Last week, we begun a new message series entitled, “I AM” where we learn how God describes Himself. We are then challenged to go out and be the salt and light of the world in that same way. Or, as John wrote:
1 John 4:17
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment:
In this world we are like Jesus. Or in the KJV: As He is, so are we in this world.
Since our view of who God is can be very easily distorted by our experiences with Him and that they can often reveal more about us than about who He is, we’re going to stick to God’s direct quotes of how He describes Himself. Last week, we learned that God is full of compassion. This week, we’re learning that God is holy. Holy is simply a churchy word that God gave us which means to be set apart. When we speak of being holy in the church or when we use the word saint, it means that we are being set apart for God. God’s word teaches that everyone who chooses to put their faith in the salvation offered by Jesus and continues to walk in it, that we are saints, a royal priesthood, holy.
From the very beginning of creation, God set man apart from everything else that had been created. We were created holy. God spoke and created everything else, but when it came to the human race, He stepped down into His creation and formed us out of mud with His own hands and personally breathed the breath of life into us. He then spent time with us, walking and talking with us through His creation. God said that He created us in His own image, setting us apart from the rest of creation in an awesome and unique way.
Of course, we’re all familiar with our history. We chose to indulge in what seemed pleasing to our eyes and twisted what God said about that one off-limit fruit and sin corrupted us all from that point forward. Throughout our history, however, there is recorded men and women who chose to rebel by being set apart from the world by being committed to follow God. This is the new holy!
They chose to resist the temptations that the world around them embraced and celebrated and rather choose God’s original design for their lives. As a result, God would use them to do the miraculous. Like Noah, whose family restarted the human race or Paul whom was a great evangelist and apostle ever or Enoch who lived so closely to God that he did not die or Joseph who stood on what God revealed despite all hardship and opposition or Joshua who took a nation from the desert into a promised land or Abram, who became a great nation of people set apart for God for all time.
These individuals chose to be holy, set apart, and because they chose God, God chose them. They, like us, had a choice to make. They had to choose to be holy, set apart, for God or to go along with the rest of the world around them and likely miss their God-created purpose. We share that same choice every day, many times a day. Will we choose holiness or worldliness?
After God chose Abraham’s descendants Israel to be a holy people, a holy nation set a part for Him, He gave them many ways in which they were supposed to live that would set them apart. Throughout the book of Leviticus, we find God’s standards for their lifestyle. This included many various laws including civil laws which governed them, as well as ceremonial laws in how they were to approach God, and moral laws that guided their everyday behavior. While giving these laws, God reminded His people:
44 I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy. Do not make yourselves unclean by any creature that moves along the ground. 45 I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy.
This call to holiness is not part of Old Testament law that has been fulfilled through Jesus. We are reminded again of this continuing call to holiness in the New Testament by Peter:
1 Peter 1:14-16
14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
If “as He is, so are we in the world”, then we must be holy even as God is holy. We are called to be set apart for God, ones who rebel against the ways of the world by choosing to remain faithfully obedient to God. If we have put our faith in Jesus and continue to walk in that faith, then we are His and that is what makes us Holy. In the Old Testament, what would make an object holy or not was what it was being used for. If it was being used in the temple for ceremonial purposes in the presence of God, then it was holy. If it was being used by some household, it was not holy. We are chosen by God for His purposes and He has placed within us His presence, therefore, we are holy.
Holiness is determined by who you are.
Holiness is not determined by where you are.
Holiness is not determined by who you are around.
Holiness is not determined by what you do.
Holiness is not determined by how you speak.
Holiness is not determined by what you wear.
Holiness is determined by who you are.
To be holy, just be yourself!
Here’s the difference. In the Old Testament, people lived according to God’s law and that made them holy before God. Humans, on our own, could never keep that law perfectly. Jesus came and things changed. Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf and also paid the penalty for our sin, the price for breaking the law. In fact, right after Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world, He said:
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
Now, through simple faith in Jesus, we are forgiven and made holy and righteous. We now change externally because of an internal change. We don’t act a certain way to earn holiness and righteousness from God. We act a certain way because we have been made holy and righteous from God. Holiness is an act which now occurs from the inside out and no longer merely on the outside.
