Holiness vs. happiness // part 1 // to what end?


But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:15, 16 NIV)

Sarah and I are reading a book together by Gary Thomas titled, Sacred Marriage. The subtitle and premise of the book is, “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy.” What an incredible concept! I would go even further to say, what if God’s design in all our relationships and all our life situations is that we would use them to become more like Him…holy, holy, holy! Our culture tells us to do what makes us happy in every aspect of life, especially in marriage. After all, if you aren’t happy, what is the point in living. Some would even go as far as to say that God wants us to be happy…Really? I certainly don’t believe that God’s ultimate desire for us is unhappiness, but it also is not happiness (as an end in itself). I have heard it said another way…God cares much more about our character than he does our comfort. I view God’s desire for us the same way I view my desire for my sons. I like making them happy and giving them good things that bring temporary happiness, but not at the expense of their character. Happiness is very temporary when it revolves around our human relationships, circumstances, or possessions. Holiness on the other hand (I would argue) brings lasting fulfillment and joy by being in the center of God’s will and puts us in a position to bring others that same hope.

So, what is holiness? To be holy is to be “set apart”, “distinct”, “separated”, or “in a class by ones self”. Holiness often implies moral purity, but it is much more than that. It is a divine distinction in every attribute. God’s transcendent holiness is what makes him worthy of worship. Our depravity in light of His holiness makes our need for a Savior and His grace that much more evident. As Isaiah put it, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” It is impossible to stand in partial view of the holiness of God and be even remotely concerned with the glorification of self. Pride in self removes us from His presence because the two cannot coexist.

So, how do we become holy? Simply put, we cannot become holy apart from the covering of Christ on our lives, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the “continual working out of our salvation with fear and trembling”(Philippians 2:12 NIV). But we can rid ourselves of the notion that the pursuit of happiness is the primary target of life…why not the pursuit of holiness!

Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27 NIV)


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