This week I continue to process what holiness means, what it looks like in daily life. My thoughts and reflections swirl around James 4:4, and the biblical truth it contains:  to know what is right to do, and not do it, is sin.  In this instance, James is talking about the sin of omission.  

The process of pondering this concept is eroding my tendency to procrastinate; this is a really good thing!  I am staying organized, productive, and on top of things. The result is that I have an ongoing sense of rightness deep within me, along with a gentle joy of simply living life - something that is truly foreign to me. Until now, my life has been characterized, unfortunately, by procrastination:  putting off doing now what I know I need to do.  Certainly this has not always been the case, but there has been a significant amount of procrastination in my lifetime - an embarrasingly large amount of it.

This shift away from procrastination, which is nothing more than an assertion of my own will, toward doing the right thing in the moment, an act of surrender to the will of God, is a sign of the transformative work God is doing in me. As I ponder this shift in my will, as I notice that I truly desire to do the right thing in the moment, I discover that I am in a dance with God.  His Spirit nudges me to do something, and I do it; as I do the right thing, I am living in holiness, I am living a holy life.  In the dance metaphor, God leads, and I follow.  This concept is deceptively simple, because it is deeply profound.

This surrender to God in the moment is the essence of holiness, of living a holy life. It requires that I accept the lordship of Jesus Christ, in that as his Spirit directs me to do something, I do it.  As a Christian, I am a follower of Jesus Christ; as Paul frequently confessed in his letters, so I, too, am a bondservant of Christ.  I have been bought with a price; my life is no longer my own.  Thus, not my will, but God's will is my daily prayer.

This dance of holiness is an intrigueing concept to me.  It can happen only by the transforming work of the Holy Spirit within me, who is working daily to conform me into the image of Christ - who was obedient to his Father's will, even unto death. The amazing thing about this dance is that, by surrendering my will to the will of my Lord, I gain peace, joy, freedom from guilt (gulit that comes from knowing the right thing to do and not doing it)... and discover a deepening intimacy between me and my Lord.  And it is this deepening intimacy that I am most hungry for.

This dance is not complicated:  I notice the little thing that God is nudging me to do, and I willingly choose to do it.  Quite simple, really.  And yet these simply little acts of surrender, of following the lead of my Lord, brings me the deepest satisfaction and contentment my heart has ever known.

This process of living a holy life is nothing more, really, than doing what is right, and not doing what is wrong.  It is a moral life.  And in this life of doing what is right, my daily life becomes an example in the world of the goodness of my God, who is always holy, who always does what is good and right.

God invites me to dance with him daily - to willingly surrender my will to his lead, and he asks me to follow.  In essence, he transforms my will from what I want to what He wants for me.  So, I'm not even surrendering my will, really.  I'm simply asserting my will to choose God's way of living.  

I am learning to truly love this way of living... dancing with God.

This week God has been talking with me about the essence of holiness.  He has taken me to several passages of scripture that, when considered together, reveal an imporant insight about holiness.

I've often asked, what does a holy life look like?  We tend to use biblical and theological terms quite readily in our conversations with other believers, but I wonder if we truly understand the meaning of those terms and concepts. Holiness is one of those terms for me.

Thankfully, God has given me some insight this week about the meaning of holiness.  Here are the most central points from a long conversation I had with God about this topic today in my journaling:

  • Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin (James 4:17, NRSV).  We can deduce from this verse that the opposite could be stated as, "When we do the right thing, we are without sin." Being "without sin" is a way to describe being holy.
  • In Ephesians 1:4, being holy and blameless are linked together. The essence of "blameless" is "to be without sin."  In Christ, we are seen by the Father as blameless, because Christ has paid the price for all of our sin - past, present and future.
  • ... as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct... for it is written "You shall be holy, for I am holy (1 Pet 1:15-16, NRSV).  When this verse is read in light of James 4:17, it seems that the way in which to be holy, as God is holy, is to do the right thing.

But then Romans 7:14-24 comes to mind:  I do the thing I don't want to do, or in my case, much of the time I don't do that which I know is right to do; it is the sin of omission rather than comission.  It can all seem rather hopeless. . .unless I ask the Holy Spirit to change my heart, mind and will.  I love to pray David's prayer, found in Psalm 51:10:  Create in me a clean heart o God, and renew a right spirit within me.  This prayer never fails to bring about a transformation in my heart and will, and I find myself willing to do what is right, wanting to do the thing that, just a few moments ealier, I did not want to do.

