The Importance of Pursuing Holiness
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The doors closed on the elevator in my dorm building. I had only barely noticed that a man had walked in behind me. As I got situated for the quick ride to the third floor, I realized that this guy was pretty tall. Actually, he was very tall. Like NBA player tall. When I finally did get a good look at who this was, I was shocked to realize it was an NBA player – Clyde Drexler, a childhood favorite player of mine.
I stared for what felt like minutes but was likely only a couple of seconds before I spit out, “You’re Clyde the Glide.”
He laughed and confirmed that, indeed, he was 1995 NBA Champion Clyde Drexler of the Houston Rockets. There was nothing I could say, despite trying. I was too awed, so I just sort of stuttered. Clyde was cool about it, though; he simply laughed and gave me a “Go Rockets!” as I stepped out onto my floor.
I was reminded of this story recently as I prepared to give a devotional to the college students at our church. The topic was holiness, and the text was the vision in Isaiah 6:1-8. I wanted to challenge these students to see God’s holiness as a motive to follow Christ, just as Isaiah responded in obedience when he got a glimpse of God’s holiness and redemptive love. And that’s when it hit me.
Reflecting on my experience with Clyde, I thought about my reaction. Sure, Clyde Drexler is a legend in my hometown of Houston; but he is still a man like any other, and my reaction to being in his presence was to be too stunned to talk. Yet, I often miss that same awestruck wonder when I think or speak about God. Instead, I am too familiar or flippant. If we’re honest, all too often, we get a little flippant in matters of faith or how we talk and think about God. A celebrity or athlete thanks “the big man upstairs,” and I roll my eyes, but many things I do reveal the same approach to God, whether it's checking out during worship services or getting comfortable with “small” sins because "it's not a big deal.”
Before I ever brought the devotional to students, I was challenged by Scripture about my approach to God. Do I truly think of Him as the perfectly holy God? And do my actions match that belief? What about my words and thoughts? In chapter six of his book, Isaiah is shown a vision of the Lord’s throne room, wherein His robe fills the temple and seraphim sing, “Holy, holy, holy!” This glimpse of God’s holiness, His perfection and uniqueness, leads Isaiah to say that he will surely die. He knew that he was not holy, nor were his people. But God’s gracious response to redeem his sin motivates Isaiah to respond to God’s call to deliver a message to His people.
I don't see any irreverence when I read Isaiah’s response to God. I highly doubt Isaiah would casually call God “the big man upstairs” or merely wait out worship services. Instead, Isaiah had an accurate picture of who God is—the perfectly holy, pure, unique Creator God, as is evidenced in his message. Isaiah’s understanding of God’s holiness, his own sin, and God’s merciful forgiveness changed everything.
Isaiah’s experience is a microcosm of the life of the believer. Isaiah saw who God is, recognized and expressed his own sin, and was forgiven and commissioned by God, and all believers should follow suit. Far too often, we forget the holiness of the God we serve. Yes, the work of Christ restores the relationship between God and His people, resulting in our ability to be with God, but God’s holiness is never diminished. Even today, God is still the God that overwhelmed Isaiah in his vision. Only through life in Christ can we be bold to approach Him.
Constantly throughout Scripture, God calls His people to be holy as He is holy – to be wholly set apart and unique. If believers are to be holy, we are to be completely devoted followers of Christ, meaning all that we have and all that we are is devoted to the worship and service of God – our lives, possessions, thoughts, and actions.
If I’m being honest, over my decade of service to students, I have struggled with striving to be relevant and pursuing personal holiness. In trying to connect with students, my speech has not always been what might be expected of a Christ follower. Going even further, I know that my thought patterns or how I joke with close friends would definitely not be considered holy. And based on my experience, I know many other youth workers feel the same.
Don’t let this discourage you. Rather, this understanding should lead us back to Christ in repentance. As we progress in our walk with Christ, our understanding of God’s holiness and the depth of our sin should grow. As this understanding deepens, so does our appreciation of what Christ has done. Pursuing holiness might make us look weird and “irrelevant,” but it’s what we are called to do. We will look weird and different, but this is the adventure for which God has commissioned us. Forget about being cool; pursue holiness.
If we feel weird about pursuing holiness and how different it might make us look, how much more do our students? Our students need to see us pursue holiness. They need to see us live out what we say we believe. They need to see us take matters of faith seriously. There is no room for flippancy in a life lived in pursuit of a holy God. We don’t have to take ourselves seriously all the time, but we do need to seriously live a holy life.
Share your thoughts with others in our YM360 community:
- How have you communicated the call to holiness to your students? Does your personal pursuit of holiness reflect what you call your students to?
- How do you balance not taking yourself too seriously while also seriously pursuing holiness? What guidelines or boundaries have best served you?
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