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Friday, January 30, 2009

What does it mean to be 'Wholly Holy'?

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'Change You Can Believe In' begins with a change of our heart.
As we trust Jesus, we desire His Holiness.

Many Christians belief and think biblical truth, but fail to express it in their actions.

I Peter 1:13-21: Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.

But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy. Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Daniel 11:32 says this. “..but the people that know their God shall be strong, and do [exploits]. They.. ‘ will display strength and take action.’

So, if we can also properly describe ourselves as people who know their God, why aren’t we doing ‘great exploits’? Why haven’t we eradicated abortion from America? Some have even said it’s not possible because this nation is controlled by forces of darkness, yet, we sing “This Is My Father’s World”. Which one is right?

What has led us, as a nation, to still have legalized abortion in America 36 years after the infamous Roe versus Wade decision?

I believe a large part of the answer lies in this one sobering statistic: 18% of all abortions are by born again Christians.

Yes, some of those in the 18% statistic may not be true believers, but still, that is a staggering number considering there are 1.3 million abortions each year, some 47 million since 1973. That means that 234,000 abortions each year are by those who name the name of Christ.

How can we ever expect legalized abortion to end in America if we, the believers in Jesus Christ, are a significant part of the problem?

We may never see legalized abortion ended in our lifetime, but we can do something, as Christians, to challenge the ‘culture of death’.

Is that something..

· Protesting abortion? Yes

· Voting regularly? Yes

· Is it showing abortion vulnerable women and men, graphic images of abortion so that they might see what they are aborting? Yes

· Is that something performing sonograms, so women can see he pre- born child,have compassion for him or her and choose life? Yes

But the greatest ‘something’ we can do is to share Christ with everyone seeking an abortion because salvation is their greatest need.. and that we do at Gateway.

With all those protests, all those graphic images, all those sonograms, pregnancy centers in every state, even the sharing of the gospel one on one with women seeking abortion - why do we still have legalized abortion in America?

I firmly believe that until believers see the need for individual repentance and personal holiness, we may never see a national change.

The Christian pollster, George Barna, states that his research has convinced him that by-and-large:

1. Americans do not understand holiness.
2. Americans do not desire holiness.
3. Americans do not pursue holiness… but,
4. There is a "remnant" who gets it, wants it, and seeks it.

Billy Graham has said that ‘there can be no greater inconsistency than orthodoxy of words and an unorthodoxy of life.’.

In describing apostasy, or the “standing away or abandoning of one’s faith, Dr. Graham has described the subtle apostasy of many born again believers. There are three types:

1) Moral Apostasy – yielding to temptations, getting involved in sexual sin, even refusing to defend the innocent.

2) Pharisaical Apostasy – becoming hard and cold in our Christian life; turning to legalism (don’t dance, don’t get involved in politics) or church-aholism (‘the more I do for the church, the closer I get to Him’; therefore, there’s no need to change inside.

3) Apathetic Apostasy – “As long as I’m in church Sunday morning, I’m okay with God”. Perhaps this is the most insidious because this apostasy centers not on what we do, but on what we fail to do, and that’s to live an exciting, separated, Spirit filled Christian life, that seeks to share our faith, share our wealth and share our spiritual gifts.

In all of these ‘falling aways’ there’s the loss of warmth, a lack of devotion to the Word of God, a lackluster prayer life, a dullness of convictions, the meaningless repetiveness of attending church every Sunday morning without the vibrant worship found in knowing Him deeply and relating to His people intimately.

What’s the solution? The Bible calls it holiness.

What do you think of when someone says ‘Holy”?

a. The Holy Bible
b. Someone with a ‘halo’ on his head

Some see ‘holiness’ as unattainable and would dismiss our key verse “Be ye Holy as I am Holy’ as unachievable, so, therefore impractical.

So, what is ‘biblical holiness’?

