Chapter 3 – Uncomfortable Holiness

From the book: “Uncomfortable: The Awkward and Essential Challenge of Christian Community” by Brett McCracken

  • The Core of Holiness

From Relational Holiness by Thomas Jay Oord and Michael Lodahl

“When you love others, you complete what the law has been after all along… When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” (Romans 13:8-10, The Message)

Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians identifies these factors of holiness as not being the whole but only contributing factors of holiness. The core of holiness is love, which motivates each of the contributing factors.

“The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash – along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant – dog dung. (Purity & Cleanliness) I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules (Rules & Regulations) when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ – God’s righteousness.

I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally, (Set Apart and Separation) experience his resurrection power, be a partner in his suffering, and go all the way with him to death itself. If there was any way to get in on the resurrection from the dead, I wanted to do it.

I’m not saying that I have this all together,  that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, (Being Perfect) but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, (Total Commitment) God will clear your blurred vision – you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.” (Philippians 3:7-16 – MSG)

  • The Challenge Facing Every Christian.

“In my efforts to avoid legalism, I abused Christian liberty. Because who wants to be prudish or lumped in with the hypocritical, holier-than-thou evangelicals so despised by society?

But as uncomfortable as it is to embrace holiness and be noticeably different in the way we live in the world, it is essential for our vocation as people of God.” (pg. 58)

Even King Solomon understood the challenge and advocated for balance.

“In this meaningless life of mine I have seen both of these: the righteous perishing in their righteousness, and the wicked living long in their wickedness. Do not be over-righteous, neither be overwise – why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool – why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, NIV)

Our pursuit of holiness is an act of worship, a response of thankfulness to God’s love and grace.

We are called to a similar mission as the Apostle Paul. God told him:

“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” (Acts 26:7-18, NIV)

In telling Paul, “I will rescue you from your own people…” God informs Paul that he is going to be different and will not conform to the current culture. In response, it is from Paul’s experiences that he tells those in Rome:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2, NIV)

Not conforming to the world will make us different. If we have nothing different to offer, why would anyone consider joining us? However, if we totally separate from the culture, we have no impact either. The author refers to this middle approach as Engaged Alienation.

Engaged Alienation is a Christianity that preserves the distinctiveness of the Gospel while not retreating from our callings as neighbors, and friends, and citizens. (p. 62)

  • The Obsession With Failure.

In sports like soccer or lacrosse, the first shooting mistake players tend to make is remembering the last miss. Why is this a problem? Your mind is not on the present but on the past. To make the present shot, you must be in the present.

The second mistake is looking at the goalie when they shoot instead of looking at where they want to shoot the ball. Why is this a problem? Because you hit what you are looking at. Instead of looking at the goalie, you look where you want to shoot.

The same goes for holiness. Don’t focus on your past sins; they have been forgiven. Don’t concentrate on present temptations; that just brings them more to your attention. Rather, focus on the love of God, the love of self, and the love of one’s neighbor. (1 John 4:19)

  • Are You Growing or Dying?

You only have two options: growth or death. You don’t get to stay the same because everything changes. Businesses, relationships, and the human soul never stay the same. They are either growing, or they’re dying.

In his letter to the Hebrews, the author tells them that without growth; they become unskilled in righteousness.

“In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:12-14, NIV)

‘… the mature … have trained themselves …’ Peter addresses this in his second letter to the Jewish exiles.

“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7, NIV)

This is not self-induced growth but growth enabled by the Holy Spirit with our active cooperation and participation. We can’t do it alone, but we must expend some effort.

“To believe in a change that favors self-denial over self-actualization, to suggest that holiness is more authentic than brokenness, and to assert that all of this is liberating rather than stifling… in the eyes of many, these are the first among a long list of Christianity’s uncomfortable but stubbornly essential truths. (pg. 68)

We are called to holiness as witnesses to those who are lost.

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1 Peter 2:12, NIV)

It all comes down to the fact that “We cannot give the world what we do not have.” (pg. 61)

Similar Posts