Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Heart Food: Holiness

"Therefore [since we have been privileged with the Gospel], prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when jesus Christ revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"
---1 Peter 1:13-16

1 Peter is SO GOOD.  It's just packed with cool stuff.  Here Peter says three things--to prepare your mind for action, , to be self-controlled, and to set your hope where it should be.  It seems that all of these things have to do with being holy, something he calls us to at the end of the paragraph.

In order to actually do it, actually live a holy life, I need to prepare my mind.  My actions flow out of my mind, what I think and the values I've embraced, whether consciously or unconsciously.  If I've prepared my mind in advance, I won't have to stop and think about what to do in many situations.  It will be ingrained there so I can act.  No hesitation.  A huge part of that preparation is reading God's Word.  David said "I have hidden your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you" (Psalm 119:11).  So we can understand that hiding God's word in our hearts, which I take to mean reading, meditating on, memorizing, and loving, will keep us from sin.  It makes sense to me.  I know it works that way with many things.  For an example, let's look at eating healthfully.  I want to do it.  I know that it's a good thing, but I don't always do it.  When I'm around others that make it a priority or I read a book or blog about healthy eating, I'm filled with inspiration and I can't wait to get started.  This week I've been reading such a book, and today I had Greek yogurt for breakfast and packed cucumbers and hummus for a snack at work.  Sure, I could do it without the book, but it becomes such an effort.  Instead of being automatic, I have to force myself.  There's not as much joy.  And with sinning, and living a holy life, we can't even hope to do it on our own or force ourselves to do it!  We could force ourselves to adhere to certain rules or standards, but that's not holiness, that's legalism.  It's only through Christ that we can truly live a holy life.

Then there's the self-control bit.  I know that self-control is important, but it's not my favorite fruit of the spirit.  I much prefer love or patience or joy.  Self-control...well I'm not so great at that.  If I feel like some chocolate I make up a big glass of chocolate milk (side note: I just read that humans don't register liquid calories the way they do solid ones; so strange!).  I'll decide to get up early to get stuff done or exercise and then will actually get up around eleven.  Self-control is something I should definitely work on.  Part of being holy is staying pure.  I don't just mean that in an abstinence kind of way.  Purity is part of your whole life.  It's being free from evil and corruption.  It's walking in God's ways and saying no to my own selfish desires.  Without self-control I give in because it's easier and because I want what I want.  I know it won't be easy, but thankfully "I can do all this through him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13).  

Finally, I need to set my hope on the grace of Christ.  I think I often set my hope on other things, especially in myself and my own abilities.  I feel like through my own experience I can land a job to support myself.  I build a life plan based on what I can do for myself and what I think I can realistically accomplish.  If i study hard and learn other languages then I can get a job as a flight attendent or work with exchange students.  If I have experience teaching I can land a good ESL job.  If I'm good at making coffee, I can work at a cafe or get hired as a barista on a cruise ship.  While that is kind of true, there's so much more to it than that.  If I look back on my life, the story it tells is different.  

I know that God had a hand in every job I've gotten.  I had the credentials to get hired as an English teacher after graduation, but I struggled at first.  During the first couple months I felt like I was doing a bad job in some of the group classes.  I had trouble reading the students, picking topics they enjoyed and getting the to talk.  I really prayed, begging God to help me.  I didn't know what to do, but he did. After several more months I was able to run effective classes and have fun at the same time.  And I know it was nothing I did.  Then when I moved back to the US, I had no coffee experience but was hired at the Cafe anyway.  I gained valuable experience that helped me get my current job...right?  Well, I'm sure my experience helped some, but the way I've gotten my jobs showed me that it was all God and nothing I could do.  I applied for many, many, many coffee jobs here.  I have experience in coffee, restaurants, and interacting with people so I figured it would be easy.  But no.  When I was finally hired at my current cafe, due to some bizarre circumstances. She called me because she didn't know what else to do.  Then the library.  When I applied for the shelver position initially, I figured I'd be a good candidate because I worked in my college library for four years.  But I didn't get the job.  It wasn't until more than a month later that they called me back and offered me a job.  That clearly was God opening the door for me.  Clearly I can come up with all the plans I want but God is the one who makes things happen.  I want to learn to pin all my hopes on him.  In these I'm talking about a jobs, but we must pin our hopes on him in every situation.  And most important of all, he is our hope for salvation and true life.  Amazing!

Holiness isn't that popular of a subject these days.  I think it comes with the connotation of being stuck-up or self-righteous or the "holier-than-thou" stuff.  But we can't ignore the fact that the Bible has called to holiness.  It's not something I understand easily.  What does it mean to be holy while still being a sinner?  If not, then why has God called us to the impossible.  There's so much more to learn and study, but that's the exciting part.

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