Pursue peace will all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:14)
If the slogan of our American society has to do with pursuing what makes us happy, then why are so many people still disillusioned with life? Why is it that when we set out to chase what we believe will make us happy, we feel as though we are chasing after the wind? The Bible tells us it’s because we are doing just that: chasing the wind (Ecc. 2:11). I remember how I couldn’t wait to get my license when I turned sixteen. I was so ready to obtain the freedom and legal right to drive a car of my own, believing I would achieve happiness once I received it. I was excited for about a week until that flame flickered out. But isn’t that what we do? We think, well, once I get married, when I have kids, buy my own house, get that great job, or win the lottery, THEN I will find true happiness. The truth is, when we spend our strength pursuing happiness on our terms, we are investing in a lifetime of disappointment.
We were created, fashioned and formed to pursue holiness. I’m not talking about our typical idea of this ball and chain religion where we attempt to stay off the naughty list and do just enough to make those around us believe we are good Christian people. For Christians, holiness is not about maintaining a perfect resume or position, but it is the pursuit of a person. Deep down we are all wired to go after something with our all, to be utterly fascinated and consumed, living with something to die for. I’m simply saying that this something is a someone—Jesus Christ, the Holy One, our Creator (Col. 1:15-16). Pursuing holiness is our personal expression of love for Him that overflows in response to experiencing His holy love for us. It’s less about us and more about Him, and accepting the invitation to walk near to Him and to experience all He is. This requires us to allow Him in the door of our hearts and cooperate with His Holy Spirit as He passionately conforms our lives to His Word and His ways.
…all things were created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)
Holiness is very much a relational word emphasizing the gap between God and man, along with our purpose and need for redemption. In fact, the Hebrew word for “holy” is “qadowsh” or “qadosh” which means brightness or separatedness. It is the fundamental quality of God that emphasizes the uniqueness of His nature and all His attributes – His love, wisdom, power and so forth – these are all holy aspects of God that are incomparable to any other being. He alone is the standard, the sole definition of something such as love.
Our God is holy, completely pure and transcendent, dwelling in unapproachable light, yet He draws near to us. He yearns to dwell with us in all His glory (Jn. 17:24). He has the highest quality of life, and He wants to share it with us forever! The entire Bible is telling the story of how the One holy God relentlessly pursues and progressively reveals Himself to fallen humans, for the sake of love and relationship. That’s why He had a salvation plan. How can the holy God share His holy life with His unholy creation without violating His nature? He justly purchased our righteousness (our legal position) by way of the cross and He offers it to us free of charge. Still, He invites us to pursue holiness that we might experience the reality of this truth in our present living condition. We don’t earn holiness, we choose it. In other words, the finished work of the cross did not excuse us from living holy but rather made a way for the Holy One to be pursued and known; freeing us from the requirement of perfection according to the law and giving us the privilege of pursuit according to love. It no longer means we have to be holy to earn salvation but we get to be holy because of salvation, for the sake of His glory. Our holiness, therefore, is a reflection of His holiness as we draw near to Him.
He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love… (Eph. 1:4)
…but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…(1 Pet. 1:16)
The pursuit of holiness and complete obedience to God must be fueled by the love and fear of God, both working together like the pedals of a car. The love of God being the gas pedal that presses us forward, and the fear of God being the brake that helps us stop before we drive into compromise. Without His love, we burn out while going nowhere. Without the fear of God, we become reckless putting ourselves and others around us in danger. We need to earnestly ask Him to give us both of these. We were created to reach a destination! Don’t gaze in the rear view mirror for too long (your past), but only use it as a reference point to see where you are at, to learn from your mistakes and to thank God for all He has done. Be careful who you open your doors to, and always drive under the influence of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
There is something far more noble and fulfilling than the American Dream, and it is becoming the dream of the Father; a holy people belonging completely to Him. I long for the day when ‘just enough’ Christianity is nowhere to be found. We must wake up from the swaying cradle of western Christianity that tells us to live on the edges of a religious system to see how much we can get away with and still call ourselves Christians. I’m convinced that there is a generation arising who is done with lukewarm, cruise-control Christianity. If I understand the words of Christ correctly, we are either ALL in or we are NOT in (Mark 8:34-37). There is no in between. He didn’t die to make us happy, He died to make us holy, and when we get this, we will find happiness. Happiness is a side-effect of pursuing holiness.
Practical holy living is only legalism if we see it as a means of attaining salvation or a “higher-position” in God’s sight. On the contrary, practical holy living does not earn us anything relating to our salvation or eternal status, for we are “seated with Christ” by grace through faith (Eph. 1-2). Neither does this mean our decisions to continue or not continue in sin don’t matter. Rather, our lifestyle choices begin to reflect our new position, thus as a means of experiencing more of our relationship with Him.
I want to highlight 7 areas we can practically pursue holiness:
- Our eyes – what are we looking at?
- Our ears – what are we listening to?
- Our mouths – what are we talking about?
- Our hands – what are we giving our time, energy and money to?
- Our feet – what environments are we placing ourselves in?
- Our minds – what are we thinking about?
- Our hearts – what are we giving our affection to?
…in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…(Phil. 2:15)
You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created. (Rev. 4:11)
All things were created through Him and for Him. (Col. 1:16)
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matt. 5:48)
Blessed (Happy) are the pure in heart for they shall see God. (Matt. 5:8)