The Way of Holiness

May 15, 2016

For far too many
people when they think about a life of walking in obedience to God that would
be how they would picture it, a monotonous, dreary forced march.  Nothing pleasurable about it, but if you want
to get to heaven, it’s the way you have to go. 
All the colour and all the pleasure has been removed from life by a God
who forces his children to forsake the pleasures that are offered up to
them.  
By the way the
video clip was from the 1927 Science fiction movie Metropolis and it was how
Fritz Lang perceived life would be like in the year 2000.  And while that didn’t become a reality in our
everyday lives many who don’t have a relationship with Christ somehow picture
that as what it means to walk with God.   
I’m sure that
many if not most of you have heard the comment “There are many roads to
heaven.”  But is that true?  And what does it even mean?  What people mean when they say that all roads
lead to heaven is that there is no “one” way.  
They feel that all religions eventually lead to God.  That it doesn’t matter if you are a Christian
or a Muslim, or a Hindu or for that matter a nothingterian as long as you are a
good person and sincere in what you believe then you are good.
But that philosophy
isn’t taught by the Muslims, or the Hindus and it certainly wasn’t taught by
Jesus, because he made this statement 2000 years ago,   John 14:6  Jesus
told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father
except through me.


He didn’t say “I
am one of the ways”,  he said “I am the
way”.  He didn’t say that he was one of
the truths he said he was the only truth, He said that the only way to heaven,
the only way to God was through him and through the salvation that he
offered.  So let’s start by saying the
journey begins when you choose to follow Jesus. 
But very seldom is that where the journey ends.  When Jesus promised the thief on the cross,
“Today you will be with me in paradise”  
It was a very short journey, but for most of us, our Christian life is
measured in years not minutes. 
Two weeks ago I
spoke about being called to Holiness, and we looked at what Holiness was and
what Holiness wasn’t.  And we came to the
conclusion that Holiness is being obedient to the will of God in all areas of
our lives.
It was Mother Theresa who said “Holiness is the complete
acceptance of the will of God.”
And we
discovered that holiness is not just  a
list of rules.  And that holiness isn’t
generic, that is to say that God created us as individuals and his plan and
will for our lives is as individual as we are. 
It’s not like buying a suit off the rack, it’s like having a suit made
to measure.  And we discovered that striving
for a holy life is not optional, seriously the bible tells us in 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.  And that
doesn’t sound like you can take it or leave it
So if that
message was the Call to Holiness, today we are going to look at The Way of
Holiness.
This morning we
are going to look at a word picture that was drawn by the prophet Isaiah almost
700 years before the birth of Christ. Isaiah was describing the life that would
be offered by the coming Messiah.  The
passage was read earlier in the service, but I want to focus on three of the
verses Isaiah 35:8-10  And
a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the
Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be
only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there.  Lions
will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be
no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it.  Those who have been
ransomed by the LORD
will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy.
Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and
gladness.

The highway that Isaiah
wrote about is a highway that makes its way through a wilderness.  You see in the Bible; the wilderness is a
picture of the devastation done by our sin. It is wasteland in contrast with
the Garden of Eden.
God created a
Garden; our disobedience produced a wilderness, the ungarden, the anti-garden,
the place where nothing grows. The Garden of Eden was watered by four rivers;
the wilderness is thirsty ground. The Garden had trees bearing fruit for food;
the wilderness has no food. The wilderness is a place of burning sand and
parched ground a place of snakes and scorpions, 
hungry jackals and lions. The garden was a place of life; the wilderness
a place of death. We chose death over life, self over God. We still do. And so
we live life in the wilderness instead of the Garden.
But when we
choose Jesus, and let Jesus choose us it’s like, like you’ve been wandering
through the woods, lost, desolate and without hope and suddenly you push
through the curtain of underbrush and there before you is a road with a sign
that says “This Way Home.”

The wilderness
is the place of testing, temptation, trial. In the wilderness Israel was disciplined
by God. In the wilderness Jesus was tempted by the devil. In the wilderness
John came preaching and baptizing to prepare the way for Christ. The wilderness
is where every prop is kicked away, where every support is gone, and where you
are left with nothing but God’s promise to protect you and his promise is that
he is the way, and that he is the truth and that he is the life. 