Holiness is the ‘life long pursuit of being separated from sin and set apart for God’

We need to be challenged to live holy, to go further in our Christian walk and deeper in our commitment to Christ, while at the same time realizing that it’s normal and healthy for us to struggle as we walk in this world.

True victory is realizing the ultimate battle with sin has already been won by Christ. You and I need not be defeated Christians.

Do you feel defeated in your Christian life? Do you struggle in your Christian life? There’s a difference between defeat and struggle.

There’s also that awful middle ground of malaise. You neither sense defeat nor do you sense struggle. Your Christian life is just on ‘auto pilot’.

Your not against attending prayer meeting – you simply don’t see the need to attend yourself. You’re not against missions – you simply can’t see why you should get involved. Many arrive to church late, leave early, rarely participate.. and don’t see anything wrong with any of it.

If there’s an absence of struggle in your life, if there’s an absence of challenge, if you don’t ever see in yourself the reality of Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is more deceitful than all else, and desperately sick (or wicked). Who can understand it?”, there may be an absence of biblical holiness in your life.

Theologian Francis Schaeffer has called ‘True Spirituality’ or holiness, something that is attainable in this life and something ‘Christ has purchased’ for us.

In I Peter 1, the Apostle Peter is discussing true biblical holiness. Peter seeks to strengthen those Christians undergoing persecution so that they may persevere and live holy lives, like the Savior who purchased them from sin.

This passage helps us to:
1) know how to think
2) know how to act
3) know why we should be holy

Holiness involves believing, being and doing

It has as much to do with our actions as it does our thoughts and beliefs.

Many Christians belief and think biblical truth, but fail to express it in their actions. This is a key part of the holiness that the Apostle Peter is speaking of in this passage.

Peter writes to the believers in I Peter 1,
That they may obey Jesus Christ (verse 2) “who, according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope” (why?
Because Jesus Christ is alive!

And because He’s coming back) Because v. 3 He “has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead”. This should be exciting to your soul. Is it?

Verse 4 – if you have trusted Christ you have an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you.

Verse 5 – you’re “protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”

Oh, it’s true for a while, here on earth, we have temptations, trials, distresses, crabby bosses, cars that break down, people that let us down – but this is all to prove our faith which is called “precious” by Peter.

We’ll see in verse 19 that our faith is precious because it’s been purchased by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

verse 8 – we haven’t seen Him, yet we love Him! We believe in Him!
We rejoice! What should all this lead you to do? To live holy or separated’ lives.

‘A true disciple or follower of Christ strives to be ‘wholly holy. Are you a follower of Christ. Most of us would say that we are. Are we living holy, separated lives? Only you can answer that before God.

Your response has everything to do with your spiritual growth, with the growth of your church and with a change in the pro-death culture in America.

In order for you and I to exhibit true holiness and please our Lord Jesus Christ, we must obey what I see as three commands of God found in I Peter 1:13-21.

First, we’re to respond to the protected life - verses 13 and 17. Our spiritual lives are protected by the power of God, but there are a few things that we are called upon to do.

Secondly, we’re to resemble the perfect Lord (v. 14-16) and

Thirdly, we’re to remember the precious Lamb (v. 18-21)

Three commands that tell us:

1) How we should respond while on earth
2) What we should be like
3) Why we should respond this way

True holiness.

First, we’re to respond to the protected life, verse 13:

“ a result of all that’s been said .. because of all that Christ has done for you freely by His grace…

Prepare your minds for action - The NAS translates it ‘gird up your minds’. What does that mean?

The idea of girding up comes from the practice of the Chinese, who, in years past, in order not to be hindered in their movement, whenever starting on a journey or any work, would bind their garments closely around their bodies and hold them tight with straps like girdles. Why? So they wouldn’t trip up as they traveled.

In like manner, you and I are to prepare our minds for right conduct. It takes effort. It takes a commitment. You have to want to! Do you want to know Him better, no matter how long you known Him? You need to work at it.

Gossip, negativity, complaining – you do become what you think on. Philippians 4:8 tells us “..whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.” Prepare your minds for action.

