Holiness (Jon Fryer)
The Bible tells us that our God is the Holy One, but what does that actually mean? To be holy means to be set apart, to be separated - in God's case to be totally separated from sin and evil. Sin and evil are not just absent from God's nature, they are the total opposite to who and what He is - like positive and negative poles of a magnet they can not be in the same place at the same time. Anything impure that comes into God's presence is instantly destroyed. For example, read 2 Sam 6;3-7. Uzzah was a good man, and his motives were righteous - he wanted to protect the Ark - but he was still a man and therefore impure and sinful, and when he reached out and touched the Ark, which was God's throne on earth, God's holiness instantly consumed him like fire touching paper. When God appears to people in the Old Testament they instantly assume that they are going to die, because they know that to approach God's holiness is to be burned by fire. This is why it says in Heb 12;14 that ‘without holiness no one shall see God'.
In Old Testament times only the High Priest could enter God's presence in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, and even then only once a year, flat on his face, after spending ages purifying himself - and with a rope tied round his waist so that if God did find any sin in him the other priests could pull what was left of him back out again! Jesus changed all that - through his perfect sacrifice Jesus washed away all our sin and made us holy. We have the right to enter the throne room of heaven to speak with God face to face because Jesus has made us holy. We are under grace and not the Law, and therefore we don’t have to stick to lots of rules and regulations to try and be holy, 'cos Jesus has already done the job. So we can ignore the Old Testament Law and just get on with it, right? That's what a lot of Christians will tell you, but it’s not entirely true.
Read Jer 31;31-34. This passage talks about the new covenant which Christians have with God through Jesus' death, and God says 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts' - the Law is not abolished, it has just moved slightly - to Christians the Law of God is not a list of rules and 'Thou shalt nots...' written on paper; instead, to us the Law is a way of life to be lived, written inside of us. Read Matt 5;17-20 - this is what Jesus said about the Old Testament Law. The Pharisees were completely neurotic about following the letter of the Law down to the smallest things, but Jesus said we must be even more righteous than they - that is because although they kept the letter of the Law, they ignored what it was really all about - Read Matt 23;23-28. As Christians we don't have to follow the letter of the Law with empty ritual and blind hypocrisy, but God does expect us to keep to the spirit of the Law. This is what Jesus meant when he said that he had come to fulfil the Law – he didn't get rid of it, but instead he fulfilled it - literally, he filled it full. The Greek word is teleios which means 'made complete'
For example, In Ex 20;13 it says 'Thou shalt not murder'. 'Good,' you might say 'I've never murdered anyone, so its not a problem' … But see what the fulfilled Law says about murder - Read Matt 5;21-22 and 1 John 3;11-15. If you hate anyone, the Bible says that you might as well have murdered them for you have already wished them dead - the Old Law was only interested in what you said and did on the outside, but God looks at our hearts and our thoughts and our motives as well. Under the Old Law you could get away with hating someone providing you didn't do anything to them - but a Christian can not hate anyone, else he or she is a murderer, and the Bible says no murderer has eternal life in him, because hate is unholy and God will not tolerate its presence - you can have God living in you, or hate, but never both.
Again, for example, in Ex 20;14 it says 'Thou shalt not commit adultery'. 'That's easy,' you might say 'I've never slept with another man's wife (or another woman's husband)' but read Matt 5;27-30. The Law speaks out against not only the act of adultery, but against the sin behind it, which is lust, because lust is the complete opposite of everything that Christianity is all about. Christianity is about love, and love is about giving, about living for others. Lust on the other hand is all about selfishness, about taking, about 'what can I get out of this', about 'what can you do for me'. It’s a complete contradiction of who we are. Like hate, lust is alien to God, and it alienates us from God.
And again, for example, in Ex 20;15 it says 'Thou shalt not steal' and goes on to say 'Thou shalt not covet your neighbours house, or his wife, or his servants, or his livestock, or anything that belongs to your neighbour'. Stealing is a sin against love because it hurts someone else, but the greed behind it is also a sin because it accuses God of not providing for you. Greed is as alien to God as lust is, and for the same reasons - it’s about taking rather than giving. The modern translation of Ex 20;3 says 'You shall have no other Gods before me' - that implies that as long as God is first in your life then you can also have your money and your job and your car, as long as they remain of lesser importance than God - the problem is that they never ever stay that way, and it becomes a race between God and the other things to see who will be most important to you. The old version is better - 'You shall have no other Gods except me'. A Christian should have nothing except God - there is no other above, or beside, or even close to Him - God isn't just Number One, He's the only one. You can not be a Christian and serve the God's of this world as well, whether they be money or fashion, or sport, or whatever, for this is what Jesus said about the world - Read Matt 6;19-34.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that Christianity is not an excuse for sin. We can not say 'God will forgive me anyway, so it doesn't matter'. We can not say 'I'm under grace and not Law, so I can do what I want'. It doesn't work that way. In Matt 5;48 Jesus says 'Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect'. Under the Law God just wanted obedience; under grace He wants everything we have. Jesus said 'Be perfect'. That’s even stricter than the Law ever was!
