Let’s begin with some inspiring stories that made headlines over the weekend.
Sports broadcaster Ernie Johnson has been called the “father of the century” for adopting a three-year-old from Romania who had been abandoned in a park at birth. The child had muscular dystrophy and could not walk or speak. Ernie and his wife Cheryl named him Michael. Friday night, he died at the age of thirty-three.
Johnson, who is a two-time cancer survivor, was motivated by his worldview to adopt Michael. During a televised conversation about the 2016 presidential election, he stated: “I never know from one election to the next who’s gonna be in the Oval Office, but I always know who’s on the throne. And I’m on this earth because God created me, and that’s who I answer to. I’m a Christian. I follow a guy named Jesus.”
In other news, some fathers began patrolling their children’s high school campus after numerous fights last month, and there has not been a single violent incident since. After a young mother collapsed during the Boston Marathon, spectators and fellow runners kept her alive until paramedics arrived. She was taken to an area hospital and is now recovering at home.
When a bus driver experienced a medical emergency, two middle school students used the radio to call for help and then set the emergency brake, flashers, and emergency stop arm. They flagged down a passing pastor, who came on the bus to pray with the panicking students. One of the two later said, “That was a moment of relief, I think, for Miss Julie and for us to know God was on our side.” The school district recognized the students’ bravery at a board meeting last month.
And on this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was jailed for refusing to give up her seat on a public bus to a white man, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott organized by Martin Luther King Jr. She later came to be called the “mother of the civil rights movement.”
Choosing between Halloween and All Saints Day
There is something in us that is inspired by stories of heroic service. If someone else can adopt a challenged child, care for those in need, or take a risk for the sake of humanity, we can as well.
Today is All Saints Day on the Christian calendar. In the seventh century, the Catholic church designated the day to honor the saints of Christian history. Over the centuries, it has come to be celebrated by numerous Protestant and Orthodox traditions as well. When we read and hear of godly examples from the past, we are stirred to emulate them.
This day is also known as “All Hallows’ Day” or “Hallowmas.” It follows “All Hallows’ Eve,” or “Halloween.” The juxtaposition of the two offers us an opportunity to choose between two competing worldviews, two ways of living in this culture. This choice is urgent not just today, but for every day of the year.
Halloween is a secular holiday with origins in Celtic pagan traditions. As I noted Friday, it can foster occult practices that are forbidden by the word of God. Even at its most innocent, it is an interesting parable for our secular culture: We dress in ways that project an image other than who we really are. Then, we go door-to-door seeking candy in response to our costumes and entreaties. Whatever your “costume” or “candy,” is this not a picture of self-reliant, image- and performance-centered living?
All Saints Day, by contrast, focuses on “saints.” In Catholic tradition, the term designates a person who lived a “heroically virtuous life” and is now in heaven, as attested by two miracles that have taken place through the intercession of this person. In biblical context, however, a “saint” (from the Greek hagios) is simply a Christian, someone who has made Christ their Lord and experienced salvation and new life by his grace (cf. Acts 9:13; Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
In other words, every Christian is a saint. However, not every Christian acts like one. How can we live in ways that honor our holy God and draw others to him?
You’re either going up or down
Our first step is to aspire to be all God intends us to be.
Scripture exhorts us to “cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). Peter was adamant: “As he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15–16, my emphasis).
However, if you’re like me, you’re tempted to believe that so long as you are godlier than many, you are as godly as you need to be. It’s human nature to judge ourselves by other humans. The fact that you’re reading this Daily Article makes you part of the spiritual minority in our secular culture. If you attended church services yesterday, you’re among the 17 percent of Americans who joined you.
So long as we don’t commit any obvious or “big” sins, attend worship services, read the Bible, pray, and give something to ministries, we can think that we’re a spiritual “success.” But this is a deception of the evil one. He doesn’t want you to do anything I just listed. But if you insist, he will do all he can to ensure that you do no more.
He knows, for instance, that if we compromise with private, personal sins, we will eventually and inevitably fall in much more public and defaming ways. If we grow complacent in our current spiritual condition, we will soon fall further away from our Lord.
The spiritual life is an ascent up a mountain. You’re either going up and forward or down and backward. You cannot stay where you are for long.
“As small as your controlling desire”
I believe God wants to use the rampant secularism of our culture and its growing animosity toward biblical faith to stir Christians from complacency to holiness. As we will see tomorrow, his Spirit will make us as holy as we wish to be. But we must first wish to be holier than we are.
In As A Man Thinketh, James Allen observed: “You will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your vision, your ideal. You will become as small as your controlling desire, as great as your dominant aspiration.”
What is your “dominant aspiration” today?
NOTE: On multiple occasions, I’ve seen acclaimed stage actor Max McLean perform in his solo stage plays based on C. S. Lewis’ books. His artistry has helped millions experience the life and thoughts of one of the greatest Christian minds of the last century.
So I’m glad to relay that Max is starring as the elder Lewis in a feature-length film opening in a theater near you this Wednesday night, Nov. 3.