Persevere in alertness. In other words, ‘be self-controlled’. Keep sober or calm in spirit; be circumspect (that means cautious, careful – looking around as you go through life.

Be aware that biblical adultery is not just in the act itself but in the long, lingering looks, the improper attentions. When trials comes. When you lose that job. Fail that test. Your loved one gets sick. Do you fall apart, or do you fall at the feet of Jesus?

Why should we persevere and be spiritually alert? Because verse 5 of I Peter 1, our overall salvation is protected by God and these trials are inevitable. They’ll come a day when there will be no more trials, no more temptations, no more tears – because we will have no more sin. We’ll be like Him, because we’ll see Him as He is (I John 3:2).

But now, Peter commands us to respond to this life by being sober and circumspect. Prepare your mind, persevere in alertness, perfectly hope or ‘fix your hope’ on Gods grace to be brought to you (not to be achieved or won, but given to you) at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

I may want to be a good husband and a good father. I believe in this, but I don’t take the steps necessary when they are most important, like in the spending of my time or energy or prayer for my family.

I Peter 5:8, Peter tells us to be sober, or self-controlled and on alert (or watchful) because our adversary, Satan, prowls about after us, but resist him!

“Fix your hope completely” or better “perfectly hope”. The whole idea in these verses is to strive towards perfection. That’s how we can be holy as He is – strive for holiness.

This is a personal attitude. Dedicate yourself for that day when you’ll be free from sin, but while you’re here, resist Satan who wants you to sin. We’ve been already freed from the power of sin every minute of our walk on earth.

The problem is we don’t make that a reality in our day-to-day walk. When you turned your life over to Christ and repented of your sins (and I hope each of you has done that) you were saved from sins penalty, namely, eternal punishment in the lake of fire.

But the story’s not over .. our Christian walk need not be ‘on hold’. For many it is, and that may be the number one reason we aren’t speaking up about the awfulness of abortion – we’re still battling, and losing, the day to day sin skirmishes.

Verse 17 commands us to live in fear or pass our time on earth in reverence to God. What does reverence” really mean to you?

It should mean: Paying respect to Christ.. literally to kiss, or bow down, and worship. It’s realizing, as A.W.Tozer has said, that “we are saved to as well as from something”. He points to the difference in the prepositions. Do you see the difference?

We’re saved from sin, that’s part of it..but we’re saved to have a vibrant, active, holy life. Is that true of you? It can be! “Sin shall not be your master” reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:11 and 14)

We show reverence to God and practice Biblical holiness when we:
a. Desire to read the Bible on a regular basis
b. When we spend time in prayer with Him
c. When we take advantage of opportunities to witness for Him

Although we can put on our Sunday best and come to the morning service, God knows our hearts, whether we’ve come to learn and to worship, and He’ll judge according to what’s in our heart, not what’s on our lips.

‘Work’ here in verse 17 is our whole way of feeling and acting, our aims, our motives. The real reason. God knows why we teach Sunday school or do any work in the church – and why we don’t - we can’t fool Him.

What do you need to do? live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.
The metaphor in verse 17 is that the life of man on earth is similar to a journey – a trip – we’re just visitors, aliens, pilgrims and as we travel we’re to prepare our minds for action, persevere in alertness, hope perfectly on God’s grace to be revealed, and all of this, in fear, in reverence, in respect of God for who He is and what He has done. This is authentic Christianity!

Imagine your life as a highway.
Your life shouldn’t be measured by ‘spiritual birthdays’ how long you’ve been on the road, as much as by how far you’ve traveled down the road of the Christian life.

Respond to the protected life. True holiness isn’t just a mental attitude. It’s, as Frances Scaheffer has said, ‘ an exhibition of the victory of Christ’. Are you exhibiting that victory in your life? If not, you can.

Secondly, the Apostle commands us to resemble the perfect Lord – Verse 14-16

We do this not by conforming to our former lusts, but conforming to true holiness, God Himself.

