The Traveller’s Rest- Wholly Holy.

Be Good and if you cannot be good Be Careful.

I love it when a friend says something that gets me thinking. That something may be something simple or even a throw-away comment but it begins a time of contemplation, meditation and mind searching from the trails of that one phrase. I particularly love to try and think outside the box of the norm. This week in a Facebook conversation my friend Ben Mueller from Toxteth brought our conversation to a close by saying “imagine if Holiness would feel like Holiness.” It could have been one of those parting phrases that missed me but that simple phrase caught my attention. What is Holiness? And from our interpretation of that word, what would it feel like? Are we there already or do we have to do something about it? So I started a bit of imagining as Ben said. Holiness never sounds like a fun word. i think that is because it is shrouded in baggage that preachers and the church have put around it. It has become a word that is unfortunately related to the thought of what we should not be doing. That we should avoid worldliness and the appearance of evil at all costs. That being holy is related to being good. That we should not be caught in the cinema when Jesus returns or play ‘devils’ cards or do the washing on a Sunday or watch TV that has swearing in it or listen to music that has a rock beat. I have heard all of these things used as examples of holy living. Being holy means going to church on Sundays, reading the Bible, not going to the pub or drinking alcohol and definitely not dating a non believer. We must act different, be different, think differently, speak differently, after all we are aliens just passing through this sphere called earth. Being holy must be about separating ourselves out of the world stuff and building safe counter-culture worlds where we can be protected from the tainting stuff this world has to offer. None of this is holiness. It is cultural, some of it cultural garbage, that has created in the past a bunch of killjoy rules that can even lead to punishment and criticism if we are found straying into any of this stuff. This whole interpretation has it’s roots in the wrong tree. This stems from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Tree of Life. So if it has nothing to with what I can and cannot do what has it got to do with?

Be Holy as I am Holy.

If it is not a moral code what is holiness? The terms holy or holiness (qadoshhagios) mean to be set apart or dedicated to. So who does the setting apart and what are we dedicated to? The Old Testament accounts are about a Nation set apart for God. Built into this was a religious system of sacrifice and activity that supposedly made the Nation different. Temple worship was designated as the outworking of a holy life. Sacrifices made that created a holiness, rules to abide by and centralisation of living that focused on the place of worship. This system failed to create holiness, the people were holy before the system began. All the religious garbage they chose because they did not want to live as if it was as simple as just being set apart by God. They were to be a kingdom of priests, all chosen, all set apart, embracing of all peoples, all Nations but unique. They wanted rules, leaders, structures, kings, priests, to be like the Nations around them but not like them. God obliged by giving them hierarchy, I believe to reveal to them what a bad choice the system was. It failed but we continue all these centuries later to be satisfied with a failed system thinking serving the machine makes us holy. How wrong we are. Going to a church building does not make me any more holy than going to a rock concert. Reading the Bible does not make me any more holy than reading the N.M.E. An act of prayer does not make me any more holy than watching T.V. I cannot make myself holy because I already am.

Uniquely me.

The sacrifice of Christ accomplished what systems could not and never will. It set Jesus apart so we could be set apart. He was unique so I could be unique. He showed a different way to  religion and Temple and sacrifice. He became the Way so we could live in the Way. His demonstration of love shouted down the line ‘you are set apart, you are dedicated, not because of what you do or don’t do, what you accept or don’t accept, not how you live or don’t live, but because God set you apart for His pleasure.’ To walk in this may lead to separation in some ways because the church and other systems of the world shout out conform to us all. They want to give us uniforms and rules and guidelines to abide and live by. Things that would define us as good Christians. This could not be further from holiness than we could imagine. We are set apart. We are unique. What defines me does not define you, but God set me apart to be me with His dedication running all through me whether I realise it or not. Holiness is walking unbeaten paths, holiness is discovery and adventure, holiness is adventure and laughter, holiness is doing stuff that others would not want to touch. Holiness is the ultimate expression of living the creativity that has been placed within us all.

