Strange and Set Apart

When I was in elementary school, I attended VBS at our church. As was typical of most Baptist churches in the 80’s, snacks consisted of Ritz crackers and the ever-present Kool-Aid, which we were never permitted to drink. Being far ahead of the trend, my mom sought to feed us organic food, avoiding chemicals and additives. Consequently, we didn’t eat artificial dyes or excessive sugar. As the kids filed into the fellowship hall and sat down for our snacks, I was excited to see that our row was receiving bright-colored snow-cones. Unfortunately, my mom had navigated our snack prior to our sitting down and offered us orange juice snow-cones instead. I don’t know how my brother felt, but fielding the constant questions and peculiar looks–“why is yours a different color than everyone else’s?”–made me embarrassed. I stood out from the crowd and not in a good way. I just felt weird.

As an adult with children of my own, I see the value of what my mom tried to accomplish and I’m grateful for how she guarded what went into our bodies (and minds too).  I didn’t understand the necessity as a child though. Seeking community and friendships, I didn’t want to appear like the freak. I wanted to blend in and find my niche with everyone else.

Christ calls us to find our niche within community but not at the sacrifice of blending in with the crowd. We are to remain set apart and unique.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. ~ I Peter 2:9

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. ~Romans 12:2

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own. ~I Cor. 6:19

Holiness isn’t about checking off my to-do and thou-shall-not lists; holiness is about the heart. Holiness requires complete devotion to One God; there’s no room for idols. However, we shouldn’t see it as a burden, but a blessing. A way to align ourselves with God’s plans, knowing that His way is the only way to peace and joy.

“Not only is holiness the goal of your redemption, it is necessary for your redemption. Now before you sound the legalist alarm, tie me up by my own moral bootstraps, and feed my carcass to the Galatians, we should see what Scripture has to say. . . . It’s the consistent and frequent teaching of the Bible that those whose lives are marked by habitual ungodliness will not go to heaven. To find acquittal from God on the last day there must be evidence flowing out of us that grace has flowed into us.” ( Kevin DeYoung, The Hole in Our Holiness 26)

“It’s all too easy to turn the fight of faith into sanctification-by-checklist. Take care of a few bad habits, develop a couple good ones, and you’re set. But a moral checklist doesn’t take into consideration the idols of the hearts. It may not even have the gospel as part of the equation. And inevitably, checklist spirituality is highly selective. So you end up feeling successful at sanctification because you stayed away from drugs, lost weight, served at the soup kitchen, and renounced Styrofoam. But you’ve ignored gentleness, humility, joy, and sexual purity.” (34)

To run hard after holiness is another way of running hard after God.” (123)

Holiness requires us to honestly ask the questions:

  • Who–or what–am I seeking first?

  • Am I growing in the Lord or stagnating over the years?

  • Do I act out of my own power or rely on Him and His ways to make a difference?

  • Does anything about me seem alien to this world or do I blend in a little too well with the culture around me?

  • Do I desire the things of man or am I stuck in pleasing people?

  • Do I delight in righteousness? 

“Holiness, as taught in the Scriptures, is not based upon knowledge on our part. Rather, it is based upon the resurrected Christ in-dwelling us and changing us into His likeness.” ~A.W. Tozer

“If you don’t delight in the fact that your Father is holy, holy, holy, then you are spiritually dead. You may be in a church. You may go to a Christian school. But if there is no delight in your soul for the holiness of God, you don’t know God. You don’t love God. You’re out of touch with God. You’re asleep to his character.” ~R.C. Sproul

Take time to seek the Holy Spirit, for apart from him, we are acting in legalistic strokes of effort. His work in us, plus our heart’s yielding ‘yes’, propels us forward down the path of sanctification.

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. ~Col. 3:1-2

 

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