A BLANK CHECK
Fred Craddock, in an address to ministers, caught the practical implications of consecration. "To give my life for Christ appears glorious," he said. "To pour myself out for others ... to pay the ultimate price of martyrdom--I'll do it. I'm ready, Lord, to go out in a blaze of glory. "We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table--'Here's my life, Lord. I'm giving it all.' "But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid's troubles instead of saying, 'Get lost.' Go to a committee meeting. Give up a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home. "Usually giving our life to Christ isn't glorious. It's done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it's harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul."
Our church’s theme for 2021 is holiness and today is the last of four messages on holiness. Our memory verse for January tells us why we are to be holy. It is because God is holy and he has set us apart from the world to be his own. We are to strive to be more like Christ every day because as Christians God has given us the responsibility to continue Jesus’ work on the earth, which is to pursue, grow and multiply disciples, just as he did.
Paul, the writer of Romans, spends the first eleven chapters of this book teaching the theology of the Christian faith and expounding on the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught an understanding of our sin problem, our need for salvation, our sanctification and the sovereignty of God that is central to our faith as Christians today. In Paul’s teaching in Romans, we have been given some of the most well-known verses in the Bible on these subjects, such as, Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans chapter 3 gives a detailed picture of what sin looks like in our lives. Then in Romans 6:23 we see what we deserve because of our sin, “For the wages of sin is death.” What we deserve is a spiritual death, an eternal separation from God. But praise God, the theology of Christianity didn’t end there. Romans 6:23 goes on to say, “but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” God took care of our sin problem and made a way for us to be reconciled to him. All this was done while we were living in rebellion against Him. Romans 10:9 tells us what our responsibility now is: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The ball is in our court. God doesn’t force us to accept Jesus. But salvation, the forgiveness of sins, is available to anyone who will trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Finally we see the culmination in Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” That is the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is the good news for those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior and are following Him. Now in Romans 12, Paul says, “So What?” Now that we’ve made a decision for Christ, what’s next?” Now that we are saved, how should we act? It is nice to say we are to be holy because God is holy. But is holiness in my daily life even realistic? Paul’s going to show us that holiness is definitely realistic and it is practical as well. In Romans chapter 12 the way that we achieve holiness is through sacrifice which brings us to our big idea this morning that: Our holiness will be seen in being a “living sacrifice” to God and others.
There are three points this morning. First, the Exhortation to Sacrifice; Second, the Expression of Sacrifice and third, the Evidence of Sacrifice. Let’s look at the exhortation to sacrifice which is found in Romans 12:1-2. This is what God’s Word says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Paul starts off with the word, “therefore”, meaning that what follows is a continuation of what came before in chapters 1-11. He is urging us to act on the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ that he just taught. But he doesn’t just say “do something.” He gives us a logical reason why we should act which is because of God’s mercy towards us. God didn’t have to make a way for us to be reconciled to him. He could have left us in our sinful state and to the consequences of our sin. But as John 3:16 says, God loved the world so much he sent his one and only son to die on a cross to take away the sins of the world and all we need to do is accept his son and we can have eternal life with him instead of eternal separation from him.
So because of what God did for us, the reasonable thing we should do in response is to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This response is reasonable and spiritual. What would your response be if a total stranger paid your bill at a restaurant? The reasonable response should be gratitude and maybe that prompts you to pay it forward and pay someone else’s bill in the future. In the same way, our response to what God has done for us should not only be gratitude but action. It should motivate us to obedience. Next, our response should be spiritual. In the OT, worship and gratitude was accompanied by sacrifice. In that time God had instituted animal sacrifices, which was the way for the Israelite’s to worship God and to show their gratitude to him for what he had done for them. But once Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross, once for all, they no longer needed to sacrifice animals in order to do that. Now our sacrifices are spiritual acts of worship. This spiritual act of worship comes from the heart and the mind and requires a sacrifice from us. But we don’t just make a sacrifice to God we are to “be” a sacrifice to God, not a dead sacrifice but a living sacrifice.
What does it mean to be a “living sacrifice?” First, Paul tells us we are to present our bodies to God. He means “present our bodies once and for all.” This is not just a one time commitment. It is not just sacrificing our bodies to God on Sundays and Wednesdays when we come to church. It’s is an every second of every day commitment to God. We can’t take a day off. We can’t be holy in one area of our lives and not holy in another. Holiness must permeate every area of our lives twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, three- hundred and sixty five days a year. The spiritual act of worship is an everyday worship experience that is a passionate pursuit of holiness in our daily lives.
Second, in urging us to be a living sacrifices, Paul says we need to sacrifice three things in response to what God has done for us. The first thing we need to sacrifice to God is our bodies. Before we became a Christian we used our bodies for sinful purposes but now that we are a part of the family of God we are to use our bodies for his glory and for his purposes. Holiness is sacrificing our bodies as living sacrifices so that God can use us as his instruments in the world.
