly and intentional in the way he lived and taught others to be the same.

He was, and is, the Holy one of Israel.

And He tells us in 1 Peter that we are to strive to be like Him.

We will do it imperfectly, of course, because we are not Jesus.  But our lives should reflect growth, a continued refining of our behaviors and tastes that are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  
1 Thess. 4:7

But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior  Titus 3:4-6

As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion,
a chosen and precious cornerstone,
and the one who trusts in him
will never be put to shame.”
1 Peter 2:  4-6

Of course, this growth will look different in each of us.  We are all in process.  But we will grow and learn to live in a way that points those around us to the Father.  I can't begin to count the ways He has changed me.  Things that would have never given me pause in my twenties now cause me to cringe and turn away at 40.  To give you one minor example, I no longer watch scary movies.  I have a visceral reaction at the mere thought of a blood and gore flick.  But it wasn't always that way.  I don't know if it is God or time or maturity (probably a combination of all of these) and the realization that too many of those things really do happen, but I simply cannot stand the thought of them any more.

Do I judge my friends who love a good scare?  I hope not.  I may not understand or share their taste in movies but that is neither here nor there.  We just differ in our tastes.  Now I do have strong conviction about putting things before our eyes that are ungodly and immoral, but for the sake of this example that is not to what I am referring.

It is with this imperfect example that I proceed.

In general I see a lack of holiness within the church.   (And please remember, I speak as one guilty.  The changes that are occuring in my life, in my values, is by the grace of God alone!)   Immodest clothing, lack of discernment when it comes to entertainment, unbiblical parenting methods, a willingness to engage in cultural traditions that could be seen as sinful in the eyes of God, and an acceptance of alternative lifestyles and the effect they have on society...I know this is a broad and probably not well-organized list of issues but I want you to see the general direction that I am going with this.

Without going the route of legalism, we must be willing to walk with God when no one else does.  Remember Noah?  He stood alone...completely alone.  (Genesis 6)  He did not compromise God's standards in order to be "relevant" or appeal to the world around him.   If He says something is a sin, then we cannot be willing to compromise that in order to be “relevant to society” or reach the lost.  If we appear to be just like those who do not have Jesus, then why would they think they need him?  It would seem they are just fine the way they are...
unless we are willing to speak the truth in love.

And, believe me, I know that is hard.

I am the queen of non-confrontationalism.  I like peace, and lots of it.  Rocking the boat?  Not my style.  I love a good friend and will do almost anything to keep that friend close and happy.


I had a friend, who was not a believer, ask me one of those hard questions once.  We were only weeks into a fledgling friendship.

“If a (insert any non-Christian religion here) is a good (insert again), they will go to Heaven, dontcha think?”

I gulped.  I hate direct questions like this because I know God expects me to give a direct answer.  What if she walks out of my house thinking I am a narrow-minded Bible thumper who she won't waste her time with again?  Well, if I answer her with Scripture, then her beef is with God and not me, right?

So I did.  I paused, prayed silently, took a deep breath and carefully and shakily quoted John 14:6...Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “

She was quiet, and obviously surprised by that answer.  But she didn't argue.  I am sure my heart rate did not return to normal for at least half an hour.  The amazing result of that short, uncomfortable conversation?  Our friendship deepened and continued until I moved several states away, but after our move I got incredible messages from her telling me that I have had a greater effect on her life than almost anyone she had ever known.  I lived next door to her for exactly one year.  It was not me, it was God working in her.  I just got to be there for a very small part of it.

What if I had hedged?  I do not believe our friendship would have gotten the depth it had as quickly as it did if I had hedged.  She new she could trust me to shoot straight with her.  She knew I would not just tell her “what she wanted to hear.”

I wish I always answered like that, but I have hedged in other circumstances before.  I would hope I hedge less as I get older.  I do think I am stronger in my ability to stand for Him now, but it has taken years of growth and learning from mistakes.

Where am I going with this?

We must be different.  We must be able to love absolutely everyone God puts in our path but we cannot, we must not, hedge the Truth because it makes someone uncomfortable.  God is the judge, but He has given us the responsibility to know the Truth and share it.  All of it.  We don't get to choose the parts we like or the ones that fit the current “Christian movement.”  We don't get to twist it or tweak it in order to make it more palatable and make faith appear more palatable to the hearer.  Speaking truth in love is messy.  It is hard.  But we are not ultimately responsible for what the hearer does with the Word of God, the Lord is.  We are responsible to carry that Word clearly forth, as a banner before us.  If He says something is a sin, then it is a sin.  Whether society has “progressed past those archaic beliefs” or not does not matter.  Not one bit.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Heb. 13:8)  We have to be willing to be weird for Jesus, if that is what it takes to peel the scales off of spiritually unseeing eyes.

To what is He calling you?  How does He want us to be different for Him?  What does this look like in the day to day life of a teenage girl, a stay at home mom, a working professional, or a grandmother?   And how on earth do we walk this walk, stand on Truth, and not veer into Legalism?

The only answer I can give is by being utterly and completely open and dependent on God.  We can do nothing apart from Him.  It is Christ who gives us strength to stand and resist the forces that threaten our faith.  Christianity is not a set of rules, but there are boundaries placed there by our loving Father for our good, for our protection, for our blessing.   We are not left to our own devices, to come up with “what works for us” or “find our own way.”  There are many things that can be left up to interpretation, but there are many more things that cannot.  We are wise to pray for discernment and wisdom to walk faithfully within these boundaries.

John 14:15...If you love me, keep my commands.

1 comment:

  1. This is going right along with our Sunday school lesson this week! Praying for wisdom to me is the key here. I always think I know the answer but any answer without love is wrong, and I have been wrong at times when if I had just loved better It may have had a different outcome. But of course that's where grace comes in! About as clear as mud?!


Let's keep the conversation going...