Called to Be Holy

May 1, 2016

For those of you who have kids, do you remember when your
children were little, and you envisioned all they could be?   You never pictured them as being average,
normal yes, average no.  You had high
expectations for what your child could be and would be.  If they played hockey they’d be the next
Gretzky, if they sang they would be Bono or Gaga or whoever tops your iTunes
play list.  And you encouraged them to be
the very best that they could be, to try their best and to do their best. 
When they hit the wrong note, sang off key or scored on
their own team you took it as a personal affront.  But you continued to encourage them, “Just do
your best” you’d say, but your version of their best may not have been the same
as their version of their best.
And there is nothing wrong with having high expectations for
your kids, as long as they don’t become unhealthy.
Way back in the Old Testament God set the bar fairly high
for his people, the people of Israel.  He
tells them through his prophet Isaiah Isaiah 62:11-12
 The LORD
has sent this message to every land: “Tell the people of
Israel, ‘Look, your Savior is coming. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.’”  They will be called “The Holy People” and “The People Redeemed by the LORD.”
 
Wow, you ever feel like you’ve just received an impossible
mission?  A goal that is just too great,
a target that’s just too far away?  I wonder
if that is how the people of Israel felt when they heard the prophet Isaiah
make the proclamation.
It’s one thing to be called a chosen people, or a special
people, even a redeemed people, but what is this “Holy People” thing that
Isaiah is speaking of?
A Holy People, the People Redeemed by the Lord.  That’s pretty heavy isn’t it. 
And for all you who think, “Well yeah but that was the
Israelites.”  Listen again to the
scripture that was read for us early to what Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:15-16  But now you must be
holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy
because I am holy.” That’s quite a statement isn’t it, you must be holy
in everything you do.  Why?  Because you are a chosen people a people
called to be Holy. 
And it’s gets even heavier because the word that Peter uses
here for holy is a Greek word. Now I was probably the dumbest person in the
world but when I first became a believer, I thought the Bible had been written
in English.  Duhh.  But it had actually been written in Greek, at
least the New Testament, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.  And the Greek word that Peter used here is
Hagios and it means, “Sacred, (physically pure, morally blameless and
religiously and ceremonially consecrated.) What do you think?  Pretty accurate description of you?  No?
In 2016 too many Christians think that holiness is just for
certain people, and they would certainly never think of themselves as a Holy
People. Instead they figure that holiness is for the Super Saints or else it
comes with age.  When I was in Bible
College I had a theology professor by the name of Bruce Bridgeo, a saint of a
man confirmed by the fact that his mother-in-law lived with them.  Now Rev. Bridgeo’s mother-in-law’s name was
Grammy Hayward and she was a thousand years old. Well I was nineteen and she looked
a thousand years old.  And anyone who
says there’s no such thing as Christian perfection had never met Grammy
Hayward.  And we think “When I’m a
thousand years old then I’ll be holy too.” 
But the word of God does not say that old people shall be called a Holy
People and It doesn’t say Super Saints will be called a Holy People, instead It
says that those who have been redeemed will be called a Holy People.  And if’n you’re a Christian then you have
been redeemed and you can figure out the rest of it for yourself.
God could have personalized it by saying, Denn you must be
holy because I am holy, or Stefan you must be holy because I am holy, or Roman
you must be holy because I am holy.  You,
each of you who make up Cornerstone Wesleyan Church are called to be holy
people. 
Do you remember what Peter said “But
now you must be holy in everything you do,” Not some of what you do, not
part of what you do, not most of what you do, not what you do on Sunday
mornings between 9:30 and noon.  The
Bible the word of God says “be holy in everything you do.”  In what you do with your family, what you do
with your business, what you do for recreation and what you do in your
spiritual life.
Now in 2016 we try not to read it that way, most preachers
won’t preach it that way and most of us wouldn’t have written it that way.  Most of us would have been a lot more
comfortable if Peter had of written; be mediocre in everything you do or be
average in everything you do or try to do your best in everything you do. 
And if that was God’s intent then he would have had Isaiah
write “And they shall be an ordinary people.” 
But it wasn’t written that way because that isn’t what God wanted us to
do or be. 
And that call for Holiness extends to his people today and
if God had of meant that holiness was a nice touch but only if you wanted to go
that route then he wouldn’t have included Hebrews
12:14
 Work at living
in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not
holy will not see the Lord.
Now that’s kind of in your face isn’t it?  For those who are not holy will not see the
Lord.  Now I know that you are sitting
there thinking “Well he doesn’t mean that.” 
Ok, so what does he mean?
Here’s the question for today, if God has called us to be a
Holy People and it would appear that he has, and if those who are not holy will
see the Lord and they won’t then what is this holiness thing and how in the
world can we possibly be holy?
You’ve probably heard the story of the man who got the big
chunk of marble and said he was going to carve an elephant.  His friend asked how he would go about it and
he replied, “By chipping away the bits that don’t look like an elephant.” 
So let’s start by figuring out what we aren’t called to
before we try to figure out what this holiness is that we are called to.
