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After my sophomore year in college, some of my college buddies and I served for a couple of weeks on the mission field in South Asia.  I remembered getting a yellow sheet at a BCM conference that had a list of all the different mission projects that were available for college students the coming summer.  As I read through the job list, there was one that caught my attention: Jesus film distribution on bikes in the mountains of a closed country.  While we were there, we were amazed to see the beautiful countryside, we loved the ethnic food, but we really were overwhelmed at all God did among us.

We stayed in one city for a couple of nights that had an outdoors basketball stadium surrounded by many restaurants and shops.  In this section of the country, not only were we the only Americans these people had ever seen in person, but we were also the tallest people they had ever seen.  When we walked out onto the basketball court, you should have seen the fear in their eyes.  As an athletically challenged individual, I felt so empowered to finally have people fear me in an athletic environment.

We played some of the locals there and to say we dominated would be an understatement.  Now granted we still couldn’t shoot that well, but we could always out rebound them.  I just stood under the basket with my arms up and would dish out back to the top until someone would finally score.  It was incredible.  We were legends.  People would walk by us in the streets and call us names.  I didn’t know what they were saying at first, but I did recognize that a certain phrase was consistent.  I finally asked our translator and they said that the people were callings us the “great white giants.”

The following day, the great white giants and I were finishing our trek down the mountain and we entered the hotel lobby where the hotel manager said that a group of men were waiting for us at the basketball court and wanted to challenge us to a game.  We had just finished walking miles up and down the mountain and all we had was our hiking boots.  But we ate our meal, and in defense of our dynasty with a run of one day, we had to show up.

When we were walking down the street, we noticed something unusual.  As we approached the stadium, a loud sound emerged above the noise of the city streets.  We turned the corner and walked into the stadium, and in the stadium, we saw hundreds of people standing and cheering in the stadium.  All these people had shown up to see the great white giants play against their best team.

Our opponent was a little different caliber than the previous team.  We had a theory that this was the country’s Olympic qualifying team due to their size and skill.  We had a tendency to exaggerate a little bit.  As we looked at these guys warming up, we almost ran for it.  But for the sake of the United States of America, we had to represent.

And we did represent — very poorly.  The score was pitiful.  These guys looked like they were playing a bunch of preschoolers.  Besides cheering loudly for their team, the crowd did give us courtesy cheers when my roommate, Freaky P., would fall or act crazy trying to sike the other players out.

This experience really resonated with me.  On that court, when we played lower caliber players, we thought we were really good.  But then when we played a better team, we realized that we weren’t that good after all.

In fact, that’s just like my spiritual life particularly in the area of worldliness.  I tend to look at the shape of our world and the morals of people who aren’t following Jesus and think that I am a pretty good guy.  I look around at how blatantly sinful other people are and my “respectable” and “quiet” sins don’t seem as severe.  And gradually I just get complacent.  I look at other people’s standard of holiness, and think I am doing pretty good.

But when I go against the holiness prescribed in God’s Word and seen in God’s character, I see how horrible I am.  When I pit myself against the holiness of God, I see how much further I still have to go.

Over the next couple of weeks, I am going to make some posts on how to make sure you are simply in the world and not of the world.  Honestly, how holy are you?

Travis Agnew is a Christian, husband, father, pastor, author, blogger, and religion instructor.