Feel So Real

So how does holiness feel? It feels releasing, it feels freeing, it feels like redemption, salvation, hope, joy, peace. It feels like the world is before us to discover our own personal adventure. It gives us permission to be real and live. It does not feel like routine or habit, it feels like every day is a new day of opportunity. There are no rules but living loved and loving. Centralised religious systems cannot control us which can lead to isolation but we will feel the breeze of connectivity with others set apart. We will realise that all humanity is holy is some way, all unique, all set apart, all dedicated, and we will see glimpses of the Divine in the ordinary. We will not judge by moral living but by unique creativity. If holiness would feel like holiness we would all be free to be ourselves. How liberating and exciting would that be? We would not be hung up on whether somebody swears or drinks or gets it wrong, but we would rejoice in humanity living life to the full. What does holiness feel like? Maybe I am feeling holiness right now. In fact I know I am because without doing anything I am set apart by Him, for Him, to Him. Now that feels good.

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5 thoughts on “The Traveller’s Rest- Wholly Holy.

  1. Geoff Reed

    Hey Paul that was cracking, even though I knew what you were sharing it was so exciting to hear it said again. Loved where you are coming from mate!

    Reply
  2. John Matthews

    Hi Paul, I kind of think of holiness much like sports training. All things are permissible to an athlete but not all things are expedient or helpful to him/her. Or put another way, they do not participate in certain behaviours so as to maximize their opportunity to win the prize.

    We are certainly set apart (holy) without doing anything, yet by participating in certain behaviours and avoiding others, we train ourselves to be ready to extraordinary things like taking down evil (e.g. Goliath, Gadarene demoniac, boy tormented by evil and thrown into the fire, etc.) that perhaps we couldn’t do if we participate in all things.

    Reply
    1. pleader05 Post author

      Hi John, good to hear from you.
      Surely we can do the extraordinary because of who we are in Him? Recognising our ‘set apart’ ness. The Bible is full of stories of people who were a mess and at times moral failures but they walked in the fullness of their identity not in their failures. Abraham, Jacob, Samson, Elijah, David all were ‘holy’ or ‘set apart’. They established the Kingdom of God and took down evil by walking in that. Holiness is not something we get better at because we train or do the religious exercises, because of Christ we are. Now life becomes an expression of that because of love and walking with Him, but it is an expression of heart not a strive to be. When Jesus said ‘Be holy’ was He not speaking into being like when He said ‘Light be.’ Not a request but creative declaration. It cannot be a case of jump because if it is how high do we jump? Is 30 mins prayer a day enough? 10 chapters of the Bible? Or just awakening to identity? Bringing it back to the sports analogy, some people are naturally talented sportsmen and women. They can turn up to a game and knock people out of the park without any training. They are annoying but the talent is part of their DNA. When we wake up to our DNA in Him the expression of Him through us is as natural as breathing. Annoying to the religious who want to lay down the rules but our DNA expresses itself naturally in love. As I said just pondering this whole subject. As one who struggled with the whole discipline stuff all my Christian life and failed at the standards set on me by others, I find this liberating thinking. Much blessing my friend, Paul.

      Reply
      1. John Matthews

        Paul, I think we may be talking about two different things. While I would completely agree that this is not about 30 mins prayer per day or 10 chapters of the Bible being enough, there is still something to appropriate by disciplining ourselves to be most effective. For sure it definitely is not about being accepted by God and also that it is ultimately Jesus’ sacrifice that makes us holy,but there is so much said by him (parable of talents, parable of virgins and oil in lamps, “this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting”, etc.) and Paul (training to obtain the prize, all things are not expedient, don’t associate with “brothers” who are immoral, etc.) that compels us to press on for more. Even the bible characters you referenced, while definitely messy people, had to make conscious decisions to expect and walk in the more in their lives.

        I suppose I am trying to address a passivity that I observe in much of the body of Christ that applies a finished work worldview to their daily life and avoids accountability for actively continuing in the process of growing up into Christ. We have dialogued on this before and my sense is that this is a both/and issue. We are fully holy because of what Jesus has done AND we press on to grow up into him to be more effective representatives on him on earth. This is not about meeting the expectations of any human being or systems/hierarchies created by men/women but co-operating with heaven that we might possess the fullness of our birthright.

        God’s best to you, John.

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