In order to be obedient children of God, we are not to ‘fashion ourselves’ or conform our mind and character to the sin patterns we had as unbelievers, but we’re to be Holy, as God Himself is Holy.

We’re you a liar before you became a believer? Stop lying now. We’re you bitter? Put off bitterness.

‘Obedient children’ forms the picture of what a child’s attitude should be towards his or her mother. It speaks of the ruling disposition.

It’s not natural to be obedient – any child attests to that. But we need to train our children. In the same way, as a child of God you need to allow God the opportunity to train you to be obedient.

Are you allowing Him that opportunity?

Are we ‘sanctified’ – growing in holiness or ‘sanctimonious’ – assuming and pretending holiness?

Matthew 16:11 speaks of a self-righteousness rather than seeing our righteousness in Christ- Jesus said, ‘But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees."’

Personal holiness is an attribute, not a list of “do’s and don’ts”

Peter here isn’t just attacking the sins of those unsaved, but he’s attempting to encourage the Jewish and Gentile believers in Asia Minor so they wouldn’t relapse into their previous sinful life patterns.

Holiness challenges us not to relapse.

Christians having abortions. Christians dating or marrying non-Christians. These are signs of relapse into our previous sinful life patterns.

The former lusts that we indulged in before we came to Christ, were ours, as Peter puts it, “in our ignorance”. This is the same ignorance of divine things mentioned by Paul in Ephesians 4:18 were darkened in your understanding when you were excluded from the life of God, because your heart was hard against God and you had no experiential knowledge of God. It’s all about the heart.

The former lusts refer mainly to sexual longings, but also include sensual pleasures:
a. feasting the body through gluttony
b. feasting the eyes through lust
c. feasting the ears through gossip, slander, backbiting
d. feasting the tongue through negativity, anger, complaining

That should have all been put aside when you came to Christ. Is this true of the believers of this church?

Personal holiness leads to a ‘passion for Christ’. Dispassionate are those lives drunk on the false goal of comfort and ease, numb, visionless, complacent, passive and egocentric. Strong words, but could this be a reason why the church has allowed abortion for so long and participated in it so much.

David Alan Black has said this: “God does not exist for our gratification, regardless how many times we recite the prayer of Jabez. We exist to glorify Him and to advance His kingdom throughout the earth.” Is this your desire; if so, grow in holiness.

We’re not to be conformed to past lusts, but to resemble true holiness –God Himself. The “but” in verse 15 is very emphatic.

We are to become holy, or ‘morally upright’ after the pattern or likeness of God, who called us to salvation and who is to be revered.

This is in stark contrast to the longings mentioned in verse 14. God is holy because He is indescribably pure and sinless. We are to be holy in the sense of separation from sin and to godliness.

Since the kind of ‘holy’ we’re to be is not ‘sinless perfection’, it is achievable right here and right now. We are to resemble the holiness of God in every instance of our behavior.

Jerry Bridges, in his book, The Pursuit of Holiness, gives three reasons why we as believers feel defeated in our struggle with sin:

God wants us to walk in obedience, rather than victory. We want victory, therefore our attitude towards sin is often self-centered.

We misunderstand living by faith (Galatians 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part

We do not take sin seriously. Compromise on the little issues, Bridges says, leads to greater downfalls. Isn’t that really how we got to legalized abortion? One step at a time.

Perhaps that’s how so many Christians can justify getting an abortion. They first justify dating non-believers. Then they justify premarital sex, and from there, it’s a short trip to abortion. This ought not be!

Abortion is a grievous sin, but it can be forgiven.

Jeremy Taylor has suggested many ways that we can be holy as God is holy. I’d like to mention just a few.

1) Being pure in our intentions.

2) Do things for Him and not for others to see us.