The second thing we are urged to sacrifice is our minds. The world or this “age” is trying to control our minds but God wants to transform them. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind. This means we are to sacrifice our minds to God for his use and for his purposes. We can’t give our minds to both God and the world. It must be one or the other. But we all know how hard it is to resist conforming to the world around us especially when it is actively seeking to devour us and take us away from the family of God. How does the world try to conform us? It’s insidious because it is actually the same way that God transforms us. We are conformed or transformed by what we read, what we watch, what we listen to and who we hang out with. Are you reading your Bible? Do you watch Christian movies and TV shows? Do you listen to Christian music? Do you hang out with Christian friends?
We are conformed to the world by anything that we put into our minds that is worldly and we are transformed by anything that we put in our minds that is Godly. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Do you want to know if you are a conformer or are being transformed? What are you thinking on and about? Is it true, is it noble, is it right, is it pure, is it lovely, is it admirable, is it excellent and is it praiseworthy? Who controls your mind, God or the world?
This transforming of your mind will result in an outward display of obeying God’s Word. When we make a commitment to holiness as individuals and a congregation that means we are individually and corporately reading and studying God’s Word, memorizing scripture, praying to God in adoration, confession, thanksgiving and petition and the result is that our outward actions toward others will prove that we are pursuing holiness. Holiness is a practical pursuit which is why we put together the Spiritual Life Journal. We will see holiness in our lives as we obey God’s Word as it pertains to his Word, to our service, to our giving, in our relationships, in the gospel and in our worship. BIG IDEA
The third thing we are urged to sacrifice in response to what God has done for us is our wills. Your mind controls your body and your will controls your mind. It is only when we yield our will to God’s will that his power can take over and give us what we need to pursue and practice holiness. We can’t do it in our own power. We do this by knowing what God’s will is and putting it into practice. If we know and put into practice his standards, his desires, his motives and his values it will lead to spiritual growth and holy living. What we feed our minds and wills is what is inside of us and will come out of us. The difference in being conformed to this world or being transformed by the renewing of your mind and knowing what the perfect will of God is, is what comes out of us, is our actions.
These first two verses are not just asking us to sacrifice our time, talents, gifts and abilities to God and use them for his glory. They are asking for us to sacrifice our whole selves to him which includes those things. We need to sacrifice to him what we actually own. Our time, talents, gifts and abilities have been given to us by God. We can’t give away what we don’t own. But we do own our own bodies, our minds and our wills. That is what God wants us to sacrifice to him. The right to ourselves is the only thing we can give and we sacrifice our bodies, minds and wills so that his will can be done through us. That brings us to our first next step which is to be a “living sacrifice” by sacrificing my body, my mind and my will to the Lord for his purposes and his glory.
Our second point this morning is our expression of sacrifice. We express our sacrifice in the church by discovering our place in the body of Christ and seeking to build it up into a unified body. This is found in Romans 12:3-8 and this is what God’s Word says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
In these verses we see what sacrificing and pursuing holiness looks like in our relationships with those in the body of Christ. First, we are not to think of ourselves more highly than we should. We are all on a level playing field when it comes to God. No one is better than anyone else. To have sober or realistic judgment means that we realize we are all supposed to be living sacrifices and we owe everything to God. Paul uses an analogy of the human body to show how each believer is a part of the body of Christ. We all have gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and we are to use those gifts to build each other up. We belong to each other, we minster to each other and we need each other. We have sober judgment when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church and not for our own benefit. We do this in a couple of ways.
The first is an honest evaluation of our spiritual gifts. We need to know what our spiritual gifts are or we can’t use them for the good of the body. How can you tell that you are using the gifts that God has given you? First, how are you serving here at Idaville Church? If you aren’t serving in some way you need to start. Second, if you are already serving are you happy where you are serving? If not that could mean you aren’t serving in that sweet spot where God wants you to be. It’s like having a job that you hate to go to. How does that affect you? It can be the same way in the church. If you are serving in the church and you aren’t happy then you need to change. It is not doing you or the church any good to serve in that position. God has a sweet spot in mind for you, you just need to find it.
So, if you aren’t serving right now or don’t know how or where to serve, please come see me. If you don’t know what your gifts are or how they can be used in the church, please come see me. If you are already serving here at Idaville and aren’t happy, please come see me. In all of these instances, you can take a spiritual gift survey which will help you better understand your gifts and how and where they can be used in the church. A spiritual gift survey can help you to find that sweet spot that God wants you to be in which will benefit both you and Idaville Church. Also if you look in the Spiritual Life Journal under the heading Holiness in Service you can see the steps that you can take in this area. Our goal at Idaville Church would be to have everyone serving God and doing it in their sweet spot.
That brings us to our second next step which is to take the steps necessary to be serving God in my sweet spot at Idaville Church. When the believers in a church know their gifts, accept them by faith, and use them for God’s glory, then God can bless us in a wonderful way.
