Tag Archives: holiness

Foundation | Virtue | Dreams

This passage by John Cassian has been quite inspirational to me:

As the parable in the Gospel teaches, whatever concerns the building of that spiritual and most lofty tower must be reckoned up and carefully considered beforehand. These things, even when prepared, will be of no use nor allow the lofty height of perfection to be properly placed upon them unless we begin with a clearance of all faults. We must also dig up the decayed and dead rubbish of the passions and lay the s trong foundations of simplicity and humility on the solid and (so to speak) living soil of our breasts, or rather on that rock of the gospel. By being built in this way this tower of spiritual virtues will rise and be able to stand unmoved and be raised to the utmost heights of heaven in full assurance of its stability. — John Cassian

When what we dream is built out of virtue and upon a foundation of holiness, we can reach into the heights of heaven.

…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt 4 of 6

 This is part 4 of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity: (CLICK FOR PART 1, 2, 3)

        Holiness comes from our alignment with God.  Especially in our current time, we may be too busy to stop and reflect.  What good can result from this busyness?  Not much good.  When we don’t pause, our convictions do not take root.  They are like seed scattered on rocky soil that takes root only enough to get scorched by the sun (Matthew 13:5-7).  Therefore, our actions are based on constant input we receive from the world around us—ever changing and rarely good.  Alignment with God requires reflection, devotion, study, and prayer.  In fact, “losing the sincere sense of spiritual disciplines,” is a sign that one is about to “perpetrate boundary violations (Rediger 38).”  Similarly, St. Ephraim the Syrian, is known to have said “[v]irtues are formed by prayer. Prayer preserves temperance, suppresses anger, restrains pride and envy, draws down the Holy Spirit in to the soul and raises man to heaven (Logue).”  Such alignment with God gives us the strength to hear Him and to fight anything that may hinder us on our way to holiness and integrity.  The root of the word virtue “comes from the Latin virtus, which literally meant something like power (Gill 30).”  This is the same root for the word “virility,” which still carries a meaning of value and potency (Gill 30).  Alignment with God is possible only with God, through His goodness and impartation of virtue—the power to be good. 

…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt 3 of 6

This is part 3 of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity: (CLICK FOR PART 1, 2)

We must submit to God. Over time our communities develop value systems that define what is honorable, what is virtuous (that is to say, what is powerful and what is valuable in fulfilling a purpose). These values or virtues are based on what is necessary for corporate survival. These values or virtues are enforced by acts of shame. For example, the samurai culture of Japan valued courage and honor so much that it required suicide of a warrior that did not die in battle. The characteristics of courage and honor were developed out of the need to win battles or get annihilated. Our community (our global community, really) comes inherent with a value system or virtues. Christ, however, calls us to a different standard as evidenced in the “you have heard it said” discourses of the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that it was said, ‘do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery (Matthew 5:27).” Jesus revolutionizes what is virtuous in a culture. Christ atoning death allows for right relationship with God in order that we might be one with the source of goodness. In that light, it only seems right to follow Christ’s redirection in Matthew 5. We must let go of the value systems of the community in order to transform the community. We cannot cling, for example, to hard work and success, as honoring principles. We must submit to God’s goodness.

…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt 2

This is part 2 of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity:  (CLICK FOR PART 1)

The way to personal and social holiness is complex.  Bishop Lindsay Davis points out four characteristics of clergy that have acted without character in his sermon “The Stone Cold Truth:”  there are those that do not appreciate church discipline, those who don’t practice works of piety,  there are loners in ministry, and up-and-comers in the church (Davis).  In order to put some guideposts on the way to personal and social holiness (goodness and, therefore, integrity), we can pull some key concepts out of Bishop Davis’ sermon.  First, we must submit to God—to His standard and His calling on our lives in the context of community.  Second, holiness comes from God and our alignment with Him—especially in works of piety.  We cannot become good or develop integrity without His power.  Third, we must recognize that even alone, we are in community with God at all times and we must ultimately realize His call to ultimate goodness as a standard for our lives.  Finally, we must recognize that we are in community with others. 

…Toward Holiness and Integrity, pt. 1

Part one of an essay entitled: Sailing Toward Holiness and Integrity

All day long, we covered it in strips of fiberglass and coated it with resin.  Each sheet of fiberglass lay perpendicular to the one before it—the mesh was becoming more impenetrable.  We were doing all of this because there was a hole in the hull of the boat.  We hoped that our ceremony of fiberglass and resin would strengthen the integrity of the boat—not just so that we wouldn’t sink, but so that we could navigate more turbulent waters and venture further into the sea.  How well do our characters navigate through the current of God’s calling, especially in context of our community?

