[God] has saved us and called us to a holy life. 2 Timothy 1:9
By now, I hope that Part 1 and Part 2 of this series have convinced you that setting our sights on living as holy a life as humanly possible is God’s will for us. Oswald Chambers, the early 20th century preacher, said it perfectly:
God has only one intended destiny for mankind – holiness. Holiness means absolute purity of your walk before God, the words coming from your mouth, and every thought in your mind – placing every detail of your life under the scrutiny of God Himself.
These words are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago when he preached them. Putting everything we do, say, and think under God’s holiness microscope is the only way to live the life for which He created us.
Part 1 in the Holiness Listicle included three things to do – or start doing – to inaugurate your holiness journey:
- Go to Church
- Read the Good Book (and other good books)
Part 2 included three “Be”-haviors from the lifestyles of the saved and holy:
- Be Honest
- Be a Giver
- Be Peculiar
Continuing on with Part 3, we’ll look at two things to watch out for, while continuing to use Jesus as our benchmark. In my own experience (as you’ll see), these two items may require a heaping helping of enablement by the Holy Spirit.
The Holiness Listicle (7-8)
7. Watch What Goes Into Your
Although I think total abstention from liquor is a pretty good idea, this list item isn’t really about that. After all, Jesus drank wine. (However, I can’t imagine that he would sit out on the back deck with you and split a case of cold ones.) The Bible doesn’t condemn drinking – drinking too much, though…
Do not get drunk on wine… Ephesians 5:18
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks. Isaiah 5:22
(That would definitely rule out Mai Tais and Margaritas.)
What this item is about is socially acceptable and the next-best-thing to drug use; notably, the use and abuse of caffeine and other chemical stimulants.
Maybe I’ve just never paid attention, but I’m seeing brothers in Christ coming into Sunday school with the largest cups of coffee McDonald’s sells – one in each hand – that are gone by the end of the 45-minute lesson. I see dear sisters in Christ posting cellphone pictures of enormous whipped cream and caramel drizzled concoctions from Dunkin’ Donuts that are almost too big to fit in their automobile console. When they’re not posting pictures of coffee, they’re posting humorous cartoons about not being able to face the day without coffee.
When caffeine and sugar addiction is a reality in someone’s life, it’s hard to laugh at it.
We (Christians) have joined the world in allowing ourselves to be super-sized, Big-Gulped, venti-ed, and Red-Bulled literally to death. After all, energy drinks are just a little jaw grinding and a couple of dilated pupils away from a bump of crystal meth, and sugary soda is the one thing that has been definitely linked to obesity. And companies catering to the ever-growing market for those things are more than happy to pump our bodies full.
In short, we’ve become a chosen people jonesing for caffeine and chemicals and sugar and saturated fat.
While I don’t expect that everyone reading this holiness series will see themselves falling short in all 10 of these items (maybe even none of them), I certainly did. I found my “aha” moment while writing this very one (and the next one).
I don’t talk much about the details of my pre-salvation life here on “clay,” because I’m not proud of it and want to make this blog about God’s grace and not my sin. For a few dark months during that prodigal period, though, I became fairly well acquainted with recreational “stimulants.” (That jaw grinding and pupil dilation I mentioned was something I lived with for a while.) Although I was not seeking God at the time, I know now that it was Him who gave me the strength to just walk away from it one day – no lasting effects, no need for a 12-step program. I quit and never looked back. Several party buddies from that era weren’t so fortunate.
But caffeine soon took its place. (I could easily chug a two-liter bottle of Diet Mt. Dew during the work day.) When God made me a new creation, though, I realized that I was using caffeine for the same reason I used those other chemicals – to alter my mood, to make me feel like something I wasn’t. He showed me that I didn’t need chemical stimulation – His grace was sufficient for me in every way. So I ditched the sodas and switched to decaf.
Over the past few months, though, I decided – all by myself – that I was ready to handle drinking regular coffee in the morning. Then I decided – again, all by myself – that I could repeat that in the afternoon. (We have an industrial-size Keurig and unlimited K-cups in our kitchen at work.) I also decided I could start drinking sodas again, as well – all by myself.
I’ve mentioned before that quite often I think what I write here on “clay” is as much for my benefit as it is for anyone else’s. This is one of those times. Right in the middle of writing this sermon on caffeine use I got the “practice what you preach” speech from the Lord. I realized that I had gradually justified falling back into those old habits.
