The “Good Controller”: Set Apart for a Purpose

The “good” controller…if you have played games for a long enough time, then you probably have one of these, even if you don’t necessarily call it that. Sure, you may have several controllers, but THIS is the one you use when it is time to get down to business in a game. It’s your favorite controller… the one you reach for first even though the other controllers you have available are fully charged and perfectly capable of performing the same task. It is the controller that you DON’T hand to company when they come over to play… and if someone comes over with little ones who want to play on your game console, it is the controller that gets hidden QUICKLY to protect it from their little Cheeto hands. It is the controller that just “feels right” when you hold it in your hands to play a game, and even if it is the same size and weight as all the others, you can tell which one is “the good controller”… even in the dark. It’s not more expensive than the other controllers, better than them, or even in better shape than the others… but it is the controller that must be protected at all costs because it is the “good controller”.

Now maybe you don’t have a “good controller” because you don’t play console games, but you definitely have something similar. For me, I had a “good cereal bowl”… one specific bowl that was the perfect size for the amount of cereal I wanted to eat, with optimal contours for slurping out the milk, and just the right height ratio so the spoon would sit in the bowl when not in use without sliding down under the cereal. It was “the cereal bowl”… that was its’ name and designation. It was not used for storing leftovers or reheating spaghetti sauce or chili in the microwave (gasp)… it did not double as a bowl that could be used for whisking eggs or making homemade play-doh, even though it was fully capable of performing those tasks and so many more. It was “the cereal bowl”, with a specific role it was designed for that made it special and unique. It was not better than the other bowls… as a matter of fact, it didn’t even match any of the rest of our dishes, much to my wife’s dismay. It was simply set apart to serve a specific need, and in order for that mission to be fulfilled, there were things that my cereal bowl was NOT used for. It needed to be clean and available for the use it was intended for, and because of that it was treated a little differently than the other bowls so it could be preserved for this special purpose.

The idea of being “set apart for a purpose” is something we are often familiar with when it comes to our possessions, our finances, our time, and other controllable areas of the human experience. We budget our resources, we wash certain clothing items on the “delicate” wash cycle, and we often designate specific items as the “good scissors” or “my favorite chair”. But it is not necessarily because those specific items are more expensive or more valuable than others… they are made valuable because of how we view them, how we treat them, and what we allow them to be used for. And in our spiritual walk, this concept has a term that you are probably familiar with… a word that may have different connotations based on how you have been exposed to it in the past. That word is “holiness”… hold on, take a deep breath, it’s going to be okay. Holiness is a word that sounds a lot more mysterious than it should, invoking everything from legalistic interpretations of Scripture to an impossibly high set of standards that we have no idea how to fulfill. But what if I told you the idea of “holiness” is not as scary as you might think and that you are already treating things as “holy” in ways that you may not even realize? Let’s jump straight into this and see what we can figure out, starting with one of the most well-known verses on the subject…

1 Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Each of the words translated as “holy” in this verse is from the Greek word “hagios“, which means “sacred, to be set apart by or for God”… the quote being referenced by Peter here is from Leviticus 19, in which the original Hebrew root word is “qodesh“, which is again translated as “apartness and sacredness”. This is the word used over and over again when God told Moses he was standing on “holy ground”, or that the people of Israel were a “holy people”… the ground and the people were still just plain ol’ ordinary ground and people, but now they were being set apart for a special purpose that would mean both responsibilities as well as limitations in order to fulfill them.

Deuteronomy 14:2 For you are a holy people to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.

“Holiness” may be one of the most divisive words in both the Christian and secular communities because it has a connotation of rules, regulations, and a heightened sense of superiority for those who are “more holy” than others. And to ascribe those interpretations to this concept not only entirely misses the point but creates an unhealthy view of “holiness” as well. When the Lord calls us to Him to follow Him, He is “setting us apart” for a specific purpose… one that will require obedience, sacrifice, and commitment. By definition, being chosen for a mission means that other pursuits that fall outside of the mission’s set parameters are excluded. As gamers, we know that embarking on certain quests means that we are doing so at the expense of other priorities within the game. When engaging in a climactic boss fight, stopping to chat with the locals or take pictures of the trees is a good way to arrive at a “mission failed” screen. As we enter the mouth of a dangerous cave, some characters we were travelling with will be unable or unwilling to proceed further… their scripting compels them to stay behind. If a mission calls for us to go down into a water temple, we will need specific tools and equipment for that level and will equip ourselves accordingly. We would not pack a fire sword as it would have no effect in that domain, and there would be no purpose in bringing some chickens along for the ride because they don’t tend to do well underwater for extended periods of time. We would prepare ourselves according to the mission we have been given, understanding that there will be requirements as well as limitations on the road ahead. Not because we are better, more important, or superior to anyone else, but simply because we have been chosen for this specific path.

