Personal Holiness Sermon, Pt 1, Jan 4, 2009
Before Christmas we were working through our series on Calvary’s Calling. These are areas in which the Lord has clearly called us to faithfulness through His Word. Over the last several months we’ve seen that we are called to have a high view of God, of Scripture, of the gospel, and of the church. Alongside of these high views, we’ve realized that God has also called us to have a right view of man which requires that we have a low view of self. This morning and evening we are going to see that God is also calling us to have a high view of personal holiness.
Personal holiness is something I find quite intriguing. In a day and age where most things are about self, it seems strange to me to see most believers divorcing themselves from the Christians quest for personal holiness. All around us people are using life coaches, gurus, self-help books, Oprah and Dr. Phil to help them become better people, while we Christians at large seem to be quite content to go with the flow of society. While the world around us seeks for enlightenment and fulfillment, we believers seem to be quite happy where we are and rather uninterested in seeking to live holy lives as we have been instructed in Scripture.
In our age of spiritual longing, most within the church seem to have forgone the longing for continued obedience to God. We are concerned enough to see people saved, but once their saved, our concern is primarily that they put their back sides into our church pews at least once each week.
We know that personal holiness will require hard work, so as a group we seem to have decided to lay it aside and choose fun and contentment instead of the striving for Christ likeness which Scripture requires.
Today we are going to see that one of God’s callings for us, not just as a church, but as individual believers, is for us to be personally holy. This morning we are going to look at why we need personal holiness, and tonight we’re going to look at how we can practically work towards becoming holy unto the Lord.
Purpose Statement: This morning, our goal is to see why we need to be personally holy so that we can begin to change those things which currently hinder us from God.
Transition: To understand why we need to be holy, we must realize that our lives are filled with sin.
Personal Holiness is Necessary because of Sin
To be holy is to be separated from that which corrupts. God is holy by nature, and as such, there is nothing sinful in His presence. He is distinct, different, separate from all that is impure and corrupt. This separation is exactly what God is calling us to as well. We are called to be set apart. Lev 20:26 says, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be mine.” Though God is talking about the Jews here, the same principle applies for His church – we are to be different from the world. We are to be like Christ. We’re to be conformed to His image (Rom 8:29). We’re to not commit sin, but rather to do righteousness, to love the brethren, to keep ourselves, and to overcome the world (1 Jn 2:29; 3:9-14; 5:4-18). In other words we are to be different from the world. But we are hindered by sin.
Any discussion of personal holiness must begin with sin. Beginning to understand sin is the only way we can understand how to be holy. When we understand sin we understand what we are to be separated from. That’s why the first thing that happens when we are saved is that God convicts us of sin. That conviction comes from our understanding and realization that we are fallen creatures who required Jesus’ death to bring us life. When we are saved we begin to understand that, “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 Jn 3:4).
There should be an urgent longing in each and every believer to become like Christ because we begin to truly see sin for what it is. As believers we begin to see through it’s flimsy veneer and into the corrupt and rotted underbelly which is sin. As believers we are to be terrified by passages like Jam 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” We begin to see that we sin when we don’t do what is right (Jam 4:17), “to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin,” and we begin to see that we sin in doing what is wrong, “For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality” (Col 3:25). Our lives are drenched in sin, even as believers which should cause us to desperately long for holiness.
Several years ago on Christmas day Pam and I helped milk several hundred cows to let the farmers have Christmas day off. As I stood in the milk-shed pit, precariously close to the backsides of these animals, all I could think about was taking a shower. By the end of the day there was foulness everywhere and I was thoroughly defiled. I wanted nothing more than to be cleaned, to be purified by a long hot shower. Yet, as believers, we spend our lives far too often oblivious to the backside of sin which befouls us day-by-day. We are so accustomed to the reek and defilement that we no longer notice it. But God still does. We need to have our eyes opened to the severity of sin that we might see our desperate need for cleansing from it. Personal holiness begins when we see sin for what it is and actively work to be cleansed of it.
Transition: So how are we cleansed of sin that we might become holy? We begin by seeking sanctification.
