May 25, 2010

To Live is Christ — taking baby steps

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting my four great-grandchildren. I know that I’m too young to be a great-grandmother. Nevertheless, two of my grandchildren have little ones of their own. It was nice to see them.

It was also interesting to observe their personalities. One is less than two weeks old, but obviously male and alert to his surroundings. The oldest is three with a large vocabulary, and hugs everyone. The two in the middle are both blonde and blue eyed, but not at all alike. One is contented and methodical, a real thinker. The other is a sharp-eyed and smiling imp. I enjoyed watching them interact with mom and dad, sometimes testing their limits and always learning obedience.

Today’s devotional verse is about obedience at a different level. It is for children, but the children of God — who can be adults. These children are those transformed by His Spirit and called to be like Jesus. 

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. (1 Peter 1:14–15)
Because of our sin nature, no one has to teach any of us how to be bad. Children already know how to disobey and misbehave. Instead they must be taught obedience. This is a challenge for parents and important for the child’s safety and growth.

For the child of God, learning obedience is vital to keep us safe too. It is also part of our spiritual growth, since our destiny is to be like our Savior. He was obedient and so must we be obedient. However, for us the leaving aside sin and doing as God says is one thing; being called to holiness lifts the bar.

I’ve never found a good definition of holy. Some say it simply means “other than” in that God is higher and more than we can imagine or describe. He is unlimited love and goodness, totally and completely without sin, light that has no darkness. My dictionary says that holy is moral and spiritual excellence. That means that He is calling me to a very high standard.

When I think of holiness as excellence in all things moral and spiritual, I know that I fall short. Without the Spirit of God living in me, and without the imputed character and holiness of Jesus Christ, there is no hope.

When I think of unlimited love and goodness, and those other high degrees of measuring God, I also feel small and inadequate. Who can be like God? Only with God living in me, only with Christ giving me His nature, only with God seeing me through that filter, then there is a sense of it, but this holiness is not mine. Holiness truly belongs to God alone.

When I think of holiness as “other than” or being better than what I was before He saved me, then I can see myself (only because of Christ) as on the bottom rung of a very tall ladder. If I compare myself with those evil desires that I had before Christ came into my life, I know that He has changed me. When I look back, there has been change and progress, a glimmer of hope. However, when I look at the goal, the target described in this verse, I cannot imagine it. How can God ask such a thing?

Yet He asks it, which implies that perhaps holiness is possible. I know that I will not be like Jesus until I see Him face to face, but this verse says that I can do better, that I can climb up a rung or two. Refusing sin and insisting on God’s high standards for my life are hard enough to muster, but the Holy Spirit is at work, urging more.

Besides His outreached hand, I’m amazed that God assumes this is possible. I’m to stop looking at myself. I’m not to give up simply because His target seems completely out of reach. He wants me to press on — like a little one learning to walk. Like a dad with a little one, He holds out His hand and urges me to take the next step forward.

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