3) Having a godly fear of displeasing Him

4) Being consecrated to something– setting aside our time, our talents and our treasures to see ourselves know Him better and see non-believers come to Christ

5) Being separated from the world, not only in what we won’t do, but in those things that we do

6) Being content. So many believers are neither joyful not content. We expect so much from God, but give little in our service to Him

7) Obeying and following our leaders. If we bristle at or complain at earthly leadership, how can we expect to obey God?

8) Resolving unresolved bitterness. Some believers have problems with one another. Can we expect that God is honored by this?

You and I are to resemble His holiness in our zeal to win the lost – in our family – in this community. ‘Remembering the mission’ means more than balancing the missions budget.

It means that we remember Jesus final words on earth in Matthew 28:19, ‘..go and make disciples of all nations,’.

Men and women contemplating abortion are dying to hear from you.

One of the marks of a growing Christian is a desire to see the lost come to Christ. When was the last time we had a burning desire to see the lost saved? When was the last time we shared our faith with an unbeliever?

Verse 16 -"Be holy, because I am holy." That’s why you should discipline yourself for holiness – not to gain favor with God – not even because you are commanded in the Scriptures to do so (and you are), but because out of love for Him and gratefulness for what He has done in saving you for all eternity you want to please Him.

Lev. 11:44 tells us that a man is to consecrate himself ( to become dedicated or set apart to God) from all that defiles him.

If working on your home doesn’t allow you time for service in church, put God first. The house is temporal, your spirit is eternal. (Mark 10:30: )

If making those extra dollars to live comfortably causes you to miss prayer meeting, maybe you’ve forgotten I Chronicles 29:14 – ‘all that we have comes from God and we give out of His hand.’

If getting that boyfriend or girlfriend tempts you to lower your moral standards, maybe you forgotten that Godly marriages are still made in heaven, and not by compromise.

Ephesians 5:1 – “be imitators or mimics of God”

What are you pursuing? The pursuit of happiness or holiness?

In I John 3:3, the Apostle John tells us that, because of the future hope of His appearing, we must purify ourselves. This has the idea of being ready or prepared for His coming.

Are you preparing, day by day, for His appearing by living a holy life, a life set apart from the evil things of this world and set apart to please Him?

Our duty to godliness is to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and Godly in the present age (Titus 2:12).

Before we can fight against abortion and stand for life made in His image, we need to be growing in holiness and set apart.

I Corinthians 1:2 - ‘sanctified in Christ and called to be Holy”
in constant practice not just in external ‘trying harder’ but in getting closer to Him

As someone has said, Are you “ dedicated to Him and to His agenda”. If you are, we’ll make a real impact in honoring the sanctity of life and in honoring our Lord.

Putting off some things (like anger and gossip and complaining) and putting on other things (a heart of compassion to the lost, a generosity in giving, a love for other believers).

We do have a commitment to our neighbors (I John 3:14) – disregarding them, according to the Apostle John, is not loving them. We are to oppose moral evil (abortion, pornography, racial prejudice.

Do you see that holiness involves our attentions, our attitudes and our actions? Holiness has everything to do with ending abortion!

Holiness isn’t just a wispy feeling of self-righteousness, it’s an admission of our inability to live right but a determination to allow Christ to live His life in us.

Being apathetic or lethargic about our spiritual life is about as far as you can get from being Holy. Be careful you don’t fall asleep in the light.

A church united in love, experiencing the love Christ has for them, but not serving Him, or not serving Him faithfully, can’t lead the world to Christ and can’t be a witness against evils, like abortion.

James Boice puts it this way:
a. Joy is the mark of the Christian relationship to himself.
b. Holiness is the mark in relationship to God.
c. Truth is the mark in relationship to the Bible.
d. Mission is the mark in relationship to the world.

Do you want to see a change concerning abortion? Living out God’s truth involves living a life of holiness which includes having a mission. What’s your mission?

Responding, resembling, and lastly, remembering the precious lamb.

The precious blood of Christ: Verse 18, knowing that you were not
redeemed or liberated by perishable things, but with precious blood.

