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Holiness! It’s a word that elicits some type of response in you. Perhaps it’s laden with images of rules, regulations and oppressive burdens. Or perhaps it is mysterious, ambiguous, and a bit hard to grasp. Either way, you have come to the right place. At HolinessAndUnity.org we are happy to provide for you a welcome and a word of encouragement to pursue your curiosity about this wonderfully magnetic theme that describes the very nature of God. We call you to freedom, wholeness, and engagement. I am hopeful that as you explore these web pages you will not only see wonderful documents that help your thinking, but that you will also see pictures, books, and events that will inspire your heart to pursue God’s holiness with renewed passion. May God guide you and if I may be of any help to you, please let me know. Let’s walk together in surrendered humility as together we seek to reflect the holy nature of our God!
Kevin Mannoia, Chair
By Lisa Jackinsky
Learning to live in a foreign country is hard. The ways of thinking are different, the ways of acting are different, the ways of being are different. It takes time and effort to adjust.
After college I spent two years in Ecuador as a Peace Corps volunteer and experienced a completely different way of life: instead of huge superstores, there was a small outdoor market; instead of rock music, there was cumbia; instead of American football, there was soccer; and instead of roast beef, there was guinea pig.
Learning to live fully in the kingdom of God is like learning to live in a new country. The ways of thinking and acting and being are different. It takes time and effort to adjust. This is the process of transformation, or, as some call it, spiritual formation – an active, relentless participation with God to become more like Christ; to become a new creation.
In Colossians 1:13, Paul reminds followers of Christ that, “God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons (and) set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves…” The Common English Bible says He’s “transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves.”
When we say “yes” to following Jesus, we’re transferred into the kingdom of God. But the customs are new to us. Just because I move to Ecuador doesn’t mean I suddenly love soccer, or cumbia, or rice with an egg on top for breakfast. It takes time.
And so, Paul assures these Christians that he and others are praying for them – praying that they’ll fully adopt the customs and attitudes and ways of God’s kingdom.
In Colossians 1: 9-12, Paul describes four of those customs, four ways of life of this kingdom. Over the next four posts, we’ll explore each one.
In Colossians 1: 9 – 12, Paul describes four ways of life for those living fully in the kingdom of God. The first is found in verse 9. “Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying…asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works” (The Message).
One way new citizens adapt to God’s kingdom is to learn God’s will and ways. We get to know God – through Scripture, prayer, the Church, life. We learn to discern how God works.
“Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world,” Paul says in Romans 12:2, “but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is...”
Discernment is a “byproduct of spiritual transformation,” Ruth Haley Barton says in her book Sacred Rhythm: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Formation. As we partner with God to change how we think, we begin to discern God’s will and God’s ways.
But it’s also a habit, she says. “The habit of discernment is a quality of attentiveness to God that is so intimate that over time we develop an intuitive sense of God’s heart and purpose in any given moment. We become familiar with God’s voice – the tone, quality, and content – just as we become familiar with the voice of a human being we know well.”
An article in Parenting magazine says that “around the seventh and eighth month, a fetus's heart rate slows down slightly whenever his mother is speaking.” The baby knows his mother’s voice and his mother’s voice is calming to him.
The same is true for us. With time, we learn to know God’s voice and trust His goodness.
So one way new citizens settle into God’s kingdom is to learn to know God and His ways.
2. IMITATE CHRIST
A second custom learned by those living in God’s kingdom is found in Colossians 1:10.
“We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.”
We don’t only learn God’s ways, we copy God’s ways. We learn to imitate Christ. “Watch what God does, and then you do it,” Ephesians 5: 1 says.
During my first months in Ecuador with the Peace Corps, I lived with a host family in Quito. Our schedules were different and so for the first few days I ate breakfast alone.
The table was set with fruits and bread and juice, but no one else was around. One of the things waiting for me was a cup of warm milk. I’m not really crazy about warm milk, but, not wanting to offend, each morning I drank my cup of warm milk.
One morning, the lady of the house joined me. She reached for a tiny pitcher sitting on the table I hadn’t noticed and poured espresso into the warm milk.
Oh! I copied her and from then on enjoyed my morning espresso with warm milk.
As we learn God ways, we start copying God’s ways. We start to change the way we think and speak and act to be more like Christ.
We realize, as M. Robert Mulholland Jr. says in his book Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation, that “Every thought we hold, every decision we make, every action we take,…every response we make to the world around us,…all of these, little by little, are shaping us into some kind of being” and we increasingly choose thoughts and actions and responses that shape us into the image of Christ.
So a second custom we adopt as we learn to live in God’s kingdom is to imitate Christ.
A third way of life common to those living in God’s kingdom is found in Colossians 1:11. “We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul, not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It’s strength that endures the unendurable.”
People living fully in God’s kingdom develop endurance, perseverance - a strength that keeps going when things get tough.
How do we get that kind of strength? Sometimes God may just zap us with extra strength.
But more often, it seems, he builds strength into us like building a muscle – with training, over time. We learn to persevere by persevering.
This process of learning to live fully in the kingdom of God is called sanctification. The Free Methodist Church’s Book of Discipline describes sanctification as “that saving work of God beginning with new life in Christ whereby the Holy Spirit renews His people after the likeness of God, changing them through crisis and process…”
Both crisis and process require perseverance. In crisis, we learn to endure the unendurable through trust and surrender. In process, we learn to intentionally create space in our lives for God to work through spiritual disciplines – things like daily prayer, time in Scripture, corporate worship and serving others. We develop habits to be with God so he can work in us.
“Those who write about the Christian life often report that it gets harder, not easier, as the years go by,” Philip Yancy says in Reaching for the Invisible God. “At such times, the spiritual disciplines offer the only effective remedy. Someone who climbs Mt. Everest must rely on years of conditioning; a crash course before the ascent will not suffice.”
A third way of life we develop in the kingdom of God is a strength to endure.
(Part 4 of 4 coming soon.)
Learn more about Lisa Jackinsky.