What is the pursuit of holiness? I’m afraid we often think of it as a weary effort to do better, to try harder, or solitary confinement, within a checklist of “approved activities,” like a child banished to the corner. Or maybe, deep down, we fear that it’s joy smothered alive.
G.K. Chesterton writes in Orthodoxy, “The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild.”
While the pursuit of holiness certainly includes doing good things, it’s more than that. And the boundaries of this established rule and order are not like a box. They’re more like a racetrack or a corridor leading to a banquet hall, and those who venture up this narrow path share this in common — they long inconsolably for joy.
. . . those who venture up this narrow path share this in common — they long inconsolably for joy.
My dad has a saying: “True joy is always found within the constraints of obedience.” At first, that nose-wrinkling word — constraints — triggers suspicion, echoing the Serpent’s lie in Eden. Constraints? Is God withholding something from me?
But throughout Scripture, every one of God’s commands is a constraint. And they’re good. They’re restraints on darkness and guardians of goodness, clearing the way for good things to run wild.
For example, the commandment — You shall not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14*) — defends loyalty, unbroken covenant, and a love that bears all things and believes all things (1 Cor. 13:7). Or — You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor (Ex. 20:16) — shows us that God desires a world filled with truth and integrity.
In other words, God’s commandments are portraits of Paradise. Peering through these “living pictures” is like a Cold War child in East Germany glimpsing life on the other side of the Berlin Wall. This is what freedom looks like — this is life as it was meant to be before the fall and as it will be in the life to come.
At its core, the pursuit of holiness is driven by obsessive love for God.
But are sheer ideals enough to induce moral will-power now? What really drives the desire to pursue holiness? Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (emphasis added).
At its core, the pursuit of holiness is driven by obsessive love for God. It’s running wildly after Him. It’s the unapologetic pursuit of joy in God Himself. It’s spellbound wonder — worship — that bubbles over into every corner of life, gradually shaping our heart’s desires and the direction of our lives.
The roaming harlot is ransomed, engaged to the King’s Son, and proclaimed “holy” in His name.
In Hosea 6:6, God says, “. . . I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” God doesn’t merely want our good works; He wants our hearts. So where does this obsessive love for God come from?
We all have roaming hearts, but do you love God at all? Know the Holy One who’s sent His Son — Grace incarnate — to dwell among the children of outcasts, separated by sin’s curse. Through His perfect life and sacrificial death, He’s fulfilled the Law on our behalf. It is finished. The curtain is torn in two. The roaming harlot is ransomed, engaged to the King’s Son, and proclaimed “holy” in His name.
We are no longer separated from God; we are set-apart to God — a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession — redeemed and purified to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live . . . zealous for good works (Tit. 2:11-14, 1 Pet. 2:9).
This is what man was originally made for and it’s what you were redeemed for: to run wild towards God and the good things of God. Let your identity found in Him boldly shape your life.
Work, play, speak, dance, eat, drink, dress, and invest as one set free to proclaim, “I am with Him and He is worth knowing.”
If a girl is in love with a man of character, she wants to be known — set apart — as his girl, his fiancé, his wife. She is honored by his name. She takes interest in his passions and the causes he fights for. She wants to represent him well. Does it sound fairy-tale-ish, uncomfortably old fashioned? Maybe. But it’s natural for her, because she loves him. And if this is true in a human relationship, how much more in our relationship with the Ultimate Hero, Jesus Christ?
Know your God. Don’t look away from His character. Love Him obsessively. Work, play, speak, dance, eat, drink, dress, and invest as one set free to proclaim, “I am with Him and He is worth knowing.” Beware: this costly pursuit will set you apart, but it leads to true joy. So run wild.
*Note: All Scripture references were taken from the ESV translation
Works Cited: G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Lexington: SnowBall Publishing, 2015), 61.