Lately, personal holiness has dominated my thinking, dominated it because I am so personally unholy. I have a deep desire to grow more and more in Christ. Deep desire is really a poor way to phrase it. I’d rather employ the expression many of the Old Testament prophets used, “Burden of The Lord”. It’s a burden that God shared with them. His burden. The burden that weighed on him and he shared it with the prophets. Jeremiah elaborated that he felt a fire burning inside him all the time that he was unable to contain. Do you ever get so unsatisfied with how little you are like Christ that you feel like you may spontaneously combust from the pressure of his spirit on you? I’m weighed down by the attributes of God I’m confronted with in scripture in comparison to the cheap hollow man I am…and who I am afraid of losing.
The obvious thing that we must give up in pursuing holiness is our sin, the desires of our flesh. But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s easy. You hear a preacher tell you that if you want to not sin against God you should hide his word in your heart. So, you take the preacher’s advice and begin to consume the bible. But you soon are confronted with Psalm 101:3-4 and now you can’t “set anything before your eyes that is worthless” nor can you “know anything of evil”. You reflect on this and you realize this is telling you that weekly crime drama on basic cable that you never miss is now off limits to you. There is promiscuity, innuendo, language, and vile behavior throughout and you can’t see it without being effected in your spirit. You say Ah! but what will I do for entertainment? You hear a response read more of my word, serve your next door neighbor who is an elderly invalid, spend time in prayer….you think none of that sounds very entertaining. Now, Christians are not supposed to be miserable people who never have fun, but often times what stunts our pursuit of holiness is what we are unwilling to surrender to God. The first level of this is our flesh. It’s lazy, greedy, selfish, perverted, etc. But that’s an obvious one that we all must fight against every day. The second level which stunts are holiness is more subtle. So, subtle that often times we believe we’re actually supposed to be hanging on to this for God. It’s the way we identify ourselves. We all have things that identify us. The athletes, the braniacs, the comedians, the social lights, the fashionable, etc. These all become a part of our makeup. We use these things to feel value and get purpose. I have always identified myself as an athlete. I played sports at university. I invested most of my time improving my strength and skills to help me in my sports. Now at this point of my life, none of that really plays any factor in the responsibilities that I have. But my ego is connected to that way that I identified myself. We occasionally get to play American football here with some other missionaries in our community. There are several young athletic teens that always applaud my skill highly. They scratch my ego. They make me want to spend time on athletics so that I can feel like the strong one, the fast one, the best one. We all do this. That’s just my example of wanting to hold onto my identity. Take the young woman who loves clothes. She always dresses well and when she walks into a room all her friends are full of compliments and envy over her appearance. But the young lady reads in her bible about putting on modest apparel and good works rather than elaborate hair styles and jewelry and she realizes she must sacrifice her old identity if she’s to continue pursuing holiness. But we come to a hard question here. What if I become so much like Christ that those things that are so important to me (so important to me that they are what makes me, me) are no longer important to me? What if there comes a day where I don’t care how much I can bench press? What if there comes a day where I don’t care if the popular crowd likes me or not? What if there comes a day when I don’t care about winning?
What is your answer? If I went back 6-7 yrs, the 19-20 yr old version of myself would run circles around me….and would probably also ridicule me for how much wind I’m sucking in after doing a couple sprints. I was having a conversation with a Muslim man awhile ago and I was trying to show him that the bible says that Jesus is God. He kept insisting that Jesus could not be God because if he was God he would never have allowed those people to arrest and crucify him. I tried to show him scripture that it was God’s plan for Jesus to be arrested and he allowed himself to be arrested, but the man wouldn’t listen to me. His ego would not let him worship a God that does not match his idea of what God should be. Colossians 3 says that we have put on the new self. If we truly have, then our old self should be gone. Moses had a desire to save the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, so when he was strong in the prime of life he killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite. The bible says Moses thought the Israelites would understand he was supposed to deliver them, but instead he had to flee Egypt to avoid being killed by Pharaoh. 40 years later, when Moses is an old man, God calls him to go speak to Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Moses is now so bashful that he makes God angry at the way he drags his feet about going. The old Moses that was going to overthrow Egypt by his might was gone. The new Moses was the one God used to lead his people to the promised land. Jesus, King of Glory, strong and mighty, who was and is and is to come, left heaven, put on the form of a servant, and went as a lamb to the slaughter. And his name is slandered by people who think his choice not to use his power showed the absence of his deity. Do you think we have more right to be jealous for our name than Jesus? Could you be struck in the face by someone weaker than you and not retaliate? What is keeping you from losing yourself in holiness? John 14:23 says “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Jesus isn’t embarrassed to make you a part of the identity of his family. Are you afraid it will cost you too much to lose your old identity in him? I always had a desire to help orphans in Africa, probably from the time I was 12. But I wanted to be a professional golfer and I thought that the way I would help them would be by making lots of money that I could use to support them. Well the script has been flipped on me a bit 🙂 and the question remains, am I surrendered to letting go of everything in my pursuit of Christ? Will I Lose the old me in holiness?