1) Your Calling is Not
Generic
Holiness is not the same for me as it is for you.  That simply means that if I’m totally
obedient to God and you do everything that I do you might not be totally
obedient to God.
Too often we know what God expects of us and we presume that
if God want us to do those things then he wants everyone else to do those
things as well.  What we fail to
recognize is that God created us as individuals.  Each one of us is distinct in the way that
God created us and we are unique in how God deals with us, we are not generic
or no name, as a matter of fact in the book of Isaiah we read Isaiah 43:1 But now, O Jacob, listen to the LORD who created you. O Israel, the one who formed you
says, “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.
The Prophet is not talking to a guy
named Jacob.  He is using Jacob
metaphorically to refer to his chosen people.
God calls us by name, he doesn’t just say “Hey you!” and he
doesn’t try to make us fit into somebody else’s mold.
God’s will for our lives is not one size fits all.  You don’t just take holiness off the rack and
it fits.  Instead holiness is tailored by
God to exactly fit you.  Now if I was
having a suit tailor made I wouldn’t send Mike in to the tailor to be measured
for me.  No, I would go myself and if the
tailor was a real pro he would probably have me back for several different
fittings.  He might pad the right
shoulder of my suit so it was as high as the left, he might lower my collar and
shorten the sleeves but when he was done it would fit me perfectly.
I love the story of the man who was buying a suit off the
rack and told the salesman the sleeves are too long, so the salesman says “Just
hold your arms like this.”  “Ok” said the
customer “but the collar bunch up”, “No problem” says the salesman “just hunch
over like this.”  “that’s fine” replies
the customer “but he pants are too long as well” “Simple, just walk like this”
says the salesman.  The man buys the suit
and walks out of the store on his tip toes with his arms curled up in front of
him and his shoulders all hunched up. 
Two women see him and the first one says “Look at that poor man.”  “Yes” said the second lady “but his suit fits
nice.”  And that’s what we look like when
we try to fit into someone else’s holiness, all hunched over and bent out of
shape.
2) Your Calling is
Not Static 
One of the basic tenants
of our Christian life is that God expects us to continue to grow, and as we
grow he expects more of us.  And so the
actions that permitted us to live a holy life a week after we became a Christ
follower may not meet the criteria a year later.
I’m sure that we’ve all seen people who have grown out of
their pant length.  I don’t want to talk
about people who have grown out of their pant width, but you know what I’m
talking about, they have three inches of sock showing between the cuffs of
their pants and their shoes.  Now I don’t
know what they are called now but when I was in school we called them floods.
There is no doubt that those pants fit that person at one
time, but no longer, because as they grew their pants didn’t grow with
them.  John was one of Jesus’ best
friends and he wrote these words in 1 John 1:7 (NIV)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one
another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  There was a verb an action word in
there did you catch it?  Right, it was
“walk”.  John didn’t say “if we stand in
the light” or “sit in the light.” 
Instead he said “If we walk in the light.”
Now think about it, Jesus said in John 9:5  “But
while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.”
So here we are, walking in the light and Jesus is the
light.  Now if we are walking and we are
staying in the light what must the light be doing as well?  Right, it must be moving as well.  Stay with me folks.  The light is moving and we are moving with
the light.  We are living in the light
that Jesus gives us.  But what happens if
we stop moving but the light keeps moving? 
The light goes on without us. 
Holiness is not a past tense, it is present and future, it’s not
something we’ve done it’s something we are doing.  It’s not something we did yesterday, it’s
what we are doing today and what we will do tomorrow.  Loretta Lynn
said “You’ve got to continue to grow or else you’re
just like last night’s cornbread — stale and dry.”
3) Your Calling is
not to a list of Rules
To too many Christians, holiness means: that thou shalt do
this and thou shalt do that, but thou had better not do that over there.  And so we decree that if you are holy then
you do this whole list of things and at the same time you don’t do this whole
list of things.  In his book “Loving God”
Chuck Colson warns us of several problems with this type of rule keeping
mentality. 
a) It limits the
scope of true Biblical Holiness. 
 If we can narrow holiness down to a set of
rules or guidelines then any area of our life those rules don’t touch are
outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ. 
Holiness must effect every area of our lives and not just those covered
by the rule book.
b) Even though the
rules may be Biblically based we end up obeying rules instead of God. 
And anytime we begin to serve anything,
no matter how good and no matter how noble that thing might be then it is
idolatry.  Now we might as well set up
our list of rules and regulations on an altar and say Ok, this is it, this is
how you become holy, just follow these and you will find true holiness.  At that point we will have become so
engrossed in following the letter of the law that we completely forget the
spirit of the law. 
c) Emphasis on rule
keeping deludes us into believing we can be holy through our own efforts.
  Listen up, there can never be holiness
without the work of the Holy Spirit just as there can’t be salvation without
the work of Jesus. Whenever we preach or practice a holiness of rules then we
preach and practice a holiness of works. 
A theology that says you are saved by grace but sanctified through your
own efforts and that isn’t a theology it is a heresy. 
d) And finally our
pious attempts at holiness can become ego-gratifying, leading us into an
illusion where our holiness is judged in a spiritual beauty contest.   
