Last time we discovered that we grow really well when we are mentored or discipled by someone who holds us accountable in our faith. My priest, Father John often reminds us that his faith is not entirely his own. Our parish helps him grow, and we are encouraged by him (individually and corporately). We grow in relationship. Mentorship can be done by peers or by someone more experienced than ourselves. Sometimes this accountability can be a form of tough love, but it is absolutely necessary for us to grow spiritually mature. Our spiritual journey is also deepened by obedience. This means we must obey God’s principles shown throughout the Bible. Obedience is outwardly shown as integrity and holiness. It’s a reflection of our faith and obedience to God.
Mission trips are like pressure cookers of faith experience. Long days, culture shock, and human frailty often show what we’re really like inside. What is really visible in those moments? Is it something that points to Jesus or our own weaknesses? I have been told by the Anglican mission agency SOMA (Sharing of Ministries Abroad) that sometimes we are the only Bible that others see. This means that our actions much match our faith. Integrity includes honesty but goes much deeper. Integrity is a special fruit of our character as Christians. It develops over time. Some of this is based on the baptismal promise to “persevere in resisting evil and, whenever we fall into sin, to repent and return to the Lord.” Good character develops as a foundation for choosing to walk in his holy ways. When we answer “I will with God’s help”, we acknowledge that we can only live the Christian life in His power, not our own. When we do this, it frees us, since without God’s help we’d burn out. OK, I get it. We can’t become holy by our own power. So how DO we become holy?
When our faith in Jesus comes alive for the first time, He makes us holy because he died for us. God the Father looks at us and sees us through His Son. Yet there is a process in becoming more holy in our habits and our actions. This is a process and most of us have a lot of bad habits to overcome. This process is called sanctification, or becoming holy. Some biblical teaching on holy living is simple and straight forward. If you are married, stay faithful to your husband or wife. We are to love and honour them in a way that blesses them. Paul encouraged husbands to love their wives as much as Jesus does the church. Wives are to love their spouses and understand that their husband wants to protect them from harm, or at best, he should. If you are single, it means you stay celibate until you are married. When we come to faith, sometimes we don’t know the details of how to live a holy life and it takes time to work this out in our lives. The Holy Spirit often speaks to friends about areas of weakness in their lives in a gentle corrective way at just the right time. Sometimes over zealous Christian leaders have mistakenly beaten the Holy Spirit to the ‘punch’ and approached these friends over their poor choices. Mentors and leaders have to be gentle in holding us accountable, since this is the Holy Spirit’s job. It is God who makes us holy, not our church leaders, although they can be used to encourage us to obey God.
The Bible and the Holy Spirit also teach us to act with integrity in other areas: in our work lives, in friendships, and in daily living. God is our source for godly living (2 Peter 1:1-11) and He will help you live out the holiness that you are given through salvation in Jesus Christ. This means you do not do this in your own strength. The Apostle Paul tells is in Phil. 2:12-13 “To continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”
Part of becoming more holy, is to make good and godly choices. Quite often we wonder, “OK, I’d like to please God and become more holy. How do I know what is His will for me?” God often leaves simple choices to us, especially if we do not distract others in their faith walk (for example, not drinking in front of an alcoholic and causing him to be tempted). This freedom grows as we become stronger in our faith. It often becomes easier to make good choices because of this strength. However, this freedom gives us more responsibility not to stumble others in their faith because of cultural differences. Paul encourages us to “not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God… (1 Cor. 10:23) and John reminds us that “whoever loves his brother lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble (1 John 2:10).
Cultural differences include worship styles. When I was in Pakistan, I learned their cultural experience of prayer. When people pray, their shoes must come off, because where they are praying is holy ground. Women wear shawls over their heads during services, and especially in prayer. I grew used to this, although it was difficult pulling my boots on and off. One of the associate pastors in Lahore joked with me, “Sister Ann, you are powerful with your shoes off, but when you have them on again, you are weak!” I thought this was incredibly funny at the time, because he was helping me put my shoes back on yet again. But what they saw when I had my shoes off was a “holy lady” who knew how to pray. Culturally I was connected with them. I showed by my willingness to enter their culture that I loved them. This was a godly choice, and it blessed them. It was the same motivation that caused me to dress African-style when I was in Kenya and Sierra Leone.
So you see that our choices can affect others for good or ill, and cause us to grow or stop growing. I pray that in our choice to follow our Lord, we may become aware of WHEN we are given direction to walk in His way. If we continue to walk in His ways, He grows our trust in Him. I will speak on growing that trust next time.
Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple
Laurie-Ann is an Ottawa based media person. She attended Tyndale Seminary and graduated in 1999. She attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario