One spiritual discipline that I often see overlooked when perusing literature on the subject is the discipline of holiness. That is a shame, because holiness is the benchmark of all the other disciplines. Perhaps it is obvious that we overlook it.
What is holiness? Holiness is pursuing God- pure and simple. The Bible puts it this way, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” This is the definition of holiness.
What does that look like? When you pursue something it means you have to prioritize. Paul says to the Philippian Christ followers, “One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” In the Olympics this past year we saw some of the greatest running for a prize the world has ever seen. In order for those athletes to pursue that prize that had to abstain from certain behaviors and make others a habit of their lifestyle. It is no different when it comes to the pursuit of holiness. In our pursuit of holiness we are called to abstain and too indulge.
Let me give you an example, our bodies.
Too often holiness is only associated with the practice abstaining. For example, part of the discipline of holiness is to abstain from sexual sin. In Acts 16 the church leaders told that all Christians to abstain from sexual immorality. To the Corinth church Paul instructed that they should flee from sexual immorality. And Peter, talking to Christians under persecution, instructs us “To abstain from sinful desires that war against your soul.”
So holiness has a direct relationship in how we use our bodies. Not only should we discipline our bodies away from certain behaviors we should pursue as well. Listen to what Paul said to the Romans, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” How we use our body is a critical part of the holy life.
Where does the Holy life take pleasure? Here are a few thoughts:
- The holy life takes pleasure in God’s judgment; hating what he hates and loving what he loves. This judgment is expressed in our words and opinions.
- The holy life takes pleasure in God’s law- drawing life from it instead of being caged by it.
- The holy life takes pleasure in Jesus Christ and draws peace and joy from him and sees earthly pleasures as gifts from him.
- The holy life takes pleasure in wisdom and is slow to speak as a result.
- A holy life takes pleasure in self-denial- much like an athlete does in preparation for the prize- to attain the prize God has set before him. This means treating your body as a temple of God.
- A holy life takes pleasure in helping others so that they may glorify God on the day he returns.
- A holy life will take pleasure in a pure heart- and will not allow filthiness and uncleanness of spirit. What do you listen to and watch? What images do you allow in your mind? What gossip do you let into your thinking?
- A holy life will not live by the golden rule- do unto others as they do to you- but by the platinum rule- do unto others as Christ has done unto you.
- A holy life will live by an eternal perspective. He will seek to live life by God’s point of view on the day’s events.
I will always recall a former professor of mine say in class, “The Christian life isn’t about how much you can get away with and still be Christian. It’s about getting into your relationship with Jesus as much as you can.”
Holiness is pursuing God.