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The holiness workout

A call to experience a higher quality of life

by Perry Engle

Sophie took some daddy-daughter photos recently, with the best one destined for social media. Of course, she was blonde and gorgeous, and me—well, I looked like an out-of-shape 54-year-old duffer who spends too much time behind his computer.

I googled “fitness for older men” and wandered aimlessly through a mind-numbing website that encouraged me to immediately begin high-intensity interval training. I was to do occlusion warm-ups to prevent injury, while limiting my workouts to 60 minutes since “this is the point where the stress hormone cortisol peaks.” The list of supplements needed to build my non-existent muscle would include creatine monohydrate, flaxseed oil, whey protein, and a growth-hormone secretagogue product. A personal trainer was suggested to get me started on my program.

Nothing comes easy when you’re an old guy looking to become a massively chiseled specimen of manhood. I grabbed a bowl of ice cream and headed off to bed.

As if my sagging mid-section were my only problem, I’m finding I need a workout to improve my holiness as well.

Holiness essentially means to be “set apart” for the purposes of God. I tend to use terms like “counter-cultural” and “Christ-likeness” to describe what it means to attain to the fullness of Christ in our lives.

In our denominational past, the holiness movement tended to default to focusing on lists of forbidden activities: no drinking, no dancing, no immodest clothing, no bad language or bad thoughts. The teaching lent itself to promoting a “second work of grace” whereby people came to a point where they were “perfected” in their faith and claimed to no longer sin. This caused some who still wrestled with sin to view holiness as a mean-spirited, unattainable ideal that ordinary, struggling Christians could never hope to achieve.

Strangely, I have come to appreciate this part of our Church heritage as important for Christ-followers today. Not the part that emphasizes all of the prohibitions in the Christian life. But the positive aspects of the teaching that views God’s injunction to “be holy because I am holy” as something that is God’s will for me now and is attainable in my everyday life (1 Peter 1:15–16).

Holiness is God’s will for me now and is attainable in my everyday life.

For me, a holiness regimen begins by recognizing that God has a higher quality of life for me than I would ever imagine for myself. It also requires that I admit my tendency to compare myself to others as opposed to focusing on becoming more and more conformed to the likeness of Christ. I must be prepared to be honest about my starting point—admit my struggles, temptations, and addictions—and place myself in the midst of a loving faith community that openly embraces people who, like me, are “a work in progress.” It’s essential that I commit myself to a daily diet of Scripture and prayer, the protein shakes of the holy life. Finally, I must welcome dutiful instruction from the best personal trainer available—the Holy Spirit—who is relentless in helping me become all I was intended to be in Christ.

Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Holy living, like physical fitness, is something we work at every day. It’s for everyone who wants to become more and more like Jesus—for flabby, middle-aged men, and all.

This article originally appeared in the summer 2013 issue of In Part magazine.
Perry Engle

Perry Engle has been referred to as the “Richard Simmons of holy living.” Bishop of the Midwest and Pacific Regional Conferences of BIC U.S., he lives with his wife, Marta, and their family in Ontario, Calif

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