Personal Holiness Sermon, Pt 2, Jan 4, 2009
Being a gadget junky, I love to see the attempts that people make at shortcutting the difficult parts of life. Do you remember back about 10 years ago when a line of products hit the infomercials and stores with names like The Ab Zapper? You hooked up low-current electrodes to your stomach and the claim was that wearing it for only three minutes was like doing 500-800 setups! Sadly, they didn’t work.
Maybe you went for that handy little household helping robot that still sells well today called the Roomba. These little miracles are a little larger than a dinner plate and roam your house sucking up dirt. Though they are a terror in the dust-bunny world, they are useless for actually cleaning your home.
Yesterday I checked my favorite impulse-buy website woot.com and they were selling a new robot to help make your life easier – the Irobot Luuj. This modern work of robotics is placed into your gutters and uses an auger and some plastic fins to clean out your gutters. But a little common sense and reading the reviews of others who had purchased one of these wonder-bots revealed that when they did work they threw all of that slime in your gutters everywhere from back onto your roof to your car and even onto the sides of your neighbor’s house!
We are surrounded daily by things which try to get us out of doing the hard work that is a part of this life. Really, it’s no different as a Christian. You can buy One-Minute Bibles to get your 60 second fill of God with. Our Daily Bread is a favorite for getting a cute story and a semi-related verse to give you your spiritual pick-me-up. But just like the Ab Zapper or the Roomba or the Irobot Luuj, these things are merely marginally beneficial attempts at becoming holy unto the Lord.
Purpose Statement: This evening I want us to see that though it’s not easy, the hard work involved in becoming a man or a woman who is known for their holiness is absolutely worth the price we will have to pay.
Transition: Tonight we are going to examine three essential questions as to how to grow in our personal holiness. The first question we want to ask is, “Why must we be holy?” Turn with me to Heb 12:14 [read].
Why Must We be Holy?
There is no shortcut to God. You can’t go on Amazon and buy a pass to God. There are no coupons to make it cheaper. There’s not even a back-door to heaven by which we might sneak in. The only way we will see God is by being holy. Why must we be holy? Because it’s the only way we will ever enter heaven.
Does this concern you? Are you the least worried to hear that holiness, godliness, distinction from the world is what is required for you to come before the Father? Can you say with boldness and certainty that at this very moment you are holy? Can you say without hesitation that your soul is in a good standing with its Creator?
You see my friends, we must be holy. We must be holy not only because that is the only way to the Father, but we must be holy because God has clearly commanded that we be holy. Jesus said in Mt 5:48, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Lev 11:44 says, “consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.” At least a dozen times the Bible clearly commands us to “be holy.”
Not only are we commanded to be holy, but that’s the very reason Christ came to earth – to make us holy. Christ came to earth to save the lost, and as Eph 5:26-27 says, “so that He might sanctify her (that is, the church), having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.” Christ came that we might be holy.
We are to be holy because it is one of the clearest evidences of our salvation and our love for Christ. A disobedient, defiled and unholy individual could hardly be identified as a follower of Christ. How can we say we love and follow God when our lives look to be the opposite? When we live holy lives, lives that are set-apart and dedicated to obeying God, we show ourselves to be true followers of Christ.
Transition: Of course there are other reasons. Holiness causes us to treat others with love and concern. It prepares us to live in heaven where all will be holy and without fault (Rev 21:27). But we must not only ask, “Why must I be holy?” But we must also ask the question, “What is true holiness?”
What is True Holiness?
Some things are more easily understood when we look at what they are not. This is true for holiness. Holiness is not merely great knowledge – Balaam had that but was not holy. Holiness is not being moral – the rich young ruler was moral, but he was not holy. Holiness is not even going to church and being baptized – Simon the Magician did both of these things but was certainly not holy. So what is true holiness? True holiness is the combination of knowing what to do and then actually living out what you know is right. True holiness is the combination of Biblical knowledge with obedient actions.
