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The Holiness Of God

From the series The Real God

Holiness may conjure up images of candles and incense, ritual chants and silence. Is that what God wants when He says He wants His people to be holy? What if instead of feeling like you're doomed to a holiness straight-jacket you learned that holiness actually frees you to a life of blessing and great joy? That's where Chip's headed in this message.

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Message Transcript

And I would like to take you back to Exodus 19, and imagine if you literally were filming and watching and think, I am always, I guess something about me is always drawn to when God does something the first time. It seems to me that it’s very instructive.

After four hundred years, people don’t have a clue of who God is. How does He introduce Himself? What does He want them to know about Him first?

Exodus 19 opens up and it says, “After two months,” so they have been in the wilderness for sixty days and God says to Moses, “I want to introduce Myself to My people that I have redeemed. These will be My people.”

And it’s that picture and if you can just imagine panning with your camera and seeing two million people, maybe you are up high so you have a great view. And two million people and this boundary. And then seeing this smoke billow and then fire and then it’s hard to keep a good picture because the ground is shaking, because there is an earthquake. And you watch people fall on their face before God and this thundering voice. I guess I would ask you, if you were doing a documentary, and someone said, “This God has just introduced Himself to His people. What is He like?” I’m guessing it would not be something like, “Oh, He’s the Man upstairs. He’s my Homeboy.”

We have embraced an evangelical Christianity in our desire to move away from dead ritual, in our desire to know that Jesus is our friend and God, though being transcendent is eminent. We have lost much in our tradition and I would say, even in our music, a sense of the holiness of God, the purity of God, the righteousness of God.

And when you see that He is holy, here’s what you get. You’re not. You’re not at all.

Your righteousness is like filthy rags and so is mine. Your motives, your thoughts, your best days, the word holy: set apart, distinct, different, separate. The word literally means a cut above. He is in a category. The word holy is He is other. There is not a category for Him. And when you come into the presence of a holy God, you are undone. And I don’t see many Christians or many churches very often undone in the presence of God.

I think some of the older traditions actually helped us grasp God’s holiness. Unfortunately, He became a distant, cold God who we would reach Him through significant rituals, which was never the intent.

But what you find out in Church history is the pendulum swings this way, then it swings this way. Here’s what I want to tell you: It needs to swing back this way. We need to know that Jesus is my friend and that He loves me and He accepts me just as I am and He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy.

But the morality of the average Christian in the evangelical church would scream, “I don’t believe He is holy. I think I can do what I want, when I want, and God basically will give me a pass,” because in the name of love, which now has upped, no matter what Scripture says, “Oh, God is loving. So this kind of relationship must be okay. God is loving so this kind of morality is okay. God is loving so I get a pass on everything because a loving God just wants me to be happy.”

You know all the statistics. I am not going to go through all the areas of morality in America today that the average Christian and the average unbeliever look exactly the same.

And He said we are a kingdom of priests. He said, “Be separate.” He said, “Come out of the darkness.” Not weird separate. It doesn’t mean you dress funny. It doesn’t mean that you have just habits that make you look weird. It doesn’t mean that you are not involved in the culture. But separate from the inside out, that we are actually holy in, I remember praying, in thought, word, and deed against Thy Divine Majesty.

It was just memorized as I sat and knelt and stood as an altar boy. Unfortunately, the people who taught me to say that didn’t know the Lord personally, and I grew up in a very traditional church that didn’t teach the Bible and our priest, on a good Samaritan trip, went to Alaska to preach the social gospel and bring electricity to the Eskimos.

But some missionaries got there before he did and those Eskimos knew the Lord. And those Eskimos led our priest to Christ. Our priest came back and a movement of God inside our particular denomination that was contrary to a lot of the form was birthed and people were coming to know the Lord. I had gone off to college, had trusted Christ, and I came back.

And what I would dream one day is that we might grasp the greatness and the holiness of God in some of the richest traditions, but not lose the intimacy of what it means to have Jesus as our friend.

You’ll notice on the front of your notes, Tozer would write, “We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.” There’s a lot of “uns” in there.

“The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness He cannot even imagine.” The first time we see this concept of holiness is right after the Red Sea is parted and there’s a song that Moses sings and this song, we will learn later, is sung currently in heaven and notice the song is, “Who among the gods is like you, O Yahweh? Who is like You?” Answer, “No one. Majestic in,” – what’s the first word? “holiness.”

