Why do we pray for others? Why do we go out into Athens County or invite Athens County to come to us? Are we doing it for ourselves, or are we acting in faith? These seem like simple questions, but they can be more complicated than they appear, for it is easy to put on the airs of holiness and fool those who are not discerning or those who want to be fooled. If you pray because you think you are supposed to, you are doing it for the wrong reason. If you serve others because you think that is what you are supposed to, your heart is misplaced. Make no mistake: We are supposed to do these things. But it is not passionless paint-by-numbers living. We are not following a formula set by God. These actions are only holy if we accept the Great Commandment and live it.
We often interact with people who are not citizens of God’s Kingdom. Many of these people come to us or invite us with some trepidation. When they tell us that we have acted in a way that changes their view on Christianity, it is because of our holiness. Through us, God found an opening to enter. When we show them the true nature of the Kingdom and not an image perverted by politicians, opportunists, and false prophets, we are able to do so because of our holiness. We show them not judgment or a sense of superiority but outreach, acceptance, and love. In so doing, we fulfill that greatest Commandment.
Often, our greatest challenge is not those who deny the existence of God but those who do harm in His name.They distort what the Kingdom looks like to those who live outside of it. But in the end, truth conquers deceit and light defeats shadow. If we are a true holy community, it radiates from us. People can tell from the first moment they meet us or come onto our land. We tear off countenances of falsehood and shatter illusions. Jesus walks in our woods. We bring the Truth- with a capital “T”- to people who know it and people who seek it. We could not hide it if we tried. The very air feels different in a holy community.
Holiness requires the person seeking after it to pay attention to their behavior to make sure that it conforms to the strictures and decrees of God. Holiness requires the person seeking after it to pay attention to their behavior to make sure that it conforms to the strictures and decrees of God. These are most often to be found in the Holy Scriptures, but they can be inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is given to us as Jesus said, “to lead us and guide us into all truth.”
This is a type of holiness we refer to as “conviction.” Conviction is a sense of what God wants in order for us to obtain holiness. We are convicted by scripture to behave in a way that is pleasing to God. The Ten Commandments show us the behavior God wants us to follow, and it is conviction that impels us to carry it out. God’s word says “Do not steal.” It does not leave room for borrowing something permanently! When we read the words, it tells us that stealing is behavior that is not pleasing to God. He doesn’t want us to do it. Our conviction then, makes us stop stealing, even when we have the opportunity to do so, even if no one will ever find out.
There are convictions that come from a desire on the part of the person to please God, and upon reading the Word of God, let us know how we ought to act, which then directs our behavior. These are convictions that any Christian should have. But there are personal convictions that are given to us by the Holy Spirit that are not given to every Christian, but only to that one. These convictions are personal, and are most often the result of a vow that this person has made to God. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that our own personal behavior is displeasing to Him, and He gives us a personal conviction not to behave that way. In either case, we obtain holiness to God by following and obeying these convictions. We show that we are set apart from everyone else in the world by behaving according to God’s will and not our own. This then is what makes us holy, set apart, as Peter says, “a peculiar people.”
— Ken Weinkauf