The Craziness of Holiness
12 May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 13 May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones. [I Thessalonians 3:12–13 — NIV 1984]
“It is a lonely trail, this way called holiness. Just as the mad among us desire their solitude, the holy among us are jealous of their time alone with God. They are familiar with his voice and they find ours increasingly unfamiliar. For just this reason one is hard pressed to find anyone who truly did understand Jesus. This is what makes him seem to be insane. He defies our definition of normality. He breaks the mold of the ordinary. He is relentlessly consistent in his assumptions, agenda, actions, and words. That is, given Christ’s assumptions about the world and himself, his behavior is lucid and sound. Given our assumptions, he is harmlessly insane. But that says more of us than of him.
If the strange habits of Jesus no longer surprise us, it is only because we have become too familiar with them. We have already accepted the verdict that Jesus is who he says he is. But for those trapped in the first century — without the vantage of hindsight — the matter was less clear. Even his family said he was ‘out of his mind’ (Mark 3:21). In short, those who knew him best said he was crazy.
So were his followers. But if we cure him or his followers of their madness, we will rob the world of true Christianity. This is more than a clever way of saying that we are odd or different than others. I mean to say that Jesus was truly abnormal, that holiness is a touch of madness, and that if we ever tame the madness we will lose the genius behind it. I mean to say that the consuming fire of God will not merely burn away our rough edges so that we are nicer, wiser, or more dignified. It will not make gentlemen out of rebels. No, it is just as likely that it will make rebels out of gentlemen.” [Steve DeNeff, More Than Forgiveness (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2011), 196–197]
Holiness is a state of being that is reflected in our actions. Blameless hearts — that is how Paul describes the state of holiness. Hearts established, not in our own righteousness, but in the holiness of God — this is the root of being holy! When we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and committed to serving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then we are established in His holiness.
But note the active holiness Paul espouses in verse 12: May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. This is the reflection of the holiness of God within you. This is an active love which motivates us to care for and to serve others, just as Christ cared for and served those around Him. This is what John meant when he wrote, Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did (I John 2:6).
Consider this formula: “Being” births attitudes which bring action. Who and what you are will determine your attitude. You do not “think and, therefore, are.” You are, and, therefore, think and feel. Your attitudes coincide with the person you are. These attitudes then determine what you will or will not do. They are the impetus to your actions. If your heart is “established blameless in holiness” — the holiness of God — then your attitudes will reflect that holiness and so will your actions.
Now, before we check this off with a proper “Amen,” think about how this plays out in a world where everyone tends to be looking out primarily for themselves. The idea of surrendering your will and your entire being to someone else, even God, seems ludicrous to most people. Add to that a sacrificial spirit of love for others — not just for those you like or are “nice” to you, but for everyone — and you are talking insanity! It is considered crazy in today’s world to live a life of true holiness, that is, a life so Christ-centered that you actually live like Jesus. But, when we do surrender fully to Christ as Lord, He changes your heart. With that heart transplant comes new attitudes toward others that lead us to act differently. We will be seen as “strange” by those in the world.
Consider your actions over the past week. Have they reflected the love of God? What about your attitudes? Have they been godly, caring and pure? What is the root of your attitudes and actions? Let God “establish your hearts blameless in holiness.” Let the “craziness” of being a fully surrendered Christian shine through you. Fully commit your heart to Him today.