The Nature of Holiness

The nature of Holiness
If there is one concept in the bible that
seems to be foreign to us in 2016, almost to the point of incomprehensible is
the concept of sacrifice. 
Not the concept of making sacrifices for
something or someone, we all do that on a fairly regular basis.  As parents we make sacrifices for our
children, we give up things that we could have for ourselves in order to
provide them for our kids.  Whether that
be in the form of material sacrifice, what you give up so they can have . . .
whatever, or in the form of giving up our time for our children.  You might make sacrifices for your career, or
for your education there are those here today who are pursuing a degree or
upgrading and in order to do that they are making sacrifices, both financially
and personally. 
We all make sacrifices, a priority for
Angela and I is our annual winter vacation south and so we sacrifice things
like birthday gifts and Christmas gifts so we can make that trip each
year. 
So we all know what it is to make
sacrifices after all we make them on a daily basis in our lives.  The concept that seems foreign to us is the
concept of offering something to a deity as a sacrifice.   From movies and novels, we’ve heard of human
sacrifices, virgins being thrown into volcanoes or people being buried alive to
appease their gods, but that was then and this is now.
In the Old Testament we read about animals
and birds being sacrificed in the temple as a form of worship, and we can’t
even get our head around it, it seems so wrong. 
And part of that is we are looking at it from a 2016 perspective and of
course it’s wrong today, but 3000 years ago . . . maybe not so much.
But it’s because we can’t understand the
concept of sacrifices being made to God in such an extreme way that we have a
hard time with the concept of offering ourselves as a sacrifice.    In
our world a sacrifice is something that we voluntarily give but more
importantly today a sacrifice is something we can take back, if we decide that
we don’t want to keep making that sacrifice anymore.
But in the biblical sense the incense was
burnt, the animal was killed, the blood was shed and the sacrifice was made and
it was done and it was irretrievable there were no give mes or do-overs or take
backs or mulligans.
But that’s exactly what Paul was calling
the early Christ followers to become when he wrote 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.  And just in case they didn’t get what
he was saying he adds: Let them be a living and holy
sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable.  
Through the month of May we’ve been looking
at Holiness.  It all began we we looked
into Peter’s first letter where he wrote to be Holy because God is Holy.  That was the call to Holiness, and we
discovered there that Holiness was the complete acceptance and obedience to the
will of God in our lives.   In week two
week peeked into Isaiah 35 and what it meant to walk the Highway of Holiness,
the way of Holiness.  And last week we
took some time in Romans 6 where Paul tells us that we need to crucify our
sinful natures, the price of Holiness.
And today we are going to spend some time
looking at the “Nature of Holiness”.
And so the first thing we need to look at
is: The What  What was it that Paul was asking these
folks to do?  Well the short answer was
to become a sacrifice. 
But what does that mean or more importantly
because the letter wasn’t written to us originally what did it mean to the
people it was being written to 2000 years ago? 
When this letter was read aloud to the Christians in the city of Rome,
what came to their minds when they heard this phrase?  Historically we are told that there were a
plethora of Roman gods and each one required specific sacrifices.  Add to that the fact that each year Roman
Citizens had to make a sacrifice to Caesar and declare their loyalty by stating
Caesar is lord and I’m sure those reading this letter knew exactly what Paul
was trying to convey.
And so it is interesting that Paul doesn’t tell
those who worshipped in Rome what to do, he doesn’t command them to make themselves
living sacrifices instead he writes “I plead with you”, interesting.   But
Paul knew that unless it was done willing it wasn’t a sacrifice, that when you
are forced to give a gift it’s not really a gift.
It was Ghandi who said  “The mice which helplessly find themselves between
the cats teeth acquire no merit from their enforced sacrifice.”
You know what I’m talking about, there have
been times in your life that for whatever reason you were compelled to give a
gift.  It wasn’t that you wanted to it
was that you had to, for whatever reason you didn’t have a choice.  It may have been a reality or it may simply
have been a perception that you had but you were giving the gift out of a sense
of obligation.   
And what was Paul pleading with these folks
to do?  Well he said 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.
Give your bodies!  That is worthy of note because Grecian
thought and philosophy had permeated this area for over four hundreds of years
since Alexander the Great had claimed it as part of his empire.  And for the Greeks in general and the
Gnostics in particular the body was evil and only the spirit was good.  At its very best the body was seen as a
corrupt vessel that held our spirits. 
And because
they drew such a clear line of delineation they could separate their physical
behaviour and activity from the spiritual side of things.  This is the body and this is the spirit and
they really don’t concern each other because ultimately the body will be gone
so how can it effect what will live on. 
But for the
Christian the body is a part of the total package, after all if God created our
bodies how could it be evil?  Remember
back in Psalm 139:13 You
made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my
mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship
