The Holiness of Joy
A preacher and a soap maker went for a walk together. The soap maker said, “What good is religion? Look at all the trouble and misery of the world! Still there, even after years—thousands of years—of teaching about goodness and truth and peace. Still there, after all the prayers and sermons and teachings. If religion is good and true, why should this be?” The preacher said nothing. They continued walking until he noticed a child playing in the gutter. Then the preacher said, “Look at that child. You say that soap makes people clean, but see the dirt on that youngster. Of what good is soap? With all the soap in the world, over all these years, the child is still filthy. I wonder how effective soap is, after all!” The soap maker protested. “But, Preacher, soap cannot do any good unless it is used!” “Exactly,” replied the Preacher. “Exactly!”
I guarantee you that, if you talked to very many people about the Lord, you may have gotten the same sort of comment as that soap maker, especially if they were not too polite to tell you their real feelings. The basic complaint is this: Religion is useless. It makes people feel guilty, starts wars, and then doesn’t really deliver the tranquility it promises. You know, whenever I hear someone start down this road, I get a little suspicious. Ok, I get a lot suspicious. I know that religious complainers are a lot like medical ones. People go to the doctor feeling badly, ask for his advice, then don’t do what he tells them to do. It’s the same way with Christianity. Christianity has not been tried and failed, it just hasn’t very often been tried, at least not really. It isn’t that Christianity is useless, its that it is largely unused.
And I know that as soon as I say that, you may take exception with me. You may point to numerous church goers who, after years of pew time, end up leaving and never returning proclaiming that “the whole ‘God-thing’ just didn’t work for them.” But, you see, there’s a great difference in seeking happiness in church and pursuing joy in God. That difference, I believe, can be summed in this one word: Holiness. You see, the reason some come to church for years, and never really experience the joy of the Lord is because they come to church and never really WORSHIP God. And the reason they can come to church and never really worship God is because they never really connect with His holiness; that is, they never really see Him as the awe-inspiring, powerful, unique, sovereign, all-powerful Being He really is.
You see, the response of that experience of His Holiness; the reaction to an encounter with His powerful, unmatched presence is worship. It comes when I encounter His holiness. At the heart of our text for this morning, you get a glimpse of w hat is meant when we speak of His holiness and it’s impact on us. 2 Cor 6:16 says . . . For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people. That is the heart of joy: Having the experience of having God to dwell with us and walk among us. Think about it: If joy is the current confidence that flows from the future hope and practical guidance made possible by the constant presence of God, then having God to be in us and walk among us is the very definition of having His constant presence. That constant presence is what real worship is and it is what we were created for. But . . . (there’s always one of those, isn’t there) But, there is only one way into this kind of constant experience with God. I call it the “highway of holiness.”
Now, I realize when I say that, that most people, even most Christians, don’t like to talk about holiness. It’s a word that conjures up all the caricatures of Christianity: from bun hairdo’s to crew cuts to culottes. When you say “holy” people think “weird.”
There are at least three reasons for this reaction. In the first place, ignorance may be at work. All you’ve heard about holiness had more to do with rules than relationship and you’ve rejected it. I want you to reconsider. God may want to show you the real connection between deep down joy and for real holiness.
In addition to ignorance, apathy may cause you to reject holiness. You’ve heard from others that there are lots of things which a holy man or woman has to “do,” and you get tired just thinking about it. I want you to know that real holiness produces an apathy-killing excitement that no amount of work can over come. God may want to explode a little of your apathy this morning.
Others reject holiness because of defeat. They tried and tried to live for the Lord, but they keep running into their own weakness. In frustration, they have finally quit. They know truth; they’ve tried the truth; they’ve failed at obeying the truth and so they’ve quit the truth. If that’s true of you, I can tell you one more thing about yourself: Not only have you known truth, tried truth, failed at the truth, and quit the truth, you’re also NOT JOYFUL! You see, holiness is the prerequisite for joy. And, if that is so, then there’s one critical question we must ask: How can I be holy.