The second way we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the Church is by faithful cooperation. As I said we all have been given spiritual gifts. No one has been left out and our gifts complement each other’s gifts. We have been given these gifts to be used within the church family so that it can be a healthy place to grow spiritually. Everyone’s gift is important and is to be used for the good of the body so we must all must be faithful in using our gifts.
We need to be careful to not use our gifts for selfish reasons instead of for the reasons God intended. Paul in Corinthians had to rebuke them for how they were using their gifts. They had the gifts of the Spirit but they were lacking in the fruits of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our gifts are to be used by faith and in cooperation together to build up the body of Christ. I like this quote from Weirsbe, “Spiritual gifts are tools to build with, not toys to play with or weapons to fight with.”
Our third point this morning is the evidence of sacrifice. If the sacrificed life is expressed when we use our spiritual gifts for the health and welfare of the body of Christ than the evidence of a sacrificed life will be seen in the nitty-gritty of our day-to day relationships. This includes our relationships within the church and our relationships outside the church. We see the evidence of a sacrificed life in Romans 12:9-21, this is what God’s Word says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
We are called to sacrifice ourselves in our relationships with others by overcoming evil with love. The key to doing this is that our love for others must be sincere. If our love is not sincere we can never do what Paul commands here and will never be able to overcome evil with love. The Greek word for sincere is the negative of the Greek word for hypocrite. Therefore, sincere love is not a hypocritical love. The word hypocrite was used for an actor of that time who wore different masks to portray the different emotions of the characters he played. This means that sincere Christians should not wear masks. What you see is what you get and Paul says that others should see a sincere love from us all the time. Also, it would be hypocritical for a Christian to hate what is good and cling to what is evil therefore we need to hate what is evil and cling to what is good.
Paul goes on to show us what this sincere love should practically look like especially in our relationships with other believers. We can only do these things if we are pursuing holiness and have offered our whole selves to God as living sacrifices. BIG IDEA. First, we must be devoted to one another in brotherly love. The same Greek root word was used for loving relationships within families. As the body of Christ we are in a spiritual family and we to love each other like the best earthly families would. This, of course, would be the ideal and not the norm. Next we need to honor one another above ourselves. The mantra “looking out for number one” has been around since the Garden of Eden when Adam, Eve and the serpent blamed everyone but themselves for their sin. We are to put others first as an expression and evidence of sincere love.
Next, we are not to be lacking in our zeal but we are to keep our spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. We are to be zealous about our worship to God. What does zealous mean? It means we are to be “on fire” or “passionate” about our worship of God and what he is accomplishing in the world. This can be seen in our sharing the good news of Christ with those who don’t know him or serving in a soup kitchen, etc. The Holy Spirit is the one who fans the flames of our passion for God. Are we asking to be filled by the Holy Spirit daily? Are we asking the Holy Spirit to give us passion for God and his son Jesus? Sometimes that passion can be misguided and harmful to the church so Paul tells us our spiritual passion must be used in obedient service to Christ. We need to remember whom we are to have passion for and what our passion is to be used for, which is serving the Lord.
Next, we are to “stay the course” as we fight the spiritual battles the world throws at us. We need to rejoice in the hope that we have that “God Wins” and show patience and endurance when trials and tribulations come our way. We also need to be faithful in prayer. We all know how important prayer is in the Christian walk. We need to be praying for others, for our church and for our world. Next, we show the familial love to the body of Christ when we share with other believers who are in need. We are also called to practice hospitality towards others.
In verses 14-16, Paul seems to shift from our relationships with other believers to our relationships with non-believers and how we are to show the same sincere love towards them. But these same behaviors still apply within the church. He starts off this section by seeming to quote from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We are called to a sincere love of others that goes way beyond the normal boundaries of human love. We do this by blessing those who persecute us and not cursing them. We are to treat them as God treated us which is by loving and forgiving them, unconditionally. Next he talks about rejoicing with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. Imagine what could happen if we as Christians rejoice with non-Christians over the things they rejoice in or mourn with non-Christians over things they are mourning over. Imagine the impact and witness that we could have on them and the opportunities it could give us to talk to them about the gospel. For instance, we could share with them the reason we can rejoice mourn with them is because of what God has done for us in sending his son to die for our sins and because of that we have the hope of heaven.
If we practice these things it allows us to live in harmony with everyone. The greatest obstacle to harmony in our relationships is pride. Paul urges us to avoid pride and to humble ourselves. We have all received the grace of God and are on the same plane when it comes to sin, salvation, sanctification, etc. so no matter our wealth, prestige or position we are to treat everyone the same and better than ourselves and be willing to do even the humblest of duties. We should also not be conceited or think we are wiser than we really are. This is what will bring unity as we pursue holiness as living sacrifices to God.
The last section, verses 17-21, talks about overcoming evil with good by refusing to retaliate against those who persecute you. A sincere love for others will repay evil with kindness. But as followers of Jesus Christ we are to go one step further. We are to be careful to “do what is right in the eyes of everyone.” How can we do that especially when there are those who believe that what is right is sin? We are to be at peace with everyone as long as God’s good and perfect will allows us to be and it doesn’t contradict God’s moral demands on us. We will not always be at peace with others but that doesn’t mean we aren’t supposed to do our very best to try and live that way.