The holy highway runs
from Bethlehem’s manger to Calvary’s cross to the garden tomb and the
resurrection and glory. This is the only path that leads through the wilderness
of life to eternal life.  And it is
called the Highway of Holiness.   So what
does the scripture tell us about this highway.
1) It is a Holy Way, How do we know that?  Because we
are told that it is made up of Holy People. 
Hebrews 13:12  So
also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by
means of his own blood. And in Colossians 3:12  Since
God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with
tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.
Now there are
some people who would say that this is a very special highway and only very
special people walk on it, you know those Super Saints.  But I beg to differ here.  Let’s start by who’s walking there.
Three
descriptions are used here to describe those walking on the highway the first
is 1) Those
Who Walk In God’s Ways.  2) The Redeemed
3) Those Who Have Been Ransomed. 
And
then to counter this we are told who won’t be walking on it 1) Evil Hearted
People 2) Fools. 
Now when Isaiah
writes that fools will never walk there I don’t think he is talking about a
person’s mental capacity or even the degree of seriousness that a person views
life with.  If that was the case it would
be a very lonely highway, think where that would leave me, walking along all by
myself.   Instead I think Isaiah’s
reaching back to the words that David wrote in Psalm
53:1
Only
fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.”
So here’s the
bottom line, if you are a believer then you will be walking on the highway, and
if you’re not a believer you aint gonna be there.  Because you see the road is not a freeway, it
is a toll road, and two thousand years ago Jesus Christ paid the toll and the
only people who can gain access to the road are those who acknowledge what
Jesus did, and who are willing to accept it as a gift.  So it is a holy way, for a holy people
But it is more
than a holy way.  The great promise that
is in this scripture is in verse 9 where Isaiah tells us Isaiah 35:9  Lions will not lurk
along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other
dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it.
2) It Is A Safe Way.
To really put
that into perspective we need to look at 1 Peter 5:8  Stay
alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a
roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. 
The problem is that when we think
of a lion we think of something cute and cuddly but they are dangerous
creatures that kill people.  And so when
the Dentist shot Cecil last year everybody was outraged, but a month later when
another lion in the same area mauled and killed a villager it hardly made the
news. 
If you are a
Christian and if you are serious about serving God then you’ve discovered the
truth about the devil and that is that he is real, and he doesn’t want to lose
you.  And if he isn’t interested in you
then that means he doesn’t consider you much of a threat.  The greatest compliment you can receive as a
believer is to hear the growl of the Devil. 
But if you are living in obedience to God’s will for your life then you
may hear his growl but that’s as close as he’s going to get.
According to
Isaiah the one place that is the safest for you as a believer is walking the
Highway of Holiness.  When you are in
obedience to God the Devil is repulsed, he can’t stand to be around you.
So here’s the
highway, put some lines on it and this is where we are supposed to be, and off
here is the lion that’s not allowed on the highway.  Now where is the safest place on the
highway?    Right, in the middle, just as
far as possible from where the lion is, as a matter of fact the place the
believer is supposed to stay is right smack dab in the middle of God’s will for
their life.   So how come so many
Christians want to play over here by the edge? 
And then after
they’ve been over by the edge for a while and nothing really bad has happened
they try crawling down into the ditch, just for a minute, they aren’t going to
stay long, and it’s not going to do a lot of harm and then they run back up to
the road again and everything seems to be fine. 
But they start spending more time off the highway then on the highway,
and even though others’ might not realize where they have been playing they
know exactly what they are doing. 
And then one day
when they are playing down over the edge and the lion gets them and when the
truth comes out people stand around and say “wow that was sudden.”  Who would have thought?
But the truth is
people don’t go from the safety of the centre of the road to being in danger in
the ditch in a single step.  Doesn’t
happen like that, instead it happens step by step. 
So why doesn’t
God do something to keep us on the road? 
He does,  he’s done all kinds of
things.  Probably the biggest thing that
he’s done is that he’s given us guidelines. 
It’s called the Bible and it tells us what God expects of us, it tells
us where the centre of the road is. 
That’s the
centre line of the highway, that’s obedience. 
And when we are living in obedience then we are right where we belong
right in the centre of the road, as far as possible from the edge.  And the scripture also warns us about certain
behaviour, behaviour that leads into sin and disobedience.  And that is the line on the shoulder of the
road.  And like a warning line on the
highway, the bible tells us what we shouldn’t do — but it does not keep us
from doing it.
And because God
has given us that incredible gift called free will we can at any time we want
walk to the edge of the highway, cross the line and crawl down into the
ditch.  And there have been people who
have done exactly that who have walked away from the highway of holiness