It is the grace of God and the Holy Spirit within us which enables and empowers us to be holy. In the church today, we seem to have taken this truth and perverted it, however. Yes, holiness is based in who we are, however, it should result it an outward change. This truth doesn’t give us a license to continue acting unholy and running to Jesus for forgiveness to make us holy. Yes, Jesus fulfilled the law and made us holy and righteous, but that doesn’t mean that we continue living as our old self indulging in every desire of our flesh! Paul dealt with this very misunderstanding of the grace of God:
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.
19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We have been set free from the slavery of sin! Why then, would we willingly climb back under those chains and bind ourselves back up? We have been set free! Our entire selves have been set free and freely given life! Why then, would we choose sin and death? Before we put our faith in Jesus, we were dead and enslaved; we didn’t have a choice in the matter. How should the church expect someone who doesn’t know Jesus to act? Like a dead person enslaved to sin without choice. We have to stop expecting anything else from someone who has not given themselves to Jesus. However, after that person cries out to Jesus and is saved, they are totally set free and come alive spiritually. To continue sinning against God and against ourselves then becomes a choice following our salvation.
God told us to be holy even as He is holy. Holiness is determined by who we are. We are a new, living creature in Christ Jesus. We are adopted into His family and given an inheritance of our Heavenly Father’s kingdom. We are righteous and holy because Jesus says that we are. Now because we are holy, we do not think, speak, or act like we used to. After all, that old person that we used to be is now dead. Holiness is not an outward act to cover up the death within us, holiness is my true self being revealed. Holiness is this new living being that God created me to be inwardly being revealed outwardly.
Holiness is the new me cooperating with the Holy Spirit placed inside of me. The challenge, however, is this. While I still live on this earth, I still live within this corrupted mortal body. Therefore, I will have to make continual choices between life and death. I will still be tempted, but I am no longer a slave to that temptation! I now have a choice even as Jesus was tempted and had a choice. Everything that Jesus did, He did in the flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit. If He was able to live a holy life in this flesh and overcome all sin and temptation, then so can we. That is why we are called to be holy even as He is holy.
Jesus has provided everything that we need to live a holy life. He would not be just if He told us to do something that we could not do. We must make the choice, however. We must choose to use the tools that He has given us in order to live a life of holiness.
In this world, we are going to have troubles and we are going to face temptation. Holiness is a cooperation. It is a work of the Holy Spirit as I choose to team up with Him to become who He says that I am. It is me maintaining a life that honors God while getting out there and helping others to do the same. Holiness is me agreeing with who God says that I am and living as that new creation casting off the old person that we used to be!
One of the most powerful illustrations that I can think of, Biblically speaking, where God had to teach someone about holiness is found in Acts chapter 10. Peter was about to learn that holiness was determined by who he was, not what he ate, not where he went, and not who he befriended.
God had a divine appointment waiting for Peter to share the gospel with the house of Cornelius. Cornelius was a Gentile and a centurion with Italian Regiment. Although a non-Jew, Cornelius lived faithful to God and was very generous to the poor. Peter, being a Jew, would have normally had nothing to do with these people. God had a different plan, however. God had to prepare Peter for this appointment and did so through a vision. God planned to bring salvation to both the Jew and Gentile; to all mankind!
After Peter chose to follow God’s direction to Cornelius’ house, he reminded them:
“You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.
Peter quickly learned that God does not show favoritism because as he was telling them about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, a powerful even occurred:
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.
Then Peter said, 47 “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.
Peter didn’t have to teach them or explain what the baptism of the Holy Spirit was; it just happened. Cornelius and his household had done what they knew they needed to do in order to be holy and to honor God. They chose God and so God chose them to be examples that transformed the church forever. They were examples that salvation was available for all mankind through the undeniable baptism of the Holy Spirit as was clearly evident by speaking in tongues. This baptism made them holy not through external acts, but by a transformation from the inside out.
This morning God is calling us to be holy even as He is holy. He is calling us to be set apart for Him. His desire is not that we put on a performance and act like we are holy through our actions. God’s desire is that we be filled with His Holy Spirit and transformed radically from the inside out. He is calling us to salvation, to put our faith in Him and to receive the free gift of the Holy Spirit. If you desire more for your life, then take full advantage this morning of these gifts that God is offering. Join me at the altar and leave this place a new creation in Him – holy and set apart burning brightly for Him!