We need to be as holy and as pure and as perfect in this life as we can. That won't make us holy enough to get us into heaven, 'cos only Jesus can do that, but if we want to be used by God in the here and now then that’s what we have to do, 'cos the Holy Spirit is exactly that - holy! He will not dwell where impurity and unholiness are present - that doesn't mean that he will leave you entirely, but as long as there is sin in a part of your life that is unforgiven and unsolved then the Holy Spirit will not be using that part of your life until it is dealt with, and you will not be as useful to God as you could be - See 2 Tim 2;20-21 - 'If you cleanse yourself from sin, then you will be useful to the Master and ready to do any good work'.
There is another reason why Jesus tells us to be perfect, and that is because sin pollutes. If just a single area of your life remains unsubmitted to God and full of sin then it will eventually spread like cancer and poison other areas of your life, because that’s the way Satan works, and the more you sin then the easier it becomes. Holiness and purity are absolute - you can not be a little bit holy, or slightly pure - you either are or you aren't. Under the Law the animals sacrificed for sin had to pure and spotless and perfect (See Lev 1-4), but under grace we don't have to kill sheep. Instead, as Christians, the Bible says that we ourselves are the living sacrifice and the offering to God - however, if the Law is to be fulfilled then that means we ourselves have to be as pure and spotless and perfect as the sheep had to be - See Rom 6;1-2+11-14 and Rom 12;1-2. The trouble with living sacrifices is that they keep trying to crawl off the altar - we have to choose to stay there, choose to be holy. God demands 100% from us, because that is what Jesus gave for us - God doesn't really appreciate halfway measures – See Rev 3;15-16 and Matt 5;13. To be holy is to be wholly God's, to be completely God's - halfway is not enough.
Read John 2;12-17. That was Jesus' reaction to sin that was defiling the earthly Temple, but in 1 Cor 6;19-20 we are told that under the new covenant of grace we ourselves are God's temple - how zealous are we to see that sin does not defile God's temple? How excited do we get to make sure our lives are kept holy for God's use? The Old Law hid sin from God's sight by covering it with blood, but Jesus life living in us has absolutely zero tolerance for sin.
The Pharisees had no tolerance for sin, which was good, but they only looked at the lives of others, which was not good - see Matt 7;1-5. We are called to be perfect, to have zero tolerance for anything that moves in on our own lives which are set aside for God; the holiness or lack thereof in other people is not our problem - we are not called to judge, but to make our own lives perfect before God. When the Bible says put to death the old ways of sin in your life, then it means it. It doesn't mean pretend that they're not there, it doesn't mean hide them away in the attic and only take them out when no one’s looking, it means take them out and kill them off! Read Num 25;1-13 and Ex 32;1-29 - we are supposed to be that thorough with our own sinfulness.
Some people might say that I'm being too literal here, that as long as we love Jesus then everything will turn out fine and it will all be lovely and fluffy, and that holiness doesn't really matter 'cos Jesus gives it to us as a free gift. The thing is, it wasn't free. Jesus gave up everything to pay for it, and if we truly love him then we will want to do what he wants us to do, and to be as holy as he wants us to be. Read James 2;14-19 - Faith without actions, without holiness to back it up, is empty and dead. Jesus himself says this in Matt 7;16-27. Jesus is talking about people who call themselves Christians, but who are all talk and no action. See 1 John 3;4-10. In Phil 2;12 we are told to 'continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling', because we can not ignore God's holiness - see 1 Pet 1;13-17, Eph 4;17-5;21, and Heb 10;26-31.
As a human being I have no right to be saying this - I fall down again and again, and it is only through the grace of the Lord Jesus that I am forgiven. I haven't got this sorted - writing this tore me up 'cos God gave me a glimpse of just how far I had fallen from his ideal - and even the tiniest sin is a fall from God, and that’s the longest fall in the universe. To be holy, to be perfect, to live the Christian life isn't hard.., it’s downright impossible! Only one person has ever done it, and we have to let him live it for us – that’s the good news! Jesus offers the solution to this problem. Read Heb 10;19-25+35-39 and Heb 12;1-3. If we fix our eyes and our hearts upon Jesus, if we allow him to have total control, if we give him 100%, then everything gets easier. Jude 24 tells us that 'he is able to keep you from falling and able to present you before God's glorious presence without fault and with great joy'. Read I Cor 10;13. With Jesus there is always a way out! We just have to choose to look for it!
Read Matt 22;35-40. If holiness seems impossible, if avoiding sin seems like a task too huge to face, we need to remember these words of Jesus - there are really only two laws to keep, so it can’t be that hard, can it? Especially considering the fact that both are one and the same thing, for to love God is to love your neighbour - See 1 John 4;7-16. See also Rom 13;8-14 and Rom 12;9-21.
The Law of holiness might be impossible to keep, but by giving ourselves to God 100% it becomes possible to live out the Law perfectly, because the whole of the Law is love. If we devote 100% of ourselves to the love of God and the love of each other then sin becomes merely an accident, and not a way of life, and we can go on in perfect holiness through Christ's forgiveness.
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed