Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Holiness & Happiness Are Inseparable
1John 2:1 ¶ My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;
The language of this verse opens up to us the beauty of a personal relationship with a holy God who can transform our lives. First, the use of the phrase, my "little children" is only found here and in John's Gospel where Jesus spoke with great affection regarding his followers, "Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’" (John 13:33) This is not a phrase simply referring to a group of small children, but instead it is a phrase of affection for those who had become dear. Jesus is speaking with great love and affection for those who had become his followers and now John is passing on the depth of that love relationship to those whom he had been discipling. It is in the very use of these words that we begin to understand the depths of the transformation of God's children into his holy loving children -- and all of us are invited into that relationship. Once we have entered into that great line of children we can understand why John would now use this term personally for he had become a reflection of Jesus Christ to those whom he had been discipling.
In the midst of his expression of love for those whom he had discipled was also a cry for their state or condition in life. He was writing them so that they would not sin. His use of language here is also very important because he's not asking them to become "professional perfectionists" but is instead inviting them into a lifestyle in which one no longer sins. This is a complete and total transformation of an individual who will no longer have a desire or bent toward sinning and in this is great joy. When one lives the holy life, the lifestyle that follows is one which brings peace, joy and happiness to the individual for there is such freedom in Christ. No longer are we tied to the things of this world but are set free to soar above the things which would compel us to sin. Truly, holiness and happiness are inseparable!
But there is the possibility that one might sin -- but take heart, Jesus has already taken care of this. Here we find the word "advocate," or "Paraklete" which John also uses in his Gospel. Jesus had told his followers that the Paraklete would come -- the Advocate -- who would come and be among them. While Jesus was with his followers he was the Paraklete -- when he went to be with the Father, the Holy Spirit became the Father's Advocate -- the Paraklete among humanity. Now, Jesus is humanity's advocate with the Father -- he is the Paraklete at the right hand of the throne of God, interceding for you and for me. The one who is righteousness is on our side, doing all he can to draw us into this life of holiness.
It's hard to imagine uniting the two words, "holiness" and "happiness" when for too long we have associated "holiness" with people who have no fun! Somehow we came to believe that if we lived a life that was angry and critical of the world, in which we were sober pietists in drab clothing, we were God's holy people. Sorry -- but that somehow puts us in the "professional perfectionist" category. We don't want to be there, because that's where we find the Scribes and the Pharisees. They spent their lives trying to live by a list of rules and they were miserable and worked pretty hard and making everyone around them miserable as well. This was not Jesus' desire for his dear "little children."
Out of his intense love for us Jesus desired that we live in the power of the Holy Spirit, a relationship that would connect us with God and his holiness. While the "professional perfectionists" wasted their time trying to live within a bunch of rules, the "little children" flocked to a personal relationship with God. They weren't hung up on doing things right or wrong because they just wanted to hang out with the one who loved them dearly. Just like our own little children, they love to curl up on our laps, lay their head on our chest and have us read them a good book. They laugh and giggle and and live in the moment -- and they are without sin. Not because they're worried about not sinning, but because they're not even thinking about it -- they are living in a state of joy and love and are enjoying life to its fullest every moment of every day. However, as they play and grow there may be moments when they do something wrong and then a gentle parent reminds them that "no" this is not a good thing. Why? Not because we don't want them to enjoy life, but because we know that they thing they want to do will be harmful to them.
We are invited as little children into this type of a relationship with our heavenly Father. It is a state or condition of holiness and it is in this place that we will find true happiness. It's not a place where we worry about whether we're doing everything right or wrong, but instead it's about living in peace with God and with man. It's understanding that if we do sin, Jesus is right there to correct us and bring us back to the right path and direction -- if we respond immediately to his correction.
It's time to throw off the notion of a miserable life for those who are seeking holiness and instead embrace the relationship with God that he intended for us as his little children. In this we will find a joy and happiness that is beyond our expectation as we learn to relax in our personal relationship with him. Put the "professional perfectionist" behind and step into real joy and happiness with our holy God.
Lord, thank you for loving us as your dear little children. Amen.