noerbelle asked: Hey Unka Glen! I have question. How do I balance the discipline/seriousness of obedience/holiness/purity/etc., and still keep my joy and peace? Like, how do I balance “beating my body and making it my slave” and “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say: rejoice!”? I understand we’re all sinners (impure, unholy) and that Jesus washed us by His blood (pure, holy) but obedience is sometimes hard, and quite frankly, not as joyful or peaceful. Or maybe I just have a wrong definition of joy and peace??
Unka Glen answered: Oh, no, the joy and peace part is good. Let’s keep an eye on those things. The ingredient missing from this picture is love. Love is what causes all these things to make sense. There is no joy or peace in obedience by itself (and it’s good for you to point that out), but where there is love, it BECOMES a joy to follow God.
Let’s look at each of these items you mentioned individually:
Discipline. In the Christian context, discipline is making a wise choice and sticking with it. I don’t mean a smart choice, a legalistic choice, or a choice based on the silly notion that denying yourself pleasure is somehow equal to righteousness. I mean making a choice based on God’s wisdom, and using your love for God to motivate you to stick to it.
Sticking to a self-imposed restriction, one that’s designed to look holy, is not what the Bible calls discipline, that’s basically inventing your own religion.
Obedience. Jesus said, “if you love me, you’ll obey my commandments” (John 14:15). This verse makes it perfectly clear, focus on the love, and the obedience will happen. This doesn’t explain why I hear people preach about focusing on the obedience and expecting the love to flow, let alone the joy and peace you mentioned.
When you’re eager to do something in love, that’s obedience, when you do it because you have to do it, that’s obligation. And the two are miles apart.
Holiness. When you read the word “holy” in the bible, that’s the Greek word “hagios” it means specially prepared and set aside for a special purpose. The preparation, as you mentioned, is the blood of Christ. The purpose is to do stuff for the Kingdom in love and thankfulness for His sacrifice.
But when you hear the word holiness used in church, they usually mean not doing bad stuff. Jesus deeply criticized people for assuming they were on good terns with God because of what they didn’t do.
Purity. As you may have heard, we’re not using this word anymore. Here’s why: God is pure, we are not. Ah, but you say, aren’t we supposed to pursue purity? Nope. No we are not. Again, Jesus rebuked those who pursued purity for it’s own sake, instead of pursuing Jesus Himself.
I’m told that in order to climb Mount Everest, you actually have to submit an application process of sorts. How many people do you think would apply, if they had to promise never to tell anyone about the climb? I’d guess none. The whole point is to tell the story of how you climbed Mount Everest.
I’ll tell them my Everest story, and I’ll be a major inspiration!
This is what we call pride. The Bible says fast in secret, and pray in solitude, but some of us can’t wait to put our “devotion” on display. Holiness and purity are words we use to describe God’s unattainable perfection, not how sinless we can act in public.
Love moves us to follow Jesus, and when we follow Him, we sin less. And we discover more joy and peace along the way. It’s just that simple.