is marvellous—how well I know it.  These fragile shells were given to us by God himself crafted by him
with love and care.   
Not only that
but if God himself, creator of the universe could take on a human body how
could it be evil?  And then we are told
in 1 Corinthians 6:19 Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who
lives in you and was given to you by God?
  2
Corinthians 7:1
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us
cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let
us work toward complete holiness because we fear God. 
The people that Paul was writing to had
already committed their spirits to God, they had done the spiritual thing but
they were still struggling with the physical side of the relationship.  But God doesn’t just want a part of you and a
part of your life he wants all of you and all of your life.  The inside and the outside.  The temporal as well as the eternal.     
And so Paul is telling those early
believers:  I beg of you, do not use that
which God has gifted you with for evil, instead present it to God as a whole,
and make your entire self a sacrifice.  A
living sacrifice, but we all know the problem with living sacrifices
right?  Yeah, they keep crawling off the
altar.
And Paul
continues:  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.   So here we have The Why  I mean it’s all well and good that we be
asked to do something but deep down inside we are really like kids in our
relationship with God.  And what do kids
ask when we ask them to do something? 
Why?  How come?  And the Romans must have been the questioning
type because throughout the letter we find Paul answering questions even before
they are asked.  So let’s look a that
verse again Romans 12:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies
to God  (and before
they can ask why he tells them) because of all he has
done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find
acceptable.  (and
again he jumps into to answer the why) This is truly the way
to worship him.   
So the question has two answers.  The first one is an expanded “because”.  Really as parents isn’t that our favourite
response when we are asked “Why?” 
“Because” or if we are feeling particularly wordy and feel that our
children deserve more of an explanation we sometimes expand it and say: “because
I said so.”   
So Paul tells them: Think about it, after
all God has done for you, including but not limited to the death of his Son as
a sacrifice for you, isn’t this the least you can do for him?  Paul could have been a travel agent,
specializing in guilt trips.  But guilt
trip or not it is reality.  Without God
where would we be?   Without even getting into grace and our
salvation, look around at all God has done for you as an individual, your home,
your family, your health and a great country to live in.  And before you start with the yeah buts you
know that whatever your circumstances you could have it worse.
But it’s not
just a matter of obligation because Paul continues and tells his readers  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.   Our commitment to
anyone or anything is ultimately not measured by what we say but by what we
do.  We can talk the game but unless we
are actually in the game what difference will it really make?  Because it’s not what you say and it’s not
what you say you’ll do it’s what you do that counts.   The New King James Version says it this way Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you
present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is
your reasonable service.   Which is your reasonable service, I love that because he is saying
“It’s the least you can do.” 
 What is worship?  What is your reasonable service?  Jesus tells us very simply that it is obedience.   John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.
So we have the
“what”  Give yourself wholly to God.  And we have the “why” Because.  Let’s keep reading:  Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God
transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
So here we have The How  If you have been
with us through this series you know that I am going to tell you that it is a
choice you have to make.  It seems to be
a recurring theme, but not a theme that is real popular in 2016.  And that is the fact that we are all
responsible for the choices that we make and that our lives are a result of the
choices we made.   Today we want to be
able to abdicate our responsibility for where we are in life and who we are in
life.  Well not entirely we like to take responsibility
for being successful, for being good parents and doing well in school. 
But the other stuff, the part where we blow
it and the part where we hurt those we love and don’t measure up, those aren’t
our fault.  It is the fault of our
parents who did a rotten job parenting us, or of the school system that did a
rotten job educating us, or of our friends who led us astray or society, or the
the economic downturn or global warming. 
You get the picture. 
But the reality is this:  we are the product of choices we make.  You chose whether you’d apply yourself in
school when you were a kid, you chose what you’d do after high school, what you
would do for a living and who you would marry.  And you will choose how passionately you will
serve God.
And the great thing about that is that once
you acknowledge that you are responsible for the decisions you made yesterday,
whether they were good bad or indifferent than you realize that you are
responsible for the decisions you will make today and do you know what that
means?
It means that you are in control, that you
will determine your future and your destiny. 
When I was growing up I remember one of my
Dad’s favourite poems was Invictus by Ernest Henley and in the last verse Henley
writes “It
matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am
the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
I don’t want to get into all the
theological implications of that statement but I do know that too often we