For me, this whole issue of doing what is right is a counterpunch to procrastination. For various known and unknown reasons, I have developed over my lifetime a habit of procrastination.  During any given day, I find myself saying in my mind, "I will do that later," or "not now."  I have been stunned recently to discover just how often this line of thinking occurs.  The tasks at hand can be large or small, it doesn't seem to matter. What does matter, I've come to see, is the attitude of my heart, for a heart that consistently resists doing the right thing is a rebellious heart.

What I have discovered this week is that procrastination is the opposite of surrender to God.  When I sense little nudges from the Holy Spirit to do something, and I respond with "not now," I am asserting my will over God's will for me in that moment, and thus revealing the rebellion that is lodged in my heart.  This was a startingly realization.  (I expect some would disagree with me; however, I know this to be true for me.)

God, in his great mercy, grace and love, is gradually addressing procrastination in my life, and he is doing it in a way that leaves me feeling free from shame and guilt over all of the right things I have not done during my lifetime that I could have done; it reflects a tremendous waste of time. Additionally, as God is changing my heart and my will about this issue, I am being transformed; I find myself tackling the incidious chaos that seems to develop around the edges of my life, and at times seeks to overwhelm me.

Amazingly, when I do the right thing, in the moment when the Holy Spirit nudges me, I find a deep sense of order emerging within me and in my tangilbe world. Tasks are getting done; things are in their place.  There is a deep sense of order and rightness that leads me to a place of peace, freedom from guilt, and joy.  I can breathe deeply and easily because I know that I am doing the right thing. And in this place of freedom, I sense a deepening intimacy with my Lord.

Truly, his yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).

 

I have spent a lot of time recently listening to God speak to me through my journaling. The focus has been a call to dig deeper into scripture. So... I've been digging!

I continue to marvel at how God speaks to me through scripture. Two days ago he took me to 2 Kings 12:1-12. . . not a passage I have often read, nor would I expect to find in it a message applicable to my own life!  However, as I read through the passage, certain verses popped out at me, and I noticed a quickening of my spirit within.  It seemed there was a message for me in those verses!  I sat quietly to see if anything definitive would surface.  As I listened, I sensed there was a hint of a promise from God to me.  I will let that promise sit loosely in my hand, trusting that if it is indeed from God, he will fulfill it in his time.

As I continued to ponder this passage, I noticed that King Jehoash asked the priests in the temple to use some of the money that came into the temple to repair the house of the Lord.  And yet, (apparently) years later, nothing had been done.*  So, the king took the job away from the priests and gave it to workers with the necessary skills to complete the necessary repairs. And he ordered some of the money that came into the temple to be given to those workers.

In light of this passage, I understood from a different perspective that in post-resurrection times, the "house of the Lord" is each believer.  The presence of Jesus Christ, in the form of his Holy Spirit, resides within each of us; we are the "house of the Lord."

For the past few months, God has been speaking to me more about the call to ministry that he has given me.  The essence of this passage serves as a confirmation of my call, and has shed new light on what that ministry is: as a spiritual director and spiritual mentor, my ministry is one of rebuilding the house of the Lord, one believer at a time.  I am called to walk with others as they seek deeper intimacy with God, and thus grow toward spiritual maturity.  I was touched by the specificity of this passage to my ministry, and loved receiving a new perspective on this work that I do.  I now see myself as a carpenter - one who works in partnership with God to rebuild that which has been damaged by the hardships of life and that which has been inflicted upon us by the enemy our our souls. Additionally, according to this passage, I trust that God will provide appropriate income to meet my needs from other sources as I engage in a ministry that does not bring in an income.

God can and will speak to us through his word about any issue in our lives, if we will simply listen.  We do this by spending time in the word regularly, with an open heart, asking the Lord to speak to us as we read. He never fails to speak to me through his word when I ask him to do so - and sometimes he speaks even when I am not expecting it.

He is an amazing God!

 

*Scripture is not clear how many years transpired.