Wednesday, August 17, 2011


"He's....different." (Said while twirling hands over head in motion that indicates the kid doesn't think or function like others.)

This is a line from one of my family's favorite movies, Fantastic Mr. Fox. It is spoken in reference to Mr. Fox's young son, Ash. It's also a frequent quote used around our house, adopted like so many other movie one-liners into our Kendall-ese vocabulary.

On Sunday mornings at Grace, we have just begun working through a study by J.I. Packer - Rediscovering Holiness. Nope, we're not talking about the holiness of God here. We're talking about your holiness and my holiness - our personal holiness as followers of Christ. Packer makes the point early in this book that while the church once valued and stressed the importance of personal holiness, it has in more modern times gradually given up its emphasis on holiness, focusing instead on emotional experience and a consuming interest in end-times prophecy.

We have become just another group of fans in an enormous stadium, instead of the players sweating it out on the field. We look just like the world around us, to our detriment and to theirs.


In working through this past week's lesson, a couple of thoughts came to mind. For starters, I think we have become so enamored with the idea that "God is love" that we have almost completely forgotten the truth that "God is holy." We live under grace, right, and it doesn't matter how we live, as long as we aren't grossly immoral - Christ covers all that, right? I heard a hit song on a contemporary Christian radio station that expressed it thus: "God loves you just the way you are." WRONG. God loves you in spite of the way you are, and He loves you enough to begin the difficult, often painful work of transforming you (and me) into something truly lovely, the likeness of our elder brother Christ.

Then for some of us, there is often a kind of "letting go" in this journey of sanctification. We know that we possess no holiness in and of ourselves, that only God can transform us and infuse us with the holiness He requires. If that is true, then what part do we play? We adopt the attitude, "I can't do anything to make myself holy, so I'll just 'let go and let God.' It's all up to Him anyway." That, my friend, is one of those perverse distortions of truth that takes something very right and transforms it into something very wrong.

Sanctification, by God's grace, is a synergistic process. Yes, He initiates and works out this transformation by His Spirit. But He doesn't leave us like corpses floating on the scummy sea of life, pushed about by His tide or another. No, He breathes life into us, gives us a direction, and then teaches us - commands us - to swim.

But maybe, like me, you protest, "I know I can't be holy in this life, no matter how hard I try. Everything I do will be tainted with sin. I will only be truly holy when I am glorified in heaven. So, why should I even try?"

My Sunday School teacher, Tim Williams, must have been reading my thoughts. "We can't be perfect in this life...that won't happen. But we do have to be different."

Tim's comment got me to thinking about all the times Scripture refers to the people of God as holy, meaning set apart/different. The Old Testament sacrifices were not perfect -they were set apart. The people of Israel were not perfect - they were set apart, called to be different. The Apostles were not perfect - they were called out. Different.

What made them different? The presence of God, the presence of Christ, the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives...God working out in them the holiness He commanded.

Suddenly, this terrifying call to holiness seemed a tiny bit less scary.

Christ is with me, today, really and practically. Speaking to me through Scripture, interceding for me in heaven, nudging and correcting and strengthening me through His Holy Spirit.

No, today I will not be perfect. But today, I can be different. One choice, one attitude, one action...first steps toward holiness.

Yes, I can come down out of the bleachers and onto the field.

Today, let it be true of me: "She's...different."

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