"BE YOU HOLY"

 

          When one explores the history of the ancient peoples one finds that our ancestors, no matter where they lived, served gods that were capricious, immoral, and self- absorbed. While the ancients served these beings with fear, trying to constantly appease them with sacrifices of all kinds, there appeared a God like no other, a God who was not cruel, who was not capricious, who was not immoral who was not self- absorbed. This amazing Being was very different from the rest, in that He was totally interested in the welfare of human beings and, unlike other gods, stressed morality, fairness, justice, and holiness.

           His name was, “THE ETERNAL,” an unusual God in that, unlike the rest of the gods of humanity, He did not demand to have idols created in His honor; He did not expect altars and temples built in His homage across the land.  He shockingly taught against the very common and accepted degenerate sexual habits of the times and made strong pronouncements against …lying? Cheating?  Stealing?  Adultery? Fornication? And even spoke in no uncertain terms, against what in some areas had become quite common and acceptable: human sacrifices.

           I am not necessarily recommending it, but if you would like to see how degenerate certain people of the past had become, watch the recent movie, “Apocalypto” based on accurate historical accounts of the religious habits of the peoples that inhabited ancient Mexico hundreds of years ago, and you will see why God did not want Israel to have anything to do with the Canaanites who were involved in similar religious activities.

           THE ETERNAL’s appearance shone blindly amidst the darkness of the times. He had been absent for some time, and He wanted all to take notice.

          Joy Davidman, a Ten Commandment scholar who wrote the inspiring book, “Smoke on the Mountain,” describes this momentous time as follows: “The old God’s fought among themselves, loved and hated without reason, demanded unspeakable bribes and meaningless flatteries. While they were worshipped, a moral law was impossible, for what pleased one deity would offend another.”

She continues,

“The belief in one God slew a host of horrors: malign storm demons, evil djinns of sickness, blighters of the harvest, unholy tyrants over life and death; belief in God destroyed the fetishes, the totems, the beast-headed bullies of old times. It laid the axe to the sacred trees watered by the blood of virgins, it smashed the child-eating furnaces of Moloch, and smashed the gem-encrusted statues of the peevish divinities half-heartedly served by Greece and Rome.”

      What kind of being was this unusual God?

           Davidson gives the following description: “Then came the knowledge of God. An almost unimaginable person – a single Being, creator of Heaven and Earth, not to be bribed with golden images or children burned alive; loving only righteousness. A Being who demanded your whole heart. (Repeat last part)

          This unusual and perplexing Being gave Israel principles to regulate their conduct. In fact, He went beyond principles and commanded that his followers to be saturated with holy attitudes and thoughts and that they live daily in holiness.

 LEV. 11: 44 For I am the LORD your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy.”

 LEV. 20:26  And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.”

 DEUTERONOMY 14:2  For you are a holy people to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.”

          But God’s attempts at cleansing and making the people of Israel holy did not succeed, because of their unwilling heart.

          So after trying and trying patiently with Israel this great God moved His focus onto individuals spread far and wide throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. He again invaded the hostile territory of capricious, irrational, immoral and cruel gods.

          The supreme god of the time was Zeus or Jupiter. Most of the gentile Christians had worshipped him and other lesser Greek gods since childhood.

          What kind of gods were they? They were capricious, competitive, at odds with one another and, most of all, immoral. Zeus was a perverted being that performed lewd acts and set the example for all kinds of distorted and immoral behaviors (Such as adultery and homosexuality) that his subjects willingly followed for centuries.

 

          But God, the true God, called thousands of men and women out of that Satanic way of thinking and brought them into the knowledge of a God who expected exactly what He had expected of Israel:

 

1 Peter 1:14-16  “…as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

This noble demand is further stressed by the other great apostle: Paul.

Ephesians 1:3-4  “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.”

          God, therefore, is still seeking the same thing today as he sought thousands of years ago from the Israelites who were coming out of Egypt: Holiness.

          Do we, today, hear that thunderous message? Does this deafening message penetrate our minds?

          Does this glorious message come across loud and clear into our minds and into our hearts?

          Holiness is so central, so important, and so essential to God’s mind that to make us holy He sacrificed His Son so as to cleanse us from our guilt. He then gave us His H.S. and placed it in our minds, and in so doing made us temples wherein His Holy Spirit dwells. In short God is doing His part to make us holy. Are we doing our part?

          Do we value holiness? And if so, how much?

          Just as important: Do we understand holiness?

          When we were called, God invited us to come to him from a state of un-holiness. He did invite us to salvation and eternity that is true—but first of all we were invited into holiness.

          Today, let’s take a close look at ourselves, and then let’s commit ourselves to becoming more and more close to the ideal of holiness set for us by Jesus Christ.

          Let’s start by first of all analyzing the word “Holy.”