Here is the secret to “holiness” that I learned when pondering my “good controller”… my controller isn’t good because of what it is, but because of how I treat it. I set it apart to be used only for its’ intended purpose… and I don’t place it in positions where it could be misused, defiled, or damaged by those who don’t understand its’ value or see it the way I do. I don’t use my controller to hammer in nails, prop open doors, or play catch. I am intentional when using it and when putting it away, so it will always be able to serve the purpose it was designed for. And when we ponder what “holiness” means to us, a very similar concept holds true. We have been chosen and set apart for service to the Lord, designated as His “holy people”. Like the “good controller” or the “good cereal bowl”, that means we must set ourselves apart in order to serve the purpose He has for us, which will mean dedicating ourselves to those specific areas we are called to and avoiding pursuits that would guide us away from those priorities.

I can’t use my “good cereal bowl” to hold my morning cereal if it is currently holding Chicken Lo Mein leftovers in the fridge, and I would be mortified to see my “good controller” being used as a pet’s chew toy or carelessly left outside in the rain. Such uses would limit their ability to be used in the moment in which they were needed and would result in a delay in the fulfillment of their purpose until they had been cleaned and restored to a state in which they can be used again. These actions would represent “misuse” of them outside of their design or intended purpose, and while I will still find a way to achieve my original purpose through the use of an alternate resource, my goal is to limit the trauma these items endure by keeping them “set apart” for their original mission. My controller is not defined by what it DOESN’T do, but by what it DOES… and as the one responsible for its’ care, I make the choice of what environments it is placed in, who is granted access to it, and how it is maintained so it can serve that purpose consistently and whenever it is needed. And as the one responsible for this “vessel” called my human body, the same precautions and preparations hold true.

As “Christians”, we are vessels defined by our purpose… to point others towards Christ in love and grace (Colossians 4:6), demonstrating His message through our words as well as our actions (Luke 6:46). We must behave in a manner that is consistent with that mission, treating our “vessel” with honor (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8). A life lived in sin fails to put us in position to serve the Lord and indicates we are not actually “following” Him (Romans 6:1-4). But if we reduce this down to a simplistic list of “do’s and don’ts”, we miss the point entirely. A boat isn’t defined as “the thing that is neither a car nor a plane”… it is a boat because it was designed to float on water and performs that intuitively because it knows what it is, and it knows what it is not. And as followers of Christ, setting ourselves apart for our mission and choosing to walk in what He has designed for us to complete is our “holy calling” (Ephesians 4:1-3). It is not merely the removal of sinful pursuits, but the centering of ALL of our decisions and actions around the designated purpose He has for our lives. This pursuit of “holiness” isn’t some mysterious concept that lies beyond our comprehension, nor is it some impossible to achieve “super-spiritual” state limited to “elite level” believers. It is living our life with an understanding that we serve a higher purpose as followers of Christ, and because of this we set ourselves apart from anything that would result in damaging, defiling, or limiting the use of our vessel for the calling He has given us (2 Corinthians 7:1). It also means that our exclusivity from those unaligned pursuits is designed to increase our joy and happiness as we fulfill His will, not limit us (John 10:10). It doesn’t make us superior to others or mean that we are too valuable to use or too precious to hold. My “good controller” is not locked behind glass… it is actually the one I play with the most. It definitely shows signs of usage and wear. But its’ usage is in a way befitting its’ mission, as an item “set apart” for a very specific purpose.

“Holiness” is not something that we can measure by arbitrary rules and regulations… it is about the specific alignment of a vessel for its’ service assignment. For John the Baptist, it meant a life spent in the desert eating locusts and wild honey as he preached to crowds far outside of a traditional “synagogue” environment (Matthew 3:1-6). For Paul, it meant a life lived on the road, restricting him from being able to even marry and have children like many of his contemporaries (1 Cor. 9:5-6, 1 Cor. 7:6-8). For Mary, it meant postponing and redirecting her previous wedding plans to give birth to the Savior (Matthew 1:18-25). For Samson, it meant never cutting his hair (and letting it grow back out after he messed up and cut it anyways in Judges 13-16). It will look different for each of us, because there is a diversity of missions and gifts to match the uniqueness of the individuals who make up this family and the specific battlefields we have each been called to (1 Cor. 12). But we are ALL called to be “set apart”, living a life on this earth that is treated as sacred and holy (Romans 12:1-2). Not for superiority, but for service (Romans 12:3). Not for the purpose of restriction or limitation, but for effective utilization. We have been set apart and designed for His use IN this world we are currently occupying, for the purpose of doing good works and bringing light into the darkness (Ephesians 2:10). And if we miss that mark, we can be restored back into working condition through His grace (1 John 2:1). Let’s yield our hearts, minds, and actions to His mission in all we say, think, and do… and if we are intentional with aligning our “vessels” with what the Spirit of God has called us to accomplish, we will find that “holiness” is not an impossible pursuit, but an alignment of who we are with what we have been called to do. We can all be the “good controller”… not because there is anything good in us, but because we have willingly placed ourselves and the control over our choices into the hands of the One who is the definition of good.

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