The word majestic is the idea of exponential multiplying in holiness. Awesome in glory, working wonders.

My best personal definition of holiness is it is both His majesty and moral purity. It’s the absolute absence of evil. It encompasses what is pure, holy, righteous. The English root word for holiness has the idea of wholeness or soundness. It encompasses the idea of health.

And so to be holy isn’t just candles and a black robe and singing special songs with a very low voice with low lights. It’s about the wholeness or the purity of the universe that brings life and brings health because as God is, He wants us to become.

And so not, obviously, in His essence, but in our character, that we would be holy like He is holy. How has God revealed His holiness?

In English, when we want to talk about degrees, we say someone is good and then we say, “Oh, well someone else is better,” and then we say, “Someone else is best.” Good, better, best.

In Hebrew, the way you talk about things is you repeat it. So in Hebrew, only one time God is called something: holy, holy, holy. You see it in Isaiah 6, you see it in Revelation 4, you see it in Revelation 5.

The outstanding character of God is His otherness, His complete purity, His unapproachable light. He is holy, holy, holy.

When angelic beings that have never sinned are in His presence, they cover their eyes, they cover their feet, and they fly and they perpetually say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.”

And so I just want you to get this majestic picture and then I am going to just highlight how it shows up in Scripture. And I have given you the passages for your study.

First, through supernatural encounters. Moses meets God, John meets God, Daniel meets God, Isaiah meets God. And here’s all I want to say. Whenever you see someone meet God in Scripture, they are undone. Bam! They are on their face. They are undone.

And so the question I have to ask myself and you is: When was the last time you were in the presence of God and just you were undone of the distance between what you know He is like and how you begin to see yourself?

Second, He reveals His holiness through places. What you need to know is wherever God is, it instantly becomes holy. It can be a bush; it’s holy. It can be just a tent and you call it a tabernacle and His presence comes; it’s holy. It can be a temple that people build; it’s holy. Wherever God’s presence is, it becomes holy.

The third way He reveals His holiness is through the law.

The first four commands are all about the distinctiveness, the holiness of God. Have no other gods because there aren’t any. And then, “No graven images.” Don’t reduce Me, don’t make a picture of Me, don’t have an idol. Don’t, in any way, try and reduce Me in some form. My name is Holy because it’s My character. Don’t misuse My name. Don’t make vows in My name.

The Sabbath, There’s this gift I have given to man that supernaturally, when I got done, I stopped to pause and for twenty-four hours I want you to know I am giving you a gift so that you will be separate, you will be distinct, you will be different. You will accomplish in six days what takes other people seven. And you will rest and pause so that you will know the last six days were My hand upon you and you will pause to remember: This is God. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

And then the next six commands, on the second tablet, are about health and holiness in relationships. In other words, the path of holiness, Isaiah would talk about the highway of holiness. There’s a path of holiness that you walk on, but the result is health and wholeness for you and for relationships.

So if you want healthy, whole relationships, honor your mom and dad, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, and don’t covet. Those are the parameters around holy relationships with one another for the health of God’s universe and His people.

The prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah – I just put a few down. A prophet’s job was pretty simple. “Stop worshipping idols.” Name your prophet. Here’s the message: “Stop worshipping idols.” Because we all do.

But God is holy, He is distinct. And so the prophet’s job was simple: to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. They were always intervening, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. You don’t understand. God is available. It’s your sin, it’s what has happened, it’s where you are. He wants to help.” That’s what the prophets kept saying. And to the people who acted like they didn’t need Him, they had some pretty harsh stuff.

Through wrath and judgment. This may sound odd, but the holiness of God demands that just like a great surgeon would see cancer that needs to be operated on, I am telling you, these doctors, they are heartless. They really are.

My wife had cancer. That guy didn’t feel bad. He took a little sharp knife: Zip! She’s got a huge scar. Pulled out that, pulled out a bunch of lymph glands. He didn’t feel bad about it at all. Why? Because it was killing her. God, when He sees that which is killing you, killing a nation, destroying what He has made, He brings His righteous wrath and judgment.

Acts chapter 5. Think about it, the very first sin in the Church was what? Remember?  It was hiding money. But the heart of it was hypocrisy. It was their money. They didn’t have to do anything with it. But remember? The goal was Barnabas had given a generous gift from the heart and a lot of people were going, “Isn’t Barnabas wonderful?” And I think Ananias and Sapphira said, “We want our cake and eat it too. We want people to think this about us, but we don’t want to be that generous. And so what we are going to do is we are going to make up a story that we sold it for x amount and we gave it all. And the fact of the matter is, we put the other in a CD over here,” relatively speaking.

