A bit of a rewind
Last week we began this new series about holiness. Whether it was clever or not, you’ll be the judge, but we decked the church in the extraterrestrial and attempted to make the point that we are “Not Of This World.” Actually, this is very biblical as Jesus described his kingdom in those exact terms (John 18:36). Before we move on to this week’s focus, I think it would be helpful to do a little rewind and review the core truths we discussed last week regarding holiness. God calls us to it, and the concept is so often misunderstood. So here goes…
- “Holy” means — sacred, set apart, different, alien
There are a lot of ideas about what “holy” is or means, but it’s really quite simple. It means if we believe in God and are a follower of Jesus, we’re different. Maybe the “Amen’s” to that get a little awkward sometimes 🙂 but we are supposed to look, act and talk different than the world around us. (1 Peter 2:11-12)
- Our goal is not to be forgiven, but to be holy
This may have been a big light bulb moment for some, but so often I believe we settle for being forgiven rather than holy (different). We get caught in this cycle of sinning and asking for forgiveness, and we don’t allow God’s gracious forgiveness to change who we are and what we do. In the process, we don’t experience the freedom God so desperately wants and offers us as a consequence of living a holy life.
- Abstain from sexual immorality
This is a big one, and was our main focus in practical application. Sexual immorality is perhaps the single most devastating foe of living a holy life. It is near, or at, the top of every list God makes in the Bible that draws a contrast between people who believe in, and belong to Him, and people who do not. There is no middle ground of compromise with sexual sin. There is nowhere that it’s right or okay to have sex outside of marriage. There is no percentage or classification of porn which is okay for you to consume (even between spouses). The Bible is clear that there cannot be even a hint of sexual immorality in living a holy life (Ephesians 5:3).
These are the concrete blocks on which we began to build a better understanding of holiness. And this week we continue to look at practical ways to live holy lives.
Shift number one
In attempting to make this really practical (because so many messages on holiness can lead you to some mysterious place), we are going to discuss three very straightforward ways you can begin to live a holy life. These are three very fundamental shifts which need to happen in a person’s life in order to live a holy life. Shift number one:
Live here, but don’t love it here
This is best illustrated in these verses in 1 John (v. 15-17):
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Loving our life here and loving God are mutually exclusive things. John’s words (given to him by the Holy Spirit) are very clear about that. If you love your life here, true love for God is not in you. Loving your life here means putting an ultimate priority on the things and people of your right here and right now. Where and with whom do you spend the majority of your time? What or who do you make a first priority which crowds out or replaces God? Would you ever do something like choosing not to run in an Olympic Gold Medal race because it was God’s day, not a day for running races and winning the gold of this world? (Eric Liddell, 1924 Paris Olympics, look it up)
It is too easy to love ourselves, our spouses, our children, our mother’s, father’s, friends (and the list goes on) so much that they take over first place in our lives. They become the gold we are running after, and that race is a futile one. To live a holy life, we must see our lives here for what they are. God has chosen for us to be born and walk this earth to accomplish a specific purpose(s) for His kingdom. Let us love others as we should, but see them always through the filter of that truth of why we are here. Let us live here fully, but not love here completely.
Shift number two
Live like an extraterrestrial
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
We get the non-conformance part, some of us thrive on being non-conformists. But “do not conform” in this context is not a rebellion against the standards and norms of the mainstream in this world, it’s a call to be radically different. This requires a radical transformation, and it begins with your mind. This world carpet bombs the human mind with impure images and relative truths. Your mind is a literal battlefield, and truth and holiness are at stake. You cannot simply treat this world as a classroom, you must see it for what it is and you must fight against the forces of conformance.
It’s probably past time to change your furnace filter, and I wonder if it’s also time to change (or even install for the first time) the filter in your mind. And, make no mistake, this is not an easy process. It will likely involve rooting out and removing things which you really love, but which just are not good for you. They are “harmless” on the surface, but they are insidiously programming your mind for conformance. Just as the cleanliness of your furnace filter has a direct impact on every room of your home, the filter in your mind affects every part of you. Install it. Change it. The transformation of you mind and life depend on it.
Shift number three
Be part of the resistance
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
We have to learn to say, “No” to this world and the things of it. We have to work the muscle of self-control and grow it. There are things which appear good which are everything but. There are things which appear “okay,” but are cancerous to living differently. This world rarely confronts us with things which are so obviously bad for us. It more often leverages the subtle. It pounds away with PG and PG-13 to the point where PG-13 is the only thing on our radar and we have given up the PG ground. Now, this might sound alarmist or “old-fashioned,” but I challenge you to consider the things which make you turn your head or the channel these days. What images or words offend you? Which one’s don’t anymore?
We see conformance and living in this world as a series of fine lines. I believe if you’d just change the filter in your mind you’d begin to see them as the wide chasms which scripture warns us they are. Do not love it here, allow the Word of God to transform your mind, and begin to say “No!” Choose being holy over being forgiven.