Well, framing this promise of God’s presence we have in 2 Cor 6:16, are several verses that tell us how. If you and I want to experience the full joy of holiness, we must:
DIV 1: KNOW WHO WE ARE
Biblical holiness never begins with behavior or a list of rules. Biblical holiness begins with identity. In this passage, the identity of believers is given in two pictures. The first is the picture of a temple. V16 tells us that we are “the temple of the living God.” The Greek word Paul uses for “temple” here is not the one you might expect. It is naos. That choice speaks of the most sacred sort of worship. He wants to tell us that he isn’t just speaking generically of the temple, but of the most sacred space in the temple. He is talking about the Holy of Holies where the presence of God is. You know that by what he goes on to say about the implications of this description. He says that, as the holy temple, God dwells with us personally. He says “I will dwell in them. This statement quotes the Old testament and God’s promise to dwell with His people, only notice that it is personalized. He will not just dwell with us, He will dwell in us. It is a personal dwelling, but He also dwells with us corporately. He says, I will dwell in them, and walk among them. God, Himself, as the inhabitant of His living temple, is going to walk among us.
Christian, listen! You’re not alone today sitting in this auditorium. You say, “Duh, Rusty. There must be 300 people or so in here this morning with me.” That’s not what I’m talking about. Moving among us, by His Spirit, is the powerful presence of God. That ought to make you shout! But it ought to make you do something else too. You see, His great presence also brings accountability. There is an accountability to God Himself, for He goes on to say, I will be their God, and there is an accountability to one another, for He says, and they shall be My people. This picture of the living temple speaks volumes about who we are. We are personally inhabited by God; we are corporately visited by God; and we are constantly accountable to God. We are “holy.” We are set apart as His holy temple.
But there’s a second picture in this chapter. Not only do we have the picture of a temple, we have the picture of a family. v 18 says I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters. That phrase, I will be a Father to you is the “adoption” formula used in Scripture to show a covenant relationship between God and His people. The Children of Israel were bound in a covenant with God because He had determined to become a Father to them. He adopted them and gave them the promise that one day the Messiah, Jesus Christ, would provide the way for them to truly become His sons and daughters. And that wasn’t all: This adoption would prepare them for the great day when that promised salvation would be consummated with Christ not just being their permanent sacrifice but with Christ being their preeminent King. And all of this was to happen not because God looked down from heaven and picked out the very best, or the very strongest among men to become His chosen. It was because in great mercy and Grace, God chose to give us His grace when we did not deserve it.
And this is where holiness begins. This is it’s beauty. We are set apart and we are to be different because God has made us different by His grace! And just how should that difference play out in our lives? Well since I am a living temple, I am inhabited by God. That means that I have no vacancies. If I am filled with God, really filled with Him, there is not room for any other ruler. All idols get squeezed out of the heart that is truly inhabited by God.
And then, since I am a living temple, I am empowered by God. That means that I have no vulnerabilities . . . not really. If God is for me, and God is in me, I am empowered by Him and there is nothing that can overcome me. Yes, I may suffer. Yes I may even struggle, but I am aware, even in the middle of the struggle, that God is in me and His sovereign power controls every circumstance. Like Paul said in Phil 1:21, for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. I am empowered by God and I have no vulnerabilities.
And what does it mean in my life to say that I am in a holy family. Well, in the first place, since I am in a holy family, I am loved by God. That gives me great freedom in my relationships. I am not driven by my relational needs. Yes, I want to have a wife and I want to be loved by other people, but I am not depending on those relationships to satisfy my primary longing. I understand that, at the center of who I am, Christ is there. I am loved by Him and I do not have to resort to destructive behavior to try to get those needs met. Ladies, when you know you’re loved by God and you feel that in the core of your soul, you don’t have to give in to sexual pressure from that guy who wants you for the wrong reasons. Teens, when you know you’re loved by God and you feel that in the core of your soul, you don’t have to use language that compromises your testimony to fit in. Parents, when you know you are loved by God and you feel that in the core of your soul, you can finally become a parent with some backbone because you’re not depending on the love of your child to satisfy that core longing in your heart. Since you are in a holy family, you are loved by God.
That’s the first secret of holiness. It’s a matter of identity. You have to know who you are.