Now think of this. It’s the very first sin recorded in the New Testament. “Why did Satan cause you to lie to the Holy Spirit? Satan has filled your heart.” What were the consequences? They died!

You think that sent a message through the early Church? Or I’m thinking about becoming a Christian. You want to be coming into that group? I don’t know! I’ll tell you what, authenticity was a pretty high value in the early Church. You don’t have to have it together but you had better not fake it.

See, but, what would you see? It’s just God declares His holiness. See, we are living in a day where we actually think that the commands of God are like an optional vending machine or salad bar. Ten Commandments? I’m good with one, two, four, seven, and nine. Could I get that to go? Really.

It’s like we have got a whole generation in evangelical churches with one of those little knives that, well, this one about sexual purity. That’s pretty Victorian. On this one about greed, no, we are not…

And so once it happens, where enough people, we look at one another and since we are all sort of “fudging,” and people that we respect, Well, I really respect so-and-so and he or they do this or they do that or…

And then pretty soon it’s like a little cancer and disease. And then the culture of God’s people, we are no longer distinct. And what I can tell you is part of what God will do is He will bring that velvet vise. 1 Corinthians 11 – this isn’t new. Some in the early Church, the wealthy would come and they would eat and they would marginalize the poor and they were disgracing the Lord’s table.

And 1 Corinthians 11 says, “For this reason, some of you are sick,” judgment, “and some of you are asleep,” it’s a technical term in the New Testament for a believer who has died. I’ll tell you what, if you were in a church where some people died because of their greed and lack of concern for other believers with the Lord’s Supper, I’ll tell you what, my behavior would change.

So where is that God today? I don’t think He has changed. I would suggest that we, as Christians, often blame the media, education, some political party. When the salt gets unsalty and when the light gets dim, the culture just follows.

But the shift in the culture is not going to happen externally. It’s going to happen like it always has: inside out. It will be normal people like us that live holy lives and then we all have little networks of relationships. And some of you have really big ones. And you’ll just get bold.

And by the way, pretty soon it’s not going to matter. So you might as well be bold now. They are going to whack you. You’re going to become more and more unpopular. And, by the way, what we know historically, it’s probably good. When they got rid of all the missionaries in China and they were persecuted, they went from a few million to a hundred, hundred and twenty million today.

In Greece, Germany we have some very important relationships there – what is happening among the refugees because of ISIS, I am telling you, tens of thousands of people are coming to Christ.

Christians who are persecuted, this is historically always true, God will purify His Church and He is probably going to do that to some degree and maybe to a big degree in America. So we need to get our chin strap on and realize this is the spiritual NFL and we want to gain yards and people who want to gain yards realize when you come through and even if it’s a good, little hole, bam! You get hit by a linebacker. Well, you don’t go, “Oh, what happened?” We have got to quit thinking that somehow that we are living in a culture that is positive toward our faith and our belief and now we are going to have to learn to love people and be kind to people and respond to people because good is more powerful than evil as we lay out our convictions and live out a life that is radically different than probably ever before.

Because the America that you live in now is not the America that was fifty, sixty years ago, that was very sympathetic, that shared the values. You are now intolerant, narrow bigots because you believe Jesus is the answer and that there is absolute truth and there is absolute truth about life and about eternity and about morality.

Now, the danger is championing that in a way where you are hard-headed, legalistic, self-righteous saying that we are better than other people. We have done that before; that didn’t work. We need to do it the way Jesus did. We need to live this amazing life before our world that is pure and righteous and take a strong stand and then have people who think that we are the enemies be absolutely astounded. Why are we driving them to the doctor? Why are we loving people who outwardly hate us? Why do we give good instead of evil? Because that is what turns the life around. And that’s how holiness brings health.

His Son, obviously, the Lord Jesus, a holy birth; His pure, sinless life. We get the sneak preview of His holiness where the Transfiguration. His unholy death. You understand that all, this is a great theological truth: 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” Do you understand what was happening?

For the first time in all eternity, God the Father turned away from God the Son and there was a break in the fellowship in the singular God, but in the person of the Father and the person of the Son, because in that moment of time, your sin and my sin and the sin of all people of all time was placed on Christ and He became our sin offering. And He became sin on our behalf.

