Where Holiness Begins
Tyler Braun is a writer, worship leader, and pastor from Portland, Oregon where he lives with his wife, Rose. His first book releases on August 1st through Moody Publishers. Today’s post is adapted his book Why Holiness Matters. You can find Tyler on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog:
The collective story of so many people can be summarized in one word: shame. Our own sin and the sin of others has inflicted large, gaping wounds that have pushed us away from God and others as we’ve hidden ourselves and our shame.
In seeking to find my own way in the world, I made decisions that took me down a treacherous road of sin. These sinful patterns ultimately led me to start building walls around my life, so no one, including God, could get a sense for the pain I felt. Looking at my wrecked life next to God’s perfection, holiness, and goodness was a somber reality of my ineptitude. Through it all I had created a false identity for myself—an identity that said all of my worth in life was thrown away through the destruction of sin.
While shame often begins with a mistake made by ourselves or by a hurtful act done toward us, it always results in us finding a false identity. When we fail, we often give up on pleasing our holy God because we clearly can’t keep up with Him.
But here’s a truth I learned while being lost in the disorientation of my own sin and shame: These identities of shame are illusions. They are illusions because identities of shame hide the truth of how God sees us.
I believe God desires for us to live in holiness. Not in sin. Not in shame. All throughout the Scriptures God proclaims to us, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
God saves us to change us—to move us beyond our sin-filled shame, to lives of holiness. How easy it is to overlook this calling on our lives when all we can see is the illusion of our worth being lost in our failure.
Holiness, however, is not a possible reality when life is bound up with shame. Even in our selfish desire to move forward in life without letting others close enough to see our pain, God’s love is continually poured on us. And it is this love that calls us beyond our shame, into the affectionate embrace of our Savior.
Our action or inaction does not dictate His love because His love is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. As we pursue Christ and find ourselves in Him, God’s love surrounds every fiber of our being.
He loves us as His children, even in the midst of our failures. We no longer have to hide, because His love is a safe place. We can swing open the curtain currently shading our lives from others to a God who loves us. The masks no longer have to stay on.
This is truly good news, because if our holiness did not spring forth from God’s movement toward us, it would be something we could achieve on our own. We would establish rules and regulations of what was needed for holiness to be achieved. We would make sure everyone followed the holiness party-line.
If holiness didn’t first begin with God’s pursuit of us through His holy love, we would aim to prove ourselves.
God’s love is an action of goodness in the midst of our unworthiness to receive it.
This shifting narrative from shame to love is what we need to slowly filter into our lives. Rather than being stuck in deceptive patterns of sin, God extends His merciful hand to us, calling us to walk in relationship with Him. I love how J.I. Packer develops this shift in terms of holiness:
“The life of true holiness is rooted in the soil of awed adoration. It does not grow elsewhere.”
Holiness does not begin with us. It begins with God.
True holiness is a life of unwavering devotion birthed out of a deep affection from and for God.
God desires to create a tabernacle out of our lives to speak His words of truth to our broken world. As He indwells our lives, holiness is lived out through us into a world desperately looking for hope and for life.
Holiness is what we have ignored and holiness is what we need. All along God has desired for us to experience the truth of His immense love for us.
This is where holiness begins.