Today was a HUGE day in the Morris family! Zelia started her first day of official “big girl” preschool. Okay, this news might not make the cover of the Franklin Press. But it was big day of excitement, fear, and expectation for our world. We signed Zelia up months ago, knowing it was time to challenge her maturity. It was heartbreaking for her to leave the security of the daycare person she had come to love and trust. However, she was eager and anxious to be a big girl and go to a “big girl” school!
I’d like to believe that this transition was harder on mom and dad than it was on Zelia. I still remember vividly the joy as I watched my precious little girl enter this world. Could she really be old enough? In fairness, the transition award belongs to Zelia. The challenge was hers. The anxious energy continued to build throughout the week. She struggled to sleep. She acted out. I believe she was scared. Would she be safe? Would she be loved and encouraged? Would she be able to please her new teachers? Would she be liked by the other students? We all remember those questions, those fears from every transition we’ve ever made. The expectations are higher. Could she measure up?
How do you respond to transition and elevated expectations? Some of us jump in head first, convinced we wouldn’t be here if we weren’t capable of excelling. Others of us shy away…especially of elevated expectations. We don’t want to disappoint others or ourselves. We don’t like the challenge. We would rather avoid the cost. Raised expectations requires elevating our commitment and effort. Many shy from the challenge.
As we continue our sermon series STUMBLING BLOCKS, we took time this week to explore the enormous challenge of holiness. The Bible is full of rules, regulations, and laws. The Ten Commandment are practically chapter titles to the length behavioral expectations God requires of those who say they love God. Jesus Christ loves us so much that he willingly died that we may be forgiven for our rebellious heart and every broken rule. However, a tragic mistake many of us make begins when we stumble over those rules believing they no longer apply to us. The “does” & “don’ts” of Scripture are there to guide us into holiness. God is holy! If we want intimacy and connection with God, we too must be holy. Jesus didn’t do away with this expectation. No, Jesus provided forgiveness for past failures, his holiness for our connection with God, and the Holy Spirit’s power that we might become holy ourselves.
The way to avoid every stumbling block is to align ourselves with the cornerstone of our faith, set in place by God. That Cornerstone is Jesus Christ. What Jesus believes we believe because we want to align with Jesus. What Jesus did we do because we want to align with Jesus. Reading Matthew 5:17-20, 48, we see that Jesus didn’t do away with the law. Jesus fulfilled the law! Jesus fulfilled the requirements for connection with God and gives this gift to us. The challenge, or the high expectation for us is that we live into and are transformed into the holiness Christ already gave us.
So what does all this mean? We shy away from obeying what we know to be right for one basic reason: happiness. We make happiness our aim in life and will do what we believe necessary to be happy. Why does someone lie? They don’t want to disappoint or get in trouble…so they avoid the truth preserving a level of happiness. Why does a spouse cheat? They think they will find somebody else who will make them happier. Why steal? Happiness. Why hurt, hate, or grow angry? Someone robs us of happiness and we believe revenge or control will return it. We live a life pursuing happiness believing anyone who really really loves us will ultimately want us happy.
Jesus is more concerned with our eternal holiness than he is our momentary happiness. Jesus loves us too much to let us settle for happiness. Jesus knows that real joy in this life comes from the most intimate of connections with God…in other words: holiness. Jesus’ grace gives us peace over our past and even current missteps. Joy comes from pursuing holiness. To align with Jesus is to pursue holiness.
Every temptation offers a decision. What will you do? Will you settle for less, for your momentary happiness, and lose out on a connection with the Creator and Almighty God who loves you and deeply desires you? Or, with the power of the Holy Spirit fully available, will you rise to the challenge of holiness…knowing God wouldn’t have you here if you weren’t capable of reaching it.
We live in a broken world populated by broken people such as you and me. Chose to break the cycle of brokenness brought by pursuing happiness and seek the holiness Christ so freely provides. Align with Jesus and you will never stumble or fall.