One criticism I have occasionally heard about the church and Christianity goes like this. “God just gives a list of do’s and don’ts – mostly don’ts. Who wants to live a life like that?” If living the Christian life is ensuring we do not do certain things, I get it. Such a life sounds like an exercise in self-discipline and self-denial to please a stern God who will get us if we fail. This reduces Christianity to following a set of moral rules and self-righteousness.
But such an understanding fails to see the bigger picture. Jesus did not come so we could experience miserable and deprived lives. He came so we experience life to the full, free from entangling mess of sin. Titus 2:11-14 says it well:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”
Jesus gave himself to redeem us from all lawlessness. He empowers us to obey the “Don’t” commands like “do not steal, do not covet, do not bear false witness, do not murder, do not commit adultery.” All of these, though pleasurable for a moment, bring long term trouble.
But Jesus also gave himself “to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” The Bible always portrays holiness as something good, desirable and life giving. Holiness is not an end in itself. It enables a closer relationship with our greatest hope and desire – God Himself. He needs to be our great delight. In Him, we find our deepest soul satisfaction.
To discover this, we need to adjust our focus beyond the “Don’ts” of the faith to the do’s. If we only look at what we can’t do, we will be more likely to have a negative outlook on our faith. If we focus on what we can do and where it leads, our perspective changes.
So here’s the question. What are we doing in our lives to proactively pursue holiness and Christ? Do we set aside time daily to take in God’s Word and pray about it? Do we give time each week to join with a community of believers in person or online to gain encouragement for your faith? Are we serving others in the name of Christ? New Testament Scholar Craig Blomberg puts it like this – “Proactive positive steps toward holiness are always better than merely trying to avoid a series of wicked actions.” The more time we spend pursuing the “Do’s” the less time and energy we will have to think about the “Don’ts.”
“Lord, it’s hard to keeping fighting for the Christian life when we see so many around us giving up or giving in. Refresh our vision of you and the wonder of closeness with you. Help us to see the beauty of your dwelling place and the joy of closeness with you.”