And here’s the thing: I know this is nothing new. If holiness were simply a matter of understanding our identity in Christ, surely there would be more holy saints! Why do we have so much trouble making this a reality in our lives? Well, let me answer that with this illustration:
My grandson’s birthday was July 10. He was two, and yes, sometimes he’s terrible, but I love him. I call him “fast and furious!” Well, he came in late on Friday night and we played all day on Saturday, part of Sunday (when I wasn’t at the church) and then on Monday. All too quickly, Monday afternoon arrived and we had to take he and Jenny to the airport. Now, before when he has come to visit, it’s been sad to see him go, but I did ok with it. This time, though, Kathy and I were both at the point of tears when we said good bye to he and his mother at the airport. We could hardly talk as we left in the car. I was thirsty though, and I thought that stopping at McDonalds for something to drink might break the melancholy mood. I pulled off 540 onto Leesville Rd. It was about 5 pm in the afternoon. The traffic was pretty backed up. It wasn’t stopped, but I couldn’t find a break to go forward. I was already emotionally upset, I want to pull out in traffic, but these crazy Raleigh drivers have the audacity to drive around when I’m wanting to go somewhere on the road, so I’m stuck there getting more frustrated by the second. Then it happens: The guy behind me blows his horn! I’m thinking, “You know I’d really like to pull out and get over to McDonalds but I seriously doubt that the guy right there driving the blue beemer wants me to put the front end of my Camry in his back seat.
I lost it momentarily. I shouted, “Really, Really? You’re going to blow your horn at me when there is traffic everywhere?” I didn’t make any obscene gestures, but I did throw my hands up in the air and glare back at him in my mirror.
Ok. Now here I am, the pastor of Peace Church; known as a Christian in this town; supposed to be maintaining a good Christian testimony. More than that, I am a saved, blood-bought believer, who is filled with the Holy Spirit, a living temple inhabited by God and a loved member of His family. And yet I am acting like an idiot on the highway just because someone blew their horn at me.
Now what was my problem? Well, even though I knew WHO I was in Christ, I momentarily at least, forgot. See holiness begins with my identity. If I am to be holy, I must know who I am. Which just leads me to this second principle of holiness: If I am to be holy, not only must I know who I am I must
D2: BE WHO I AM
Now that sounds real simple: Any preacher worth his salt ought to be able to get that point across. If you know WHO you are then you should BE who you are. But being who you are has a prerequisite. Along with knowing your identity, there are a couple of things about that identity of you which you must be aware. In the first place, being someone in which God dwells and among whom He walks means that there is going to be a real significant difference between you and those around you. Paul says it’s logical, and while it is, indeed, logical, it is a fact that is missed, else Paul would not be so strongly emphasizing it here.
He says in v14:
Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers For rwhat 4fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what 5communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols
Now we have used this verse, often, to specifically speak of a believer marrying an unbeliever, but it goes much further, actually. In fact, while it certainly can apply to marriage, the idea of “yoking” is not a technical term referring specifically to a legal or cultural binding act. The idea arises from the old testament command not to yoke animals of a different species together. For instance, Deut 22:10 forbids plowing with an ox and a donkey yoked together. In reality then, this idea of “yoking” is a metaphor that refers to any joint participation, formal or informal, that significantly forms one’s identity. When the Bible speaks of being “yoked together” it speaks of taking on the identity of those with whom you are joined in a common task so that you become their ally.
Now the reason you can’t be yoked is revealed in a series of five questions intended to point out the difference between the Christian and the world. Just like mixing a donkey with an ox will not work because the two are incompatible, mixing a Christian and a non-believer in a partnership that impacts identity will not work because there is too much difference. The first question tells us that the Christian and the non-believer are different in their actions: . . . What fellowship has righeousness with lawlessness? In other words, the Christian seeks to obey the Lord and the non-believer lives a lawless life. They are incompatible.
The second question tells us that the Christian and the non-believer are different in their natures: What communion has light with darkness? The Holy Spirit so regenerates the light of Christ within the heart that the sinful nature of the non-believer will constantly be exposed. The non-believer will have to change or live in constant guilty. They are incompatible.