He carried the weight of it all. And then the just wrath of God, the just anger of God for all sin of all people was placed on Christ and He atoned, He covered it.

I have often longed for an illustration to try and get my arms around holiness because doesn’t it feel like it’s this, it’s here and then it’s here and it’s here but how do you get your arms around it?

The best picture, I was a young pastor in Texas. And I lived in the Dallas area and if you know between Dallas and Oklahoma, it’s tornado alley. So we had tornados all the time.

And we had, I remember hail would come down, sometimes golf balls, sometimes like a baseball. It was, all my cars had little dents all over them or big dents. And we had just a very simple, little twelve hundred square foot house and three small, little bedrooms. And no basement, which is not good when tornados come.

And so they, on the radio, they would tell you, “If you have that kind of house…” but we had a bathroom in the center of the house and I would get my wife and I only had three kids. Three kids that I would put them in the bathroom and then you get a mattress and then when all this starts happening, and then you take the mattress and everyone gets in the bathtub and you put the mattress over you and you pray like crazy that, one, it doesn’t hit your house and, two, if it does, that the house goes and you don’t.

And it sounds funny now but it was terrifying then. But something that would happen is the winds would start but just before they would start, the [makes siren noise], you have these sirens, tornado warning.

And then you would go out and I put my family in the bathroom but I wanted to see what was going on. And there would be like the sky would turn this really funky color of pink. And then this weird grey and there would be this stillness. And it would be, like, eerie, terrifying, but really kind of beautiful.

And then the winds would come and it would go, whooooo. And so I remember you would see trees, the ones that around, they were just completely bent over. And then often the hail would come down. So I would be in the bathroom like this. But it was so beautiful. There was something that would draw you because it was so amazing and so powerful and so terrifying and so beautiful at the same time.

And so, “I need to check and see if it’s safe yet.” No. And I would go out there. And I would just see the trees and hail coming down. And it’s just like this. And that’s my best picture of the holiness of God.

There is something so beautiful, so powerful. It’s like you know about the hurricane, in the very center of the hurricane there is this absolute stillness and quiet. And there is something about the holiness of God that just, it scares you to death, there is such power and, yet, there is beauty.

And I think it’s that’s what the men and women of old, when they got a snapshot of God. And it changed them.

In fact, it’s through the people of God. I would like you to open your Bibles and I want to walk through a familiar passage but I want you to see the pattern. I am sure most of you are familiar with Isaiah chapter 6. But Isaiah chapter 6 is the pattern of what happens to a man or a woman who gets a glimpse of the holiness of God.

As I read it, I want you to begin thinking about three views. One, an upward view. Two is an inward view. And three is an outward view. And in the context, I want to suggest that this is a deep, deep crisis in Israel and if you’re a prophet in Israel and the world is falling apart, and the political situation is unstable, does this sound familiar? And you’re not sure what the future is going to be like, does this sound familiar?

And everyone is fearful and you have a moral responsibility as a spokesman for God to know what’s going on, you go meet with God in the midst of a crisis and I am going to suggest that your personal crisis or the one that one of your kids has, might be the doorway where God leads you to get a glimpse of His holiness.
Isaiah chapter 6 is the pattern of what happens to a man or a woman who gets a glimpse of the holiness of God.

As I read it, I want you to begin thinking about three views. One, an upward view. Two is an inward view. And three is an outward view. And in the context, I want to suggest that this is a deep, deep crisis in Israel and if you’re a prophet in Israel and the world is falling apart, and the political situation is unstable, does this sound familiar? And you’re not sure what the future is going to be like, does this sound familiar?

And everyone is fearful and you have a moral responsibility as a spokesman for God to know what’s going on, you go meet with God in the midst of a crisis and I am going to suggest that your personal crisis or the one that one of your kids has, might be the doorway where God leads you to get a glimpse of His holiness.

“In the year that king Uzziah died,” that’s the crisis, “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne.” He goes into the temple and he gets this vision. “…high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple. And above Him stood the seraphim, each had six wings: With two he covered his eyes, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the threshold shook at the voice of Him who called. And the house was filled with smoke and I said,” here’s the inward look, “Woe is me!”

He is the most righteous guy on the planet. He is the prophet. “‘For I am lost! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.’ And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Did you see the pattern? By the way, God always speaks, I think God really speaks to us in ways, often, that are unique to our personality and how we hear. And this prophet, he is living in a world of kings and the train of His robe.

