In a world that is rapidly changing and terms are being redefined, teaching our children the importance of holiness can seem like a religious statement, rather than a release into joy.
The prevailing culture says we should tolerate everyone and to disagree with someone’s moral choices is evil. The narrative states: ‘As long as not you’re harming anybody, what does it matter?’
This is not God’s narrative. His narrative is that there is a perfect way to live – and He is the one who gets to define that way. As our creator, as the Lord overall and as the one who is merciful, wise, loving and righteous, God knows the best way for us to live as individuals and as a society. Perhaps a better way to express it would be: ‘If you are not living God’s way you are harming somebody.’
That may not be explicitly obvious to begin with. Right back in creation, Adam and Eve were warned not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, or else they would die. When they ate the fruit, they did not instantly drop down dead. They lived to long enough to be kicked out of the garden of Eden, have and raise children and live a long time. But the process of death did begin as they deviated from God’s perfect plan.
Indeed, when you plot the age of death of the first generations who lived on earth, as recorded in Scripture, you see that death progressively takes a stranglehold on society. For some that death is premature, as a direct result of the sin of others (for example, the death Abel). For others it is an insidious slide towards the judgement of God in response to an outright rejection of Him (for example, all those who lived in the time of Noah, who were destroyed in the flood). For all it is a progressive moving away from our Creators mandate for life and declaration that we were made good.
Desiring holiness is not an evil thing! The prevailing worldview would state the opposite. The infamous Mary Whitehouse would be an example of this. Mary Whitehouse was a teacher in 1960s Britain who started to campaign against swearing, sex and the glorification of violence in the media, particularly the BBC.
One of her greatest opponents, Dame Joan Bakewell, confessed decades later that in many areas Mary Whitehouse was right.
Holiness in the moment does not always feel like the right choice, but in the long run it will bear good fruit, because it is a reflection of a holy God who calls us to be holy.
Let us teach the next generation that holiness is not something to be despised or mocked, as our current culture would suggest, rather it is something to aspire to. After all, God calls us to be holy because He is holy. Let’s encourage our children to be counter cultural as Mary Whitehouse was, understanding that tolerance of sin is not an act of love, but it is in itself sin. Our God deserves so much more.
A life of holiness is not only honouring to the Lord; it is liberating. Paul describes us as being free from the bondage of sin.
Lord you desire holiness.
Lord you deserve holiness.
And yet the world continues in sin – indeed your church is blemished.
If we do not yet desire to live in holiness then we have not fully understood the purpose of the cross. The cross does not free us to live as we want, but to live as God created us to be. Our purpose is to bring Him glory. Our focus should no longer be on our personal satisfaction but on the Lord’s glorification. Only then will we be truly satisfied.
Yet God, in His mercy, sees us scrambling and in tension and gives us time to change. There will be a day of reckoning, but that day is not today. There will be a day of judgement, but until that time there is still time.
Jesus is not coming back for a lukewarm church who half-heartedly serve him in the way that they feel like it on any particular day. Instead, Jesus is returning for a bride that is pure and spotless and honouring to God.
It’s interesting that Moses rebukes his brother Aaron, after he has left Aaron in charge of the people of Israel. Moses has gone up the mountain to seek the Lord and receive the 10 Commandments. In the meantime Aaron decides to build a golden calf to appease the people. Moses rebuke is stinging towards Aaron. ‘… Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies) …’ Exodus 32:25.
The role of us as parents and leaders is to provide clear boundaries for the next generation and to restrain them from pursuing evil.
This emphasis on holiness is not something we are to impose on the world, rather it is something we are called to demonstrate to the world. After all, there is something universally attractive about a truly holy and pure life. We should spur one another on to live lives that exude holiness from the inside out to honour the Lord by the way we live.
Let’s not be afraid to confront the hedonism of our age. If the church is silent, or worse still complicit with the world, then we will fail in our witness. When we live boldly for God and speak truth with clarity and love (and without compromise) then we are providing the witness that is needed in this time.
Holiness is not a dirty word, it is the deceleration of hearts that wish to serve their creator in the way that He created us to.
Let’s play our part in raising a generation to display God’s glory.