Dec 05, 2023

A Higher Standard

white book pge

As of November of 2023, I have been attached to wrestling in various ways and competed at various levels. From my youth, when I was a small chunk of a man, I had some success and even placed several times at youth state. In high school, I was a three-time state qualifier and two-time state placer, which earned me a scholarship to compete in the sport in college.

For two years, I wrestled in college and happily retired from competition after the completion of my second year. Both years, I was a national tournament qualifier and was nearly a two time All-American (two matches from placing my first year and then one match away in my second year). I was an academic All-American both years of college wrestling, but that is a conversation for a different time.

Since then, I have gotten to experience the coaching side of things, primarily coaching for a small middle school with very mixed results. We have had ups and downs to say the least. This is my fourth year of coaching now; I am by no means an expert, but I include this just to say in total, I have been competing or have been somewhat involved with wrestling for twenty-four years.

In those twenty-four years, there have been countless motivational quotes that have been used to help spur myself, my teammates, and my wrestlers into action. This is not a new idea; in fact, a book on leadership titled “The Wisdom of the Bullfrog” by Admiral William H. McRaven is centered on the exploration of several quotes and phrases utilized to spur action in all levels of military service. These quotes and phrases become identifiers of the units and of the men within those units. They describe the character, reputation, and initiative of those units and men.

In twenty-four years of wrestling, there are a few quotes and phrases that stick out quite a bit, but for the purposes of this article, I am going to focus on one of them. For the life of me, I cannot remember the context or the reason for the quote, but the quote was this; “Hold yourself to a higher standard.” This quote in and of itself is shockingly Biblical, but more on this momentarily.

My brother was a much greater wrestler than I was. Of all my accomplishments, he managed to do more. I had been a state placer but he managed to win state. I managed to qualify for nationals, he managed to win the national tournament. I coach a middle school team, but he was my coach in college. If there was ever someone I trusted for any information on the sport of wrestling, it was him. In fact, it was he who gave me the quote, “Hold yourself to a higher standard.”

In simple practicality, when you are looking around and seeing people slacking or goofing off; you should not complain about it, but you should do what needs to be done. When you see others not doing what is right, then you must do what is right. You are not to lower your character, let alone your standards, to what other people find acceptable. Instead, you are to elevate your character and your standard to the ideal character and standard; I believe the reason this quote holds so much sway in my heart today is because of the ideal and the standard to which I cling.

As a Christian, pastor, and father, I am to cling firmly to the Lord above all. He is my standard. The term Christian in its origin was supposed to be derogatory; people would say “Look at those little Christs!” Unbelievers began to see believers and how different they truly were and they correctly identified believers with the Savior and with the standards of the Savior. They were authentically trying to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). The early Christians did not hold to the pagan rituals or rampant immorality of the society, but they clung to the Word of God and the calling of the Savior instead.

There are countless passages discussing the standards of God, but our focus in this article will be Romans 12:1-2 which says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” There you have it; an idea easily explained in one phrase, “Hold yourself to a higher standard.”

Now, what separates a believer holding himself to a higher standard from an unbeliever holding himself to a higher standard is an important idea to discuss. Any standard that an unbeliever holds to will ultimately be vanity, because it is a standard void of any reasoning to back that standard. For example, a stoic seeking to remain disciplined has no reason to avoid hedonism seeking pleasure, because neither of them have a reason to call discipline or pleasure good. Discipline and pleasure in those two systems just are; there is no power nor reason to ascribe any value to either discipline or pleasure, therefore there is no reason to be either disciplined nor hedonistic.

What makes the Christian standard so powerful is the God that establishes that standard. Paul tells us to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship. To be quite frank, God is the standard. Keep in mind that the chief attribute of God is His holiness; it is the only attribute given to God in threefold repetition, which is called the superlative degree. It is to say God is holy times infinity; that holiness determines how every other attribute works. For more information on holiness specifically, I would recommend RC Sproul’s “The Holiness of God.”

When we consider holiness, we need to consider the Law God has given, because the Law He has given directly reflects His holiness. He is by definition pure and other; He is unlike anything in existence and is so far removed from our sin that He punishes sin in eternal condemnation forever. The Law that He has given demonstrates that holiness; breaking that Law is to miss God’s Holiness and to break His standard. His Law, we can say, is the standard by which He demonstrates His holiness.