Personal Holiness Begins with Sanctification
Though far too often we are not, as believers we should be consumed by a longing to be free from sin and to be living holy lives. This should be our desire because it’s God’s desire for us [read 1 Thes 4:1-8]. God’s desire for us is that we would “excel still more” in our obedience to forgo sin and to seek after sanctification.
If we want to have lives that are holy and set apart for God, we need to be sanctified. That’s what God wants for us. But what is sanctification? Simply put, sanctification is being conformed to Christ. It’s that process through which not only our actions, but our thoughts, our desires, longings, and even our imaginations are brought in line with God’s will. Sanctification is the process through which we become more and more like Christ.
You see, this is where many people get confused. At the moment of salvation we are perfectly justified. This is a forensic or legal term that clearly states that we have been pardoned of all our sins. In the eyes of the law (or in this case, the eyes of God), we are pardoned. This doesn’t mean that we’re innocent, it just means that we aren’t being condemned for our actions. So at the moment of our salvation we are legally made right before God. Christ’s blood has redeemed us and we are free from the punishment our sins require.
But being justified doesn’t mean that we are perfect, only that we won’t be found guilty for where we are not perfect. Sanctification, therefore, is the process by which we try to match our earthly lives to our standing as just and right before God. As we try to live up to our innocence before God through obedience to His Word, we are being sanctified. Paul well describes it as walking and pleasing God. Just like walking is a slow process by which one foot is set in front of another, so too is sanctification one act of obedience followed by another, then another, then another. Through His Word we are setting our lives, our tongues, our attitudes, our actions apart for God. Instead of living like the world, we choose to live like Christ. Whereas justification is an event that takes place at one point in time with eternal consequences, sanctification is a process that is on-going day-by-day.
Transition: And the end result of sanctification is personal holiness.
Personal Holiness Requires Separation
Whether you want to call it personal holiness, or godliness or some other term, personal holiness requires that we separate ourselves from the ways of the world. Rom 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” 1 Pet 1:14-15 echoes that thought when it says, “as obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’” As believers who have been justified and pardoned from our sins, we should long to separate ourselves from the sins of the world with the goal of becoming like our Lord Jesus. Or, as 1 Jn 2:6 says, “the one who says he abides in (Christ) ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
Tonight when we come back together we are going to talk about how to actually experience personal holiness in our lives. But as a practical expression of our desire to deal with sin, to be sanctified and made holy, I’d like us to turn to John 6:41 [read Jn 6:41-71].
One of the clearest defining moments in the life of Christ is found in the words we’ve just read. Jesus essentially drew a line in the sand and called for all-out obedience. The five thousand men that He’d fed the day before followed Him to Capernaum, basically looking for more food. So Jesus offered them the bread of life (v.50). They wanted a meal, but Jesus offered them eternal life! But they didn’t understand. They just wanted food, but here was Jesus talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Even the twelve disciples struggled with what He was saying, but unlike the vast crowd of disciples who left and followed Him no more, the twelve chose to stay because, as Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the worlds of eternal life” (v.68).
My friends, this morning you have a chance to work on your personal holiness. Christ wanted those who follow Him to remember Him. He wanted us to remember His shed blood and broken body. He wants us to follow Him in obedience, no matter what it is that He tells us to do. This morning you have the chance to celebrate the Lord’s Supper with us. Once each month we remember Christ’s sacrifice through eating the bread and drinking the juice as symbols of Christ’s suffering on our behalf.
But let me put a warning out there before you choose to jump in and take communion. First Corinthians 11 warns that there is a danger in taking the bread and the cup in a wrong way. It warns that we are to examine ourselves before we remember Christ’s sacrifice. If, in examining ourselves, we remember that we have offended someone, then we are not to take part this morning according to Mt 5:23-24. Likewise, if we remember that someone has sinned against us and we have not dealt with it, then we must also let the bread and the cup pass us by in line with Mt 18:15-18. God takes our personal holiness seriously when it comes to remembering Christ’s sacrifice and so should we. If there’s un-dealt-with sin in your life, just let it go by. No one will notice, no one’s keeping score.
If you’re here this morning as a guest and you know that you are in a right-standing with the Lord, having been redeemed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, by all means, join in with us.