abdicate responsibility for our life and our decisions to others. 
And so here is the decision that Paul tells
us that we have to make: 
Romans 12:2
Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you
into a new person by changing the way you think. 
By now you
should know 2 Corinthians 5:17 by heart, but just in case you don’t here it
is: 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.
The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
Paul is
telling us that “the how” is radical, it’s not just a minor course adjustment
this is a dramatic change in direction, he is telling us that we can’t just
change our behaviour a little bit instead this is major change, a whole new
beginning a whole new direction. 
The New King
James says it this way Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewing of your mind,  Do you see the difference, conformed is passive, it’s something that
happens to you, while transformed is something you do, a choice you make.
You can be
squeezed into conformity or you can choice to be transformed. 
I think the church is where it is today
because of a couple of choices that have been made over the past fifty
years.  And I think those choices have
caused problems. 
The first, I think, is that for a while the
church has been trying to make the world conform to us.  We have tried to impose Christian values and
Christian morals on an unchristian world. 
We have been more concerned with the world’s behaviour than the world’s
salvation.  You cannot legislate
morality.  Does not work.  2000 years the Church existed in a society that
was a hedonistic immoral cesspool.  And
the church didn’t see their mission to correct that.  The mission of the church wasn’t to change
society it was to change people. 
And you are thinking, but pastor Jesus
called us to be the salt of the earth. 
Indeed he did, but remember the salt seasons the soup.  But we were called to be the salt, not the
soup.  The teaching of Jesus and the New
Testament were meant for believers and for the church, not for society.   And so you never hear Paul or Peter or Jesus
for that matter decrying the evils of crucifixion, or even of the sexual
behaviour of their society, other than to say that wasn’t acceptable behaviour
for those who followed Christ. 
The second mistake we made, is that we have
allowed the world to force us into their mold, and instead of the church
influencing the morals of the world we have allowed the world to influence the
church.  From sexual behaviour to how we
view marriage and the sanctity of life from natural conception to natural death
we now take our cues from society instead of scripture. 
But everybody believes or the supreme court
says has become the mantra of way too many Christians and churches.  We are afraid to be out of step with the
world or worse to be labeled “Intolerant”.
We need to heed the warning of Jesus who
reminded his followers, Luke 6:26  What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds, for their ancestors also praised false prophets.   
I fear that instead of being the salt that
flavours the soup that soon you won’t be able to taste the difference between
the salt and the soup.  And that’s not
the way it’s supposed to be.  When Jesus
was praying for those who would follow him, this is what he said John
17:16-17
 They do not belong to this world any
more than I do.  Make them holy by your
truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 
Because when the church allows itself to be
shaped by the world this is the end result . 
(video of honest pastor)
Never have Paul’s words seemed more
relevant than in 2016, Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the
behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new
person by changing the way you think.  If there doesn’t seem to be any
difference between what the world watches and what you watch, what the world
believes and what you believe, how the world behaves and how you behave, then
there probably isn’t a difference. 
But if you have allowed yourself to be
transformed into a new person what is the result?  What is this ultimately called?  This, being transformed by the renewing of
your mind?  This embracing the things of
God instead of the things of the world? 
It is called holiness and it is exactly
that, embracing the things of God instead of embracing the things of the
world.  I’m surprised, no I’m not surprised but I am dismayed by
the trash that Christians watch, read and listen to.  When I first became a Christ follower my dad
gave me some profound advice.  He said,
“A lot of people will try to tell you what you can and can’t do as a Christian,
but just ask yourself “Would I do this with Jesus.” 
And
maybe you would invite Jesus over to watch Game of Thrones, but probably not.
And it happens when you allow God to shape
you, and that happens when you spend time listening to him, that means reading
your bible, talking to him, that means prayer, and spending time with his
kids.  That means going to church.
The author of the book of Hebrews writes 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. 
John Wesley defined holiness this way “Holiness is
having the mind that was in Christ and walking as Christ walked.”  And only happens when we’ve been
transformed when we become different.   
Which of course leads us to the last part
of verse two Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world,
but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and
pleasing and perfect.
The
Result 
It
was Mother Theresa who said “Holiness is the complete acceptance of the will of God.”
Bottom line is this;
you need to sell out to God.  It keeps
coming back to that, Holiness means that you’ve given everything to God, your ambition,
work, hobbies, house, car, family, pride and everything you are and everything
you will be. 
Have you done
that?  Have you chosen? Chosen to be
transformed into a new person changing the way you think?    Today is the day