We are not to seek revenge against someone who wrongs us because God is the only one who can judge. He is the only one who knows all, sees all and is all-powerful. It is God’s right not ours to repay evil in the world. Instead we are to overcome evil with good. This is seen by feeding our enemy if he is hungry and giving him something to drink if he is thirsty. In doing these things we will heap burning coals on his head. This means that by responding to evil with good it may cause them to become ashamed of their actions and perhaps because of our witness seek reconciliation with God. Isn’t that what we want? We want the world to come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior as we do. This is counter-cultural, this is going above and beyond, this is being a living sacrifice, this is a practical pursuit of holiness in our lives. Which brings us to our third next step which is to pursue a sincere love for others and to overcome evil with good in all of my relationships.
So, what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? Like I said in the beginning, it’s like cashing in a $1,000 for quarters and going through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there in loving others. Being a living sacrifice is also like giving God a signed blank check and allowing him to continually fill it out and put anything and everything he wants on it. Being a living sacrifice is going all in with God. It is surrendering your will daily for the will of God. Being a living sacrifice is the pursuit of holiness that we have been talking about for the past month. The Israelites were to be a living sacrifice. Daniel was a living sacrifice. We are to be a living sacrifice to God. Being a living sacrifice is what the Spiritual Life Journal is all about. If you have signed the commitments in the Spiritual Life Journal and have started to do the daily bible reading plan and memorize the monthly scripture verse you have essentially given God a signed blank check and have agreed to pursue holiness everyday of 2021. You have agreed to not only grow spiritually inwardly but to show your growth outwardly by your actions. Your growing relationship with God will show that you are pursuing holiness and your growing relationships with one another in the church and in the world will show that you are practicing holiness. You will be a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your true and proper worship.
Pursuit Of Holiness
Taught Not Caught
Bryan Chapell begins his sermon, “The Undefiled,” with this story.
“When I was in seminary, the wife of one of my classmates worked as a quality control inspector at a pharmaceutical company downtown in order to support the family. One day, through mistaken procedures, a major order of syringes was contaminated and would not pass inspection. When the wife of my friend reported the contamination to her boss, he quickly computed the costs of reproducing the order and made a ‘cost-effective’ decision: ship the order. He ordered her to sign the inspection clearance despite the contamination. She refused.
Because of government regulations, my friend's wife was the only one who could sign the clearance. The syringes did not ship that day. So the next day, a Friday, the wife got a visit from the company president. He said he would give her the weekend to think it over, but if the forms were not signed on Monday, her job would be in jeopardy.
In fact, much more was in jeopardy. This inspection job was this couple's only means of support. The husband's education and ministry future was also in jeopardy. All their hopes, dreams, and family plans of many years could be shattered as a result of a choice to be made over the next two days. For this young couple, all the abstract doctrinal instruction they had been receiving about personal consecration, world transformation, and credible witness boiled down to this one very real decision: could they afford to remain undefiled from the contamination the world was urging them to approve? Was the witness of holiness worth what it would cost?
The couple's predicament, of course, was not unique to them. In all ages God's people are pressured to pollute the purity of their dedication to God. The pressures come from lots of potential sources: bosses, finances, competitors, friends, relatives, congregations, our own desires for success and significance. This couple faced such pressures, you have faced them, Daniel and his friends faced them. The pressures face anyone who will seek to live undefiled in a world of sin. That's why the Bible, in order to help us face these pressures, speaks so plainly about the risks, reasons, and rewards of holiness.”
This couple was going to have to decide whether or not to follow what they were taught by their parents, church, and seminary. When it comes to tough decisions we most often return to what we were taught – our character.
Character traits developed in me by my parents
Hard work ethic
Faith in God
I remember attending a workshop at one of the UB National Conferences where former Bishop Phil Whipple was sharing about hiring staff
He shared that he would rather hire someone with character instead of someone with a lot of skills
His reasoning behind this was that it was easier to teach them the various skills they would need, than to teach them character qualities that take time to develop
Character is something that is taught over a long period of time, while skills can be easily caught within a short period of time
What skills have you learned?
What character traits were you taught? (good and bad)
Daniel and his friends were taught some pretty incredible character traits that stuck with them even when they were separated from their families. One of the main character traits they had learned was a firm commitment to God. They also learned what holiness meant and how to maintain that. From Daniel’s example in the passage today, we will learn that . . .
BIG IDEA – Holiness begins with a firm commitment to God.
Kenneth Gangel does an excellent job of providing the main point headings in the Holman Old Testament Commentary for Daniel. I’ve used those headings as the main points this morning.