To be holy, we have to know the truth. John 17:17 says, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” We grow only when we know the Word of God and choose to obey it. But it’s not just about knowledge. The NIV translates 1 Cor 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” If all we have is knowledge we will become arrogant and puffed up. But Jesus says in Jn 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” True holiness is knowing the truth and in love living it out. When it comes to other people, this means that we live out the truth before them in love. We don’t beat unbelievers with the gospel until they cry uncle, neither do we withhold the words of life from those who do not know the blessing of salvation. When it comes to our relationship with God, our knowledge is to lead us to greater obedience. The more we know, the more we are going to see that we need to be realigned in our thinking and in our actions towards Christ.
True holiness means that we are aligning our mind with the mind of God. It means that we are shunning sin and keeping God’s commandments. It means that we are striving to be like our Lord Jesus. It means that we are following meekness and temperance and self-denial and charity and brotherly love. A holy individual wants to have a purified heart and fears the Lord and demonstrates humility and faithfulness in all duties and all relations. All of these things and so much more help us to understand what it is to be holy.
Transition: But we are still left with the question, “What must I do to be holy?”
What Must I do to be Holy?
No doubt each of us has some image in our mind, whether vague or well-defined, about what it would look like to be holy. Maybe you think it would mean that you no longer struggle with your sins. Perhaps you think holiness means being nice to those around you. Others might think of holiness as being faithfully consistent in our walks with the Lord. In truth, all of this and far more is part of being holy.
But if you’re looking at your life right now and thinking, “Yeah right! I’m never going to get there,” please, don’t give up. Don’t fall into the temptation of being discouraged that you are not now where you would like to be. Remember, sanctification is a process. For some it’s faster and for others, slower, but for all of us it is a process to become like Christ. None of us just wakes up one morning with a great love for God, a vast knowledge of the Bible, and only kind words to say to others. Those are disciplines that must be learned. Just as the Colts practice and practice their different plays before they ever take to the field against another team, so too must we practice our obedience again and again before we get it right. We will fail far more often than we succeed in our struggle to become holy. But God is delighted in our obedience (Heb 13:16), so let us not fail to strive after holiness; no matter how unholy we might feel right now!
To help you in your quest to become a holy man or woman for God, I want to give you five very practical ways in which you can increase your holiness. The first is to be diligent in your private devotional life. The first step to growing in holiness is to grow in our devotion to the Holy One. If you want to become a more godly man or woman, you must spend time in the presence of the one who is perfectly holy. I know it sounds trite, but if you want to grow in holiness you are going to have to read more and pray more. You are going to have to learn to love your Bible and read it regularly. Not just on Sunday mornings to critique my sermons, not just when you have a problem that you’re looking for an answer for, but you are going to have to become a person of the book. I’m sorry if I’m stepping on any toes here, but as helpful as devotionals and daily readings like Our Daily Bread might seem to be, they are not replacement for actual time in the Word.
Just as a side note, if you don’t read well – don’t think you’re out of luck. There is nothing that says you have to be a good reader to be a godly person. If you don’t read well, get an easier translation. It drives me nuts to see people who have a hard time reading carrying King James Bibles that they don’t understand. Get an NIV or a Good News Bible, something you can actually read. Maybe your struggle is more along the lines of time. You spend your day working or driving and are hard pressed to get into the Word. But never fear! In our technologically savvy age you can get and listen to the Bible on MP3, CD, or even cassette in every translation you could ever wish. I know a truck driver that spends his work hours listening to the Bible. He would listen to the entire Bible numerous times each year. An audio Bible can be listened to in its entirety in less than 100 hours and many can be found for free on the internet.
Not only must you spend time in the Word meditating and thinking through it and working through a process of self-examination to see how you line up with what you’ve read, but you must become a person of prayer as well. I know this is hard. I struggle with it too. But no relationship can grow if there is no communication, so you must learn to communicate with God if you desire to succeed in your quest to become holy as God is holy.