What about the Ponies?

I saw a headline awhile back that said, “The Global eradication of Polio” and my first thought was, “I didn’t know there was a movement to eradiation Polo. Maybe it has something to do with the way they treat the ponies.”  Seriously, I am not making this up. And then I realized the article was about polio, the disease and not polo, the sport.


If we are honest we have all heard and read things the wrong way, and in most cases it really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. And sometimes it’s good for a laugh.  Unfortunately, I have met people through the years who have based their theology and are wagering their eternity on something they read or heard and didn’t take the time to verify that thought.


Just because you read in a book, watched in on a podcast or heard at Cornerstone, doesn’t make it the irrefutable. If you are willing to trust your eternity to a concept, you’d better be sure of the veracity of that concept.  Which is why God gave us common sense and brains.  And, what they will do with the ponies when they have eradicated the sport?  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Enough with the Selfies

Enough with the selfies.
And you thought that selfies were
harmless.  When selfies first came out I
thought taking pictures of yourself with a cell phone was a passing fad.  But no, it seems that they are here to
stay.  All kinds of people are taking pictures
of themselves, from the famous to the unknown. 
And they take their pictures with their new
clothes and their old clothes, blue clothes and no clothes.  Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book.  They take their selfies at births, weddings
and funerals. There seems to be no limit to where or when someone will take a
selfie.  But in case, like me, you
thought selfies were a new fad here are Arnold and Ellen Hog using the first
selfie stick ever in 1926.
And while they may seem like harmless fun
there has recently been a number of studies linking the habit to Narcissism,
(that is self-love), addictive personality traits and other mental health
issues.
And selfies aren’t new, before you could
take a picture of yourself there was always the person who was demanding that
you take a picture of them.  If you go
back through your prints you will find them, at birthday parties, weddings and
family events.  Even though it wasn’t
their birthday party, their wedding or their family.
And long before there were camera’s there
were selfies, I mentioned the link between selfies and Narcissism.  The term Narcissistic means “love of self”
and it comes from a Greek myth about the young hunter Narcissus.  Narcissus was known for his beauty and he was
his own biggest fan. 
One day while walking by a pool he saw his own reflection in the water and not realizing
that it was just a reflection he fell in love with it.  
Unable to pull himself away from his
reflection, Narcissus lost his will to live and he stared at his reflection
until he died. 
And the philosophy of selfies goes clear
back to the fall of mankind, the idea and question of “What’s in it for me.”   But it doesn’t end there, I read somewhere
that Alice Roosevelt once said of her father
Theodore, “Father always had to be the centre of
attention, when he went to a wedding he wanted to be the bride.  When he went to a funeral, he was sorry he
couldn’t be the corpse.”
And well this focus on self has been around
forever, it is a philosophy that fits in with the concept of Holiness that
we’ve been talking about for the past couple of weeks?
We started by talking about the Call of
Holiness and it was there that we discovered that Holiness is being completely sold
out to God’s will for our lives.  And
last week we looked at the Way of Holiness and peeked into Isaiah 35 where the
prophet told about the Highway of Holiness. 
And we discovered that when we stayed on the highway of God’s will that
we would be safe from the Devil and that it was a way that ultimately led to
heaven. 
And so this week we are looking at “The
Price of Holiness”.    And maybe you are
thinking “a price, I thought holiness would be free?”  Well it is free but it’s not cheap. 
Because if living a Holy Life means that
God is in control then it means that self has to relinquish control, and that
is costly.
Paul was so serious about that concept that
he tells us in the scripture that was read this morning Romans
6:6
 We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ
so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin.
And that is a metaphor that he uses over
and over again in his writing, listen to the words he wrote in the book of
Galatians when he says Galatians 2:20  My old self
has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in
me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me
and gave himself for me. 
Did you catch that?  “Our sinful selves were crucified with Christ
and my old self has been crucified with Christ.”  Wow, and in 2016 that statement really
doesn’t mean a lot to us, but 2000 years ago it was an incredibly powerful
statement because crucifixion was something that everybody was at least
somewhat familiar with. 
It’s only been in the past hundred years
that civilized societies have stopped killing people in public.   As a
matter of fact, it’s been almost 150 years since the last public hanging
occurred in Canada. And while the last public execution happened in Canada in
1869 and in the US in 1936 public executions still happen in countries around
the word and they remain the same type of spectacle that there were 2000 years
ago.
When Paul wrote to the Galatians
crucifixion was a common form of punishment in the Roman empire and they were
done where everyone could see them.  So
when Paul told the early believers that they needed to crucify themselves if
they wanted to live a holy life they knew exactly what he meant.  But do we?
What does it mean to have crucified your
old self?  And how do we do that?
