Yesterday, I published my review of John Eldredge’s The Utter Relief of Holiness. I wrote about some positives of the book and a couple negatives, but I didn’t really touch on the “take-away” regarding holiness.
I want to do that now.
In the book, John shows a very appealing side to pursuing holiness, or maybe more correctly, makes an appealing case for embracing what the Father is trying to do in you. That work he started at the cross, that work he continued in your regeneration and that work he will eventually finish in you as the Author and Finisher of your faith, a part of that is Holiness. God wants to make you both whole and Holy, and from John’s point of view, you can’t get one without the other.
I want to focus on the two things that are appealing when it comes to Holiness.
First, as described in his book: Holiness should be an utter relief.
As John says in the book, “What would life be like if I never even struggled with this again?”. Think about that. If you never struggled with raging anger again. If you never felt that urge again to eat out of compulsion or for comfort, or to bring the bottle to your lips to “calm yourself”, or to look at porn or visit a strip club so you could get a “release”… wouldn’t that be an utter relief?
Wouldn’t having all the broken areas in your life restored, made whole and holy be an absolute relief?
Wouldn’t that be a breath of the freshest, most life-giving air possible?
Yes, my friends. Yes it would.
I have definitely experienced a taste of what this is like in my own personal struggle with porn and sexuality. There was a time when I felt compelled to turn to myself and find my own ways of pleasure, instead of looking to the Father to complete me and help me turn my desire into good and solely for my wife. There was a time when I struggled with looking at other women, I dreaded going to work every day knowing how some of my coworkers dressed (even in a “professional environment”) or how my customers might dress. I avoided movies and everything out of fear that I would see a pair of naked breasts or some ass and then fall into sin once again. I would be full of guilt and condemnation.
But something changed.
Through a few good men in my life, even through some of John Eldredge’s writings, I began to learn to turn to the Father in those instances. And in my time with the Father, I began to learn that I am not my sin. I came to a place where I realized I had a choice. I am not a victim. I can choose to go down one road or another. I am not predestined to be a “porn addict” or whatever label people, mostly religious, would like to throw on me. I have had much of what was broken in that area of my life come to restoration; wholeness.
Do I have temptation in this area? A little. But now, it is a different game altogether. I don’t struggle with it. I have a choice. If I happen to see a pair of breasts on the big screen now, I don’t have to “lust” over it and I don’t freak out mentally when it happens. I don’t have to let it affect me. Should I then go watch porn or nc-17 movies just because? No. I’m just saying that the struggle is, for all intents and purposes, gone. I do not feel the chains of bondage anymore. As an example, the other night I watched the movie “We’re The Millers”, and in it Jennifer Aniston does a stripper routine for a Mexican drug lord in an auto-mech shop to “prove” she was a stripper and not a suburb-living mom. Is she attractive? Absolutely. I personally think Jennifer Aniston is more attractive now than when she was back in her “Friends” days. Seriously. I didn’t watch a lot of that show when it was popular anyways, but since it has gone into syndication, you can’t escape that show, it’s everywhere, like Seinfeld. Where am I going with this? Well, the scene didn’t affect me like you think it might have. No fantasies about her, nothing. She looked good, yes. But I didn’t take her anywhere in my mind or heart. And I wasn’t afraid that I’d fall into sin, either.
And that, my friends, is an utter relief.
This wholeness that I’ve experienced where I am now is a reason that I can’t stand to be a part of “accountability” groups online or at a church. I was invited a couple of months ago to join one on Facebook, which I did for a little bit, just to see if I could be a help. It’s just not for me anymore. I was reminded quite clearly why, exactly, I don’t like “accountability” groups. There is too much fear of falling into sin, too much self-condemnation, self-loathing and guilt, and honestly, too much religious bull-shitting going on. Too much reliance on external guards as ways of keeping themselves out of sin, instead of manning up and taking responsibilities for their choices and looking to the Father for healing and guidance out of that pit.
If I were to bring this up or if I were to bring up where I am and how the struggle doesn’t affect me, it’s not readily accepted. How do I know? I’ve been there before.
The take-away here: God wants you whole and holy. He wants to restore you, it can happen, it does happen and that is an absolute relief.
Second: Holiness should be attractive.
The holiness that Jesus demonstrated to the masses was extremely attractive. The crowds drew to him like flies to a light. The only ones that his holiness actually repelled were the religious.
My friend Phil Drysdale, just put this up as his status update over in FB-land:
Consider the types of people that wanted to hang out with Jesus.Sinners
Political ActivistsDo those type of people want to hang out with you?
Think about it.
To the woman caught in adultery. Jesus says to her, “I don’t condemn you. Go and sin no more.” The religious wanted to crush her skull with stones! Not Jesus.
