Thursday, June 11, 2009

Be holy

1 Peter 1:16

“Be holy”


Since “holiness” is probably the most misunderstood issue in the church… I’m going to cover some things about it this morning.  I will probably offend most of you by countering what you thought you knew about the subject.


In the past there has been poor understanding about holiness because of poor teaching or a need to react to something.  Bad home brewed theology is a serious problem that pushes us into heresy.  Reacting to an issue is a serious problem because it creates the possibility of missing God’s real plan for our lives.


We must understand, God wants us to be holy.  Running from the issue does not help any more than twisting it.  The problem is it has become easier to ignore holiness than deal with it or defend it.


[For the purposes of this sermon: “Holy,” “holiness” and “sanctification” will be used interchangeably. Keith Drury’s 25th edition of “Holiness for ordinary people” has now been published.  Drury is one source for this sermon.]


I.          Impressions:


            A.         Holiness is desired because…


1.         Holiness is commanded in the Bible.  (In fact it is the most frequent commandment.)


                        2.         Holiness is seen as some form of “excellence.”


B. T. Roberts: “If we would attain an excellence we must know what it is.”


3.         Holiness is seen as the standard for a daily “walk.” (Christian life, including habits, language, and mannerisms.)


            B.         Holiness is NOT desired because…


1.         Holiness is seen as the property of a few elite Christians who are possibly “gate keepers.”


2.         Holiness is often misunderstood and historically associated with some wrong ideas.


II.        Historical problems:


            A.         Holiness is confused with false (human) standards.


“For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” [Matthew 5:20]


(The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were the “holiness” people of Jesus day.  Externally it seemed they had everything right.  Internally they had attitudes that the Bible declares as sin.  The most significant was “unbelief.”)


1.         Holiness has been mistaken for the standard of whatever the group thinks as acceptable and unacceptable behavior.


2.        Holiness has been mistaken for the circumstances that caused a special moment in time (such as a revival).  The effect is to try to recreate or return to those circumstances.


            B.         Holiness is confused with imaginary standards.


1.         The idea of “flawless” or “sinless” is often connected with holiness.  (Instead of mature, growing, useful in ministry.)


2.         Drury: “There is no level of spiritual maturity which is impossible to fall into sin.”


a.          Two statements: “It is NOT possible to sin” vs “It is possible to NOT sin.”


b.         The first is not Biblically correct.  The second one expresses the Biblical concept being sanctified (holy).


            C.         Holiness has been associated with things that misdirect us spirituality.


                        1.         Holiness has become a tool to measure (judge or rate) people.


a.          Thus, holiness becomes a tool to impose one person’s convictions on others.


                                    b.         Result is we lose our children. (Drury)


Drury: What God “requires of me, He may not require of you.”  [FACT: this is too messy for comfort!]


                        2.         Holiness has been a weapon to pervert salvation.


                                    a.          “Holy or hell.” (pointed out by Drury)


b.         Perversion comes when we make salvation a result of our effort.  Here is the reasoning:


                                                1.)        God wants me to be holy.


2.)        I am not holy (I still sin) because of resistance to God’s will.


                                                3.)        Resistance displeases God and is therefore sin.


                                                4.)        Sin breaks my fellowship/relationship with God.


5.)        A “broken” relationship with God sends me to hell because God can not look on any unclean/sinful thing (I am unclean because I sin).


                                                6.)        Therefore, I must be holy or I will go to hell.


                        3.         Holiness has become insulation from dealing with the real issue.


                                    1.         We avoid the inward reality by focusing on the external.


                                    2.         Done by exchanging the external for what is real.


“Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” [Matthew 23:26]


“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. [11] The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: `God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. [12] I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' [13] "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, `God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'  [14] "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” [Luke 18:10 – 14]


[Ill.]  Once upon a time, I thought that the idea of holiness/sanctification was that the sinful nature/principle/law (what caused me to sin) had to die.  Once this sin principle was gone then I could not sin any more.  This home brewed theology also said that if I did happen to sin then I was going to hell and must be either “re-saved” or have some sort of sanctifying experience again.