The Lord reminded me that I wasn’t living for myself anymore – I belonged to Him. As Paul told the 1st Corinthians:
You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
So a few days ago I switched back to decaf. Other than a couple of headaches, the Lord has done for me just what He told the Israelites He would do for them in Isaiah 41:10:
I will strengthen you and help you…
How about you? What would you do if you woke up to a broken coffee maker tomorrow morning? What if there was a sudden sugar shortage, or if Red Bull was banned by the FDA?
None of those things are nourishment; they’re not what God had in mind when he created food for us to eat. It was not named the McGarden of Eden.
How can we set ourselves apart from the world if we can’t face life without mood-altering chemicals? The potential short- and long-term effects of even moderate caffeine and sugar use range from anxiety to heart disease and cancer. Is it worth that? It appears God doesn’t think so:
Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him; for God’s temple is sacred, and you are that temple. 1 Corinthians 3:16,17
What are you filling your temple with? What does your waistline say? What does your coffee house spending say? Does it say, “What would happen if you took as good care of the inside of your temple as you do the outside?”
If it does, listen.
Can you picture Jesus stopping by the Jerusalem Starbucks for a double-shot Caramel Macchiato because he needed all that sugar and caffeine to help him stay awake while He prayed all night in Gethsemane?
Neither can I…
8. Watch What Comes Out of Your
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14
Had he lived today, he would have most likely added “…and the things I type or share on Facebook…”
As Christians, it’s important that everything we say or otherwise express is honoring to God – which requires constant vigilance, as we’re inextricably entangled in an age of immediate and never-ending communication. We can share instant messages, tweets, status updates, and have phone conversations to and from anywhere on the planet any time of the day or night. Within seconds everyone from your close friends to the entire Twitterverse can watch that video you liked or know where you were 35 minutes ago or that you call your pets your “fur babies.” And with ever-increasing and alarming regularity, I’m seeing respected brothers and sisters in Christ carelessly saying, texting, and sharing things that are crude and off-color.
Sometimes it’s from a lack of information; other times, it’s because we’ve just gotten used to talking and tweeting like the world around us.
I grew up in an era when Wally and the Beaver were innocently “gee-whizzing” their way through every TV episode. However, a quick visit to dictionary.com confirms that:
- “Gosh” and “golly” are actually just euphemisms for “God.”
- “Darn” is a euphemism for “damn,” as is “dang.”
- “Dadgum” and “doggone” and other variations are euphemisms for “God” and “damn” combined.
- “Gee whiz” is a euphemism for “Je-sus.”
C’mon – really?! It’s “Leave it to Beaver” for crying out loud – which is a euphemism for “for Christ’s sake.”
The sad thing is that most people who say “oh my God” or “gosh darn it” are not trying to insult God. It’s just that His name doesn’t mean anything to them and has become nothing more than a trite way to express a negative emotion.
And then there are the various digital communication abbreviations, like “OMG” for “Oh My God.” You can say that you mean the “G” to stand for “gosh,” but even when trying to soft-pedal and substitute “safe” words for the real ones, the intent remains the same. No matter which combination of “G.D.” words you use, the meaning doesn’t really change.
Additionally, simply by “Like”-ing, commenting on, or sharing a video, status, photo, etc. that is off-color to any degree or has cursing in the content, the title, or even the name of the page you shared it from, is basically the same as saying, “I, John Q. Christian, approve of everything you see written, implied, or displayed here.” If we wouldn’t say it or show it to Jesus, we shouldn’t show it to all of our friends, some of whom may be looking at our lives as representative of our faith.
So what do we – I – do? I say “for crying out loud” all the time and am just now learning what it means myself.
I do what list item #3 in Part 1 says: I pray. More specifically, I pray that God will help me change my language – even the mild stuff. And since I pride myself on my vocabulary, surely with God’s help I can manage to express myself effectively without using His name for any other reason than to express thanks and praise and honor and glory.
Of course, the easy way out would be to say, “Who’s even going to care?” But if we stick to our benchmark test, then we have to face this fact:
“Gee whiz” will care…
Just be careful what goes into your “temple” and what comes out. Jesus said:
Men [and women] will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. Matthew 12:36
But if you always make sure your heart is full of Him, you’ll find it much easier to answer to Him on that day.
Look for Part 4 soon…