September 1, 2016

From ignorance to holiness

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14–16)

The phrase “passions of your former ignorance” catches my attention. The Greek word translated ‘passions’ means ‘strong, self-indulgent cravings that displace a proper affection for God.’ For most people, this could be a list ranging from over-eating to far worse desires and activities. The word for ‘ignorance’ is simply lack of knowledge or education.

This morning’s newspaper had an article about a young man who died at a party from ingesting an overdose of prescription drugs. I shook my head and said, “How can anyone be so foolish?” Yet this is the ignorance that leads to self-indulgent cravings. In his case, it was a desire for an emotional and physical ‘high’ and his craving was strong enough to override any warning bells that may have gone off in his head.

I cannot claim to be any better. Even as a Christian, I’ve gone against those warning bells a few times. I wanted something, and in itself it was not always an evil something, but God was saying ‘no’ and I was not listening.

The goal of God for His people is to transform us into the image of His Son. That means holiness. The lie is that God wants us healthy, wealthy, and comfortable. If we believe that lie, then as Chambers says in his devotional for today, we will resent the preaching of the gospel. It reveals that no person is holy, and at the same time may stir up a craving for it.

Since that end goal is available through faith in Jesus Christ, why resent the gospel? The only answer is that immature attitude of a spoiled child: ‘I want what I want when I want it.’ Sinners do not want holiness because they do not want their indulgences checked.

As I look back on my ‘former ignorance’ I can see that not all of my passions were evil. I had (and still do) a passion for artistic endeavor, but there came a point where God could see that passion was interfering with my affection for Him. He checked my indulgence and for a long time put my attention only on Him. When that relationship was more deeply established, He allowed me to pick up a paint brush again. When I did, I discovered that I could ‘take it or leave it’ for the craving was replaced with a desire to obey God. Now I can be artistic at His bidding and for His purposes, not simply to satisfy myself. The wonder is that His way is far more satisfying than that never-satisfied passion to serve myself.

Holiness is about purity, but it also means ‘other than human’ which describes God, and ‘set apart for God’ which describes His people. Purity covers the evil indulgences, and being set apart for God covers anything that is not evil but can become a selfish indulgence, such as art, sports, hobbies, etc.

Chambers says holiness means “unsullied walking with the feet, unsullied talking with the tongue, unsullied thinking with the mind—every detail of the life under the scrutiny of God.” It is the way that I can demonstrate that I belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.