A little over a month ago I was passing through Dallas on my way to a city about another hour away. I was on the President George Bush Turnpike, getting through the city as quickly as I could when the Holy Spirit urged me to get off the freeway. It was a rather desolate area, but one thing there was a big church. Being a weekday, it was all closed up, but I drove around to the back, and there was a bookstore, and it was open. So I went in and looked around. I saw the book “The Pursuit of Holiness” by Jerry Bridges (© 1978, 1996, 2008 by Jerry Bridges, Navpress). It was originally $12.99 marked down to $2. So I bought it, and continued my journey.
This is a great book, and very readable, on a theme that I’ve heard few churches preach about—and if you know me, you know that I get around to a lot of churches. The author says that there are two kinds of holiness: the kind we received at our conversion—the holiness of Jesus in place of our sinfulness; and the holiness we must work to grow within ourselves. The book is mostly about developing that second kind of holiness.
Something I’ve noticed among Christians (both in Europe and in the US) is a tendency to fall into a pattern of going to church, doing a few good works, and then spending time in useless, sometimes godless activity—and I’m not excluding myself. We tend to think that because we know God that our part is done. That’s what is so hard about this life is that once you understand why grace is so much better than the law, of course you choose grace. Nobody can possibly live up to the standards of the law, but we’re set free from the law by the grace of Jesus Christ who perfectly fulfilled the law and then died in our place—God’s unmerited favor. So when we accept grace, the danger is that of not “working out our salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12). Most of us don’t like to think of fearing the Lord, but reading on, Paul continues: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose,” (verse 13).
We aren’t here to get rich, to work, or to enjoy the good life on Easy Street. We aren’t here to raise our children to be doctors, lawyers, star athletes, or star musicians. We aren’t here to go to church, go to cell groups, go to Bible study, etc. None of those things are bad things, but they are not what we are here for. We are expected to bear fruit, and if we are living connected to the vine (Jesus), our lives and activities will bear fruit.
I’ve noticed a lot of people recently who are being tested in the area of finances. Money is one of the hardest issues for most of us, and these people have found their faith severely tested when they lose their job, or experience some other kind of financial loss. When these things happen, some turn to their own resources: inside information, friends in the personnel department, their savings account. Really, the only thing to do is to go to God, and to trust Him for provision. I know because I was one of those people who was tested when my income for 2011 was cut in half: http://europeanfaithmissions.com/2012/06/17/god-meets-radical-faith-with-radical-provision/.
One of the other people who was tested is a friend from church here in Milan. She has been out of work for about a year now, but she said that somehow, there is always money when the bills come due. Her faith has grown as a result of this test. She told me yesterday that about a month ago the pastor started a series of sermons on seeking holiness. I said, “That’s interesting,” and told her about being led to exit the freeway in Dallas to pick up this book on holiness.
As you know by now, I don’t believe in coincidence or serendipity. I believe that God’s word to His people right now is: “But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:15-17, referencing Leviticus 11:45). So, strive for holiness. God is good!