Another day. Another day closer to finishing work. Another day of completing tasks.
Tender written. Check.
European funding claim submitted. Check.
Supervision notes typed up. Check.
Lunch with one of my favourite youth workers in Inverness. Double check.
Ok, that last one was my fun reward for a productive morning. Because I couldn't very well leave Inverness without saying a long-and-slightly-sad farewell to a friend, colleague, and as he would say, 'fellow-worker-in-the-trenches', who I have had the privilege of getting to know well over these last 5 years.
As always, the conversation was encouraging, challenging and thought-provoking in equal measure.
And as I left to walk back to my offices, my heart was full of praise, and my lips were full of prayer, and the thoughts of my mind were on holiness.
And about how holiness isn't just about what you don't do.
Now, I had intended to just pop into the youth centre for a quick cup of tea, but like often happens, time escaped me, and I discovered (5 cups of tea, a cheeseburger and 2 hours later) that the wind had picked up. And it was super-balticly-bitterly cold (Remember, there's a reason my Scottish friends call me a 'cold tattie'…)
I had come partially prepared with hat, scarf and gloves.
However, I had come woefully neglectful of my feet. Because I was wearing some of the really tiny kawaii-type socks I brought in Japan this summer. Which are super cute. But are in absolutely no way able to provide any kind of foot-warmth in wind so cold it makes your eyes water and your tears freeze. 😉
It's only a 10 minute walk back to my office, but with 5 minutes to go I resorted to a Tesco-diversion in order to buy myself socks. Thick, stripy Christmas socks. Not quite as fashion-sensible with my outfit, but pure warmth and bliss to my feet… And I mean, when have I ever really been that fashion-sensible?! Warmth will always triumph over image!
And you know? With thick socks on my feet, hat firmly in place, gloves and scarf wrapped tight, I was fully prepared to go out into the cold. And actually enjoy the walk. Because nothing was missing.
Which got me thinking back to holiness.
And how holiness isn't just about what you don't do.
Because holiness is talked about all through the Bible. In the Old and New Testaments. God is holy. He identifies His character as holy. Completely and perfectly holy. And He calls His people, over and over again, He calls us, to be holy as He is holy.
It's this beautiful call. This call to whole-ness. To Christlikeness. To fulfillment. To obedience. To living forgiven and free. To receiving mercy. To living with Holy Spirit dwelling in us. To changing continually. To walking each day in poured out worship…
And yet so often, we minimise it to a man-made list of things we shouldn't do.
Which falls so terribly short of this beautiful call of God.
Seeing holiness in those human terms ties us in knots. Because of course, as genuine lovers of Yahweh, we want to hate sin and love righteousness, of course we want to war to be more like Jesus, of course we long to be pleasing to Him. But binding ourselves to the yoke of Jesus is the most liberating and exciting way to live life.
It's not a list, it's where we find fulfillment.
To be whole in holiness is to understand that it's a all-encompassing thing.
Holiness means that we belong to God. Literally. That we are set apart for Him. That in totality, we live in a way that is different from the world around us. That we live before an audience of One and know that His eyes of fire that see deeper than our public faces and into the depths of our heart motivations and private thoughts. We can't mock or deceive God. We can't impress Him.
Because when Jesus grabbed a hold of me, when I surrendered to Him, when I turned from my sin, He made me holy. He laid a claim on my life by the pouring out of His own priceless blood. He drank a cup of wrath with my name on it. But continuing to live in holiness is responding to that reality day by day, in every choice, in every thought. Acknowledging that we were brought with such a deep and great price and love for more than to simply carry on in our sin.
God calls us to be holy and to live pleasing to Him because of His deep love for us. Jesus desires us to yoke ourselves to Him because He knows our true rest and fulfillment is found there.
But holiness isn't just about what you don't do.
It's about what you do.
We, I included, can be so quick to fall into the trap of trying to earn God's approval. Of being motivated by the wrong things. Of having the genuine zeal of living to please God, but in reality reducing His great call for us to a mere list of what-not-to-do.