The illustration is that of the slave-market, in which Christ entered and with His precious blood gave the payment of ransom. He took you out and you are His.

We’ve been redeemed by His death as a substitution for us. Not by perishable things like silver or gold, which were used by slaves around Peter’s time to secure their release, but by His blood.

Blood is far more precious than silver or gold. It costs the giver a higher price.

Isn’t it odd that Jeroboam made golden calves and attempted to substitute them for the true God of Israel? Israel wasn’t and neither can we be liberated by any man made substitute for true worship.

Busyness in church, or in our homes, or on the job doesn’t redeem us. Only Jesus does. If you’ve been freed, live like it.

The ‘futile way of life’ in verse 18 is the behavior or manner of life that is vain and leads away from salvation. This was handed down by both Jews and Gentiles. It’s now being handed down to us by TV, the internet and so-called role models.

But our redemption from sin is by means of the blood of Christ, the blood which provides for a faith that in verse 7 is described as ‘precious’ – held in honor, esteemed, especially dear.

Is your faith precious to you? Are you growing in it? Are you striving to resemble His holiness?

The worse the disease, the more thankful when the cure is found.

Some here may need to admit that the disease of sin is very real in your life. Some may need a recommitment to the one who redeemed you from the slave-market of sin. Some may be ripe for repentance and revival. Why not today?

The blood of Christ was shed on the Cross as a pledge of redemption. Christ purchased us and made us ‘His private property’. 2 Corinthians 5:21. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”

Paul, in I Corinthians 6:20 tells us that we’ve ‘been bought with a price, therefore, our response should be.. to glorify God in our body and to not become the ‘ slaves of men’ (I Cor. 7:23); in other words, not to give up your will to another.

We surrender our will to the enemy and hinder personal holiness, when we: Allow our choices to be made by our friends, who aren’t walking with Christ, our in laws, our children, politicians, MSNBS, Fox News, the internet.. it goes on and on. Whose slave are you?

We also hinder personal holiness when we come to church primarily because it’s expected of us, not because we want God to speak to us and this thrills our soul. Do not become the slaves of men.

In verse 18, Christ’s sinless life is pictured in the phrase “a lamb unblemished and spotless” who innocently and patiently endured, to take away our sin through the surrender of His life.

Is there any greater motivation to holiness but the love showered upon us by our Lord?

the perfect plan of God: Referring to Christ, in verse 20, on one hand known beforehand by God, “but not yet made manifest to men” on the other (hand) appearing on earth as a man in these times – when in the fullness of time God sent forth His Son.

Why? For our sake – to redeem and purify us- ‘who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are to be in God.

Once our faith and hope is in God alone, we can be strong – we can do great exploits – we can oppose abortion and we can see lives changed:
-because we’ve personally prepared our minds for action
- because we are conforming to true holiness
- because we remember what He’s done for us.

It’s never to late to repentto receive Christ or to rededicate your life afresh to God. The Christian life can, once again, be exciting.

In his autobiography, Colonial Harland Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame said that he was always a God-fearing man. In every venture he gave God a tenth of the profits. Yet he knew that if he died, God wouldn’t probably take him to heaven.

One day, Sanders was walking down a street in Louisville, Kentucky when Rev. Waymon Rodgers of Louisville’s Evangel Tabernacle invited him to some evangelistic services. Several days later, Sanders went.

At age 79, he claimed the promises of Romans 10:9: “..if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

‘When I walked out of that church that night, I knew that I was a different man. All my tithing and good deeds had never given me the sense of God’s presence that I knew then’.

The precious blood of the lamb of God, shed for you. Being, wholly holy by knowing Christ intimately.. is that your testimony this morning? Is that your desire? You see, it’s not about life in the womb.

It’s about eternal life in heaven. Once we have that and are growing in Him, we can do much to honor the sanctity of human life while we’re still here on earth.

But first, we all need God’s ‘Sanctifying Power’ – power to cleanse us from all sin, power to keep us pure within, power for service which He will impart.

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