Holiness is not Law-keeping, but Love-keeping

Janis Rozenthal - Under the Rowan TreeJanis Rozentals

"Let the children come to me."

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. John 14:15

There is something in our flesh that wants to try to earn God's love.

We love to check off mental lists of what we have done for Him to be good little Christians. We measure ourselves by others who do not look as "Christian" or do as much as we do. We feel guilty when we misbehave and do something that makes us feel "bad" or sinful.

And sometimes the narrative we tell ourselves over and over again is, "God is probably disappointed with me."

"I haven't had enough quiet times."

"I have been lazy, or neglectful or idolatrous, or impatient, or critical, or wicked, or gossipy, or or or."

The truth is, because we could never be holy or perfect on our own, he had to save us. We could never attain to His standards. Never.

No matter how good you try to be, you are going to blow it, disappoint someone you love, somehow, some way, multiple times. And you are going to make some mistakes in judgment that have consequences--even the very best and most disciplined of you.

You are just never, ever going to be perfect or always good.

And so, "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

But, you say, holiness must exhibit an excellent life. Yes, I agree. But holiness, being willing to be set aside for God's purposes, to seek to follow His biblical ideas, to seek to be moral, to make Him known, to proclaim His kingdom and kingdom ways,  spills over into our behavior, from a loving heart.

When our  heart is so grateful to God for His gentle, humble mercy on all of us who are so likely to be selfish and sinful,

His redeeming grace that wipes our faults and sins away as though we have never sinned,

His affirmation of our worth, because He has adopted us,

Then,  out of deep appreciation, a well of humble gratefulness for his generosity, we have an overwhelming desire to obey Him, to please him, to serve Him.

It is significant to me that it was Peter, the wonderful, outspoken, imperfect, passionate lover of God, who so publicly failed, admonishes us to "Be Holy as I am holy."

Peter was not in any way telling us to perform holy deeds, but, to, from our hearts, be His, love His ways, serve Him wholeheartedly.

Peter also says, "But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;" I Peter 2: 9

When Jesus was asked what the most important law was, his response was, "You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart."

When one understands that it is God who created this beautiful place for us to live--the stars, the vast and powerful oceans, the thousands of flowers that bloom in the spring, the vibrant reds, oranges, yellows of dying leaves in the fall, then worship is a natural response. Praise for what is good.

Jesus said of the woman, weeping and washing his feet with her tears, "She who is forgiven much, loves much."

Why do we stay moral and pure in marriage? Because we know it pleases Him. He calls marriage sacred because it is a picture of our bridegroom Jesus loving and serving and committing himself to preparing us for the wedding feast. And so out of wanting to honor this sacred picture, we love and serve and give of ourselves generously to our marriage, so that our lives can reflect to others the beauty of committed, gracious love.

We serve our children and give up our own time to sacrifice for them, not out of works or duty, but because Jesus himself gave his love and blessing, even his life, to us, His children.

And he gave a definitive picture to us in his own journey amongst the crowds surrounding him, pushing, pulling in the path of ministry. When children ran up to embrace Jesus, to crawl into his lap, touch his beard,the disciples tried to turn them away as insignificant, not worthy of the "time" of the Master.

Jesus, winsomely, gently embraced, caressed the precious little ones and said, "Let the children come to me, of such is the kingdom of God."

We understand that God said children are a blessing and the fruit of the womb is a reward, and so we cherish them, and serve them as Jesus served His disciples, because we deeply revere Him, love Him and want to honor Him.

A holy life will reflect the character of Christ because it springs out of the heart whose life flows out from knowing Him.

And so excellence, sacrifice, hard work, loyalty, love, joy, peace, patience, will be the virtues that grow in and through our holy lives, but it will come from being connected to Him, the vine, the source of all goodness. Not a harsh, "I will gut it out sort of works oriented law-keeping," but a graceful, growing, developing character of grace as seen through the lives of Jesus's disciples.

God reminds us that holiness is His work.

We read in Hebrews, "For they (our parents) disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness."

God, as a good Father, is committed to slowly but surely, training us to become holy, like Him. But He does it through loving us, serving us, teaching us, calling us, providing for us. A lifetime of loving Him will produce a life that is holy.

Even in his last prayers, Jesus shows us how much He wants us to know His Father's love, "I pray that they may know the love with which you have loved me from the foundation of the world."

Love and holiness cannot be separated. Loving Him, will produce serving Him from a grateful heart and the process of holiness will overtake our character as we seek to know and love Him. Holiness spills out of an overflow of a heart in love with God.