Rewind. Pause. Push Play. Michael Langley says, “Get in the game!”
January 27, 2011
Rewind: We all dig holes. As humans, it’s something that we are extraordinarily good at. We dig and dig and dig, and then promptly fall into our holes, only to look up from the bottom and wonder how in the world we ended up there. Then, as guest speaker Michael Langley put it on Thursday night, we pray that “Hail Mary play” of prayers – that’s a football term for those of you not in the know, feel free to look it up – that God would step in and save us from complete devastation. And He does. But, if we’re not careful, we walk around for a little while only to find ourselves a new spot, and start digging all over again.
Some holes seem small; more like dips or divots in our paths than real pits. They are annoying and troublesome, no doubt, but unassuming. They appear to threaten us, at worst, with a sprained ankle. Other holes are huge; resembling the deepest of caves; completely devoid of light, and lacking any visible means of escape. No matter their size, we all have them, and we all get used to having them. We realize that we’re all sinners – hole diggers – and that we can’t avoid messing up from time to time. Holes are just a fact of life on Earth, right? The problem is that, sometimes, we end up thinking we’re somehow smart enough to avoid the holes on our own, or even smart enough to explore them. We’re proud; we think we know best. But even the smallest holes grow bigger the more we stumble upon them.
Eventually, we get stuck in the holes we’ve made. Sometimes we’re so far down that we start to believe it’s home: we put up draperies, add a few house plants and a couch. We try to make ourselves comfortable down there; we choose to settle. But we don’t belong in holes. God has called us to a much higher place – He has called us to be holy. The holes we dig are simply proof that holiness is a foreign concept to us; it’s not something that happens naturally or intuitively. It’s a choice: do you accept the life-changing love and saving grace of Jesus Christ, or do you choose to continue living in the hole?
Remember, being holy does not mean the same as being good. To be holy actually means to be set apart. Living a holy life, then, means living a life that looks different because it glorifies God; as Paul wrote, it means offering up our bodies as a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom. 12:1). As Michael said last night, the truth of the matter is that being good has nothing to do with our relationship with Jesus Christ. After all, God already made the first move: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Holiness, or the pursuit of holiness, is not about perfection – if we were capable of perfection, we wouldn’t need Christ – it’s about responding to God’s love; it’s about progress. When we make the decision to take God up on His amazing promise of redemption and grace through Jesus and get out of whatever hole we’re in, we take another step closer to holiness.
Michael explained it like this: pain is redemptive, and God is a gentleman. He’s not going to force you to do anything. He’ll let you keep digging your hole – stay in your pain – until you ask Him to pull you out, to redeem you and start making you holy.
But being holy isn’t even about what you have been set free from; just take a look at Galatians 5:1 – “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Being holy is about what you have been set free to do; it’s about getting in the game. So, just do it. Start living for Christ.
“What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” Romans 6:1-4
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified…For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8
“Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” 2 Corinthians 7:1
Push Play: This sermon reminded me a lot of the book Holes by Louis Sachar (you may have seen the more recent and equally delightful movie by the same name starring Shia Labeouf). Basically, in the story, juvenile delinquents get sent to a work camp out in the desert where they are made to dig holes five feet wide by five feet deep every day. The theory behind making the boys dig literal holes, then, was to teach them not to dig figurative holes – to stop messing up and live better lives. Even though it was supposed to bring about something good, when the boys had finished digging their hole for the day, they were not any more inclined to live differently. They were just as hot, tired, sore, and discouraged as before, but now they were also five feet underground.
No matter what we think we’re doing, nothing good comes from digging holes. Think about it, whenever we actually dig a literal hole, the goal is to fill it back up again, right? You dig a hole in the yard to plant a tree; you dig a hole in a pot to plant a flower; you dig a hole in the ground to make a well, etc. A hole really only becomes useful when it has been filled. Let Jesus fill your holes. He died to save you – to pull you out of your hole. And if you’re sitting there thinking you have no holes, I encourage you to pray about it. Ask God to search your heart and point out the places in your life that need to filled up with Jesus. No matter who dug it or how you fell in it, God can get you out of it.