By: Joe Stowell, Strength for the Journey
“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.” Leviticus 19:2
All of us who have kids have been guilty of ending an argument about why they should or shouldn’t do something with the conversation stopper: “Because I said so.” The reply is powerful because it has an edge to it. There are times when God is edgy with us. We’d like to stand there and argue with Him, but He keeps saying things like, “Because I said so” or “You be holy, because I am holy.” His call to holiness in our lives has that edgy sound.
In the Old Testament, when God wanted to bring that kind of holy edge to His people, He showed up in a place called the temple. God’s holiness came from another world and engaged with yours and mine. Jesus’ birth was a holy invasion—it came with an edge—from another place, another world, another reality. It cut through pretense by coming as a peasant baby born in a stable surrounded by sheep and goats. It cut into religious and political agendas by displaying genuine humility as a way to power. It sliced through the stuffy, hot air of classicism by first announcing His arrival to lowly shepherds working the third shift outside the city limits. It carved away centuries of religious oppression and hypocrisy by showing the power of quiet innocence. Holiness in God’s terms has an edge.
And it’s not only edgy in its essence; it’s also edgy in its demands. Because we represent Him, we are called to live with a holy edge. To live with a holy edge means to live differently—to make daily choices that square with God’s holiness; to stand for right in a wrong-headed culture; to preserve honesty, justice, and integrity no matter what. It means to replace greed with generosity and to forgive the cruelest offense. To serve others instead of ourselves, and to use our power to bless others instead of using it to advance our own agendas. It’s that kind of edgy living that makes a huge statement about the distinct difference that a holy God makes in our world.
When God first spoke to His people through Moses, He told them to live in and enjoy the land He had promised to them. But they were to live with a holy edge. They were to live differently than their pagan counterparts, uniquely reflecting the Holy difference of the true and living God.
Don’t lose your edge! Holiness sets you wonderfully apart in an increasingly unholy world. It’s no wonder that He said we should be holy because He is holy!
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
There is a practical holiness without which we will not see the Lord. Many live as if this were not so.
There are professing Christians who live such unholy lives that they will hear Jesus’s dreadful words, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew 7:23). Paul says to professing believers, “If you live according to the flesh you will die” (Romans 8:13).
So, there is a holiness without which no one will see the Lord. And learning to fight for holiness by faith in future grace is supremely important.
There is another way to pursue holiness that backfires and leads to death. Paul warns us against serving God any other way than by faith in his enabling grace. God is not “served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). Any effort to serve God that does not, in that very act, depend on him as the reward of our hearts and the power of our service, will dishonor him as a needy pagan god.
Peter describes the alternative to such self-reliant service of God, “Whoever serves, [let him do so] as one who serves by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11). And Paul says, “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me” (Romans 15:18; see also 1 Corinthians 15:10).
Moment by moment, grace arrives to enable us to do “every good work” that God appoints for us. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
The fight for good works is a fight to believe the promises of future grace.
Should We Seek Holiness or Happiness?
DECEMBER 12, 2018
“How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways!” Psalm 128:1 (HCSB)
All my life I’ve wanted to be happy, but I felt low-grade guilt over seeking happiness. Weren’t Christians just supposed to strive to be holy, not happy?
For too long, I believed the lie that joy was godly and spiritual, and happiness was shallow and selfish. But as I kept walking with Jesus, I came to understand that seeking to follow God and seeking happiness can go hand-in-hand.
There’s nothing in the Bible that separates the concept of joy and happiness — they have the same meaning according to the original languages of Scripture. God tells us repeatedly in His Word to be happy. Commands such as “rejoice,” “be of good cheer,” and “give thanks” are all ways of telling us to be happy.
God designed us to seek happiness in Him and to want the source of our happiness to be in Him. As a woman of God, I now believe we should seek Holy Happiness.
As I continued studying Scripture in light of the truth that God’s commands for us are a recipe for happiness, I discovered that happiness in our lives is directly connected to two things: our connection with Him and others, and our contentment. As I focused on the quality of my connections and leaned into contentment, I found my happiness.
We find this reminder in Psalm 128:1, “How happy is everyone who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways!”
And I discovered that by adding small, simple habits in my life, I became a little happier every day. I’ve found these three things help build happiness:
Focus on gratitude.
At the end of every day, I ask my boys what their three wins for the day are. I ask them in this way because when I tried to ask my sons what they were grateful for each day, they looked at me like I had three heads.
But when I ask my boys what their wins are, I trick them into practicing the discipline of gratitude with me! By looking for the wins, they identify things that are good, and those are the things they are grateful for.
This practice of gratitude is not just for the boys, but for their momma, too!
Find your Battle Buddies.
A friend told me that in the Army, they have something called “battle buddies.” A battle buddy is someone who supports you and looks out for you in and out of battle.
Don’t we all need a couple of great battle buddies on our journey with us?
Just as a blacksmith will use metal on metal to form it for its intended purpose, God will use certain people in our lives to sharpen and mold us into who He is making us to be. (Proverbs 27:17)
Identify your battle buddies who look out for you, encourage you, and are there for you when life looks more like a battlefield than we’d like!
Talk to yourself in a manner worthy of you.