Genuine Holiness: Serving God & Staying True to Yourself

By: Captain AmyJo Ferguson, O’Fallon (MO) Worship & Community Center

ImageThe usual Christian approach to purity involves this sort of heaping on of the good while eschewing the bad.  If I can listen to the right music, watch the right shows, read the right books, and do the right things while simultaneously avoiding all the wrong stuff, I’ll somehow attain some level of purity.  I suppose this works out pretty well if one really enjoys the Gaither Vocal Band, Lifetime original movies, Janette Oke, and scrapbooking, because those are the things that the church has deemed “pure and right.”

We probably take this approach from the many “Garbage In/Garbage Out” sermons and devotionals that we were exposed to in the late 80s and early 90s.  We use verses like Philippians 4: 8 (“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”) to justify our “try harder” theology.   We keep believing that one day we will be holy enough to vote Republican. I recall one particularly trying time when the party I was traveling with decided to listen to the same two worship CDs over and over again on a six hour journey.  These CDs featured 10 two or three minute songs first with vocals and then again without vocals.  I found myself praying for some sort of temporary deafness as the two adults in the front seat sang, “Ha la la la la la la hallelujah” for the 3rd time.  As they began the 4th time through and I didn’t enjoy it any more than the 1st, I began thinking, “Is there something wrong with me?”

There are people like me who vote a mixed political ticket, love the Ramones, adore Kurt Vonnegut and Lawren Harris and worship Chris with our whole heart, yet we struggle with the church’s idea of holiness.  We are supposed to “be like Jesus” even though Jesus never dealt with a computer, radio or television.  We are supposed to fully consecrate ourselves to Christ and to act in his service.  How does that work out in a two party system where all too often the choice seemingly comes down to morally straight or socially responsible?   I’m afraid that the reason why a whole bunch of people have given up on this holiness thing is that they feel trapped between the church sanctioned ideas of purity and their own sense of good taste and ideology.  Churches are full of “followers of Christ” who in frustration have given up on actually following Christ and that problem extends beyond just the music we listen to and the books that we read.

At this point, some pastors would suggest that we “surrender it all.” I would rather suggest this: Stop pursuing some preconceived notion of righteousness and go on a whole-hearted pursuit of God.  Romans 9: 30 – 32 “What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone.”  Jesus never really fit into the accepted norms of his day, perhaps the most holy of us don’t exactly fit in either.

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