I've been thinking about holiness a lot lately. The word literally just means to be different. Christians are to be different, separate in quality, from the way this world is run.
Have you noticed how we tend to mark our spirituality or holiness by how we are in comparison to other people? Even non-Christians do this. If you start talking about God, Jesus, and sin people tend to have this common response: "Well I haven't killed anyone. I'm a decent person, and I try to do the right thing" as if them "trying to do the right thing" should merit entrance to Heaven.
It really is a silly idea when you think about it. In response to utter perfection, the God of the entire Universe, the One who gave us a mind to think about right and wrong at all, we have told Him that we actually have something to offer Him. It's like letting someone borrow 20 bucks and them getting all excited, thinking they've earned it. Then, after they've paid you back, wanting some kind of congratulations or gratitude because they gave you what was yours in the first place.
But we can't even give God a cent back. We use the verse a lot that says "for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." But I'm not sure we always realize how big a deal this really is. God created us to love Him, obey Him, and stay in fellowship with Him. But every time we sin we tell Him, "I really don't like your way right now. My way is better." The very fact that God forgives any of us at all is a testament to His unlimited love and grace. To say we don't deserve forgiveness is a gross understatement.
When you understand how big of a deal sin is, you understand just how amazing grace is. Religion is doing good works to earn merit, but that's not Christianity. We're all totally lost and in the same boat, but Jesus came to bring us all forgiveness. There is no such thing as a good person outside of Christ.
Moving on to Christians, I tend to still think the way the world does about this. As long as I'm more active or faithful than the person next to me, I'm doing good. And if I have higher moral standards than the world around me, I'm doing really well. But God didn't just call me to become better, but new altogether.
This world has been completely ruined by sin. Our way of thinking and doing life is completely flawed. So, when we come into Christ, it is not an improvement He's after but an utter renewal. It is a complete tearing down of the ruin, and a rebuilding of what we were meant to be in the first place.
I wish I thought this way all the time. I'm amazed at some of the movies we allow ourselves to watch as Christians, or the amount of time we just completely waste on ourselves. We even have one holiday a year when (in the name of Jesus) we spend large quantities of money on an overflow of materialism. There's a load of other things that we accept as good in our culture that trickles into our standards as Christians.
Are we comparing ourselves to God, or to the world around us?
I mean, just think about one area alone. How much do we laugh at sin? Tons of TV shows (that are completely culturally acceptable) lay waste to God's name and proudly glorify sin as a source for laughter and entertainment.
How do we expect to save people from a devil's Hell when we laugh at the very things that send them there?
I'm not trying to be legalistic here. I'm not saying we need to be mean Christian nazis who constantly look down on others for their standards and actions. But we do need to look inwardly. What are we honestly basing our standards on? What in the Bible have we completely overlooked and excused away because we just don't want to deal with it?
Renewal isn't an easy thing, especially in our pleasure-centered culture. America is all about you. You deserve happiness. You deserve lots of money and a comfortable job. You deserve retirement. You deserve a pretty spouse, and if they aren't pleasing you, you deserve to get a new one. Life is about you.
But this stands in complete contradiction to the Bible. Life isn't about us. It's about God. We're not even close to being the point. The Bible is not about people being saved. It's about God's name being glorified, and He is good. He is the point of life, and we are so privileged to enter into Him, to be friends with Him.
What in our lives is comfortable, but not holy? In what way have we been comparing ourselves to others, instead of looking up? What does pursuing holiness look like in our culture? If we're trying to be like Jesus, what needs to be removed from our lives? What do we need to be practicing?
2 days ago