This past week the world lost a great man, prayer-warrior, shepherd-pastor and spiritual legend. Sam Mayo was someone who lived as Jesus with skin on. His celebration service was this past Saturday morning and my husband and I couldn't make it to Atlanta in person so we sat at our kitchen table and watched the live feed online. I'm not going to lie, it was a little weird sitting in our pajamas, sipping our coffee and attending a funeral. But for two hours we were captured by the Spirit that was present and the words that spoke of one man's legacy.
It was also one of the most challenging two hours of my life.
When someone dies we are used to people thinking of only nice things to say about them. When those nice things are so true and pure they bring a tinge of conviction with them. Sam wasn't someone I spent much time with. His wife Jeanne and her mentoring in my life and ministry is my main connection to this family, but I have met Sam and I have heard her speak of him only as her hero and they weren't just words they were truth.
Once again she stood on the stage of this service and spoke about her hero and I mourned at what the world lost and wondered if my life would even come close to being remembered this way.
What made Sam this kind, (in Mama Jeanne's words, God's kind) of spiritual legend? A lot of things, most of them small things that were part of his normal day. Loving people, prayer, kindness, meekness, (I could list all the Fruit of the Spirit but you get the idea) and one word that pricked at my own spirit, HOLINESS. (Really, it was two words, blazing holiness, a match setting a forest fire.)
We don't say that word a lot in church anymore. We like to talk about love and grace and mercy and those are all wonderfully important parts of life with Christ. Holiness is less attractive, it's even a little uncomfortable. But in Revelation we find description of Heaven and the angels worshipping around the throne and what are they saying? Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord. And in 1 Peter 1:16 we find a verse throwing back to what was written in Leviticus, "Be holy, for I am holy." (There are plenty of other references to holiness if you want to take a look.)
What is holiness though? I am sure there are plenty of better definitions and studies and doctrines than what I am about to give but here goes...
I think holiness...
... Is being set -apart. It's being different. It is raising your personal standard. Obviously we are talking about sin and avoiding that, but I think holiness is more. One of Mama Jeanne's phrases that I have held on to has been, "others may, but I may not." There are some things in this world that might not be sin, they might not even be that bad but they aren't good for me, They aren't going to help me get where God wants me to go and therefore I must avoid them. They may be things that you don't have to avoid and that is okay. Holiness isn't so much about legalism and movie ratings and making rules as it is about being obedient to what God is requiring of me.
I've messed up here. I have waded into waters that I should have stayed away from. I told myself it wasn't sin, it was okay. But the Holy Spirit told me it wasn't, not for me, not for where God wanted me to go.
For me, seeking holiness goes further than avoiding sin, and past the justifications I could make and into being who Jesus wants me to be even when others are doing differently.
It means not asking what can I get away with, or how far can I go, or how close to sin can I get but rather, God, what do you want me to do? What is okay for me? What is the standard you are setting for me?
... Starts with our relationship with God. It's about seeking Him, being close to Him. Being led by Him. Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but He who lives in me." When I begin a relationship with Jesus I am choosing to die to self, I am choosing to give up control, I am choosing to let Him be in charge. I can't be holy separate from Him. I can't really be holy, truly and completely holy, period. But the closer I am to Christ, the more I yield to His will and listen to His direction, the closer I get to holiness.
Why am I even talking about this? Because I want to be different. I want to reach all that God has for me. I want to fight the good fight and finish the race and I want to finish it well. Not for my own gain. That celebration service was inspiring because it wasn't so much about Sam Mayo as it was about Jesus. I don't want my life, my very distant future funeral, to be so much about me as it is about Jesus.
That isn't going to be easy. Living Chosen rarely is. I have to fight my wants and peer pressure and cultural standards. I have to be fearlessly obedient in the face of warring emotions. I have to work to stay connected to God so that I can hear His heartbeat and stay in tune with it.
In some ways holiness will look different for me than it will for you. As far as it goes beyond the black and white of Scripture it will become personal to you and your purpose. So, I can't tell you what not to watch or listen to or read or play or say or do or think. I can't give you a list. What I can do is tell you to get close to Jesus. Spend time with Him daily and let Him tell you what is and isn't good for you. And when He does, and He will, listen, be obedient. It won't be easy but it will be worth it.
Here's a little bonus material courtesy of Addison Road. This has been a song that has really spoken to my heart. I love the honesty of the lyrics. Holiness isn't about having all the answers, it's about pursuing Jesus, and I think this song speaks that so beautifully.