Jesus hangs around the despised of society and they flock to him. He isn’t even bothered. Not once is he drawn into sin. Yet nowadays, we have sermon after sermon after bloody sermon from the pulpit telling the congregation (but we know they are really targeting the young people) to “be careful who your friends are” or “be careful who you hang out with” because, after all, “bad company corrupts good character”…
To the woman at the well, a woman quite who had been through a handful of marriages and currently living, as modern christians would call it, “in sin” with a man who isn’t her husband, Jesus isn’t even tempted. And she is drawn to Him.
Women, this question is for you. How safe would you feel around a strong and kind man, one who exercises meekness, maybe even a little bit attractive, but at the same time, you know this man has no alternative motives to bed you down, he has your best interests at heart and his only concern is helping you become to best you that you can be? Now, reverse that, for you to be around a man, and no one question your motives?
Isn’t that attractive? ZAP! Right? Like a fly to a light!
Men, how would that feel to you? To be able to be around a woman, even if she is available (and maybe she even has a “reputation”), and if people were to see you together, not a single man nor woman, not even your wife, who approached you would dare ask you, “What are you doing?”? Because they knew, they knew, that you were good. Or, for your wife to be around a man and their isn’t a trace of suspicion or even a thought that the man might be attracted or make a move on your wife. How would that feel, to know such a man? To be such a man?
John 4:27 And at this point His disciples came, and they marveled that He talked with a woman; yet no one said, “What do You seek?” or, “Why are You talking with her?”
Well, I don’t know about you, but to me that kind of Holiness is extremely attractive. It’s a lot better than the faux-holiness walking around now-a-days spouting off about what they don’t watch, don’t drink, don’t touch, don’t taste, don’t do, etc. …
An attraction and a relief.
So, what do I think about holiness?
Well, I definitely agree that God wants us whole and holy and that he purposes to make us that way. Holiness should be a relief, it should be attractive.
Like others, I see Holiness as both a process and a way of being. What I mean is this: when you are saved, when you are regenerated in Christ. You are made holy. (I can feel the feathers ruffling at this…no we’re not Tom! We’re bad! Bad! Bad!) Your heart is recreated, you are a new creation in Christ. As you progress in life, as you allow your Good Father, to lead you, instruct you, guide you and love you, heal you, and restore you – you begin to produce fruit. Some of these fruit are touched on in Scripture, we know them as the “fruit of the Spirit”. I personally believe that Holiness is among them. Any fruit of the Spirit that is produced in your life is a Holy fruit. It isn’t tainted if it is of the Spirit. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a fruit of the Spirit, now would it?
One way we come to embrace what God is done, is being transformed by the renewing of our minds, thinking and believing differently than we had before. Gee, that sounds like a familiar scripture. Without the renewal of our mind, I believe the process of what God wants to accomplish in your life is hindered a bit.
A lot of things, practically all things – I’ve come to understand – that we hold onto regarding God are filtered by our point of view of Him, even when we “back it up with Scripture”. Now, I’m not saying that there isn’t an absolute truth and that all things are relative. What I am saying is that our point of view of the Truth and especially of who God is can, will and does impact how we perceive and respond to the Truth and to what God wants to accomplish in us. Our point of view comes from what we have learned in life through schooling, experiences in life, joys, successes, failures, disappointments and heart breaks. Like it or not, even if you are theologically trained, much of how you embrace God deep down on a personal level is going to be based on your own personal point of view of God.
An easy example: viewing God as a good father, The Good Father.
Bare with me, I might draw a little bit of an exaggerated picture here, but the point remains.
Now, a lot of kids grow up with dead-beat dads, dads that weren’t there, dads who abandoned them, dads that were present but checked out, dads that abused them mentally, physically, etc. You get the point. When a man or woman who has had one of these fathers, comes to the Saving Grace in Jesus, a lot of them have a hard time coming to terms with God as The Good Father. Jesus is good, kind of a cool older brother, the Holy Spirit is good, but God the Father…mmm, we’ll just stick with Jesus.
If you have a hard time viewing God as a Good Father, or even experiencing this, it will affect how you view christianity as a whole and every topic in it, including holiness.
Keeping with the Good Father example. Someone who has not had the best father, might have an easier time believing that Jesus was God the Father’s whipping boy who stood between little old worthless you and the mean ogre-like God and took the beating that his younger brother couldn’t take. Now, a lot of people will rise up and say, “But Tom, he did take the wrath that was meant for me!” Wait a minute. Why not look at this from the point of view of a loving Father? Christ is the Father, after all. What good father wouldn’t lay down his life and endure as much as he could to save the lives of his children?
So it is with holiness. If you believe that God “tolerates” you and that you need to “look busy” and make sure to stay the hell out-of-the-way of Big Daddy God’s Freight Train of Wrath … you might have a hard time accepting that your Good Father wants to restore you, heal you, take you under his wing and show you the family business and give you a part to play in it.
I believe that the Cross demonstrated our value in the eyes of God our Father.
The Cross changed and corrected so much.
Can you see how certain things can mess with your beliefs and point of view?
What are your thoughts on holiness?