from the book Why I Love God
17. A Family that Pursued Holiness
In addition to all the characteristics previously mentioned of this new spiritual family, another telling characteristic was the relationship of this community to sin. In an individual, a genuine Christian profession cannot be divorced from a righteous lifestyle. Even so in a genuine Christian community, the collective Christian profession cannot be divorced from righteous lifestyles either. This new spiritual family was therefore focused on holiness, purity, righteousness, and obedience to God. This manifested itself in several ways.
In this new spiritual family Christian living was a lifestyle. It was not that we lived one way on Sunday, and another way throughout the week. Instead we all strove to live godly lives every day, and especially when no one was looking. And we strove to live holy lives not to try to earn our salvation, but rather out of thankfulness and a sincere desire to please God.
In this new spiritual family there was a passion for personal holiness. Honesty, kindness, faithfulness, patience, boldness, wisdom, sexual purity, self-control and the like was what we wanted to characterize our lives, both in public and in private. We therefore sought to build each other up in the Christian faith with these goals in mind.
In this new spiritual family sin was not the norm. As fellow members in whom God’s eternal life dwelled, we all pursued righteousness, holiness and godliness. Things that characterize the world and the old life such as drunkenness, drugs, sexual immorality, envy, strife, gossip, crudeness, outbursts of wrath, cursing and the like were unnatural to us. This is not to suggest we were never tempted or that we never fell. But it is to say the overall character of our lives was one of holiness and godliness on account of our being new creatures in Christ.
In this new spiritual family we were vulnerable with each other. While we all were striving to please the Lord in all things, we all had our own struggles and failings. But we could share those experiences with each other and confess our challenges and faults. We would then pray over the situation, discuss applicable scriptures, and determine what proactive steps to take so as to be ready to face those struggles victoriously the next time. Prayer and scripture were central in this vulnerability and accountability process.
In this new spiritual family we would be confronted if we were deceived by sin. If one started going in a sinful direction, he would be warned and exhorted to come back to the Lord. We would not let a brother continue down a sinful path to his own destruction. We would rebuke, retrieve, and restore him.
In this new spiritual family having a good time took on a whole new meaning. The world’s notion of a good time often involves activities that God does not approve of and are ultimately empty. In other cases people deem a good time is socializing amidst activities that are not overtly sinful, but are void of any spiritual engagement at all. People can socialize for hours to talk about the recent sporting event, the new job, the current home project, or the upcoming excursion, but God is never brought into the discussion. And this can even happen when gathering together as a church. But for us, what made socializing a good time was the spiritual truths we related or learned about God. So if we had a new job we may talk about how God faithfully provided while unemployed, how He taught us patience, or how He opened the door for us. Things tended to be centered around Him. Not only this, but for us a good time was gathering together to pray, study God’s word, or sing worship songs. We still enjoyed innocent earthly amusements, but spiritual things tended to be paramount.
So the moment I believed, I became part of this loving, caring, spiritual family. True, they were not perfect, even as I was not perfect. And yes, they were not completely obedient to God in absolutely everything, even as I was not. And I am not suggesting there were never serious differences of opinions, conflicts, misunderstandings, and offenses requiring forgiveness. Such a portrayal would be untrue. But it would be equally untrue to suggest such conflicts and misunderstandings were the norm. Overall there was peace, edification, affirmation, purity, and love.
from the book Why I Love God
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