I just finished another John Eldredge book this past weekend, ‘Free to Live: The Utter Relief of Holiness.’ I took my time with this book as I really wanted to let it sink in as I read through it, reading and meditating on little bits at at a time. It’s been another big part of my study and growth as I grow in my walk with God. I look forward to the next book I’ll be starting by Dallas Willard ‘Hearing God’. I’ll get into that later as I read through it.
In reading through Free to Live, God really opened my heart to something new, that I never really thought about. The idea of living Holy and the joy that comes with being able to live a life filled with the Holiness. Now what do you think about with the word Holy? Do you think of a state of being that is out of our reach here in this life? We often think of the greatness of God and how good he is and being in his presence in the Kingdom. Put it this way, John Eldredge changed the name of this book from just “The Utter Relief of Holiness,” and added ‘Free to Live.’ A big reason would be that the original title, alone seemed a bit of turn off to some. Holiness is looked at as he states, as “hard, perhaps; boring….a level of spirituality we might attain one day. But a relief?”
There is a relief I’ve come to learn through holiness and what walking with God and seeking Jesus each day can bring. Henry Emerson Fosdick stated, “The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in men becoming like Him.” Jesus is Holy and choosing to receive the renewed and restored life that He offers leads to holiness in ourselves and being more like Him. I’ve mention this verse before, but Paul states in Ephesians 4:24, “Put on your new nature, created to like God – truly righteous and holy.” Putting off the old man and being reborn in Christ and seeking Christ each day leads to holiness. That’s pretty serious and very profound. It’s something that we can choose to live in each day. Will we always get it right? No, of course not, but through Christ, we can choose to seek it out each day.
This leads to thinking of what the nature of holiness is for us. What does it mean to seek holiness, shedding our old and sinful nature each day and choosing to walk with God. First, because of our sinful nature that we are born into, we can’t do it on our own. With the fall of man, everything that was given to us when created as taken away. This world no longer belonged to us. But because of the finished work of Jesus Christ, because of his death on the cross, which we remember today, Good Friday, because of his resurrection, which we remember and celebrate on Sunday, and because of his ascension, which put all authority in heaven and earth under him. Because of that, we now have God’s undeserved and unmerited grace. Augustine tells us, “Nothing whatever pertaining to godliness and real holiness can be accomplished without grace.”
So now what? We live under God’s grace, what is that we can do in order to live a life filled with holiness. For this, we have to look at the life of Jesus. In Free to Live, John points to Jesus’s baptism and then His trials during his 40 day sin the wilderness when Satan tested and tempted Him. What happens after this, Jesus, whose life is completely surrendered to the will of the Father begins to change the world in ways never seen before and never seen since, from His healings and miracles during His ministry, His direct confrontation of the religious establishment that was out for its own glory, not God’s, and then his full works through the cross and his death, his resurrection, and ascension. His life was in full surrender to God’s will. He walked with God every single day and followed where He was led.
For us to live in holiness, requires the same kind of living. Living a life of surrender to God and walking in close intimacy with Him every single day, just as Christ did. Now I know what many of you are thinking, this is just so hard to do. For many of us this is true. We are so locked into this world, into our sinful nature, into our wounds, that many just can’t find a way to do do this. Dallas Willard points out, “I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a device for obtaining their own safety, comfort, and sense of being righteous.” He then quoted Frederick B. Meyer who wrote, “So long as there is some thought of personal advantage, some idea of acquiring praise and commendation of men, some aim of self-aggrandizement, it will simply be impossible to find out God’s purpose concerning us.” We have to shed our own worldly selfishness and self-reliance. Shed the old man, our old and sinful nature, and we have to do this every single day. As John points out, this is not easy thing and it will often lead to a higher degree of loneliness as people shy away from this kind of living or want it. You’ll experience the loneliness that Jesus lived with. But He felt is was worth it.
Do you feel it would be difficult to live a life fully surrendered to God. For us, is our fallen state, it certainly is. However, Jesus walked among us. He endured trials and struggles to a degree we can’t fathom, yet, He was fully locked on God. He was was after His heart and lived this way. He did not compromise His faith in anyway. While this can be challenging, just think of life that can come from seeking holiness everyday. Seeking God’s heart and will and letting Him fill our hearts each day. Giving ourselves entirely over to God. As John states, “One life totally given over to God is far more powerful than a hundred with gifting and expertise. Look at whom Jesus choose to change the world: fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes.” Many areas of the church is about expertise, training, principles, etc. Living a life totally given over to God sets in us freedom like we’ve never seen. Freedom to live for God and walk with Him the way we were meant to. Freedom to love God every part of our being and the freedom to love others (the greatest commandments).
This is not an overnight fix, but it is something that we can choose within ourselves to begin to more toward. God knows our hearts and he wants to use each of us for his Glory, but we first have to choose to let Him into our hearts and begin that transformation. Transformation takes a great deal of prayer, repentance, forgiveness, and healing. It takes being awake to the the fact the spiritual warfare and facing it just as Jesus did, when God calls us to. Seeking God. Surrendering to His will and choosing to live in His grace. Holiness is within our reach. It is something I am learning more each day and seeking to live in and seek everyday of my life from hear on. We won’t always get it right, but it’s an offer God has for us and freely available through God’s grace given through Jesus Christ.