Funk and Wagnalls Dictionary defines it as follows:

1.   Having spiritual or moral worth

2.   Consacrated

3.   Having Divine origin

4.   Sacred

5.   Regarded with or characterized with reverence, because associated with God

6.   Evoking or meriting reverence or awe

     Now let’s look closely at the definition and let’s see how it applies to us.

1. We, God’s people have great worth. We are God’s children – we are called out ones.

2.   We are consecrated – that is, we are set apart and dedicated to God.
3.   We have divine origin in the sense that God is the author of our calling and because God dwells in us. Thus we are sacred.
4.   If we persist in holiness we will someday be regarded with reverence and awe.
          But before we will come to the point when we will be worthy of reverence and awe, we must first obey God’s command: “Be you holy for I am holy.”
          Let’s look together at some areas we need to be mindful of every day of our Christian lives, to make sure we fulfill God’s wish that we be holy as He is holy.
 
1. To be holy we must obey all the commandments conceived by God.
          True Christians take pride in the fact that we believe in the complete Ten Commandments package.
          We know that James tells us clearly that breaking one Commandment means breaking all of them. We have the right belief, but do we have the right practice?

Romans 1 discusses in detail the degenerate disobedient ways of this world. We Christians have no difficulty seeing and pointing our finger at the degeneracy of humanity. We know how distorted things are becoming and we see it clearly. But Paul has a warning for the Jews of those days who knew the excellent way, and by extension for us Christians as well.

Romans 2:1-3 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?

Romans 2:17-24 (New King James Version) Indeed you are called a Jew (Spiritual Jew), and rest on the law, and make your boast in God, 18 and know His will, and approve the things that are excellent, being instructed out of the law, 19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, having the form of knowledge and truth in the law. 21 You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22 You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.”

          Most Jews have failed in their calling. 52% of Jews are now agnostics or atheists. Only about 17% or so take Judaism seriously. 83% either abandoned their God totally or have abandoned His ways. Most have failed in being the holy people they were meant to be.

          But what about us?

          The name of God is in fact at times blasphemed because of supposed Christian believers who profess to know God while their action say otherwise.

          Lately there has been a series of books written by atheists about religion and the hypocrisy of religion. The sad thing about these books is that some of what they say about historical Christianity is totally true.

          The Christianity of this world has been replete with injustices, abuses, unacceptable actions, strange ideas, destructive ideas and hypocrisy without end.

          Historical Christianity has failed. Its history is a history etched in blood and of unacceptable involvement in the politics of this world. But we are not them.

          How must we be?

James 1:22-25 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

           The world has no problem showing up at church every Sunday, appearing proper and holy, hearing instructions from the Word of God and totally ignoring what is being taught. Do we do the same?

           Do we go to church because it’s a requirement to be endured, or do we go because it’s for our good and exit with some new insight and a new motivation to change. Do we come to services only because we see it as a requirement, or do we come to partake of the spiritual food God will give us during this period of time so as to gain new, special insights and be changed, and be made better, and be made holier.

          Therefore, brethren to be holy we must strive, with God’s help, to be in harmony with God’s laws always. Not occasionally, but always, not with some but with all of them.

 

2. To be holy we must hate the flesh and its cravings

          The flesh; human nature; that which is selfish, carnal, pleasure seeking, is a powerful force that operates in all of us. It is that force that cares not about the needs of others, about physical or spiritual consequences. It is an enemy that dwells inside of us that we must hate and fight and continually keep suppressed.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (New King James Version) “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

           Once we walked as children of disobedience, but how do we walk now? Are we now children of obedience? Some people never got this fundamental point and continued walking as before. No change or little change. They are in God’s church, yet they still do unthinkable things.

 Jude 1:4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jude 1:7 “…as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”

Jude 1:8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.”

          Carnality to the fullest.

           Interestingly God allows us to drink wine within limits, but not be drunkards, or to give the impression that we are.

           Some people can hold alcohol quite well. They can have several drinks and not very affected. But people who are watching may not know that. A friend of mine who is not a member who the relative of one of our church members has one criticism for the man: he drinks too much. Another church member who came to a party organized by my family, led one of my family members to say, “boy that person sure drinks a lot.” (Twice) A terrible example. Most of all a shameful example for God whom these two people are supposed to represent. Let’s be careful brethren not to give the wrong idea, during this Feast. Let’s not forget whom we represent.

           Let’s remember that the flesh is deceitful and let’s be on the alert ready to fight it, and to vanquish it, lest God’s name be evil spoken of.

1 Peter 1:13-14 (New King James Version)  Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;”

1 Peter 2:11 (New King James Version) “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New King James Version) “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.”

           As holy people of God we must daily beat the flesh into submission. As holy people of God we must remember that that applies more than ever here at the Feast and that we must represent God in true holiness.

3. To be holy, we must never forget who we are

True we are Christians; true we are believers, but what does that mean?