CORRECTIONS: (from history)


            A.         Historical perspective:


                        1.         John Wesley: “live above sin” and “perfect love.”


For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.” [Romans 6:14]


“You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” [Romans 6:18]


“No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God.” [1 John 3:9]


(Wesley argued that “God does nothing to denature” the person.  In other words, the sinful nature does not die, it is not removed, nor does it magically go away to attempt to return to reclaim lordship another day.  When I read this, I realized that salvation and sanctification was a relationship centered on the person of Jesus Christ and not around (or about) the person of Dan Waite.)


2.         Keith Drury: “holiness is Christ-likeness.”


“Jesus replied: ‘`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ [38] This is the first and greatest commandment. [39] And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Matthew 22:37 – 39]


  • Whenever we take our eyes off Jesus Christ, we have stumbled into error or heresy.


III.       What is holiness?


            A.         Holiness is like a compass.


1.         “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.” [1 Peter 1:14 – 15]


a.          Notice: God says “be holy in all you do” not “do holy.” 


b.         Notice: God does not say “be holy or else.”  (“God does not threaten His children.” – Drury)


c.         Notice: God contrast ignorance with relationship.  (“Just as he who called you is holy…”)


2.         May he strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” [1 Thessalonians 3:13]


a.          Notice: Holiness (“blameless”) is something God accomplishes as a result of working in our lives.


b.         Notice: Holiness happens in the “heart.” (central loyalty, choices, feelings, motivations.)


            B.         Holiness is like a map.


                        1.         Reality of sin:


The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; [20] idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions [21] and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. [22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. [24] Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. [25] Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. [Galatians 5:19 – 25]


a.          Notice: the acts of the sinful nature are contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit.  (Outward behavior v inward qualities)  In other words, the sinful nature is without control but the fruit of the Spirit are inward things that bring control.


b.         Notice: not inheriting the kingdom of God (heaven) is contrasted with keeping in step with the Spirit.


                        2.         Reality of effort:


“Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” [2 Corinthians 7:1]


a.          Notice: “Purify” in the Greek is where we get “catharsis.”  (Catharsis is a medical term that means “to purge.”)


b.         Notice: Salvation is legal standing (most of the words associated with salvation, such as “redemption” and “justification,” are legal terms) but sanctification (holiness) is healing progress.


            C.         Holiness is like shifting gears.


1.         It is possible for the Christian to be “carnal” or “worldly.” [Carnal/worldly = Immature or sinful]


“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly (KJV = “carnal”) — mere infants in Christ. [2] I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. [3] You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” [1 Corinthians 3:1 – 3]


(Jealousy is listed as a sin in Galatians 5:20 and quarreling is listed as a sin in 2 Corinthians 12:20)


a.        There seems to be an awkward stage were a person is “justified” (knows and is effected by grace) but is immature (“infant”) and still practicing sin (“jealousy” and “quarreling”)


                                    b.         Paul was telling them that this was unacceptable.


2.         It is possible to be a Christian but not yet have experienced a point of sanctification.


May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” [2 Thessalonians 5:23 – 24]


a.          Paul prays for God to sanctify… implications: this had not yet happened.


b.         The Thessalonians were known for “work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Thessalonians 1:3b]


Questions:  [From Keith Drury]


            1.         What is your heart’s desire?  [Is God your best love?]


2.         What is your love for others? [Especially those who are unfriendly, unkind, poor, helpless, needy, without Jesus.]


3.         Are you totally consecrated/dedicated to God? [Have you made the commitment that all other choices are based on?]


4.         Have you experienced a growth leap toward being like Jesus?  [Have you the power to resist willful sin?]


            5.         Has the Holy Spirit witnessed to you that He has performed this work?

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