Yesterday I re-posted something I’d seen on social media that read: “Sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead.” This was of some significance to me, because I’ll be honest – I’ve struggled with this idea that I could be a bad person, or a bad Christian, because of the mistakes that I have or continue to make. Now, most of this is based on the notion that “good” is the standard to strive for, but the closer I get to the Lord and the deeper He’s taking me, the more He’s exposing the bigger picture.
It was curious to me, too, because a newly-made but dear friend has been talking a lot about grace lately. Given the fact that I just met her officially for the first time last week, and God started stirring this in me around the same time, it seemed more than coincidental. So after some prayer, I reached out to her to meet up and pick her brain.
It was, of course, a wonderful time of fellowship and conversation, and I had so much fun just freely talking to another girl about the amazing works of the Lord (this Philippians 4:8 thing is becoming pretty practical these days), but the most striking thing God revealed to me in regards to this particular facet of where I am in my faith walk actually came out of my own mouth.
She was talking about the subject of grace and the striving to be good that entangles most of us, and she commented something to the effect of “The one thing that I want my kids to know is that they’ll never be ‘good.’” Now, I’m sure she knows she’ll have good children – great even – what she means is the legalistic slaving over the law that Romans 8:28 says we’ll never live up to.
At some point, I said (out of nowhere, and even to my own revelation) “Being good and being Holy are two different beasts.” Huh.
So based on that, I want to build on the quote I introduced in the beginning, because God is really showing me the differences between good and holy, as well as bad and sin. My version: Sin doesn’t make you bad, it makes you dead; and Holiness doesn’t make you good, it makes you alive.
Now, I can’t make a claim like that without back up, because if you think about it it’s kind of a big deal. So this morning, I took off into Scripture to find support for this, and I’m even more intrigued and convinced by what I’ve found in His Word.
In all my striving to be a “good” Christian, or at least not be a bad one, I can’t believe I missed Matthew 19:16-17. “Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.’”
THERE IS ONLY ONE WHO IS GOOD. Jesus Christ is the only truly good person who ever lived. He said if you want to enter life, to obey the commandments (note: He did not say ‘become a slave to’ or ‘worship’ or ‘pay more attention to’ the commandments), but that He alone is GOOD.
And then I found that all over the Bible, Christians are referred to as God’s Holy people.
God intended for us to be Holy and He said so Himself: “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.” Leviticus 20:26 (which means Old Testament, so you know that goes way back; also see Leviticus 11:44, 20:7, 21:8).
Into the New Testament, as the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians about living as children of Light, he says “…created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (4:24). Christ is the only one who is good, but we weren’t exactly created to reach His level of good, we were created to reach His level of holiness.
Titus 1:8 showed me something interesting as well. As Paul was giving Titus a basic job description for a church elder, he included “…he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.” A church elder is required to be holy, but isn’t required to be good. He is, however, to love what is good, and one can assume that, because as earlier identified, Christ is the only one who is good, it could mean love all that Christ is.
The apostle Peter also wrote in 2 Peter 3:11, “what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live Holy and Godly lives.” Not good lives, but holy and Godly. How do we live holy and Godly lives? I imagine we obey commandments, as Jesus spoke in Matthew 19:17, but we do so out of reverence for Christ, not reverence for the law we’re obeying.
In, at least my attempts, and I know from conversations with others, being “good” always seems to require so much work. One of the theory’s I’ve heard recently about the purpose of the law and the Old Testament was to show us just how far we’d fallen from God, not to bind us into following a 1,378 page long list of rules (or at least, that’s how long the O.T. is in my Bible). We have all fallen short, which is not an excuse to ignore and set the law aside, but rather a statement to offer up the truth that we are no better than the person standing next to us, no matter how “good” we try to be. Being “good” is an image we have to put effort toward and to earn, but 2 Timothy says something totally different about holiness. Chapter 1, verses 8 and 9 say “…by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done, but because of His own purpose and grace.” “Goodness” implies our own purposes, whereas Holiness implies God’s purposes. “Goodness” implies our efforts, whereas Holiness implies God’s grace.
In my study Bible, there is an expansion of this verse in the margin that reads, “What is a holy life? A holy life does not necessarily mean sinless perfection. First and foremost it means to be dedicated to the Lord. God wants us to be motivated to faithfully honor and serve Him.”A Holy life is not a perfect life, and it’s not even a “good” life. God does ask for “good” people, He asks for Holy people, people who love Him and are compelled by that admiration to serve Him and bring Him glory. He sacrificed much for us to be that Holy people out of love for us, and just asks us to join Him in that.
Holiness is freedom, and love of God.
Goodness is captivity, and love of self.
Christ set the captive free 2,000+ years ago on the cross with selfless love – God asks for a holy people –
I choose Holiness. I choose freedom.
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