I Corinthians 3: 16-17 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

God lives in us through His Holy Spirit. Is that honor enough? Is that reason enough to strive to be holy? Do we forget how sacred we are?

Corinthians 6:15-20 (New King James Version) Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”[a] 17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? 20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

          Our mission therefore is to be a holy dwelling place for God. It is the greatest responsibility anyone could ever receive. Let’s never forget it, brethren. As we move around St. John’s and surrounding areas let’s never forget who we represent. Let’s never forget that the people in this city must see in us something altogether different, altogether sacred, altogether holy.

           Point number four was hinted at by the last verse we read for point number 3.

 

4. Glorify God in your spirit. That is be holy in thoughts and attitudes

          Before we have holy actions we must have holy thoughts and attitudes. An unholy mind cannot produce holy actions. A poorly controlled mind will have poor self-control.

Mark 7:21-23 (New King James Version) For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, (First), adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come (Originate) from within and defile a man.”

          We must not only be holy in appearance; we must be holy in thoughts as well. For when the mind is holy the rest will be genuinely holy as well.

          We must also have holy attitudes toward one another. That is critical as well, especially at such special time as the Feast.

James 5:9 (New King James Version) Do not grumble (Be upset, be critical, be negative) against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!”

          Our motives must be holy as well. What we do must not be ever motivated by conceit or selfish ambition; we must never put on a show that is. We must serve the brethren not to show off our spirituality but to honor God and Jesus Christ as serving them first and foremost.

 Philippians 2:3 (New King James Version) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

          During this Feast and every day of our lives we must strive to have holy thoughts, holy attitudes and holy motives. When all of God’s children adopt these same aims the result is peace, harmony and joy. Thus we truly experience the greatest blessing of God’s kingdom. For as Paul said, in Romans 14:17  "For the kingdom of God is …righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost."

 

5. To be holy we must honor God in our speaking

          This is clearly connected with the previous point, as we are told by the Scriptures that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

          We must be different from the world and one area we must be different in is what come out of our mouths. 

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

This is the frame for Christian communication.”

1.   No corrupt communication – no need to expand on that. Christians don’t swear, Christians don’t use foul language, Christians don’t tell dirty jokes. Christians have clean lips.

The people we are with don’t modify our standards. Anger or frustration is no justification for using four letter words. Our tongues have to be consistently clean.

2.   Our speaking should build others. We edify; we don’t tear down. If we constantly tear down others we are doing Satan’s work, not God’s. Some people at some Feasts have done just that and have taken away from the peace and joy of the Feast. That is unacceptable.

3.   Our speaking must be filled with grace. It is the kind of speaking that attracts; that makes people want to talk with us. A key part of grace-filled communication is actually listening. Active listening; patient listening. Accompanied by encouragement. Grace-filled communication.

           This is the kind of communicating a holy person does; that God approves of.

           Of course our speaking must be true as well.

 Ephesians 4:25  "Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.”

          People judge us by our behaviors, our attitudes and by our speaking.

          We are holy people and we must speak holy words.

         Quite a package isn’t it? Quite a mission?

          How can we ever accomplish such a mission? Is it possible?

          Yes it is.

Romans 8:12-13 (New King James Version)  "Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

 Philippians 2:12-13 (New King James Version)   "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

          People who are filled with God’s Spirit have the required fear and have the necessary strength to live the Christian life. Thus we can have all that is required to accomplish the mission.

          But how does this spiritual energy that allows us to do all this come into us. By staying close to God. We must stay close to God, especially here at the Feast. We must not compromise that especially here at the Feast or else a different spirit will fill us with the wrong attitudes, wrong actions wrong words and the result will be very negative for us and others.

          Going back to the previous five points, Keeping God’s commandments faithfully is not easy. Fighting the flesh is a difficult war; being a worthy temple for God is quite a challenge; ruling over our thoughts and attitudes is not easy. Speaking holy words demands awareness and effort, yet the power of God can and will accomplish it all.

          Pursuing holiness has its immediate and long-term rewards. In the immediate we are in harmony with God and His will, thus inheriting the blessings that naturally follow.

          In the long term there is a magnificent reward that makes it all worthwhile.

          The reward is found in Hebrews 12:14

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:’

          Let me re-read the verse, but slightly modified, to stress what it is really saying:

“Pursue peace and holiness and you will see the Lord.”

          This is the great reward of being Holy as God is Holy: Appearing as a transformed spiritual being before God the Father and Jesus Christ. Seeing Him, communicating with Him face to face, having an eternal relationship with our Creator.

          Let’s pursue holiness, therefore. Let’s make it our goal every single day. Let’s be filled with holy thoughts, holy attitudes, holy behaviors, and holy speaking, for if we do we can confidently look forward to our first face-to-face meeting with our Creator, when He will welcome unto eternal holiness and eternal bliss.

©  Copyright, Michael Caputo, 2008

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