Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Pursuit of a Person

If I set out to become a better mother, the internet would have no shortage of advice for me. I wouldn't have to look far to come up with an exhausting list: things to stop doing, things to start doing, things to do differently; what to think, what to say, what not to say, how to connect, how to discipline, when to teach, where to teach--you get the picture.

But my role as a mother is not an abstract job title. The fact that I can be called a mother at all is a function of relationship. My approach to motherhood cannot be an impersonal strategy; it is intimately connected to two living, breathing people.

So while strangers on the internet, or expert authors, or even trusted friends and family, can give me helpful insights and wise counsel...the single most important priority in the pursuit of "becoming a better mom" is the pursuit of Elijah and Jude. To grow in motherhood means to move toward my sons. It happens as I spend time with them, listen to them, observe them. It happens through intentional efforts to know them better, through building shared memories and learning how to meet their needs. I become a better mom only so far as I deepen my relationship with my sons, only so far as I love Elijah and love Jude.

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Sometimes in our efforts to avoid legalism, we drive into the other ditch, believing that any earnest effort to obey God smacks of self-righteous attempting to earn God's favor. Hebrews 12:14 corrects us:

"Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

To strive is to run hard, to chase after, to pursue. "Run swiftly in order to catch...holiness!" And the command is accompanied by a warning: "...without which no one will see the Lord." These are sobering words. The pursuit of holiness is not optional; it is essential to the life of faith. It is not the means by which we are accepted by God, but it offers evidence that we belong to Him.

But I think the core of this call to pursue holiness is best understood as a call to pursue a Person. The way to avoid self-righteous legalism is not to avoid the striving. It is to clarify what--or rather, WHOM--we are chasing.

We would have no reference point for "holiness" apart from God. He is True North; He *is* holiness. "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty." Holiness comes from Him and is defined by Him. Our call to holiness is always rooted in His holiness: "You shall be holy, for I am holy." 

Holiness is not a set of attitudes or behaviors, an abstract state of being. It is the essence of His character; it does not exist detached from Him. So to pursue holiness is to pursue Him. Strive to know Jesus. Draw near to Him. It's not about a list of qualities you attain to or exhibit; it's about a Person you love and resemble. 

Take, for example, the practice of reading/studying/meditating on God's Word. All Christians know they are "supposed to" do this. But WHY? Do we read the Bible as part of a checklist of "good Christian behaviors," something we do to accrue points? Does time in Scripture give you a higher "Holiness Score"?

No--we go to the Word to see Jesus. To know Him. This is where He is most clearly revealed, where He speaks to us. We read and study and meditate as a way to pursue Christ--a way to see His glory, to understand His heart. With this foundation, holiness is not about us. It's about looking like Him. We admire our Elder Brother, and we imitate what we see. We become what we behold.

By all means, pursue holiness. But don't merely strive for an abstract state of being. Chase after a Person--not just any person; our Redeemer and Savior! Our ultimate goal is to be near to Jesus because without HIS holiness, we have no hope of seeing the Lord. It is His perfect record of righteousness that makes us fit to enter the King's presence. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord. But because Jesus' blood makes us holy, we have the privilege of striving, pursuing, running hard after Him--desiring to be near Him and so becoming more like Him.   


danielle said...

I love love love this, Amy.

This has been the theme for me the past few months. Not that I didn't know it, but I've discovered sneaky, subtle ways that legalism has crept into my life. Even in views of good things: tithing, church membership, attending small groups, etc.

I've been diving deep into grace and understanding what freedom in Christ really looks like. It was prompted by a sermon on grace at our church. The tagline of our church is "changed by beholding Him." I'm still learning what that means. I just finished "A Scandalous Freedom" by Steve Brown and it's been what I've needed. A quote I love that relates to what you're saying here:

"Holiness hardly ever becomes a reality until we care more about Jesus than about holiness." Accent on the person, not the performance. He likens it to a dance. Jesus calls us to dance with him, and so often we turn it into a march of soldiers. Everyone in line, all one like the other. We focus on each other, seeing who is stepping out of line, instead of looking at and to Jesus. That was a helpful metaphor for me.

Anyway, love this post!

danielle said...

I don't know what I meant by "even in views of good things" but what I meant was,

"Even in "good" things: tithing, church membership, attending small groups, etc.

Amy said...

Oh, I like that dancing vs. marching metaphor. Thanks for sharing. I noticed your posts about that Steve Brown book on GR - I will have to check it out.