Hi everyone, Rob here.
For too many years holiness was defined by ‘don’t.’ Don’t drink, don’t smoke, don’t dance, don’t swear, don’t play pool, don’t kiss – just don’t! If you succeeded in doing those ‘don’ts’ then you were being holy. At least that’s how I remember it being taught. ‘Don’t’ has its place in the Christian life. As a teenager ‘don’t’ helped me to avoid many mistakes. But an emphasis on ‘don’t’ ultimately creates a deep fear of getting it wrong thus suffocating risk and without risk there’s no need for faith. A life lived with ‘don’t’ as your main theme is a life full of fear, guilt and shame. It is not a life of faith, grace and hope.
We see this played out in sport. The New Zealand All Blacks are the greatest rugby team in the world. They have developed a fearsome reputation for getting themselves out of holes with daring plays in the last minutes of a game. They are prepared to lose in order to win. They have a culture of ‘try it’ and ‘no fear.’ With this culture they often play rugby which seems so natural and free. Other teams seem to have more of a fear-based approach. They keep it tight. They kick more than they run. When the opportunity comes to take advantage of space they often blow it because it’s not part of their psyche. Fear of getting it wrong takes over from the opportunity to do something great. The result is that no one wins more than the All Blacks.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free” says Paul in Galatians 5:1. In sport freedom comes from practicing over and over again until the skills required, the rules you need to follow and the mental resilience in the face of adversity become ingrained. It’s the same in the Christian faith. John Eldredge writes in ‘Waking the Dead’ that
Our heart has been made good by the work of Christ, but we haven’t learned how to live from it. Young and naive it remains. It’s as though we’ve been handed a golden harp or a shining sword. Even the most gifted musician still has to take lessons; even the bravest of warriors must be trained. We are unfamiliar, unpracticed with the ways of the heart. This is actually a very dangerous part of the journey. Launching out with an untrained heart can bring much hurt and ruin, and afterward we will be shamed back into the gospel of Sin Management, having concluded that our heart is bad. It isn’t bad; it’s just young and unwise.
The lesson is that holiness, wisdom and goodness comes from practice. It comes from making daily choices to walk with Jesus. 2 Peter 1:5-8 says this:
…make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Training means being stretched, doing what’s harder so that you can become better. I want to be better. I want to be more loving, more kind, more attentive, more joyful, more free and more patient. I want to be holy and to practice holiness. I want to reflect Christ and his goodness and grace to the world. Do you? Then we need to train, practice, endure, keep going and pray always. Sin is the easy option. It’s easy to give into a lustful thought, a few drinks too many, overeating, a mean thought or word, cynicism and anger. It’s much harder to stop, pray, hand myself over to Christ and let his life and love invade my heart afresh. In the end though it’s far worse to live a small, selfish, bound life. Far better to run free and with joy in God’s kingdom.
Training and living is far better when you’re fit and strong. God wants to give us his strength, his freedom and his joy. Let’s walk with him.
Kingdom obedience is kingdom abundance – Dallas Willard