Wholly Holy

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
(Romans 12:1)

We humans have a rather silly tendency to compartmentalize our lives.

It would be wonderfully convenient if this tendency were limited to unbelievers; if, for example, we could point our collective finger and laugh at science as it grapples with where the platypus fits into the man-made categories of the animal kingdom. Then we could offer a smug smile when a whole new category is created to house this beast.

But in an honest moment, most of us have to admit that we compartmentalize, too.

We tend to have tidy little sectors of life which we believe do not affect one another. On one hand – our sacred places – we can agree that lying is evil and shake our heads in horror at the appalling falsehoods some government official or celebrity is caught in. A bare minute later, we participate in a little white lie of our own: dishonest reporting for a homeschool year in which the actual days of school fell dismally short of the state-mandated attendance requirement, or a decision to keep the wrong change from some transaction because the balance is in our favor.

Then there’s our holy side again at church on Sunday as we lift our voice to a praise song, one hand raised and tears running down our cheeks. Come next Friday night, we lift the same voice to quite a different song with lyrics that belittle the marriage relationship. Or we lower our voices to a friend as we tear our spouses apart in slander.

We can have a smug criticism for the corruption within Hollywood and yet funnel our dollars into movies and shows which aren’t “that bad,” thus we fund the very corruption we condemn.

My goodness, we really are a ridiculous spectacle when we stop to think of it! But of course, there’s grace to cover all that. No need to worry. Right?

Well, actually…

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
(Romans 6:1-2)

In truth, there is no partition between what we say and do inside our worship gatherings and what we say and do in our workweek or our weekend labors or entertainments. If Christ has redeemed us, He has done so completely.  We are either all His – or not.

This is not to say we will never stumble. But it is to say we will, by the Spirit of God, be brutally honest with ourselves and not call our conscious choices “stumbles.”

We will not divide up the arena of our lives so that one does not bleed into another. To believe we can even do such a thing is to believe a grave lie.

Instead, we can walk in naked honesty before God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. We can recognize that we are whole beings, and that one part affects the whole. All is sacred for those who are in Christ. All is secular for those who are not.

For those outside, we do not rage but weep. For our fellows on the inside, we are firm against sin but forgiving in love because we have been forgiven in love.

We set our faces against sin everywhere it lurks: in our own hearts, in our families, in the Church. We recognize our ability to choose and hold one another accountable to choose Truth.

Recognizing that we who are in Christ no longer belong to ourselves but to Him, we present our entire being to the Lord Our Righteousness for His good pleasure.  Then, together, we rejoice in His Kingdom and His righteousness now and forevermore!

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.
(Romans 6:12-13)

… You are not your own, for you were bought with a price…
(1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a)

Vibrant

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 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 12:1-2)

In celebration of the first day of autumn, Middle Tennessee is enjoying a refreshing high of 90°F/32°C with the current heat index at a wicked 96°F/35.5°C. This whole past week has been rather warm, with highs and lows more apt to provoke a craving for ice cream than pumpkin spiced anything (although I understand an adventurous body can now get pumpkin spice ice cream in addition to a myriad of other products that ought never to have been pumpkinized…).

I can only hope we Middle Tennesseans are not in for a repeat of last fall and winter. Last year, summer grandly overstayed her welcome, and though we had a few brief interludes of wintry weather, overall the latter days of 2016 were remarkable for warmth. For the first time since we have lived in this house, I never fully packed away our shorts and tank tops for the simple fact that we needed them last autumn and even through the winter.

Winter was nice, in some ways – once the heat abated. I admit I enjoyed a few Christmas-break strolls in the balmy air. But although last winter was spring-like, it was not spring. It was a cheat, without the quickening of life and color that is the quintessence of true spring. It was warm, but it had no heart.

There were no spring aromas wafting on the breeze. A few confused insects buzzed around but there were no flowers to pollinate. The typical monochromatic greys and browns of a normal Middle Tennessee winter still wearied the eye, the sun still sank before 5:00 pm, and a devilishly hot autumn drought meant that the annual drabness of the landscape began disappointingly early as most deciduous trees simply opted out of the usual autumnal color parade and dropped their withered leaves in a shrewd effort to mitigate water loss.

In the Christian community, I think sometimes our worship can be a bit like that.

Sometimes, we have many of the right elements and go through all the right motions, but something is missing. There’s a lack of fragrance and sincerity, a drabness to our spirits that belies the effort we put into the appearance of worship. Sometimes, what we call “worship” is really a heartless cheat; a parody lacking the quickening of true love and life that heralds the presence of the Holy Spirit.

No matter what the coming seasons hold, I would like to challenge myself and all my brothers and sisters worldwide to give ourselves up to honest and earnest worship; to a worship that begins with a sincere love of the God of Truth and of his Word of Truth.

And when I say “worship,” I do not mean merely a mindless parroting of words penned by others. I mean worship as it is described the Bible and carrying the connotations of sacrifice and service.

I mean a worship that is not merely performed; that is neither ritual obligation or some scheduled, route transaction but a bona-fide worship springing up naturally from the overflow of a fierce joy and a bone-shaking reverence and a vibrant trust in the One who gave us life, forgave our rebellion, and retains us even now as ambassadors of His scandalous and improbable grace to a world grown weary of drab pretence, empty promises, and false starts.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
(Isaiah 61:10)