In our text of Romans 12:1-2, we are told to be the living sacrifice that is holy and acceptable to God. We can discuss the idea of being a living sacrifice in another article, because that is something very much worth noting; it is no longer us that live, but Christ that lives within us. For now, consider that holy and acceptable to God standard. If I am to hold myself to a higher standard, what greater standard can I hold myself to than the standard God is commanding men everywhere to hold themselves to? It has real meaning and value, because it is granted and established by the God that has made everything and made them valuable. What’s more, God has held Himself to that same standard in the Person Jesus Christ who is God in human flesh, who lived a perfect sinless life, and then died a criminal’s death on a cross. He was buried, rose again the third day, appeared to many witnesses and ascended to sit at the right hand of the throne of the Father. To make things even better, Jesus is coming back to rule and to reign with true justice and true righteousness forevermore. His holiness will be the supreme Law of the land.

God did not give an arbitrary standard. God gave a standard based on His holiness. God even fulfilled the requirements of that standard. What higher standard can I hold myself to than the one God has called me to hold? His standard is holy and acceptable to God. His standard is a standard of renewal and of transformation. It is a standard that reveals the good and acceptable will of God. It is the standard by which God will judge all men.

In my own humanity, it is an impossibility to satisfy the requirements of the Law. Were I to do so, I would be receiving life as a wage, because it was something I earned by satisfying the Law’s requirement. As it stands, every man to ever life, aside from the Savior of course, has broken God’s holy standard and has fallen desperately short. Thankfully, in Jesus Christ, we do not have to suffer the consequence of breaking that standard, but we can have true life and true freedom in Jesus Christ, by His grace through faith in Him and His finished work.

Praise God, by His grace, we who are in Christ are set free from the Law, but that does not mean we are to forsake the Law. Again, that is God’s Holy Standard. When we are told to be holy as He is holy, the Law is the instruction on how to do so. When Jesus says the greatest commandments are to love God with all our being and to love our neighbor as ourselves, He is explaining the very purpose and nature of the Law. The command of God is clear; we, as believers, must live up to His standard. Keep in mind, many of the Laws in the Old Testament have a specific context or audience; for example, the clothing Levitical priests wore and the commands regarding them are not applicable to the modern believer. How do I know? Quite simply, we are not Levitical priests offering sacrifices unto God within a Temple worship context!

The early church lived up to this standard to the degree that the persecuting Roman Empire thought it was an easy way to ridicule them. By calling them “little Christs” the pagans were expressing the strangeness with which the Christian lived. The early church thought it was so important that it became their focus; they were not just proclaiming the freedom they had in Jesus Christ, but they were living it too. They presented their bodies as living sacrifices and sought earnestly to be holy and acceptable to God. They did not hold themselves to the standard of their friends or families and certainly not to the standard of the society around them. They held themselves to God’s standard. They worshipped God by holding themselves to His Standard.

Christian, you must quit looking at others and instead look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2). Instead of seeing the degeneracy of society, be like the early Christians that decided it was better to be weird than wicked. In wrestling, if you look at the people around you that slack during practice, and join them in their slacking, then it will show up on the mat. If you join societies degeneracy, it will reflect itself in your walk with Christ. If you see a brother or sister in Christ who is compromised in their walk, do not join them in their compromise, but carefully ensure there is no plank in your eye before assisting them with the speck in theirs. You must individually hold yourself to the standards of Jesus first, then assist others in following that same standard.

Practically speaking, when your neighbor complains, do not join in. When a friend causes problems, be the solution. When a spouse is not holding his or her end of the rope, hold your rope all the tighter. When the man following Jesus falls, then you do not follow that man, follow Jesus just as Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” When wickedness creeps in, you do not need to join in, but you can hold firm and stand against the rising tides of degeneracy. Instead of looking and complaining that a brother or sister is not holding their end of the bargain, ensure your own link in the chain is strongest by holding yourself to a higher standard, God’s Standard, then help those around you to do likewise! By God’s grace and by His goodness, the church worldwide, from each individual believer clinging to God’s standard, the church can grow in holiness and beauty and truly be the bride presented to Christ without blemish!