Truly holy, or just religiously weird?

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The faith I embrace is full of promise, a powerfully transformative messagesometimes. I have seen Jesus’ Gospel make a mean man into a gentle Dad, turn a hopeless woman into a purposeful person, bring freedom to addicts, sobriety to alcoholics, restore broken marriages, cause people to leave lucrative careers for places of lesser service …  What is Jesus doing in you, through you?  Are you different because of Christ in you? Has He made you distinctive, a stand-out in our world?

In Jesus’ amazing prayer of the night before the Cross His words reveal His desire for us. “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:15-19, NIV)  He wants God to ‘sanctify’ us as we live in this present age. That word is a prayer we will understand our destiny is found when we realize that we are “selected for a special purpose, consecrated for God’s use.”   When we receive the invitation to faith in Christ, the Spirit makes us alive to Him, to Truth. That truth teaches how to sort out the conflicting messages that come our way, gives us the ability to see beyond time to eternity so we will stay on course. He makes us different;  loving when others hate, at peace when others fight, living by God’s will rather than our own.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about that ‘different.’

Some define it like the guy who wrote the book about trying to live by every word of the Bible. In his attempt to literally transfer every word into the 21st century he did strange things like throwing stones at his friend who was in an adulterous relationship because that what he read in Leviticus. My fundamentalist upbringing led me to understand ‘holiness’ in some ways that just made me unreasonably weird. It was not the Spirit that was ‘sanctifying’ me for God’s purposes, it was a set of rules written to govern behavior. Paul calls this out as ‘legalism’ and reminds us that if we try to live the Christian life by writing endless lists of rules, we are not free; we are slaves. The beauty of the life of Christ in us never attained by that kind of ‘holiness.’

At the other end of the spectrum, there are those who have lost the whole idea of being ‘sanctified’ to a desire to fit into the culture, to be ‘relevant.’  An inordinate need to be ‘accepted’ robs such people of the distinctiveness of Christ’s call. Yes, we need to be able to speak to the world that we live in, to be able to communicate the hope of Christ in a way that it can be understood, but if, in the process, we become so enmeshed in that world that we love the same things, say the same things, sing the same songs, and make the same choices –  the Gospel’s ability to transform is lost! A insipid faith that cannot muster the courage to speak truth, that ‘conforms to the world’ in which it being expressed, is surely not what Jesus calls you and me to live.

We are to be people of the Spirit, who enjoy a lively conversation with Him that shapes us into wise, winsome, whole people in whom the beauty of Jesus is clearly evident.  People of the Spirit are humble, not arrogant. They do not have a need to condemn or criticize. They are truly different but not in weird, graceless ways. Like Jesus they will be offensive and attractive at the same time.  The world hated Jesus because His life and love exposed their emptiness and challenged their pretensions. Yet, they could not ignore Him, destroy Him, or marginalize Him.  When we are living ‘in the Truth’ we will be much the same; misfits, but yet able to effect change.

Here is a word from the Word. I have chosen to bring it to you from The Message, with the hope that the language will grab your attention, make you long to be fully alive to the Spirit.

“Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. … It stands to reason, doesn’t it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he’ll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!” (Romans 8:5-11, The Message)

Let’s be different – not weirdly, but Spiritually!

___________________

All My Hope

(a great song by David Crowder)

I’ve been held by the Savior
I’ve felt fire from above
I’ve been down to the river\
I ain’t the same a prodigal returned 

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)

 I’m no stranger to prison
I’ve worn shackles and chains
But I’ve been freed and forgiven
And I’m not going back I’ll never be the same
That’s why I sing

All my hope is in Jesus
Thank God that yesterday’s gone
(Yes) All my sins are forgiven
(Oh I’ve) I’ve been washed by the blood
(Come on and sing)

David Crowder | Ed Cash
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