You know what I mean “Look at me, see
how holy I am.”  “I don’t smoke, cuss,
cheat, drink or fool around.  I read a
hundred pages of the bible a day, give forty percent of my income to the
church, pray five times a day and attend church six times a week.  Sunday School, Morning Worship, Evening
Worship, midweek service and then twice a week I just come and hang around the
foyer to round things out.” 
But such self centred spirituality leads to
self-righteousness which in turn is just the opposite of holiness.
So the question remains: if those things aren’t the holiness
that we are called to what is it that we are called to?  I’m glad you asked.
4) Your Calling is to
Wholeness
The whole of Christ in the whole of your life.  Holiness vanishes when you talk about it, but
becomes gloriously conspicuous when you live it.  John Wesley
said “Holiness is having the mind that was in Christ
and walking as Christ walked.”  Chuck
Colson states that “Holiness is the opposite of
sin.” But what is sin?  The
Westminster confession defines sin as “Any want of
conformity to or transgression of the law of God.” Holiness then by
Colson’s definition would be  “Holiness is conformity to the character of God and
obedience to the will of God.” But probably the simplest yet most
profound definition of Holiness came from Mother
Theresa who said “Holiness is the complete
acceptance of the will of God.”
But regardless of how you define holiness please, please,
please don’t ever think that holiness is simply an option is our Christian
walk.  Holiness is the pivotal point on
which the whole of Christianity turns. People, listen up, holiness is the
central covenant and command of the scripture and God will not tolerate our
indifference to his central command!  The
Bible, the Word of God records over six hundred instances where either the word
holy or holiness is used.  That in itself
should be indicative of the importance that God puts on Holiness.  Ephesians 1:4  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose
us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
Every person who responds to the claims of the gospel
responds as well to the claims of holiness. 
All too often when we think of someone who is holy we think of St.
Francis Assis or John Wesley or Billy Graham or Mother Theresa.  We figure that most of us live our Christian
life down here and then there are the “Holy Christians” who live their lives
way up here.  But if we believe the
Bible, then we have to believe that holiness is what God desires and requires
for all of us.  And if God desires and
requires it then God will give us the where with all to achieve it. Right?
Because when you get right down to it, right down to brass
tacks, right down to where the rubber meets the road, right down to basics
holiness can be defined in one word “Obedience.”  God wants his children to be obedient.  However our inclination is to push the
envelope as far as possible and hey if we blow it we can always ask for
forgiveness, right?
There’s a story in the Old Testament that is a lot like
that.  It has to do with King Saul and
how he was commanded to go into battle with the enemies of God and when he was
done he was to destroy all of their livestock and belongings. But no, instead
he only destroyed the weak and cripple and kept the very best.  He obviously hadn’t caught on to the fact
that you can’t hide disobedience from God. 
Samuel the prophet was sent to ask Saul why he was disobedient and the
King realized that he had fumbled the ball and he tried for a quick
recovery.  1
Samuel 15:21
 Then my troops brought in
the best of the sheep, goats, cattle, and plunder to sacrifice to the LORD your God in Gilgal.”
That’s sounds alright, I brought the very best to offer as a
sacrifice.  But listen to what Samuel
says in the very next verse. 1 Samuel 15:22  But Samuel replied, “What is more
pleasing to the LORD: your burnt offerings and sacrifices or
your obedience to his voice? Listen! Obedience is
better than sacrifice, and submission is better than
offering the fat of rams.
In New Testament terms we’d say “to obey is better then
asking forgiveness.”   In his book
“Pursuit of Holiness” Jerry Bridges writes “It is time for us Christians to face up to our
responsibility for holiness, too often we say we are defeated by this or that
sin. No we are not defeated we are simply disobedient. It might be well if we stopped
using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness.  Rather we should use the terms obedience and
disobedience.”
And so our Christian life comes a full circle, it begins
with obedience, depends on obedience and results in obedience.  Loving God, really loving God, not just
“Mamby pamby wishy washy, yes I love Jesus” type love but really serious honest
to goodness love, means obeying God, no matter what the cost, no matter what
you have to give up.
That’s why Jesus told his disciples in John 14:15  “If you
love me, obey my commandments.
Of course the reverse is also true, if you don’t obey his
commandments then you don’t love him. 
But how do you get to that point that you place obedience to
God over personal gain, or personal comfort or personal desire? Well Paul gave
the believers in Rome some practical advice concerning that very subject.  Romans 12:1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I
plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you.
Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This
is truly the way to worship him.
If you were to read the same text in “The Message” Eugene
Peterson’s paraphrase it says “So here’s what I want
you to do, God helping you; Take your everyday ordinary life – your sleeping,
eating, going to work and walking around life – and place it before God as an
offering.  Embracing what God does for
you is the bestthing you can do for Him.”
Bottom line is this, you need to sell out to God.  You take everything you have, ambition, work,
hobbies, house, car, family, pride and everything your are and you pile it up
before God and when you get everything on the pile you find a ladder and you
climb on top of the pile and you say “Ok Lord, I’m yours.”