            We are all called and there is one who calls us.  God calls us all to salvation through Jesus Christ.  We experience His general call to discipleship—to grow through sanctifying grace.  We also experience the specific call to mission and vocation.  To hear this call, especially through our personal values, and to respond to it is to invest ourselves in the Lord (Harper).  What drives us to experience sanctification?  What sustains us through this journey?  The integrity of our character—the hull of our boat—sustains our journey.  Our integrity is strengthened through a life of personal and social holiness—a life of goodness.

            Goodness is a powerful description.  The word “good” is a “basic term of positive evaluation (Gill 62).”  Therefore, goodness requires a standard and, similar to calling, requires an evaluator.  Ultimate goodness is a standard (and a positive evaluation) set by God through his very nature, and, as we will see later, achieved through His power.  David Gill, in his book Becoming Good, laments that “the vocabulary of goodness tends to merge with the language of success and measurable effectiveness (65).”  This kind of “good” character stops short of integrity.  Character that strives for effectiveness or success assumes culture as a standard and evaluator.  Ultimately, that ship will be unable to navigate through greater waters.  So we strive to be good in order that we might be congruent with our creator, that we might be strengthened, and to express our creator in community with others.

            God, the very nature of Goodness, created us.  We were created to be good.  If we don’t strive for the righteousness through which we were created, we are denying our own very nature in goodness:  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (NIV Genesis 1:27).”  However, to strive for righteousness is to live fully in communion with our creator and this creates a humble strength within us (Harper).  With our foundation rooted deep in our creator, we are able to navigate through our calling while being in our culture; we can do this without being knocked down by circumstance or by being indiscreet.  With this deep root, we have a strong point of reference.  We will always be rooted in goodness.

            This congruence, this root, allows our creator to express himself through us when we are in community.  Congruence is evident to others.  Our goodness solicits trust—not just in us, but in Him whom we claim to be rooted.  At the same time, to claim to be rooted in goodness and to express the contrary is to call God “bad.”  In fact, most of our culture’s wounds come from unexpected deviations from an expected character (Harper).  Therefore, it can be asserted that many of the wounds in which we attribute to God can be traced back to a deviation in the character of one who represented Him by claiming to be congruent with Him.  This is an important concept for those of us who aspire to ministry.  The development and maintenance of integrity, strength in goodness, will sustain us while those who do not make integrity a priority may forget God, move towards burnout and indiscretion, and, therefore, misrepresent the goodness of God in their communities. 

Tough Terrain, The Search for Injustice-Part 2

Part 2 of The Search for Injustice

“No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

This seems to be on my heart right now, because I have been noticing how an act of service can quickly change to an act of vengeance or self-promotion. I’ve seen this within myself in small ways lately.

My wounds seem to deal with time and worth. I think they always have. Through some consistent devotional time and an accountability partner, I’ve begun to discover the source of these wounds. However, they are still tender. For example, not long ago I was with a person that belittled an idea that I had been working on. I felt more attacked than I actually was. I responded in 2 ways:

1. I sought out every possible thing that this person did that wasn’t perfect so that I could feel better about myself.

2. I worked even harder so that I could prove to myself that what I did was worthy.

While I was doing these things, I was not in fellowship with God, I lost time with my family, and I hurt my relationship with this other person. Those things that I did to prove myself were not done with a servant’s heart, but with a selfish heart. God was taking me through the rough road. I had a critical decision to make:

Should I continue with the instant gratification of proving my own worth or should I continue on with the Lord down that rough road and place my hurts in His hands?

Have you been faced with this question?

You see, on the journey to servant hood, God doesn’t just pick you up at point A and drop you off at point B. Instead, He takes you through the tough terrain. The ironic thing about it is that you can get off of the road at any time. God isn’t forcing you to go. There are critical points throughout the journey through which you must hang on to God with all you have in order to get through. If you don’t, you’ll end up getting off of the road somewhere between selfishness and holiness–that place is very dangerous.

God is calling you to “…go on to holiness,” into servant hood. He can take you there, but it isn’t always easy. Are you ready? Can you persevere? You don’t have to take this journey alone. Please, comment and share your stories of the tough terrain. How have you been challenged on the tough road to holiness?