GOD (Daniel 1:1-21)
Attack by Babylon (vv. 1-2)
Jehoiakim was the son of Josiah
Josiah was the king who returned the Israelites to the worship of God
He was one of just a few kings who were righteous and did what was right before God
Most of the other kings were wicked and turned away from God
After Josiah’s death, his younger son Johoahaz was actually made king, first, but his reign only lasted three months (he was a wicked king)
Pharaoh-neco appointed Eliakim, Josiah’s elder son, as king and renamed him Jehoiakim
Year of Jehoiakim’s reign
Daniel says it was in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign
Jeremiah says it was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign (Jeremiah 25:1)
Which one is correct?
Both, because they are talking about the same time period
Two different calendars [Dwight J. Pentecost, Daniel (The Bible Knowledge Commentary; ed. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck; Accordance electronic ed. 2 vols.; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1985), 1:1328]
Jewish calendar began in September-October
Babylonian calendar began in March-April
Two different ways of counting [Gangel, The Holman Old Testament Commentary, Daniel, 15]
Babylonian reckoning (Daniel) – they “considered the first year of a king’s reign the year of accession and the second year would be the official ‘first year.’” [Gangel, 15]
Egyptian reckoning (Jeremiah) – they considered the first year as the actual first year of their reign
So, Jehoiakim had been king for four years (Egyptian timing), three years (Babylonian timing)
Jeremiah (25:1) tells us that it was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign that he besieged Jerusalem
It was 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar became king and he didn’t waste time establishing his dominance in the region
He immediately began his conquest of the surrounding nations
While Nebuchadnezzar thought he was ultimately in control, we see the almighty, sovereign God, who is actually in control
In God’s sovereignty and under His control, He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to overtake Jerusalem and delivered king Jehoiakim into his hands
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!
Nothing happens outside His divine control and purpose
This is the first time, in the passage we’re looking at today, that we see God’s sovereignty, but it’s not the last
God is still in control of world changing and nation changing events
Whatever our political views are, we can trust that God is in control!
Whatever our beliefs are about a world-wide pandemic, God is in control!
Whatever financial struggles we’re experiencing, either personally or as a church, God is in control!
How many of us would say that we feel like we are being taken captive (emotionally, spiritually, politically, relationally, financially)?
How many of us would say that we feel like some of our most prized possessions are being carried away?
Perhaps most of us can relate to what the Israelites were feeling at this point – we may not be going into captivity and being carried away to another land, physically, but perhaps that’s how we feel emotionally, mentally, or spiritually
We may be experiencing the feelings of hopelessness
God is with us and promises to never leave us or forsake us, but to be our helper (Hebrews 13:5-6)
We can trust Him!
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Trust in God’s sovereign power and turn to Him with my feelings of hopelessness.
God also allowed some of the articles from His temple to be carried away to Babylonia
“Daniel tells us that twice in one verse, indicating its importance. He wants us to understand that this is not only a battle between nations but also a battle between deities – God against Marduk, great god of the Babylonians.” [Gangel, 17]
This spiritual battle wages to the very end of time as we see in Revelation
The temple in Babylonia would have been to Bel (Marduk)
The purpose in carrying away some of the articles from the temple was to prove that the deities of Babylonia had conquered the God of Judah
And yet, we know that’s not the case, as Daniel pointed out (God was in control)
Nebuchadnezzar left some of the articles in the temple, so the Israelites, who remained in Jerusalem, could continue to worship their God
They were a vassal state of Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar didn’t only take articles from the temple of the Lord, but he also took young men from Jerusalem to Babylon
Training in Babylon (vv. 3-7)
Who was to be trained?
Nebuchadnezzar puts the chief of his court officials, Ashpenaz, in charge of choosing those who will be taken into captivity and trained
This was common practice in the ancient world – taking the brightest and best of the royal family and nobility into captivity and training them, so they would eventually become advocates, for the conquering nation, with their own people
Attributes of those chosen
Physically – young, without defect, handsome (I may be biased, but I think my three boys would have qualified physically)
Young men/youths/children – Daniel and his friends would have been around 12-15 years’ old
Their age will be significant as the events of this passage unfold – so keep their age in mind
Intellectually – aptitude for every kind of learning, well-informed, quick to understand (again, I’m biased, but my three boys would qualify)
We would all feel the same way about our own children
Now that we know who was to be trained, we can focus on what they were to be taught
What were they to be taught?
Language and literature of the Babylonians
“The traditional language of Babylon was Akkadian, a complex and ancient language written by means of a cuneiform script (using a stylus to make wedge-shaped characters), in which each symbol represented a syllable.” [John H. Walton, Victor H. Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 730]
[Show pictures of Akkadian cuneiform script]
While the Babylonians knew Akkadian, they primarily communicated using Aramaic, which was similar to Hebrew, in that it used an alphabetic script instead of a cuneiform script
Daniel and his friends may have already know Aramaic
There were certainly all kinds of general literature for these young men to learn (sciences, mathematics, etc.), but perhaps they were taught specific forms of literature based on how there were going to serve the Babylonian kingdom
We know that Daniel served as a diviner, because God had given him the ability to understand visions and dreams of all kinds (Daniel 1:17)
It’s probable that Daniel focused on the omen literature that would serve him well as a diviner
We’re not really told how the other three youths served the Babylonian kingdom, so it’s more difficult to determine their course of training
This wasn’t a 12-week course on how to serve the king, but rather a much lengthier training that would completely indoctrinate them to the customs, traditions, and ways of the Babylonian people
How long was their training?
