The way of holiness

“But holiness is in wild and furious opposition to all such banality and blandness. We are introduced to it through the stories of the burning bush in Milan, the mountain on fire at Sinai, the smoke- and angel-filled temple in Jerusalem. We find ourselves in the presence of God alive, with life far in excess of anything we imagined. This God-life cannot be domesticated or used; it can only be entered into on its own terms. Moses and Isaiah walked out of those stories on fire themselves, energized for lifelong, life-giving vocations. Holiness did not make God smaller so they could use God in convenient and manageable projects. It made those men larger so God could give out life through them, extravagantly, spontaneously.”
— Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire

The way of community

“I still think that the only solution is the land, and community, a community which is unjudging and which forgives ‘seventy times seven,’ as Jesus Christ said. We who think in terms of community at least have the assurance, the conviction, that we are on the right path, going in the right direction, taking the right means to achieve the goal of increased love of God through an increased and proven love of our brothers. So many in these days have taken violent steps to gain the things in this world — war to achieve peace; coercion to achieve freedom; striving to gain what slips through the fingers. We might as well give up our greatest desires, at least our hopes of doing great things toward achieving them, right at the beginning. In a way it is like that paradox of the gospel, of giving up one’s life in order to save it.” — Dorothy Day, from The Reckless Way of Love

The challenge of holiness

Working our way through our Multiply material this week, our small group has come to a sobering conclusion: God really wants our FULL attention when we come to him. He has given us ALL of himself… so we need to take the care necessary to approach a HOLY God with reverence, with attention, with deep awe and respect. He is so worth it. 

15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Heb. 9:15)

Lord, I take worship too lightly. I am so concerned about time… weather… temperature… sound volume… I take so little care to ask, “Lord, do I come ready?” Forgive me, Lord. Set my heart on you. For your glory. Amen. 

Holiness… that’s a thing, right?

This week’s reading for our MULTIPLY discipleship is on “Sacrifice and Atonement.” Scripture reading takes us briefly through some chapters in Leviticus.

Leviticus 19 sticks out. It is a call that has been with Israel and still comes to the people of God today… or should. (We’re just not very good at it at times.)

Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.’ (Lev. 19:2)

Holiness was a code when I was growing up. It was how you looked. It was what you didn’t watch, places you didn’t go, things you didn’t smoke or drink, etc. Outward codes. When we read Leviticus, it’s fairly easy to get that initial impression.

That impression leads probably every one of us as believers to push the line on those “codes” at times. We think we’re being “rebellious” or maybe even “truly spiritual” or some other excuse. We’ve pushed some visible boundary and, lo and behold, we have not experienced fire from heaven, or the ground opening up and devouring us!

Holiness has never been just about the outward. The outward may look different at times… but for an inward reason.

Holiness is about “otherness” or “distinctiveness.” It is about something separate from the ordinary or the common.

Here is what I find interesting at this particular point: We are inundated in our culture with the different and we are almost commanded to acknowledge and “affirm” the different, yet when the Church talks about being “different”… we raise all kinds of objections and all of a sudden we want to be “common.” Go figure.

Human nature.

Holiness is about being set apart and there are times that may look different. God is the One who is truly “wholly other” so our call is to heed HIS direction. That may look different from time to time. Behavior may be different.

Holiness is about desire. God is wholly other… and he calls me to himself. Do I desire to listen to that command, or do I desire to keep being absorbed into what I know?

It is, without a doubt, a choice. It is a call. It is an invitation. But if I am to be with God I am called to HIS standards… and that means a choice. Do I desire HIM above all other desires in my life? Am I willing to lay all my life on the table before him so HE gets to make the call? If I am not willing, or if I am making excuses, then I am NOT “set apart” and he is NOT my God. It’s that simple.

It is PAINFUL to think of this, which is why we have moved away from words like “holiness” and “sacrifice” and “atonement.” We crave normalcy… and God calls us to a new normal.

Yet, this is the crux of where we are in discipleship. All that has come before in MULTIPLY has led us to this point. All that will follow has to flow from this foundation.

Am I set apart for God or not?

The Lord’s Name in Vain

As we journey through Exodus 19-24 this week our MULTIPLY reading, I am walking a bit more slowly through the 10 commandments. It is impossible to unpack that passage in one sermon, so I am jotting some thoughts down along the way this week to spur on more thinking.

What does it mean to NOT “take the Lord’s name in vain?” The NIV says  “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Through the time of deliverance God kept unfolding his name to Israel. As he “unpacked” the power of his name, it was important for Israel to keep recognizing Yahweh was the One who had delivered them. To not revere that fact was to “misuse” his name.

J.K. Bruckner in his commentary on Exodus said this:

This is a direct reference to remembering who had delivered them. God’s reputation was tied to God’s name in the exodus. Its “use” or “lifting up” in a positive way declared God’s works of grace and deliverance. To speak of the Lord after Sinai was also to declare that God’s laws were formative for the new community of faith. To speak of God without reference to the creating law and redeeming gospel could be a vain use of God’s name, that is, God’s reputation.

Remember who delivered you. Remember who redeemed you. Hold him holy. To use his name is to refer to HIM.

May my words truly reflect the holiness of my God!

The sex talk

When you preach through the Bible with a systematic style of having the text in front of you, those really tough places will pop up from time to time. Eventually, you get to passage you’d rather skip over.

1 Thess. 4 is one of those places. Paul won’t avoid it.

Neither should we.

And my question is just very, very simple: “As a follower of Jesus Christ, who I claim as my King, am I willing to have my whole being (and that means my sexuality) laid before him and allow him to command what is best for my life?”

It is my desire to leave it in that simplest phrasing, let the passage stay in front of me, and consider: “Am I truly living as wholly given over to my King?”

HIS will needs to matter, if I am his apprentice and HE is my master teacher. The world doesn’t get to dictate this matter to me any more if I am truly following him.

Leaving it in as simple terms as possible, my truly honest question is this: how do you walk this passage out in your life?

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality;that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thess. 4:1-8)