The third question tells us that the Christian and the non-believer are different in their Masters: Paul asks, And what accord has Christ with Belial? The word Belial is another word for Satan. Just as Jesus and Satan will never be on the same page, so a Christian and a non-believer will never be able to reconcile their differences.
The fourth question specifies the difference between a Christian and a non-believer in their faith. What part has a believer with an unbeliever? And the fifth question shows us the difference in their worship, for what agreement has the temple of God with idols? What he is seeking to point out in this whole series of questions is that you must come to grips with one fact: As a Christian, YOU ARE DIFFERENT. YOU ARE INCOMPATIBLE WITH THE WORLD. You must be aware of that real difference before you can really be who you are in Christ.
But there’s another awareness that you must have before you can be who you are. You must come to grips with the fact that, as a Christian, your motivation is different. Paul speaks to that motivation in 7:1. There he says, Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ouselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. This is a pretty heavy verse, when you really understand what is being said. Jesus went to the cross and died for our sin. In the process, God took out all of His wrath on sin and freely imputed to us the very righteousness of Christ. We don’t get to heaven because we work hard and perfect ourselves. We get there because God, having exacted divine retribution for our sin, gives us the very righteousness of His Son.
And what do most American Christians do? They say, “Thank you very much God. Now that Christ has done everything, I will do nothing. I’ll accept your great salvation and I’ll still identify with the world because, after all, I’m not saved by my works but by the wonderful grace of Christ. Paul says, if you have that idea, you’ve got it backwards. He says that, understanding the precious promises we have, we should instead, “cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, (watch this) ‘perfecting’ holiness in the fear of God. When the Bible tells us to “perfect” holiness, it means to “fill it up” or “complete” it. The idea is that we, realizing we’ve been made righteous in Christ by His work on the cross, through this power, seek to become more like what He made us. And we do it all in the “fear of God.” You see, we are motivated, not to be like the world, but to be like Jesus and that makes us totally different from the world. And, when I begin to become aware of that, I am enabled to begin to be who I really am.
And being aware of who you are precedes being who you are. On the other hand, being unaware or at least not appreciating fully who you are can really lead you into trouble.
Clayton Longtree was a guard at the U.S. embassy in Moscow. It was a position of trust and honor, but it was dull and exhausting. It had a way of lulling you into a desire for something to keep you engaged.
Clayton’s “something” was Violetta. Tall, fair-skinned, and beautiful, she was the translator at the embassy. Ignoring the warnings against fraternizing with Soviets, he followed the example of others in the embassy and asked her out. He subsequently took long walks in the park, had tea, and even managed to be alone a few times in her apartment.
It was then when he met “Uncle Sasha.” This supposed “relative” peppered him with questions on the U.S., his political views, etc. Clayton enjoyed the man’s interest and did not stop answering even when, one day, Sasha pulled a prepared list of detailed questions from his pocket, thus identifying him as KGB. That’s how eager he was to be with Violetta.
In fact, he was so eager that when he was moved to Vienna, he maintained contact. By this time he was more intrigued by the possibility of being a spy. His first delivery was an old embassy phone book, then a map of the embassy interior. The money he was paid, he spent largely on Violetta.
But his conscience began to bother him. He started to drink more; he lay awake nights trying to think of a way out of the KGB web. He hadn’t realized that when he traded the trust of his nation for sex and cash, he traded his soul as well.
So in December 1986, Clayton tried to trade it back. At a Christmas party he approached the Vienna CIA chief, a man whose real identity he would not have known except that Uncle Sasha had pointed him out earlier. “I’m in something over my head,” he said. The confession begun that evening ended in August, 1987 when Clayton Lonetree was found guilty on all charges of espionage. Today he sits in a military prison cell, a thirty-year sentence stretching before him.
Now, what happened to Clayton? O, he did not forget that he was an American or that he owed his allegiance to the U.S., he just failed to live his life in that awareness.
This is what happens to believers as well. Even though we may know who we are in Christ, when we fail to translate that into our moment-by-moment lives, it is so easy to begin to let things slip. Awareness of your real difference and your real motivation is critical to being who you are.
But being who I am in Christ is more than just awareness. It is also about taking action. You see, perfecting holiness is not something that automatically happens in the Christian life. The obvious reason for this is that, when you became a believer, you received a new nature, but your old nature was not eradicated. It is still there. So, as a believer trusts in the Holy Spirit’s help, he must take action if he is to be holy.