because they think they’ve found a better way but listen to the word of God Proverbs 16:25  There is a path
before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.
You see the
highway is a safe way, and it is the only safe place for believers, you stay on
the highway you stay protected from the evil one, you get off the highway and
you have voided the warranty.  You gotta
understand God doesn’t didn’t lay down his guidelines to ruin our fun, he does
it to keep his children safe.  We tell
our kids don’t play on the road, is that because we are spoil sports or because
we don’t want our children harmed? 
And so God tells
us to stay in the centre of his will, to walk in the light, to be obedient to
his will and we will be safe.  Does that
mean that we will always be safe physically and emotionally, that we will never
have any problems or trials?  No, if
that’s what it meant the road would be crowded with people taking it as an
escape from humanity, it would look like the road out of Fort McMurray during
the fire. 
But the promise
is that staying on the Highway will keep you spiritually safe.  But ultimately a highway has to go somewhere,
otherwise it’s just a mistake, a folly. 
If it doesn’t go anywhere it’s just a really long driveway.   Which
makes me wonder why do we park in driveways and drive on parkways?  Just wondering.
And the Highway
that Isaiah is describing has a destination, if we keep reading we disover  Isaiah 35:10  Those who have been ransomed by the LORD will return. They
will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with
everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear,
and they will be filled with joy and gladness. 
When Isaiah wrote those words Jerusalem was
for many their dream destination.  Israel
had been conquered by foreign powers and many were living in exile having been
taken prisoner by the conquerors.  And
for them the thought of returning to Jerusalem was the ultimate expression of
freedom.  In the New Testament Jerusalem
is used as a metaphor for Heaven.
And so it is here we discover that  It Is A Heavenly Way  It doesn’t matter how nice the road is and how
safe the highway is if’n it’s not leading in the right direction.  And this highway of holiness, this road of
obedience leads to an eternity with God. 
And it is the
only road to God.  If there were many
roads, many paths to heaven then why did Jesus have to come to this earth?  If there were other ways why did he have to
suffer the humiliation of a trail and the pain of crucifixion?  If people could chart their own path to
heaven then Jesus came and lived and died in vain.  But they can’t and he didn’t.
Life is a journey.  It begins with conception and winds it way
through 80 or so years of our existence. 
And each one of our lives will end at a final destination.  
In the Gospel of Luke in the
New Testament we read about a lawyer who came to Jesus and asked in  Luke 10:25 “Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal
life?”
The truth is that the lawyer
was asking the wrong question.  Because
we are all going to live forever.  Good,
bad, indifferent it don’t matter, believer, non-believer, Christian, non-Christian
it doesn’t matter how you live here because you are going to live forever.  If you thought that you had to be a Christian
to live forever you are wrong, dead wrong, so to speak.  Now before you decide to fire me let me just
say one thing, you can’t.  And before you
organize a party to string me up or burn me in effigy listen up.  Death is simply a comma in the story of
life.  If the first chapter the nine
months that you spent in your mother’s womb was short, the eighty or so years
that make up chapter two aren’t much longer in the entire scheme of things.
However similar
life may be for the believer and the non-believer it becomes dramatically
different when death turns the page.  You
see although we’re all going to live forever, the Christian and the non-Christian
aren’t going to live forever in the same place. 
We are heading for different destinations.  I know you’re thinking “Pastor you don’t
really believe all that stuff about heaven and hell?”  Yep sure do. 
“Well” you say “I believe in heaven but I find it hard to
believe that a loving God would actually send someone to hell.”  God doesn’t send anyone to hell, people go to
hell because they don’t choice to go to heaven, and if you scan the gospels you
will discover that Christ spoke a whole lot more about hell then he did about
heaven.
The
Non-believers, well they are heading for a Christless eternity, forever without
any love, without any good, without any light, without any God, an eternity
they chose.
  But in contrast to the Christless eternity
reserved for the unbeliever there’s an eternity prepared for the believer which
is spent with God, again listen to the words of Christ, this time in  John 14:1-4  “Don’t
let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is
more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have
told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  When everything is
ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.
 And you know the way to where I am going.”   
Keep listening
as John pens a description of heaven as he saw it in  Revelation 21:4  He
will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow
or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
Same author and chapter Revelation 21:22-23  I saw no temple in the city, for the
Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.  And the city has no need
of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its
light.
“No pain?  No darkness? 
No sorrow? How can I get there?” Good question I’m glad you asked,
It’s the destination that lies at the end of the highway of holiness.  This truly is the highway to heaven.