When I think of holiness, I think of my grandma Heaston. She’s been in full-time ministry for over 75 years. My parents visited her house recently and recorded her doing her nightly routine. As she sat in the chair beside her bed she sang all the old hymns that had carried her through life, one after another. She then prayed for each of her grand children. At this stage, her mind is now set on her heavenly home. Jesus is everything to her. You might think she’s a rule enforcer, and a grouch from having to live within the boundaries of her religious convictions. Actually, she’s quite happy. If she gets a chance she’s quick to tell a funny joke or story. Her heart and mind are at peace.
We know she’s holy because we’ve heard her pray. Hearing her pray we know she’s intimately familiar with the practice. Everyone around experiences the rush of being drawn into God’s presence just by listening to her connect with God.
We think about grandma Heaston in our day, and we lump her in with a generation of Christians from long ago. We categorize them as saints, an elite class, when life was simpler, when there was no internet, or social media, a time when there was less education and cultural sophistication. There wasn’t much to do at all except go to church back then, so bored out of their gourds that’s what they did. We would have done the same just to stay sane. Holiness was easy in the good old days, so we think. We know the simple days are long gone. So for us, holiness is optional. Jesus’s death and resurrection are not, but holiness is. It’s like ordering a hamburger at McDonald’s. You can special order a burger without pickles, and we can order our Christian life without the restrictions of holiness.
The reason I believe this is because we’ve lost the understanding and beauty of the word. It makes us cringe instead of warming our heart. Holiness makes us think about frowning, no makeup, no fun, no joy, fasting, isolating ourselves, loneliness, and misery. For many John the Baptist comes to mind – living in the wilderness, wearing animals skins, and eating locusts. It’s time to rescue this word from misuse.
Holiness means “set apart.” It means we’re not like the world. We don’t think, live, believe, and behave like everyone else. When everyone else is doing it we don’t because we’re set apart. We are not forcing ourselves to live this way, but are actually compelled by the Holy Spirit living in us.
Strangely enough, what we thought would ruin our lives, becomes a source of joy. The more we grow in holiness the happier we become. We are drawing closer in fellowship with God, feeding our minds on things that are pure and wholesome. Our consciences are not bogged down with shame, and our time isn’t wasted on empty pursuits. Instead, we focus on what matters most. Jesus said in John 15:10-11, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
How can we pursue a holy life? I’m going to focus on that in my next few blog posts. Stay tuned.