Being holy doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? (It’s OK to nod your head; no one’s looking.) We know holiness is supposed to be good for us because it’s what God wants for us, but fun?
I occasionally drink apple cider vinegar. It’s supposed to be good for me, but I do not enjoy it. A lot of us feel the same way about being holy. God said, “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:16), but we often attach seriousness and somber faces with that.
For many of us this notion of holy solemnity comes from the Puritans. They took their Sundays seriously. They referred to the Lord’s Day as the Sabbath, a holy day meant for … well, holy things. Sunday was held up as a high and holy day, and to their credit, they wanted to ensure the day wasn’t “profaned,” in the sense that it was treated just like any other day. Yet to keep the day holy—that is, set apart from the other days—they stepped into the same extreme observances the Pharisees in the first century fell into.
Other than attending a worship service, praying, and reading Scripture, you couldn’t do anything. In other words, this holy day was not meant for fun. Just sit. Pray. Be solemn.
But is that what it means to be holy?
I do want my Sundays to be holy, to be different, and to be a day of rest. I like doing nothing on Sunday. After coming home from church, I rest. I nap. I read a book. I loaf around the house. I “work” to make it a day of rest. But I also eat ice cream. I laugh over lunch with friends. And all that feels so right and holy!
In the fifth century B.C., the Jewish people had come back from exile and Nehemiah led them to rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They sought to be the people of God once again. As a part of that, Nehemiah 8 tells us of an occasional where the people gathered together and Ezra read the book of the law of Moses to them. This became a holy day for them as they were instructed in God’s Word.
But as the word was proclaimed, they mourned. There was sorrow over their sin, and this holy day became a very somber occasion. But the leaders told them this holy day was not to be a somber day; it was to be a joyous day!
“Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, because the joy of the Lord is your strength.” And the Levites quieted all the people, saying, “Be still, since today is holy. Don’t grieve.” Then all the people began to eat and drink, send portions, and have a great celebration, because they had understood the words that were explained to them” (Neh. 8:10-12).
Did you catch that? Holiness … joy … celebration. This holy day was to be a party!
Sorrow over sin should lead to joy and celebration over God’s grace and forgiveness. There is no place for self-flagellation, continuing to beat ourselves up over our sin. Instead, we are to repent and follow that up with a celebration of God’s love and grace.
God is not a killjoy. So, we shouldn’t look at the holy life to which He calls us as dull and boring. Jesus came to give us life—abundant life (John 10:10). An abundant life is not a boring life!
You can be holy and still smile. Hey, you can even laugh. The joy of the Lord is our strength. As you laugh and enjoy the company of friends, do it in a way that honors God.
So, get out there and live with joyful holiness and celebrate life with a holy joy.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
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Republished with permission from Blogs.crossmap.com, featuring inspiring Bible verses about The Sheer Joy of Holiness.