If you were a pretty important king – x amount of armies, x amount of wealth – you might have a train that is four or five feet long. If you were a super, super powerful king and you were the big kahuna king, and you had big armies and you were in really big control, you might have a train that is twenty feet long and there might be seven or eight or nine or ten attendants behind you.

The length of your train was the evidence of your status and your power. So when we read this, we think, The train of His robe filled the temple. Hm. Uh-uh. It’s looping, looping, looping, filling, filling. In other words, it’s overwhelming. What it’s doing to Isaiah is of any king ever, he has ever heard of, in his mind, it is going, tchooo! And he just realizes, Woe is me! He is undone.

And he is a righteous man. If we would, here’s the thing, Isaiah compared to probably everyone else is here. Compared to God, he’s here. And for some of you with a really sensitive conscience, you have to be careful that in your moments with God you don’t just go completely introspective. Because some of you can just, Oh yeah. My motives are bad. And I’m bad. I think I’m really terrible. In fact, I’m a worm. I’m worse than a worm. I’m, I don’t even know. Right?

There was an era of what I call “worm theology.” And people felt really, really good about feeling really, really bad. Here’s the deal: When the Holy Spirit convicts you, it is for a very specific reason. You are the object of His love and He will tell you very specifically where you don’t measure up so that you can say to Him, I am so sorry. And the blood of Christ covers it to restore you to fellowship.

When the enemy wants to discourage you, he doesn’t convict. It’s called condemnation. And condemnation is vague and general. You’re a lousy…

When I go through this, everybody does, but when I have my bad condemnation moments, it’s like, I’m a terrible dad, I’m a terrible pastor, I’m a terrible husband. I bet ninety-seven point three percent of all my motives are wrong, even when I’m teaching. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And you know what it makes me feel like? I don’t want to pray; I don’t want to get near God. Condemnation, what does Romans 8 say? There is no condemnation for those of us in Christ Jesus.

So that’s when you do spiritual warfare. You say, “I don’t believe any of that. This is who I am in Christ. I’m the son, I’m the daughter of a living God. I have His righteousness and I am robed in righteousness. I am accepted by the Beloved. Get out of here!”

But when He says, You were rude to your wife. Mm. You left the channel on and you started with, “I don’t believe that’s on prime time TV. This is terrible. I wonder how much they are going to show. I should probably investigate to make sure.” And then one of the kids or someone walks in the room, click! And then you realize you were sucked in.

Or sixty-eight percent, I don’t know where they get these statistics, I hope they’re all wrong. But all these people who do these things say sixty-eight percent of Christian men are on Triple-X porn sites regularly. I don’t know if you saw TIME magazine and Esquire, the epitome of biblical journals in my opinion, has done research recently on pornography – independent research – basically said that a man who watches pornography has a four times the probability of divorce. When a woman begins watching pornography, it’s six times.

And basically what they are discovering is is that it’s a complete rewiring of the brain that is absolutely akin to cocaine use. When God wants us to be pure and holy, it’s not that old thinking of there’s probably something really fun and He’s like a cosmic killjoy. It’s He is a loving Father who knows the implications…

Every command of Scripture is given by an absolutely holy God who, in His kindness and tenderheartedness, wants to prevent you from being hurt or damaged. Holiness is wholeness. Holiness is for your health.

And Isaiah has this picture of upward and then inward. And then notice, when that happens, your priorities change and you say, God, what do You want me to do? It’s just the opposite of our day: God, what can You do for me? God, how do You make my life work out? How can I be more fulfilled? How can I get more of this? How can I do some of that? How will You change…?

We are always asking God to change everything. Try this one: God, change me. Just change me.

Now, the next place where God reveals His, 1 Corinthians chapter 6, and time permitting, all I want to do is read the passage. It’s interesting, because of what the deep bonds that occur in the realm of sexual activity, it says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually, sins against his own body.”

And we now have the evidence in our day and our world long before this was written about what happens.

“Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. Therefore, honor God with your body.”

Now, I just want you to, it’s hard, but just pause and I want you to go back to that mountain with the smoke and the lightning and the earth shaking. And then I want you to semi-visualize this temple filled with this train of this robe and these bizarre looking creatures with all these eyes, chanting, “Holy, holy, holy” as you are face-down on the ground.

And then I want you to try and even ponder that the temple that God has chosen in the New Covenant, where He wants His presence manifested, is your body. He owns you. He bought you.

