Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The Pursuit of Holiness?

Most Christians will have heard a song made popular by the group Sonic Flood. The chorus goes like this:

"Holiness, holiness is what I long for.
Holiness is what I need.
Holiness is what you want for me."

Not a bad song as far as modern worship songs go, and the sentiment is touching and challenging with the goal of being holy and pleasing before God something I think all battle-worn Christians can relate to. The thing is I was recently reminded of the supremacy of my pursuing a relationship with Christ and not a methodology or status - even a holy one.

Having struggled with a few issues in my life for quite a few years I've recently seem some great advancements and 'victories' in my battles. The end of the battle though, seems to bring its own frustrations as old enemies just refuse to let go. This past week I had been searching hard and praying for any unknown little things which, being unresolved, may be the key to my beating these interminable enemies once and for all. As I sought God on whatever I might need to deal with I passage of Scripture came to mind. "My grace is sufficient for you" - Paul's received answer to his questioning God about his own 'thorn'. Almost shockingly I felt I heard God ask,

"What if I told you you would never, in this life, be free of this fault, what then?"
"What then? What do you mean what then? If this thing persisted then...", and my brain raced through various options.
"I'd be sinful!"
"You expect to be other than that in this life?"
"But you couldn't use me!"
"I already have."
"'s wrong to be sinful."
"It is, but you had nothing to do with being sinful, just with committing sins.
"But isn't part of your goal for me to be holy and not sinful?"
"Yes, but that's my job. "
"But...I don't like being this way!"

That 'I' started to ring in my ears. Somehow, in a weird turn of events, I had managed to become more focused on MY holiness instead of God. Yes, holiness is a good thing. Yes, desiring to be perfect is a good thing. Yes, the end of my sin is a good thing - but just like any other number of good things, they aren't very good when I love them more than God. In some way I had come to love my being holy more than God.

I started to think back upon my prayer times and my reading. So many times they had been devoted to seeking new ways to make myself more holy. "God make me this," "God take away that," so many of my prayers had been self-centered. "How to overcome this," "Breaking free from that", those were the aims that had directed me when I read through books and many times searched the Scriptures. Again, they were focused on me and my attaining holiness.

Now I'd better stop and clarify something. At this point I think I'm in danger of making it sound as though I was feeling a bit 'told off'. The truth is that I didn't feel that way at all. God wasn't shouting at me in any way, it just felt as though He was trying to get my attention. It was almost as though He'd been watching me search and struggle like a child trying to find the things and put on the clothes that ultimately would make him more acceptable to be with his dad - and along the way thinking that he looked very nice indeed!

Right then it occurred to me that my relationship with God isn't about holiness, it's about love. It's about His love for me - learning about it, realising it and experiencing it, and learning how to love Him back. Holiness? I still want holiness, I do long for it, and trying to behave in a way that is holy is as precious as children who try to do the things that would please their parents. However, holiness is what God is and it's what we'll inevitably start to become as we move closer to Him. As much as I hate my sin and struggles and want them out of the way, moving them out of the way isn't my job. My job is simple. Love God.

It takes faith, because I have to trust God to move them, but then I realise, God would rather have grubby children close enough for Him to clean, than ones who spend more time hung-up on getting clean than hanging around and off Him!