But we can never overcome sin that way. And we can never live free to please God that way.
Because we don't become holy by our human zeal. We become holy by hanging out with the One who is.
Giving Him everything. Spending time with Him.
Because holiness isn't just about what you don't do, it's about what you do.
We overcome our desire for sin by pressing into the greater desire of loving God with everything we are. We were created to worship. With everything. We were created to praise Him. Always. We were created to be living sacrifices. Completely. Our whole human nature and character were designed to be in a fully immersed relationship with our Creator. To be whole. To be holy.
And that means that I understand that His commands are not burdensome. They are liberating.
We see this so clearly in God's relationship with Israel in the Old Testament. Because in mind-blowing love and grace He called this nation to be His holy and chosen people. He gave them His instructions and blue-prints for living life in radical contrast to the world around them. But we know that at the exile, things had gone so far outside of the commands that Yahweh had given them. And here's the thing. When we read the prophetic books, two main sins are brought against Israel as the reason for their defeat. Again and again and again.
Idolatry. And injustice.
Not loving God. And not loving people.
The same things that Jesus brings it right back to.
And so this holiness that they were called to, that we are called to, was so much more than any one list of things to not do. It was about God desiring all of us. All. About Him being jealous for His bride and desiring our whole hearts, our complete minds and all of our strength. It was about Him wanting us to literally love others with lives poured out for them. No compromise.
To be holy.
When we make holiness a list alone, we make it something that condemns. Or something that we can get out of. You see this in how we read Leviticus. Because so many people read Leviticus (one of the greatest books on holiness) and say it doesn't apply to them because they don't, for example, have a beard to cut in a certain way, or own a field to leave their gleanings in for the poor, or any countless other single rules. But at it's core application, the call to be holy in Leviticus is about living lives pleasing to God. Wholly pleasing. Wholly given. Different from the world and in worship of no other than Yahweh. Noticeably different. Completely embracing of God's justice for others. It's so relevant it hurts.
List-type holiness leaves me feeling like a failure when I mess up. I try and try and try and when I fail I sit on the ground condemned and wallowing. Understanding the greater call to holiness means I know that I am instead living this life motivated by the love of the One who saved me, dwelling on the greater treasures of knowing Him, and running to Him when I fail and not away from Him. Do I mess up sometimes? Yes. Even when I try with everything, do I fail? Yes. Do I need to repent? Yes. Everyday. Truly. But I understand that real holiness is about the relationship. About the journey.
Because His eyes of fire see right into my heart.
And being holy does sometimes mean saying 'No' to one way of living in order to say 'Yes' to God.
But it also means actively loving God and others. Living holy means abiding in the Vine. Talking to Jesus. Standing in the gap. Worshipping in Spirit and truth. Mediating on the pure. Loving the vulnerable. Lifting up the oppressed. Serving our communities. Praying for the sick. Being bold in our evangelism. It's a wholeness thing.
It's a 'doing' thing.
It's a faith-displaying-itself-in-our-whole-lives thing.
A gift. And yet a gift that we get to partner with the Godhead in by submitting to His will for our lives and pressing into the fullness of all He has. Because He is moved by my weak love. I don't understand love like that, but I love Him so much because of it.
And I don't want to have a partial understanding of holiness which means my head's warm but my feet are like ice. I want to be totally wrapped up in grace, knowing that when Holy Spirit has consumed every part of me, He will be all I desire, the love of my heart, and the focus of my attention.
Did I say it's beautiful?
I really believe that true joy is found in holiness.
Because He is the true joy-giver.
And my prayer is that every single day, He will make me holier still. Letting go of yesterday's mistakes, to live differently. Yoked to Christ to walk in freedom. Rejoicing in a life surrendered to His will…
And that… Turned into an epic post!!
Sorry for the waffle!
To make up for it, here's an amusing picture of my sock comparison. 😉