We read of these Old Testament characters and David, empowered by the Spirit; and the prophet, empowered by the Spirit; and Elijah doing this. Even Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter. The Transfiguration. We, New Testament believers, have a more intimate relationship and access to the God of the universe than any of them did.

Because the Spirit of God would come in the Old Testament at times and anoint with power and manifest His presence. And Jesus, that last night, said, “There is a new covenant.” A covenant is an agreement that people make that, on the basis, we will shed blood to demonstrate that we will give our lives before we will break the covenant.

And He said, “This is My body given for you.” And when He shed His blood, when a person repents of their sin, turns and says, Oh God, I believe Christ died to pay for my sin and as my substitute. Will You come into my life? The Spirit of God, literally, pulls you out of the kingdom of darkness, places you into the kingdom of light; the Spirit then enters your mortal body, you are sealed with the Spirit, spiritual gifts are deposited, you are engrafted into a supernatural family called “the Church.” And the Holy Spirit lives in your body and now God’s game plan to take His message to the world is not to get people to come to a temple in Jerusalem to see the glory and the power of God and the nation that has been transformed, but to take you and I in sort of decentralized distribution.

And now we go forth and in your home, you are the ambassador of the living God with His Spirit living within you. And your job is to reveal God to your family. Then you go in your driveway to reveal God to your neighbors. And then you go to work to reveal God.

And not only to reveal God, but then because you are a part of a new kingdom, you bring the kingdom. And you bring the kingdom love and the kingdom life and the kingdom values. And so instead of ego and pride, you champion humility. And instead of: Who are the powerful people to get close to? You care for the marginalized. And you become this living temple that begins to impact like salt and light or leaven in bread, transforming.

That’s how the world got changed. And nothing has changed in terms of God’s agenda. Have you ever thought? So ask yourself: So what do you put in this temple? What does this temple view? Where do these hands go? How do you treat this temporary temple?

If we would ever grasp that, wouldn’t there be a set of very logical implications? And, again, it wouldn’t be some legalistic, I can never do this, I can’t watch this, this is bad, I don’t wear lipstick, I don’t go to movies, and I don’t play cards. I don’t think that got us very far.

But you, like the psalmist, would say, Oh God. I will put no worthless thing in my mind. You would say, I want only holy thoughts. You wouldn’t be asking questions like, I wonder how close to sin can I get without falling in? You would be asking, How close can I get to righteousness and holiness to be pleasing to my God? It’s just a completely different paradigm.

Well, God’s holiness raises a couple questions and we touched on them earlier but I think it’s important that we at least address them here. If God is so holy that He can’t gaze on sin, how can sinful people like us have a relationship with God? Right?

This is the greatest news in the world. It’s the gospel. It’s the gospel. This is, guess what, you can’t! But Jesus made it possible.

Romans chapter 5, verses 6 through 10, “For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.” Notice it’s not when we cleaned up our act. It’s not when we got it together. It’s not when we got religious. At the right time, when we were helpless, when you bring nothing.

And then he says, “For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die.” And then underline this verse, verse 8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And put a circle around the little word for. There are two words in Greek for for.

This is the word that means on behalf of and in the place of. He is your substitute. Everything that I deserve because of my sin, as the just righteous wrath of God would come toward me, Jesus steps in front and says, “I got it.” And then as we will learn later, He will say, “I’ll take the judgment of God and I will give you the righteousness of Christ.”

“Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if, while we were His enemies, we were reconciled,” that word just means you become friends. Think of the juxtaposition of what we are talking about.

This holy, awesome God, we are undone! And then over here, we are friends! If you, don’t get over that. If you’re just thinking, Wow! That’s amazing! That’s far out! I can’t grasp it! Good. That’s not casual.

“For while we were His enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

The second question then is if trusting God’s work on the cross blots out our sin before God and we are holy in His sight, why do we keep on sinning? And we touched on this but just write in these notes, because it will be more clear, the three aspects of holiness. There’s a point in time, there’s a process, and there’s an end.

The moment you put your faith in Christ as Savior, you are legally declared righteous. So sin’s penalty, in other words, the penalty for sin – you are forgiven because of Christ’s work and as I said before, I love this picture. I just have this picture in my mind of a computer screen and Jesus and me.

And under mine is all the sins in thought, word, and deed. And under Jesus is the very righteousness of God. And I just love this picture. When I trust in Christ, I am justified and it’s “delete”. And then the righteousness of Christ is put into my account. That’s my positional, legal standing. I have been forgiven, legally, of all my sin and the power of sin has been broken.