What sort of action is required? V17 tells us: Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” There are a couple of actions here. in the first place, we are told to come out from among them and be separate . . .” This command spoke to their need to separate from those relationships and connections that would compromise their identity in Christ. And just what “connection” does he have in mind?
Well, what Paul spoke of here was probably any participation with the idolatry of Corinth. While, in 1 Corinthians, he gave them the freedom to eat meat that was offered to idols, evidently, some of the people were taking it further. Whatever their involvement, there must have been enough connection between them and idolatry to compromise their identity. Here, he tells them that they must separate themselves, and that separation is accentuated when he says, and touch not the unclean thing. This would have meant that, whether or not they actually worshiped in the Corinthian temples, they needed to completely separate themselves from any hint of idolatry. The unclean thing they were not to touch was probably an idol. They were to make their distinction very clear. There was no room for compromise.
So, let me see if I can just draw all of this together with three applications: First, if I am to experience the joy of holiness, contradicting relationships must be severed. That is, I have to get rid of all of those potential or real relationships in my life that contradict my identity in Christ. I cannot marry a non-Chrisitian, or even date one! And I certainly can’t live with my fiancé before I am married. I can’t partner with someone in business who is going to draw me into shady deals or outright cheating. If I do that, I will deny my identity. And I must even draw the line on some friendships.
I was just talking to a couple who had recently given their hearts to Christ and I was so encouraged. They both said, in essence, “Hey, Rusty, we need new friends. We have no doubt that if all we have for friends are the ones who want to party, it’s going to be extremely difficult for us to live for the Lord.” They realized that there were some contradicting relationships which had to be severed.
But also, compromising idolatries must be stopped. Obviously, none of us are tempted to stop at an idol temple on the way home from church this morning to participate in a little idolatry before we get to the house. But we all know that an idol is anything that becomes a substitute for God in our lives. It is anything that we look to for relief from stress instead of God.
For some, it’s alcohol; for others, its drugs; for others, it’s television or media; for others its food; for others’s its work, and for still others, it’s shopping. I know you don’t have a statue you bow down to in your home, but I bet you do have some “unclean things” that you hold on to which are squeezing God out of your life. Perfecting holiness in your heart means that compromising idolatries stop.
And how do you sever contradicting relationships? How do you stop compromising idolatries? Only through captivating awareness. That’s why, if I am to perfect holiness in my life, captivating awareness must be strengthened. Here’s the point: Holiness in your life doesn’t begin with separation, it ends with it. It is the effect, not the cause. If I try separate myself without being aware of my identity and focusing on it, one of two things happen: In the first place, I can become a legalist. I make myself a list of rules and become proud of how holy I am. The focus becomes me and the perfection I achieved is sabotaged by the pride I possess. In the second place, I may become a hypocrite. Because the separation doesn’t come because of my own awareness of God, I fake it, and after a while, because I really don’t know why I’m not drinking, or not being sexually promiscuous, I begin doing those things, only, I now have this “Christian reputation” to uphold, so I may keep up my “separated persona” while secretly participating. I become a hypocrite.
And, as you can imagine, that kind of legalistic or hypocritical life carries with it little joy. Which leads me to the last key to experiencing the joy of holiness. You see, not only must you know who you are and be who you are, you must also
D3: ENJOY WHO HE IS
Now this is the key, so please listen carefully: The heart, the very essence of the joy of holiness is this: It is being reserved for God so that you can fully respond to Him and fully glorify Him. The main reason we are holy is not so that we can please God. God is already pleased in the sacrifice of His Son. The reason we are holy is so that we can enjoy God. That’s why in the middle of this sobering paragraph on being separated from the world you find that wonderful promise: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people . . . I vwill be a Father to you, And you shall be My wsons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty. When I know who I am in Christ, and I put that awareness at the front of my thoughts so that I become who I am in Christ, I am able to live such a life that I genuinely enjoy who He is in me. I become the temple of the Living God.
VISUALIZATION - YOUR WORDS - AMENA BROWN - BLUEFISH