Their training would take them three years
After their training was complete, they would serve the king
Every aspect of their lives was regimented and set by the king – what they were to learn and what they were to eat
What were they to eat?
The king assigned a daily portion of food and wine from his own table
This shouldn’t be seen as a way to defile the Hebrew captives
The king probably didn’t even know about their dietary restrictions
He was providing the best, he had to offer, for them
Remember, the purpose in their training was to transform those who were captive from their original origins to Babylonian citizens
We only learn later that Daniel and his three friends considered the food and wine something that would defile them
We’re not told the exact food items that were part of the daily portion, but perhaps it included bread and meat of some kind
Captives weren’t the only ones who received a daily portion from the king’s table [Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 731]
Ranking members of the administration
Craftsmen and artisans (native or foreign)
Diplomats, businessmen and entertainers
Of those who were taken captive, we see that some of them were from Judah
Line of Judah (line of the king)
Daniel – “God is judge”
Hananiah – “Jehovah is gracious; whom Jehovah has favored”
Mishael – “Who is what God is?”
Azariah – “The Lord helps”
“To change someone’s name is to exercise authority over them and their destiny.” [Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament,]
Belteshazzar (Daniel) – “Bel’s (Marduk) prince; he whom Bel favors.” [Chief-god]
Shadrach (Hananiah) – “young friend of the king; command of Aku.” [Sun/Moon-god]
Meshach (Mishael) – “Who is what Aku is?” Could also be from Babylonian goddess Sheshach (Shak) [Earth-god]
Abednego (Azariah) – “servant of Nebo; servant of the shining fire” [Fire-god]
So, Daniel and his three friends, along with the other captives, were going through a lot of changes all at once
Daniel accepted all of the changes, but one
Commitment in Babylon (vv. 8-14)
Daniel made up his mind that he would not eat the royal food or drink the wine
Why did he make up his mind about the food and drink, but not the name change or curriculum?
Having his named changed and learning about the customs, traditions, and ways of the Babylonian people did not directly go against Jewish law
Eating food prepared by Gentiles would have made the food unclean – it was not Kosher
The food might have been sacrificed to idols and eating it would have meant approval of the worship of those gods
Firm commitment to God
Holiness begins with a firm commitment to God.
Where did Daniel learn this firm commitment to God?
He would have been alive during King Josiah’s reign
He would have seen and experienced the repentant heart of not only the King, but everyone else in Jerusalem
Perhaps he watched his father and mother recommit themselves to the Lord – he saw, first-hand, the transformation that God’s Word had in his own family
He was wholly committed to the Lord and would not sacrifice that commitment by eating food and drinking wine potentially sacrificed to idols
“The great lesson from the incident is that religion should regulate the smallest details of life, and that it is not narrow over-scrupulousness, but fidelity to the highest duty, when a man sets his foot down about any small matter, and says, ‘No, I dare not do it, little as it is, and pleasant as it might be to sense, because I should thereby be mixed up in a practical denial of my God.’ ‘So did not I, because of the fear of God’ (Neh. v. 15), is a motto which will require from many a young man abstinence from many things which it would be much easier to accept.” [Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 10757]
PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we choose holiness over worldliness.
We are being bombarded every day with temptations for worldliness
Perhaps our employer is asking us to do something that we know is not morally or ethically right (what will we choose?)
Maybe a friend at school wants us to help them do something that we know isn’t right (what will we choose?)
Some of us may have family members who are pressuring us to do something wrong (what will we choose?)
A fellow college student or professor may be encouraging us to be more tolerant of a social or cultural shift that is in opposition to God’s Word (what will we choose?)
Society wants us to be tolerant of other religions and “cultural norms” that go against the Bible (what will we choose?)
Laws within our land (abortion, same-sex marriage, legalization of drugs, etc.) tempt us to accept what God says is unacceptable (what will we choose?)
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Resolve to stand firm on my commitment to God and choose holiness over worldliness.
Committed to God at a young age
As I mentioned earlier, Daniel and his three friends were probably in their early teens
They were pursuing holiness, because of a firm commitment to God
These four young men seem to be the exception among the captives, but they are an incredible example for our young people today
Too often in our day and age, young men and women in their early teens are not pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to God
We often hear them say that they will pursue God and holiness when they are older
Many young people, who walked away from the church and the Lord in their mid to late teens and early twenties, return to the Lord and the church when they begin having children (they know the importance of training up their children in the Lord)
This doesn’t have to be the norm
Young people can and should be pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to the Lord
The primary teaching and modeling for pursuing holiness should come from Dad and Mom
They learn both from our teaching and our example
There are certainly young people who are living in a non-Christian homes, but are striving to live for Jesus
That’s when the body of Christ steps in and provides the teaching and modeling for these young people to follow
#3 – (Young People) My Next Step Today Is To: Not wait until I’m older to pursue holiness and a personal relationship with God.
