Every time I really wanted to do something when I was younger that my parents wouldn’t allow me to do, I would always tell them who else was doing it. When I wanted to go to movies (we weren’t allowed to go see any movies For a long time!), I told them who in church I knew were going. Deacons and Sunday school teachers’ kids, even. When I wanted to watch Seinfeld, I let them know it was the pastor’s favorite TV show, according to his kids. Whatever it was, I always came armed with people who were doing it, hoping to sway my parents. It never worked. They always said the same thing: “We’re not so-and-so’s parents. We’re your parents, and you have to listen to us.” I always hated that, but it was true. I had one set of rules to follow, one standard to meet, and it was set by my parents, who were my authority.
Every so often, I catch myself doing this with God. There may be a show I want to watch on Netflix, but I know I shouldn’t based on the content. But then I’ll hear that someone I admire and respect has watched it, and I start to think, “But God, so-and-so does it. Why can’t I?” It would be wrong for me to watch something I am deeply convicted is not okay for me to watch, because those convictions are based on God’s standards for my life, and He is my authority. But it’s not hard to find Christians who are doing things that you are specifically called not to do or even to find Christians who are doing things God has commanded all Christians not to do. It’s really quite easy. And then it’s easy to excuse yourself in doing it. After all, that person may seem like a pretty great Christian to you, and if they think it’s okay to do, you may as well do it, too.
The problem here is that people are not our standard of holiness. Not even your pastors as your standard of holiness. We should be pursuing God and setting good examples by trying to live a holy life, but we cannot be your standard. When God commanded the people of Israel to be holy, He didn’t tell them to be holy, because their leader Moses was holy. He said, “Give the following instructions to the entire community of Israel. You must be holy because I, the lord your God, am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2, NLT). When God had Peter instruct the church to be holy in 1 Peter 1:15, He didn’t say to be holy, because Peter and the other apostles were holy. He said, “But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.”
It’s easy to get distracted and tempted to do things that don’t meet that standard when we fixate on what other Christians may or may not be doing. We need to instead keep our eyes on God, because He is both the standard and the authority. We should strive to be holy, because He is holy. Hebrews 11 talks about some great people of faith, but then in Hebrews 12, God instructs us to look through that crowd, to cut through it, and to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus. Just Jesus. That’s how we are able to run the race set before us with excellence. Don’t get distracted by what others are doing and not doing. Focus on the standard: Jesus.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.