Let’s start with the fact that while It’s Simple, It’s not Easy  Isn’t that the reality of life.  In case you are wondering I have lost right
around 60 lbs in the past 15 months. Actually people will often ask how much
weight I’ve lost and I tell them a thousand pounds, but recently 60.  I feel like Erma
Bombeck who said “In two decades I’ve lost a
total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”
I have discovered that losing weight is
simple, but it’s not easy.  All you have
to do to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than your body needs.  That’s simple.  You figure out how many calories your body
needs each day to maintain your present weight and then you eat less than that. 
It was celebrity trainer Subodh Gupta who wrote “If you keep on eating
unhealthy food than no matter how many weight loss tips you follow, you are
likely to retain weight and become obese. If only you start eating healthy
food, you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to lose weight.”    Sure sounds simple enough.   And so
I use the Weight Watcher Plan and use the app on my phone to track what I
eat.  Simple, right?
But it’s not easy because I really like
food, and the food I like isn’t the food that I can eat lots of.  And sometimes I just feel like eating
something that doesn’t fit in my plan, or at least doesn’t fit in my plan at
the end of the day.  And while in theory
it’s simple, it kind of goes back to what Yogi
Berra said “In theory there is no difference
between theory and practice, in practice there is.”
And
so in theory, living a holy life is simple. 
You simply do what God wants you to do. 
Done.  But what about in practice?
But
it’s not easy, and those who say it’s easy lie. 
2000 years ago Paul wrote Romans 7:18-19  And I know
that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what
is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t
want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. 
Sound familiar?  And if that was all that Paul wrote then we would
feel like there is no hope for us.  But
Paul goes on to tell us that he found the solution, Romans 8:12-14  Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what
your sinful nature urges you to do.  For if you live by its dictates, you
will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of
your sinful nature, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of
God are children of God.
Did you catch that?  “You have no obligation to do what your sinful
nature urges you to do.” 
So, to live a Holy life is Simple, it’s just
not easy.  And the bible never says it
will be easy, as a matter of fact by describing the process using the metaphor
of crucifixion it tells us just how difficult and painful it can be. 
So what else does
Paul tells us about the process  Galatians
5:24
 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and
desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there.
The next reality here is that It’s Something You Have to Do  In other words nobody else can do it for
you and you can’t do it for anyone else. 
Our decision to live a life that is obedient to the will of God will be
just as personal as our decision to become a Christ follower.
In the same way that while most everybody
thought Denn should lose weight, even if you were too polite to mention it,
only I could make the decision and do the work of losing weight.
It’s the same with deciding to live a holy
life, that is a life that is in the centre of God’s will and obedient to God’s
will.   The preacher can’t do it for you
and your spouse can’t do it for you and your parents can’t do it for you.
And while God can’t or won’t do it for you,
in the sense that he won’t take away your free will and force you to live a
holy life, He’s willing to help in the form of the Holy Spirit.    With
God’s help you can do it. Do you believe that? 
But you have to want to.  And it
is a partnership.
Here is the mystery of that
partnership.  You can change your mind
but you can’t change your heart.  Only
God can change a person’s heart. But God can’t, or more correctly, won’t change
your mind, that is the free will aspect of the relationship.  And God won’t change your heart until you
change your mind.  You have to want to
change, you have to want to enter into the relationship.
The scripture that I just read from
Galatians is part of a section that begins with the words Galatians 5:16  So I
say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your
sinful nature craves.  
And just before Paul writes about our
sinful nature’s being crucified he had written about what the acts of the
sinful nature looked like and warned the early church in vs. 21 Galatians 5:21  . . . Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone
living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. 
And then he goes on to talk about the type
of life we will live and the
characteristics we will exhibit if
we crucify the sinful nature and allow the Holy Spirit to have control.  And those characteristics are called the
Fruit of the spirit and they are supposed to be evidenced in all areas of our
lives.  And even though I’m sure that you
are all intimately familiar with the fruit of the Spirit here they are again.  Galatians 5:22-23  But the Holy
Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience,
kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is
no law against these things!
Charles Spurgeon was the preacher at the Metropolitan
Tabernacle in London in the late 1800’s it was a mega-church before anyone knew
what a mega-church was, and Spurgeon wrote,
“Faith (Holiness) is not a piece of confectionery to be put upon
drawing-room tables, or a garment to be worn on Sundays; it is a working
principle, to be used in the barn and in the field, in the shop and on the
exchange; it is a grace for the housewife and the servant; it is for the House
of Commons and for the poorest workshop.”   And the person who
will make that decision to live an obedient and holy life will be you.
