Good morning and welcome to worship! Last Sunday I began by reminding you how much Jesus loves you. Everything we have is a gift from him. He’s the one who called us into being, and when we sinned, he’s the one who willingly gave his life to restore us to himself.
This morning, I want to turn that question around, “We know Jesus loves us, how much do you love Jesus? Are you willing to be identified with him, even if it means rejection by the world?” That was a hard question for Jesus’ disciples and it’s still a hard question for believers today.
Our subject this morning is holiness. First, God’s holiness and second, God’s command that we be holy just as he is holy. In Lev 11:44 the God says to his people, “I am the LORD your God, consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy!” Lev 11:44
To be holy means to be whole, without pretense. When Moses asked God what his name was, the LORD responded, “I AM who I AM”. Not “I am who I seem to be”; not “I am who I pretend to be. But I am who I am, absolutely honest, pure. My hidden self perfectly matches my visible self. There is no duplicity, no façade, no lie, no pretending with me.” The apostle John puts it this way…“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 Jn 1:5 Only God can say that!
James puts it this way. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
God’s changelessness is our salvation. He fulfills his promises. There are no skeletons in his closet. He is never fickle. He is absolutely trustworthy. Why? Because he is holy!
Holiness is God’s primary attribute. His power, sovereignty, justice, grace, mercy all flow out of his holiness. His holiness sets him apart from everything else that exists. He is utterly, uniquely, completely different from you or me. This holiness of God makes him an object of awe, adoration, and even dread for us as human beings.
Listen to Isaiah’s words. “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isa 6:1-5
In the presence of God, Isaiah was overwhelmed with God’s absolute moral perfection and his own complete depravity. God is absolutely just and righteous. What God does is always right, always pure, always just, always true. Why? Because God is holy.
In the presence of God and his holiness, Isaiah realized he, like the rest of us, was up the creek without a paddle. In the light of God’s presence he couldn’t hide his sinfulness. There is only one degree of sinful – and we all qualify. Holiness isn’t measured on the curve. You either are holy or you aren’t holy and we are not. When it comes to moral perfection, we all fall short. So how can God demand that his people be holy as he is holy?
Our holiness is different than God’s holiness. Holiness for us means to be consecrated or set apart by God for a special purpose. The mistake the ancient Pharisees and many Christians today make is thinking that holiness is only about our moral behavior. “I don’t drink and I don’t chew and I don’t go with girls who do.”
Jesus punched a hole in the moral pride of the Pharisees by pointing out that the attitudes behind their moral behavior were just as wicked as the sinners they enjoyed condemning.
The Bible says we have all been called to holiness but holiness isn’t something we can generate by our own efforts. God alone can make us holy. He does this by forgiving and purifying us from our sin through the blood of his own son shed on the cross for us.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation …” Col 1:21-22
Holiness is a gift that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. I love the story of how when Jesus was dying on the cross, the soldiers took his robe, a special robe that was seamless, one piece. It was whole, or “holy”. Rather than tear it to pieces and share the cloth, they gambled for it and one of those soldiers went home as it were, clothed in the holiness, the righteousness of Christ. If you are a believer, that’s what Jesus has done for you!
Christian holiness means that when we believe in Jesus, we are clothed in his holiness, because our holiness, our moral integrity is worthless before a holy God. Are you with me?
But there is a second part to God’s call for us to be holy. Jesus did not die on the cross to set us free to sin, but to set us free from sin. God purpose in saving us is to restore the dignity, the purpose, for which he originally created us. We were created for a special purpose, a holy purpose, and that wasn’t to serve sin. It wasn’t to serve ourselves. It was to serve our God and share in his holiness, everything else ends in slavery.
The Apostle Paul was a guy was faultless in keeping the rules of men and living a moral life. He discovered that this wasn’t the way to true holiness. In fact, he says that all the merit he thought he had accumulated before God was rotten and no better than filthy rags. Holiness before God only came as he trusted Jesus and the work Jesus did for him on the cross. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Gal 2:20
Let me ask you again, “You know Jesus loves you, but how much do you love him?” To be holy means we are willing to die to our desires in this world and become a new person who no longer lives for myself, but for God. Let me make this a little more personal. When a man or woman gets married, they take on a new identity. They are no longer their own. For the marriage to work, they must be willing to be identified by their old friends, family, the world, in a new way. They belong to someone else in addition to themselves. Often there are old friends, even family members who are unable to make this adjustment. They try to compete with the new spouse for the allegiance of their old friend. Every newly-wed has to choose who will have first place, their old life, old friends, or their new life, their new partner.
The Biblical understanding of holiness demands that we make the same choice. Are you willing to be identified by the world as belonging to Jesus? Are you willing to face the flack, this misunderstanding, the false accusations that will come with that? To be holy doesn’t mean being “better than somebody else”, even though some may accuse us of that.
Holiness means being willing to be identified with Jesus, as belonging to him, as set apart to serve him before all else. To be holy you must be willing to be “odd for God”.
The road of holiness means that you serve a new master; you have a new Lord, a new priority. As you walk this new life of holiness, consecration to the Lord, you will even find that the Holy Spirit is changing you, so that you naturally begin do things that are pleasing to God, not because you have to, but because you want to.
Some of those who were part of your former circle may reject and even persecute you. They will try to hinder you from following Jesus and being identified with him. Don’t let them stop you - every true Christian from the very beginning has faced this trial. If you stick it out your will find a joy and peace that the world cannot give!
Jesus warned us “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” Mark 8:34-38
Holiness is not something the Bible reserves for spiritual superstars. It’s God’s call for every believer. It doesn’t happen through trying harder, or pretending to be something we are not, it happens through drawing close to Jesus just as we are. After all, he is the source of everything we are really looking for in this life.
Jesus loves you. He loves you enough to die for you. How much do you love him? Will you love him enough to die to yourself and be identified with him, even when the world ridicules you, doesn’t understand you, falsely accuses you, rejects you?
That’s where holiness begins. Will you read these words with me…“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will…” Eph 1:3-5