#4 – (Adults) My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to teach and model a life of holiness for the next generation.
Daniel gives us a great example of how to handle potential conflict, especially when it pertains to defiling our moral and ethical beliefs – he appeals to those in charge
He asks the chief official for permission not to defile himself
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is sovereign!
We see that God is sovereignly in control again as He causes the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel
The chief official understands Daniel’s concern about the food and wine, but he isn’t ready to choose holiness over worldliness
He prefers having his head attached to his shoulders (he’s afraid for his life)
The chief official wasn’t willing to question the king’s assignment of food
That didn’t stop Daniel from continuing to appeal
Next, he goes to the guard who has direct supervision over him, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah
His appeal is to have the guard give these four a test run for 10 days
Instead of eating the royal good and drinking the wine, they will only eat vegetables and drink water
After the 10 days are up, the guard can compare their appearance to the appearance of the other captives who have eaten the king’s food and wine
The guard can then treat these four young men based on what he sees
The guard agrees to the test
What will happen as a result of these four young men choosing holiness, because of their firm commitment to God?
Blessings in Babylon (vv. 15-21)
PRINCIPLE #3 – God honors the obedience of His people.
These four young men looked healthier than the other young men
They also looked more nourished/fatter (we don’t associate fatter as healthy term, but think about malnourished children who are only skin and bones – for them to be fatter, means well nourished)
The guard saw the results and took away the choice food and wine from everyone and gave them all vegetables to eat and probably water to drink
The intellectual blessings all came from God!
All four men received knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning
Daniel also received the ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams
It didn’t matter what the king questioned them about
As it pertained to wisdom and understanding, these four young men were ten times more capable of providing a balanced answer, than all of the other magicians and enchanters in the kingdoms
That’s a pretty incredible blessing from the Lord for pursuing holiness and a firm commitment to Him
These four young men were given positions within the kingdom
They had completed their three years of training and were ready to serve the Lord by serving the king of Babylon
Daniel remained as an official in the Babylonian kingdom until the first year of King Cyrus
That was nearly the entire 70 years of the Babylonian captivity
Daniel served under four kings
Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonia Empire)
Belshazzar (Babylonia Empire)
Darius (Medo-Persia Empire)
Cyrus (Medo-Persia Empire)
What blessings have you received as a result of obeying God?
Are you feeling hopeless today? (trust God, because He is sovereign and in control)
Resolve to stand firm on your commitment to God choose holiness over worldliness
Young people – don’t wait to pursue holiness and a relationship with God (the blessing far outweigh the hardship)
Parents and adults – we are called to teach and model a life of holiness and a firm commitment to God
For Daniel and his three friends, holiness and a firm commitment to God didn’t stop with this one difficult situation.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose holiness over worldliness and experienced a supernatural fire walk and a promotion (Daniel 3:1-30)
Daniel chose to maintain his firm commitment to God and pursuit of holiness even when there was a 30-day prayer ban decreed by King Darius and experienced a supernatural slumber party with a den of lions (Daniel 6:1-28)
Are you ready to experience the supernatural blessings of God as you pursue holiness through a firm commitment to Him?
Ultimate Tag is a reality show where competitors must vault, dodge, tumble and dive their way through several different three dimensional courses with one person trying to tag the other person. It is billed as the fastest, craziest, most intense game ever.
Everyone has probably played the childhood game of tag at some point in their lives. I can remember playing tag on the playground growing up. I remember one time in second grade being chased in a game of tag and I tried so hard to get away that I slide under a fence. I ended up ripping my shirt and actually getting stuck under the fence. And I got tagged which upset me more than ripping my shirt did.
This morning we are going to be talking about ultimate tag as it pertains to a command given us by God himself. In ultimate tag the object is to pursue another person trying to tag them so they are “it.” In the command given to us by God we are to be holy as he is holy. We are to pursue holiness daily so that we can abide in his presence. This is the ultimate tag of life because we must be relentless in our pursuit of holiness. We can’t take a day off. It must be an every second of every day pursuit.
Holiness is not just about keeping the commands of God. We can’t earn our holiness as we can only be holy through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Without his sacrifice we could never be holy. But after our justification we can be sanctified through pursuing holiness which means the way that we show our holiness to the Lord is by keeping his commands and obeying his Word. This morning we will be studying Leviticus 19 and we will see parallels with the Ten Commandments given by God to the Israelites. If we follow the Ten Commandments our relationship with God and with others will be in good standing. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.