But it wasn’t only Paul who used the cross
and crucifixion as a metaphor for living obediently as a Christ follower.  One day when Jesus was preaching to the
crowds he told them.   Luke
9:23
 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of
you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your
cross daily, and follow me.  How often did Jesus say we’d have to take up our cross and follow
him?  Daily.   So choosing to live a holy obedient life
isn’t something that’s done once, It’s
Something You Have to Do Everyday
Since I started with the weight loss
analogy and it’s something that most people can identify with, let’s stay there
for a little while longer.  I have
decided to lose weight more times than I can count, and I have started to lose
weight more times than I can count.  But
fifteen months ago I made a decision to make it a daily commitment. 
I track my meals every day, and if there
are days that I don’t do well, then I learn from it and put it behind me and
move on to the next day.  But if I stop
working at losing weight then I stop losing weight.  The commitment 15 months ago would be
worthless if it didn’t translate into daily action.   
Jesus knew that if our Christian life was
going to be successful then it need to be an ongoing commitment.  And it starts each day when you give your day
to God and reaffirm your commitment to live in obedience to His will for your
life.
And that isn’t a long list of rules.  One day an expert in the religious law asked
Jesus what the most important commandment was.    And Jesus replied by saying Matthew
22:37-40
 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all
your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the
first and greatest commandment.  A second is
equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based
on these two commandments.”
In his book “A Plain Account of Christian
Perfection”, John Wesley wrote “Yea, we
do believe that He will in this world so ‘cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by
the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, that we shall perfectly love Him, and
worthily magnify His holy name.’”
So, what is our commitment as Christians?  Love God, love others.  And you do that by obeying his teaching.  And you know what his teachings are by
reading his book.  And most days you will
be presented with the choice to obey God or not to obey God.  
One person described it like two dogs
fighting inside of him, one representing evil and wickedness and one
representing goodness and purity. 
Someone asked him, “Well which one wins?” And his response was
“Whichever one I say ‘sic him’ to”  Which
one will you say “sic him” to?
Earlier in the message I referenced Romans
7 where Paul talked about doing the wrong things that he didn’t want to do and
not being able to do the right things that he wanted to do.  And most of us know what that feels like from
time to time in our Christian walk.  But
then we turned the page and read in Romans 8 that Paul was able to win the
battle that he was talking about, and he continues by writing in Romans 8:37  No,
despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who
loved us.   Not just victory, but
overwhelming victory.
The
Result is Victory
 You can win, you can
have the victory, you don’t have to live in defeat.  Do you believe that?
The Corinthian church had all kinds of
problems and in his letters Paul addresses many of those issues but he reminds
the believers again and again of the truth and the promise of victory.  Listen to his words in 1 Corinthians 15:57  But
thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus
Christ.
The
apostle John wrote to the early church and told them  1
John 4:16-17
 We know how
much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all
who live in love live in God, and God lives in them.  And as we live in
God, our love grows more perfect.
Those
promises weren’t just for Christ followers 2000 years ago they are for us
today.  As we live in God, our love grows
more perfect.  And maybe you’re thinking
“But Denn it’s hard, it’s not easy.”   
Exactly, it’s the hard that makes it great.  If it was easy everybody would be doing it,
if it was easy Paul wouldn’t have referred to it as crucifixion. Instead he
would have said it was like baking a cake or falling off a log or as easy as
pie.    
But
remember the end result, the fruit of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness,  gentleness, and
self-control.  That’s the victory.
And
we don’t always get it right, sometimes we blow it, we say something or do
something we regret and we know is wrong. 
Sometimes on my weight loss journey I blow it, and often like when we
blow it in our spiritual lives it is often intentional. 
I
know I shouldn’t do it, I know that eating The Sydelle Fries at Sydells on
Rocky Lake Drive probably isn’t the wisest thing to do.  Sydell fries are home cut fries topped with
Montreal Style Smoke Meat, gravy and Cheese. 
And I have never accidental ate them thinking they were a salad.
But
if that happens, I have two choices.  I
can say “Wow I blew it; I guess I’ll never get this weight loss thing” and give
up and pretty soon I’ll weigh what I used to weigh.  Sound familiar?
Or
I can say “Wow, I blew it, tomorrow I’m going to do better.”
The
bible tells us in 1
John 2:1-2
 My
dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone
does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is
Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  He himself is the sacrifice
that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
God’s
desire is that you not sin.  I assume
that is your desire as well.  But the
promise is there, note that John writes “If” you sin, not “when” you sin.  But if you sin, Jesus is there, he wants to
pick you up and brush you off and forgive you. 
He’s extending his hand, but you have to take it.  He won’t pick you up unless you want to be
picked up, The choice is yours.
                                         