A second very practical area where changes must be made is that your involvement in corporate worship must be very carefully thought out. I have heard it said again and again that it is strange to have the holiest hour of our week following on the heels of the most unsanctified hour of our week. How many angry and selfish and rushed words are uttered as we wake up late, eat in a hurry, and rush our children out the door for church? When we come together for worship we should be well prepared. Every Saturday I remind myself of the old saying, “Sunday morning begins Saturday night.” I rarely stay up late on Saturday because I know that I need to be up early on Sunday to worship the Lord with His people. Not only this, but when we come together we should be coming with hearts that have been prepared beforehand to hear God’s Word and to be challenged in our lives. It’s not just an hour of obligation, but it should be an hour of celebration. When you walk in the door or set in a pew isn’t the time to quiet your spirit to prepare yourself for coming before the Lord, but that should be done before your foot ever leaves the threshold of your home. If you want to grow in your holiness, you must learn to take full advantage of the chance to worship alongside of other believers with a heart that is not calloused or cold, distracted or asleep, but with a heart that longs to truly worship God.
Third, if you want to grow in holiness, you need to keep a close eye on your conduct in the little things in life. From our tongues to our tempers to how we treat those whose job it is to serve us, we must watch the little areas. So often we concern ourselves with the large things in life, but we fail to see that it is the small things that tip us off to larger problems on the horizon. Consider the example of marriage. Our marriages succeed or fail, not on large issues, but on small ones. Are we kind in our tone and words to our spouse, or are we short and selfish? Are we encouragers or do we always take the opportunity to put the other down? Do we get angry at our spouse or do we choose to be wronged and yet show love? Do we spend time with our spouses in little things like talking or taking a walk, or playing a game together, or is the TV always on? Just like in our marriages, the course of our lives is governed by the minor, not the major. If we can learn to be careful and watchful on our conduct in the minute-by-minute, then the hour-by-hour and day-by-day will take care of itself.
Fourth, if you want to grow in holiness, you need to be cautious about the company that you keep. Paul was clear in 1 Cor 15:33 when he said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” James warns that friendliness with the world is hostility towards God (Jam 4:4). If you wish to become a more godly man or woman you must be careful about the company you keep.
Now of course you should interact with the unsaved – how else will you make the gospel known to them? It might surprise, but it would not disappoint me at all to hear that amongst those with whom you spend your time were alcoholics or thieves or homosexuals. These are the ones that we saw the Lord most reaching out to while here on earth. But what you must be careful of is with whom you are close to.
Who are your friends? Who are those close to you? To whom do you turn when you need help or advice? Who’s counsel do you regularly seek out? Do you even have anyone like this? For many of you I’m going to guess that you don’t. I know for a fact that many of you feel like you’re going at life nearly alone because outside of your spouse you don’t have time for close friendships with those who will spur you on towards godliness. Let me make this perfectly clear, no matter how busy you might be, you cannot afford to go another month without finding someone or a group of people to whom you can begin to open up and be honest. You need people to hold you accountable, to disciple you and to be discipled by you. We are social beings and we need the input and feedback of other believers to help us grow in our walk with the Lord.
Fifth and finally, you need to have regular communion with your Lord. Now I’m not talking about what we did this morning with the celebrating the Lord’s Supper. What I’m talking about is actually taking regular time to turn your attention more and more upon Christ. If you want to grow in godliness and holiness then you need to seek to grow in your faith your prayer life and your meditation. No matter how we do at these other things, if we are negligent in our relationship with Lord, we will not be holy. Mere knowledge will never be enough. Just as you wouldn’t be content with a knowledge of your wife, but you want to know and experience and interact with her, so too must we long to interact with our Lord. Paul knew this kind of intimacy with the Lord. That’s why he could write, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). Paul lived for the Lord, so no matter whether he lived or died he was going to grow closer to the Lord. But this isn’t just for guys like Paul – it’s for every believer. Each of us has the opportunity to daily grow closer to the Lord through obedience and worship.
We don’t have to live like this world. In fact, God doesn’t want us to. He wants us to live up to the salvation we’ve been given. He wants us to live holy and unblemished lives which bring Him perfect glory. He wants us to become holy and godly men and women who are consumed with becoming like Jesus. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. It won’t make us popular with the world, but it will make us pleasing before the Father. God’s calling for our lives is that we become men and women who are holy. So are you holy or are you not? I’m not asking if you come to church or if you’ve been baptized or serve in Sunday school, I am asking something far beyond that, are you holy? If not, what are you going to do starting right now to become the holy man or woman that God has called you to be?