True religion overflows with happiness and joy… The thought of delight in religion is so strange to most people, that no two words in their language stand further apart than “holiness” and “delight.”But believers who know Christ understand that delight and faith are so blessedly united … They who love God with all their hearts, find that His ways are pleasant ways, and all His paths are peace. Such joys, such brimful delights, such overflowing blessings, do the saints discover in their Lord … We don’t fear God because of any compulsion; our faith is no fetter, our profession is no bondage, we are not dragged to holiness, nor driven to duty. No, our piety is our pleasure, our hope is our happiness, our duty is our delight.
–Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening
Holiness and delight. How far apart do these two words stand in your language?
Delight. The squeals and giggles of a child as the waves splash over her feet as she runs along the shoreline. A heaping cone of ice cream in the humid summer twilight. An unexpected care-package filled with homemade goodies which appears in your college mailbox. The sparkle in the eyes of those in love.
I finally buckled down and finished a long overdue project this week—a dress that has been in various stages of development for about two years. Crafting is the one area of my life in which I am the queen of half-finished projects. So, I was determined to be ‘one who finishes her projects.’ I worked out a solution for the geometric impossibilities created by my pattern-less improvisations. I carefully lined the edges so the whole thing didn’t unravel one fray at a time every time I threw it in the wash. I deciphered the magical thing that is a buttonhole foot on my sewing machine. And when the last button had been attached, the last threads snipped, and I squeezed it on over my head and twirled around in front of the mirror (read: awkwardly contorted to see myself while standing on the toilet in front of our tiny bathroom mirror), the sensation was…delight. It got even better when the lady walking beside me into the local market turned to say, “Cute dress!” Delight, giddy delight over my finished project and its success.
It’s hardly the sensation when I look back over my day and think, “I chose holiness and obedience today.” (Okay, let’s be honest, how often would I even have cause to think this?—But work with me.)
Say holiness, and it sounds pretentious or frumpy or restrictive or simply downright unattainable. Holiness can easily devolve into holier-than-thou-ness, or into a quality impossible for us mortals and only ascribable to God himself. And yet, repeatedly we read in the Bible that we are to be holy, just as He who called us is holy. These are some of the verses that make us a bit incredulous or intimidated or scared we’ll never get to do anything fun ever again.
The Law of Christ, which calls us to a level of holiness that can only be empowered by the work of the Holy Spirit within us, is not about being restricted or more serious or a “goody two-shoes” or a perfectionist. Holiness is about being set apart. Set apart for another Kingdom and to another King. Set apart for obedience and living fully into His Way. And His Way is not a burden, it’s not intended to squash our fun or be judgmental or make us miserable. His Way gives us the best way to live. It’s intended to guide us into the richest, most fulfilling, most joy-filled life possible.
Holiness is not simply about rules and restrictions and thou-shalt-nots. It’s about choosing fresh, clean water over stagnant water. It’s about running on the path He laid out to bring us to our final destination with the best scenery possible along the way. When we can start thinking of holiness this way, then we will be able to agree with our friend Spurgeon that holiness and delight are blessedly united—and that it is out of God’s abundant love and grace that this is so.