Beautiful for God’s sake

Eugene Peterson, in his memoirs, The Pastor, tells of the year of no Christmas tree, 1939, when he was 7 years old. His mom, a Christian who pursued a holy life, read an obscure passage in Jeremiah that warned of cutting down a tree and decorating it with gold (Jeremiah 10:3-4). She missed the context, which was about making idols and too literally took the words as forbidding the family to put up their Christmas tree.  Much later in life she tried to apologize for her ‘silliness.’  While Peterson acknowledges the absurdity of that Christmas year, he concludes that even his mother’s poor Scripture interpretation helped him to appreciate that God’s story of redemption, His entry into His Creation, to die and save those He has made. The story defies our understanding even as it changes us from sinners to saints!

Are you, Christian friend, a holy person, living a life that is distinctly different because of His love? Are you grappling with what it means to belong to Him, even at the risk of occasionally lapsing into the silly or superficial, but always desiring to love Him, about all else? 

God, by the work of His Holy Spirit has brought us new life. We no longer are slaves to lust, greed, or hatred. We are graced to be loving, contented, and joyful. But, there are choices to be made – everyday – that allows the work of God to be accomplished in us. Christians sometimes confuse the issue by thinking that keeping a moral code is the same thing as actually being holy.  

Raised in a holiness church, I was forbidden to enjoy any ‘worldly’ entertainment, to let profane words into my speech, to go to places that were ‘ungodly.’ The evils of alcohol and tobacco and ‘rock and roll’ were etched into my mind as if those prohibitions were part of the 10 Commandments! I mistakenly thought that I was saving myself through by “being good,” which meant keeping the rules. As with all who think that way, I was plagued with a sense of shame, knowing the gap between my inner thoughts and my outer conformity to the ‘code.’ 

Maturity brought me to a place where I understood that it is God’s grace makes us holy!  We are not holy because we avoid certain places, don’t curse, or manage to be a ‘good Christian’ in appearance. We are being made holy by Christ Jesus who lives in us. Real holiness is beautiful, visible in big and small ways in us. God invites us to live intimately with Him – “…we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:15-18, NIV)

I see an amazing grace, an absurdity even, in the Bible’s story of David. This man who gave us the worship songs of Psalms, who led Israel to be God’s own people, was also a bloody warrior, an adulterer, a murderer, and a miserable failure as a father. Yet, God loved him and worked in him. Is that an excuse for sin. Not at all, but it should humble us enough to seek His transformation, to see the possibility of being His holy person in spite of our personal flaws.

Peter urges us to let God’s life fully develop in us. We actively pursue Him.  “Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls. Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world.” (1 Peter 2:11-12, NLT)

Oh may God help us to live in a way that reveals His goodness and love in true devotion. I pray that He will keep us from forming a defensive shield, an exclusively holy huddle that does not allow us to be the ‘salt and light’ in this world that Jesus desires.  In same breath, I pray that He will make us distinctively His, preserving us from compromise with the ungodly values and ways of ‘the world.’   

The key thing is to seek to know and intimacy with God that fills us with wisdom to know His will and an obedience that causes us to walk in His way.  I pray the beautiful words of Isaiah that the Spirit of the Lord will  “provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.” (Isaiah 61:3, NIV)  Ah, this is the heart of holiness.

Here’s a word from the Word to ponder today. “I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign LORD will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch.” (Isaiah 61:10-62:1, NIV)


Goodness Of God

I love You Lord
Oh Your mercy never fails me
All my days
I’ve been held in Your hands
From the moment that I wake up
Until I lay my head
I will sing of the goodness of God

All my life You have been faithful
All my life You have been so so good
With every breath that I am able
I will sing of the goodness of God

I love Your voice
You have led me through the fire
In darkest night
You are close like no other
I’ve known You as a father
I’ve known You as a friend
I have lived in the goodness of God

Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me
With my life laid down

I’m surrendered now
I give You everything
Your goodness is running after
It’s running after me

Ben Fielding | Brian Johnson | Ed Cash | Jason Ingram | Jenn Johnson
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