Identity – Being Clean. It’s Worth Feeding and Protecting
It was the sixties and we were students. Woodstock happened my sophomore year. The Vietnam War gobbled up all the flunked out college students who lost their student deferments as if they were popcorn. Drugs, sex and rebellion (often violent) made up the air much of a generation would breathe. Nobody looked for Jesus Christ to show up in the middle of all that. But that’s exactly when He shows up. The Jesus Movement bubbled up on campuses like spring mushrooms. Something weird came over a lot of us with no prompting or Bible beating from anyone; we stopped swearing. Profanity was rebellion; a lot of our music swore. Many college students celebrate the heady air of being away from home by swearing a lot. We couldn’t say a sentence without two or three F-bombs.
And then it stopped, just dropped away while we learned to love Jesus, did the Jesus stuff and plugged through school. We didn’t realize it until it had been gone for a while. Jesus said, “…his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (Luke 6:45) Simply, what comes out of our mouth is what we are full of. We didnt decide to stop saying nasty words; we caught the Holy Spirit in the act of actually making us clean. The Bible calls this holiness. If forgiveness is all we think about when we think of Jesus’ work on the cross, we’re missing a lot. As the Holy Spirit indwells us, He brings an infusion of something called holiness. Holiness gets bad press. It doesn’t mean acting weird even pursuing it will set us apart from the crowd. It doesn’t mean giving up everything even though when we go after something hardcore, other things get laid aside – even things we might once have loved. (See Hebrews 12:1) Holiness describes the unique quality of the sinlessness of God. It’s not about God’s sinless performance or a possible inability on His part to sin (like sinlessness is part of His job description). It’s who He is at the core of His heart. But doesn’t the Bible say that “God is Love”? (I John 4:8) Yes, but it also says, “…holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts.” (Isaiah 6:3) Think of a brilliance greater than a thousand suns, a beauty eclipsing the Royal Botanical Gardens of Canada (see picture), an expansive greatness that could drop the Grand Canyon into a thimble and a power thundering over a hundred Niagaras. Without being crass or blasphemous, imagine a huge York peppermint patty stuffed into our spirit. Now think of all that loose and roaming free inside us. Taste it once and all the appetites for anything else that might promise deep and/or ultimate satisfactions wither away.
Holiness also encompasses the removal of the filth of shame. God does not inflict shame: He is the lifter of my head (Psalm 3:3). Guilt and shame aren’t the same thing. Shame coats everything we are with a vulgar film tainting everything we long for or hold dear. Nothing in time and space removes it – not counselling and medication, not self-help tinkering or the self-deception of alternative spiritualities. Not only does it stick, it eats. It paralyzes and defines us, even under the shallow cover of appearing to have it all together. Shame accuses; it’s the tool of choice in the evil one’s bag. will bWe’re worthless and we always will be. No one will love us because we’re not worth it. Nothing we dream of will ever happen because we’re losers. When Jesus enters our lives, He blasts this crud off the walls of our soul and relines our inner being with the beauty of His holiness. It’s terribly important to know the ring of the voice of God here. In Psalm 51:8, David says, “…let the bones that you have broken rejoice.”
Ever had a broken bone? No doubt about where the trouble is, right? The pain is specific and we do whatever it takes to get things right. Remember the last time we had the flu? Ached all over but nowhere in particular, right? When the Holy Spirit speaks into our lives, He comes with great precision speaking pointedly into our lives and moving us to concrete action of whatever it takes to put things right with God and others. Nobody suffers a compound leg fracture to say, “It’s not a good time to rush to the ER. It can wait till the weekend.” Shame makes us ache in spirit: we hurt everywhere over nothing in particular. The evil one peppers us with accusations, misplace guilt feelings over pain inflicted on us by others, false guilt over things not our fault at all and over sin God has already forgiven. We’re left deflated and paralyzed to wallow in our own ooze. And we do.
We’ve seen the guy with the brand new car parking across two or three parking spaces so no one can get close enough to scratch or dent his new baby. Keeping the beauty and sheen of this cleanness of God’s holiness stands as one of the best motivations to follow and love Jesus well instead of spewing our self-centeredness all over what Jesus Christ has done. When that happens we feel that corrosive stain we sadly know so well begin again to spread and must come back to Jesus Christ for a hosing down of mercy and grace. On the outside, I want to take what Jesus Christ did in me and get it covered with dirt, dents and dings from taking it full-bore into the world He died for. As He held nothing back for me, I want to run right up to my last breath with the pedal to the floor and the wheels ready to fall off. But the inside I want to keep His holy cleanness as pristine as possible as only then can all this beauty that Jesus can work in a life breathe into the fibers of my bone and spirit.
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