The Blame Game

Selfies are nothing new and certainly nothing out of the ordinary.  But what about a selfie taken at 182 Kilometers per hour?  Last summer, Christal McGee of Georgia was involved in an accident while taking a selfie using the Snapchat speed filter, which posts your speed in your selfie.  While trying to drive and take the picture, McGee failed to notice the car that pulled onto the highway in front of her.  And while nobody was killed, the driver of the other vehicle suffered serious brain injuries.  

According to a recent lawsuit filed by the other driver, the culprit wasn’t the young lady driving at a reckless speed while trying to take a picture of herself on her phone, nor was it the driver himself who pulled onto the highway in front of her.   No, the villain who needs to pay is Snapchat, because they produced an app that promotes and rewards bad behavior.  Perhaps it is because Snapchat has deeper pockets than the others but more likely it goes back to that age old philosophy, “it’s not my fault, somebody else must be to blame.”

 Of course even with all of her injuries Christal made sure to post a selfie of herself from the ambulance captioned “Lucky to be alive”  

Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

The Way of Holiness

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. 

Who are you?

They want to know who we are and they aren’t content to simply asking Google or Facebook they are asking, or telling, us to give them the details. 

Did you take the time to fill out your census form this past week?  Ours was relatively short, thus why it was called the short form & it didn’t take long at all.   But I understand that some had to go into more detail on the long from. And I know why the census is important. Without knowing who lives in a community and their ages, it’s hard to have a grasp on what will be needed such as elementary Schools or Nursing Homes.

And while I didn’t have to fill out the long form, curiosity lead me to look at the form online, and there were a lot more question asking about work, health and housing.  But there were no questions about faith or religion, that’s interesting. Was it intentional? Do they not want to know or do they simply consider a person’s faith irrelevant?

We may have to fill out the census in order for Statistics Canada to know who we are, but God already knows who we are.  He knows our names and when we were born and He knows because He loves us. Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Kinfolk

–> –>

I love the history of the Wesleyan church.  Born out of the abolitionist movement of the early 1800’s, our founders saw a distinct connection between holiness and social justice.  That desire for equality and justice carried over into the suffragette and women’s rights movement and continues today as Wesleyans around fight the battle against human trafficking and hunger and for education and clean water.  But as much as I love our history, the history of our denomination is relatively short, less than two hundred years.
I spent two days this week in the company of two young believers from the Coptic Church. They were passionate about their faith and their church. The Coptic church traces its history back 2000 years to when John Mark, the same Mark who wrote the Gospel, brought the good news of Christ to the land of the Pyramids. 
And I was reminded again of the diversity and beauty of Christ’s bride, the church. I don’t have much in common with my Coptic brothers and sisters, when it comes to liturgy or how we do church, but during our time together I learned that what I share with them is a love of Christ and the assurance of His grace and His salvation and that’s what makes us family.  Have a great week and remember: To see what is really possible, you will have to attempt the impossible.

Called to Be Holy

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.”