Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Holiness

“So, how are you?”

Such a question, it can be said so flippantly and doesn’t really get much of a response most of the time. Here in Denmark nobody really asks that question unless they really want to know the answer. Most of us do not really want to let our emotions and who we really are out before people that we hardly know. I mean I can talk about classes, traveling, music, ect. with so many people. There is almost a mental list of conversations that I have and find myself repeating to all these people that I am meeting. Kind of a false sense of intimacy that I give to people with these few portals into who I am. But that begs the question am I really showing who I “really” am.

Anyway, I was recently asked “how are you?” by a good friend who just put a bit of emphasis on the word “are.” It’s amazing that from just that simple change in voice inflection I could understand that she really wanted to know, and I was glad to answer. At the same time though it is a hard thing to be up front with. I don’t think that we really ever ask ourselves “how are you” enough. Who is the real me and then how is he doing? To be completely correct; I believe that at my core I am a completely selfish person with and incredibly unwholesome mind that has been saved by the Grace of God to be more then myself, and that my purpose is to delight in him completely and to then reflect him to the people that I interact with. How am I doing at this? Hmmm…

I don’t recall exactly what I said first. I think that I stumbled around a bit and didn’t really know what to say, but then fairly quickly it moved to spiritual things because I realized that is the part of me that is the most important. It was good, I don’t really get asked that question by nearly enough by people these days. I am so very blessed to have such a friend that I have so much in common with and that pushes me to think about things more deeply. We spoke on all sorts of things that have since mulled around in my mind, what she said, what I said, what I could have, or should have said… I am so often not as articulate with what I say as I want to be.

I feel sorry for those people who are always in the spotlight and everything that they say gets remembered… I so frequently say things that don’t quite come out right, or that I really don’t mean.

One of those topics that we talked about was that of holiness. What does it mean to be holy, to be set apart? Both of us are living in very different cities, but both are post-Christian and to some extent anti-Christian cultures. (which has made it rather difficult to find good Christian fellowship) What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world? It has been a question that people have struggled with over the ages, from the early church, to the monastery movement, and down to today. It’s so hard to answer. At all times (whether I like it or not) I am representing Christ to those around me. And even though I am confident that I am not going to mess up God’s ultimate plan by doing something wrong, he still has called us to a life that is set apart for him.

I am far too often overly cynical about isolationist tendencies in American Christian culture, but it is also true that we shouldn’t be fully engulfed by the life of the world. It’s not right for us to try to build up a bubble around ourselves, but it probably also isn’t quite right to be bumping up against some attractive girl you don’t even know in a driving, flashing, pulsing club…

I believe that all who are Christians are called to represent Christ, that there should be something about us that people will mark as different. We should have the aroma of Christ about us, whether that be a stink to some, or a sweet perfume. It makes me wonder… Do I “smell” of Christ or do I blend in to the rest of the world around me? I think that faaaar to often I fall into the second category. At what point am I to declare; No, I am not going to do that because I am a Christian and I am representing my Christ in everything that I do. Should the line be no alcohol, a slight buzz, having a few too many, hanging out in certain places, dancing, what sort of dancing? Where do my thoughts tend to go in the midst of the things I do? Where does my mind and behavior lead… is it to God or sin? I must say that my sinful mind is rather inconstant …

I am thinking about Jesus, he himself ate with the worst of people, they were attracted to him. Why is this? Somehow he met people where they were at yet didn’t fall into the sin that they were engulfed in. is it possible for me to live in a similar fashion? To be a light for Christ in the midst of a dark place?

I have gotten rather good at saying what my limits are because of rational ideas. Unfortunately though, those rules and ideas don’t quite work as well here in another country because well, we want to experience the culture, but where do we draw that fine, and constantly changing line. I really don’t want to seem like the holier then thou type of guy, but I guess at some point that is necessary because, well, we have been set apart, and are given to a higher purpose. We are not merely our own but are bought with a price and our purpose here on earth is to live for the sake of our God and to bring as many people with us to a life giving glory to his name.

“Through whom (Jesus) we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” - Romans 1:5

Part of me wants to be this man that serves God full out, fearlessly, without giving any care to what others are thinking. The other part of me wishes that I was a man with no morals and could do whatever I wanted with whoever I wanted, to not need to worry about the moral consequences. These two people in me are constantly battling.

I guess that God gives us these issues to deal with so that we can learn more about his power. The more that I think about it, and the more that I live my life, I see that if I were left to my own without having God work mightily within me I would be , well... It is certainly by his grace alone that I am who I am today.

But, I want to be more! I want to want God more fully, to take full delight in him. I heard a story about Martin Luther rather recently. Apparently he had this dog and when he was eating some meat the dog would just stare at the meat salivating and hoping for any scrap of it to fall from the table. Luther then said something along the lines of “oh that I could focus on prayer the way that that dog focus on this meat. It is all that he can think of and it consumes his whole being” I have probably slightly messed up the story, but the illustration still works. I want to desire God in that way. I want to have my heart wanting his things first. Right now I certainly do not! I struggle with wanting to know him, and prayer… well my mind certainly wanders.

It all comes down to this: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19) but in that we also can be confident in this that, “he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

To those that would do so PLEASE

– Pray for me!
- Pray for yourselves!
- Pray for the world!

Oh, that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. - Phil 3:10-14

2 comments:

Nikki said...

Thanks for this post Dan! I must admit I haven't been following your blog much at all until today, but I appreciate your honesty here. I think you hit on the nose the battle that Christians in our generation face today, not to mention our redundant and meaningless use of the phrase "how ARE you?" It is always a refreshing surprise when you meat someone who actually pushes you to respond genuinely and wants to hear what you say, and I'm glad you have people in your life to ask you those questions. You are in my prayers, at least I can say that is true of today. Thanks for your honesty and humility in sharing! Sounds like you are taking in a lot over there and delighting in the God of all Glory!

serf_lord said...

your thoughts on the question "How are you" are very true, in that we easily answer without much thought whatsoever, but seldom really ask ourselves how we are doing.

now i want to keep up to date on this blog, so i can hear your thoughts and "musings". =D