Church and the Call to Holiness

As an imperfect human, I struggle at times with the call to holiness. We, as Christians, are being sanctified through the sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 10:14). I Peter (along with many other Scriptures), reminds us that as those following Christ we have a call to holy conduct while on this earth. We are called in Scripture to be set apart, to be holy while still on this earth. We are not just waiting for a heavenly change. We are living the reality of holiness here.

At times, however, I don’t live the reality of being separated for God’s honor and service. I want to have things go my way rather than God’s. Often it is because I am being impatient, wanting an answer quicker than God is providing one. At other times, I struggle because God’s plan doesn’t seem logical to me. I can’t imagine how His answer or path could possibly lead to success. Then I realize that I am defining success by human (earthly) standards.

Seeking holiness means listening to God through His Word and letting Him truly be the author of the story of my life. John 14:17 reminds us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us and will guide and teach us. II Timothy 3:16 tells us that the Scriptures are breathed out by God and should be our guide. In Hebrews 1:1-2, we are reminded that God spoke to us through His Son. We have the necessary answers for our life if we choose to hear them.

This same call for holiness goes out to churches, not just individuals. And the same temptations are present for churches and those in leadership positions. At times, a church may try to take or stop an action, wanting things to go “their way” or a particular leader’s way rather than prayerfully seeking a vision from God or hearing God’s vision through someone He chose to speak and work through. At times we may prefer the comfortable rather than the unknown. We may want the status quo rather than the distinction of stepping out to be set apart.

Sometimes, as a church, we also tend to define holiness by our own standards rather than God’s. All through Scripture, God has shown us that He is a God of surprises. When His people start to feel comfortable and “in charge” in our own routines, His call moves His people into the unexpected, into a new place or a new routine, or with unexpected people in our midst.

Our call to holiness means we must be willing, as individuals and a church, to let God be in charge. Let God upset our routines. Let God speak to us through the unexpected voices—the hesitant Moses, the youthful David, the forgiven David, the changed Paul, the fishermen, the women at the well, the tax collectors, the children, the lepers, the widow with only a mite. Remember all of those in Scripture whom He called to leave the expected, the comfortable, and the familiar. He asks us to trust Him as He unsettles us with plans that only He could dream of.

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Did I … ?

“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love?’ These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will be many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” (Henri Nouwen)

So many times, I hear people say, “But I can’t do more.” That’s because we are picturing “more” in terms of some type of job or production with hours of planning followed by physically straining and emotionally draining tasks that take us away from families or careers. Oh, how little we trust God’s love. God is not our drill sergeant. God is not a bullying boss who uses us to work in cruel conditions for little compensation. God is love.

Yes, some people are called to ministry and that requires a lifetime of planning and work and giving and serving. Some people are called to coordinate the entire VBS project. Some people are called to plan the preschool curriculum. But they are called in love and blessed by love in return. God equips those whom He calls so that they may face the tasks while being held up by His strength and patience and love and joy.

So what about the rest of us? Can we say we can’t do more? Look back at the opening quote. We are called to love. We are called to forgive. We are called to smile at the stressed workers at the fast food counter and find something nice to say to them. We are called to invite the grieving neighbor over for a meal. We are called to visit the young, scared mother in the hospital as she sits by her child’s bedside. We are called to write a note of encouragement to someone or call and pray with someone over the phone. We are called to give the ministry team a break from time to time and fill in where needed. We are called to bring food for the youth group. We are called to be the helper in a children’s class. We are called to many things.

But God calls us to these moments with the assurance that He will equip us with the resources and strength needed. And we will know that we are bringing the love of God to others, while being loved by God as we serve.

The miracle of God is that He loves us during all of the times that we do nothing. He loves us while we are making a thousand excuses for why we can’t do something. If we open our eyes to the needs of those around us, doing something will not necessarily require lots of time or energy. God will show us ways that we can show more love every single day.

At the times in my life when I merely “got through the day” thinking I could do no more, I missed out on the chance to walk with God and allow Him to bring His joy and peace and love to me more fully. On the days when I ask God to show me how to serve Him, He blesses me richly with His presence and His love and joy.