But notice then in sanctification is progressive holiness and so the penalty of sin is gone, but now I work out, I begin in my practice to become holy. And so I now, before, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to sin or not. Now, I can choose to live righteously, but since the flesh wages war against the soul and since I live in a world system drawing me away, I can still choose to sin.

And when I choose to sin, it breaks fellowship with my heavenly Father. I don’t lose my salvation, but the connection, the line, there’s static. And the more I willfully sin, I can, over time, begin to shut off connection and relationship of His power in my life. So I confess my sins; He is faithful and just to forgive me my sin and keep on cleansing me.

Finally, the day will come when either the Lord returns or I die. And I immediately go into His presence. And when I see Christ, I will be transformed.

Let me give you an illustration. I bought a house in California, which is actually pretty miraculous. So I put x amount of money down and legally, that house is in my name and my wife’s. I own the house. It’s mine. The bank doesn’t own it; I own it.

However, each month I am progressively owning more. I am beginning to get in reality what is legally true. And it keeps coming down as I pay off each month, right? This is where, if you really play this out really carefully it doesn’t quite work, but just stay there with me, okay? And then, at some point in time, at least some of you have had the experience, you pay it off. It’s fully mine.

It was mine, legally, because there was a down payment. And I own it. Anybody know what the Spirit of God is called in the book of Ephesians? Your down payment of the Spirit of God coming into your life, the residence of Christ.

Then you live out and you progressively become more holy and it requires, like a newborn babe long for the pure milk of God’s Word, so that by it you might change and be transformed.

I have to go through the process of putting off the old, putting on the new. It’s a journey; it’s a process. I’m not going to be conformed to this world. I am going to be transformed by the renewing of my mind so that my lifestyle could progressively demonstrate God’s will – the good, acceptable, perfect will of God – Romans 12:2. But at some point in time, when I die, that which is true of me legally and Lord willing my life has progressively and dramatically changed in the last thirty-five or more years, then I will meet Christ and I will be transformed once and for all and be holy: glorification.

Okay, that’s the best explanation and if you, by the way, if you can come up with a better illustration or fine-tune that one, email me. Because the middle part doesn’t quite work. Right? Because you’re making payments and you could read in works. Okay.

How must we respond to the holiness of God? First, it’s a commitment that we make. Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord.”

You don’t slide into holiness either. It’s a commitment. Scripture says God hates sin. God hates arrogance. A commitment to holiness is: I want to be holy. Not: I am doing better than others, or, I think I have had this struggle and I come from this family background so anger is an issue in our family. And everyone I have known in our family, well, they have always divorced. And it’s really hard and I’ll try and do good but we just don’t do relationships well. Or, I had this problem with my…

Just stop it. We all have that stuff. “Be holy even as God is holy.” Is it impossible? Of course it’s impossible. The Christian life is impossible. Only Jesus can live it. And once He lives in you, that’s why surrendering, being in His Word, doing life in community, together, God causes us to be transformed progressively. But it starts with: You’ve got to want to be holy.

I remember one profound thought from someone I really respected said, “You’ll be just about as holy as you want to be.” Think about it. “Be ye perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word is mature.

Then the command is in 1 Peter. It’s a command to obey. I love it, because he makes it really clear that it was hard for those early Christians; it’s hard for us. And it’s not about willpower, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled. Set your hope fully on the grace that is to be revealed.” It’s that eternal perspective. “Set my hope on the grace,” the line not the dot.

“Be sober,” right? Understand what life is really all about. And prepare your, I love the King James on this. Remember? Does anybody know this in King James? “Gird your loins.”

If you were a Roman soldier is you would have a long robe and you would have a belt. But when you were ready to go into battle, you would gird your loins. And so what you would do is you would take your robe and you would tuck it in your belt so now you are ready for action.

And so what he is saying is: You want to live a holy life? You’ve got to get your game face on is the way we would say it. You need to get your mind in gear. You need to realize there’s all this stuff coming at you and you’re not going to slide into it. But here’s what’s going to be hard but you’re going to set your hope on the grace. And then, “Therefore, as obedient children, don’t be conformed any longer to the former lusts, which were yours in your ignorance but like the holy One who called you, be holy also in all of your behavior because it is written: ‘Be holy for I am holy.’” And I love that, “In all your behavior.”