St. Augustine, a Catholic bishop, actually associated with the Protestant Reformation, was caught up in the notion of “sovereign joy”. He was convinced the whole of the Christian’s life was to be sold out to the pursuit of holiness, and the pursuit of joy in God alone.
The Bible states that “without holiness no one shall see the Lord”. So what is so important about holiness and what is it? Israel from Biblical times was a nation that God chose to be different, called out, set apart from pagan nations. In our case, that’s the world. The key is GOD CHOSE. Israel originated from Jacob, a tricksy character whom God called anyway, most likely to show that this Christian existence is not about our (man’s) merit based on deeds, but on God who shows mercy. So holiness is being different than our surroundings, and it’s important because God is not of the world. He created it. Furthermore, Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church tells us the Christian is “seated in the heavenlies, where Christ is”, even while we walk as sojourners on this planet. For the follower of Christ, we have already crossed over!
So I’ve been thinking about Augustine’s thoughts about “the whole of the Christian’s purpose”. I indeed can identify with this, but as a part of my life, not the whole. My pursuit of God and holiness, even my interest in such, waxes and wanes. At this point, the best way I can see purpose as a Christian is in maintenance. Putting in the work, both by us and by God, to keep the spiritual motor purring.
It’s true we are not justified by our deeds, but work IS required. And our deeds ARE important. In the grander scheme of things, they are only filthy rags. That’s how God values them. But, He has put in place certain deeds for us to accomplish that He has designed ahead of time for our benefit. In the end, what He wants is our heart. But this, at least in part, requires identification with His son, the man of sorrows. Because it’s through suffering that we gain character, and perseverance, and joy. And joy does not disappoint.