Christians’ abilities to do dumb things never ceases to amaze me. Recently, my assistant came into my office and asked me to sign a certificate for a baby dedication. I found it strange as I didn’t recognise the name and the date on the certificate was from way back. So I asked, ‘What’s the deal’?
It turns out it was for a couple who had left our church years ago and now wanted a new baby dedication certificate and a letter from us so that their child could attend a Christian school. The email they had sent was quite short and read slightly rudely, ending with ‘regards’. Nice! Many people seem to have a ‘take’ mentality and, to me, at least, it seems to be becoming even more prevalent. However we may feel about it, we shouldn’t be surprised by this kind of behaviour. After all, it’s a sign of the times we live in.
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that! (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NLT)
In verse 2 it says, ‘They will consider nothing sacred.’ The word translated ‘sacred’ here is rooted in the word ‘holy’. Holiness and a fear of the Lord has been eroded from the modern Christian psyche and replaced with irreverence, a claim for rights and an independent spirit (or religious, rebellious and right!).
There was a time, not so long ago, that if you were late for church you’d sneak in, ashamed, and sit quietly at the back. Now, I see folks in my church walk in late and almost strut their stuff through the auditorium with no sense of shame or care for God or His house! There are some who don’t support the church financially and miss paid church events they ‘can’t afford’, only to post pictures of their 5 star hotels and gourmet meals on social media! If they’re challenged, their response is, ‘Well, it should be free! After all, this is church, right!?’ It drives me crazy. They treat the Lord as if He’s dirt; always second to their family, their plans, or their weekend retreats, yet they are often the greatest critics of the church!
It’s the symptom of a life that has no holiness, reverence, or fear of the Lord. Like is says in Matthew 15:8, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.’ This kind of behaviour is seen in the parable of the ‘Great Wedding Feast’ in Luke 14:16-24, which ends, ‘For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet.’
Scripture tells us that without holiness no-one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). Holiness is defined as being ‘separate’. It comes from the ancient word that meant ‘to cut’, or ‘to separate’. In our modern vernacular it can be translated ‘a cut above’.
Holiness is not just about our works, it has everything to do with our position in Christ. Scripture has called us to be holy. That is, we are to be separated from the world, its customs, attitudes and behaviour. We are holy not only positionally, but also by our behaviour, conduct and mind-set.
Sheep will eat whatever they think is good; it’s only the shepherd who knows it’s dangerous. What are my sheep grazing on? Social media has a way of revealing who folks really are. Now, I know some people are not on social media for excellent reasons, but for me I get to see what people are really like. A Christian’s conduct on social media is just as important as it is in their everyday life.
So what can we do as leaders and shepherds?
- Be an example ourselves (Jeremiah 3:15)
- Teach, preach and admonish that holiness is needed (1 John 2:1-2)
- Correct and rebuke according to Scripture (1 Timothy 5:20)
- Guard against pride as a root sin (James 4:10)
- Teach on forgiveness and repentance (Ephesians 4:32)
I know of companies who will only employ a person after examining the content of their social media. They want to see how well that person will represent their company after-hours. We, too, have to see how well our people represent our church and – most of all – the Lord! I’ve been saddened by the things folks ‘like’, the memes they post and their generally worldly behaviour on social media. I’ve seen people who only attend church once every six weeks or so post scriptures on commitment and having a heart for God. I’ve seen posts about the importance of prayer, yet the author has never attended a pre-service prayer meeting; not even once! I’ve seen people show their lack of maturity by gossiping, lying and being disrespectful, but in the house of the Lord they give the appearance of innocence and an almost angelic demeanour.
Where are we going as a church if our people lack holiness? Sadly, the answer is nowhere. I’ve known young people court someone, knowing full-well that they should wait, and who, after receiving godly counsel, choose to continue in the relationship. They deliberately choose to disobey, though in a ‘nice’ way! In the twenty-first century church we are at an all-time low on the holiness meter, and we have got to ask God for a fresh visitation on His people.
How important is holiness? The holiness of God is not just a theological subject studied by preachers and scholars, nor is it for a select few who have the stamina to pursue it. Holiness is important to everyone who calls himself or herself a disciple of Christ (1 Peter 1:15-16, Psalms 119:9, 2 Timothy 1:9). I love how the Message translation renders this text:
But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted. Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cosy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives. (1 Peter 2:9-12, MSG)