Before we begin our study this morning let’s dedicate this time to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, as we study your Word this morning help us to be attentive to you Spirit. Help us to hear your voice and what it is you want us to learn and share with those we come in contact with this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Before we look at Leviticus, I want to give you some background information. First, what is holiness? The Hebrew word for “holiness” is a word that highlights the realm of the sacred in contrast to everything common and profane. It refers to God and what belongs to him. The word holy is used more than 600 times in the Bible. It describes something or someone that is set apart for God. We will see in Leviticus 19 that God was calling his people into a relationship with himself and he wanted them to not only to survive the experience but to be nourished by it. But for that to happen, they needed to know the ground rules, they needed to come to him on his terms not their own.
What or who can be holy? Anything can be holy, time, space, objects, and people, all can become holy if they belong to God. The temple in Jerusalem was considered a holy space, and the objects used in worship were holy objects. The Sabbaths and feasts of Israel were considered holy days or seasons. And the Israelites were called God’s holy people because he had chosen them and they belonged to him. To be holy literally means to be set apart. The Israelites were to be set apart from the other nations that they were going to be living among in the Promised Land and today we are to be holy and set apart from the world that we live in, meaning those who are against God and don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. To be set apart means we are to live differently from the world. When the world looks at us they should see a difference between us and themselves. If they don’t then we are not living a holy life as a child of God.
As believers, we are literally set apart, made holy, because of our relationship with the one who died on a cross for our sins and brought us back into a right relationship with a holy God. How does Jesus do this? If you remember the story of King Midas, everything he touched turned to gold. Something like that happens when we come into relationship with Jesus. He is the one who entered the holy of holies in heaven to heal the rift that sin had created in our relationship with God. Jesus is the one who makes us holy, enabling us to stand in God’s presence and join the angels as they sing “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.” It starts with our justification, our accepting of Jesus as our Lord and Savior and it continues with our sanctification.
What is sanctification? According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, sanctification is “the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.” It is a continuing change worked by God in us, freeing us from our sinful habits and forming in us Christ-like affections, dispositions, and virtues. It doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, but it does mean that we strive to be more Christ-like every day and when we do sin we confess and repent. This is sanctification and it is a real transformation, not just the appearance of one.
So our holiness starts with the work of Jesus on the cross and continues as we pursue the holiness of God in our everyday lives, which brings us to our scripture this morning. It is found in Leviticus 19:1-2 but we will be talking about the entire chapter. I also want to reference Leviticus 20:7-8 and 26 in the scripture reading this morning. This is what God’s Word say from Leviticus 19:1-2: The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. And in Leviticus 20:7-8, 26: “‘Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. 8 Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the Lord, who makes you holy. You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.
We see the concept of holiness played out in these verses. First, we are to be holy because God is holy. Second, God is the one who makes us holy. Third, God has set us apart from the nations to be his own. And fourth, to be holy we need to keep God’s decrees by following and obeying them. The rest of those two chapters are God-given guidelines on what it practically meant for the Israelites to be holy. If they obeyed these decrees they would be different from the nations around them and would be in a close relationship with God. Another benefit from obeying these commands was that not only would they be in a close relationship with God but they would be in close relationships with each other. That reminds us of our big idea that our holiness can be seen in our relationship with God and others.
Leviticus 19 has been called the Old Testament Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus was laying out for His disciples His rules for those who would be subjects of His kingdom. Those whom Christ saves are to display a life that is different from the kingdom from which they have been delivered. They are different because they are pursuing holiness and striving to be holy as God is holy. The same was true for God’s covenant people. If they were pursuing holy living their lives would demonstrate that they were different from the nations living around them.
The important thing for us to remember is that holiness is definable, it is practical, and it is even measureable. But even further than that, when it comes to holiness, those who have been redeemed by the grace of God are responsible. It is our responsibility to pursue the practice of holiness in our lives. And because of God’s saving grace, we have the power to do so. If we pursue holiness, in the power of Christ, then we will find ourselves experiencing the abundant life that Jesus talked about. The pursuit of holiness is also a profitable pursuit. We will see all of this in Leviticus 19.
Our first point is the Principles of Holiness. The first principle is that holiness is a commanded responsibility. In vs. 1-2, God commanded his chosen people to be holy as he was holy. It was not merely a good suggestion but rather a covenant obligation. This is why we have been saved. We are not to be corrupted by the world around us but are to live in loyalty and obedience to the Lord who has saved us. We are to be like Him. Harris says, “The character of God is behind all his commandments. Among the sensual and foolish deities of antiquity, no god could ground all moral duty in his divine character; only the God of Israel could.” Jonathan Edwards once said that if we do not love God for His holiness then it is doubtful that we love Him at all. Think about it: we will know that we love Him for His holiness if we answer His command to pursue holiness. Every week in our worship-based prayer, we seek the face of God as we praise him for his many attributes such as his holiness, but you know what, they are empty words if we don’t answer his command to pursue holiness. It works the same way for all his attributes. If we say we love God but don’t love others our words are meaningless. If we praise him for his graciousness and mercifulness towards us but we are not gracious and merciful towards others our praise is meaningless.
Our second principle is that holiness is a countercultural responsibility. God was concerned that the people whom He had redeemed not be corrupted by the practices of the people whom they would soon encounter. They were to be holy and therefore their lifestyle was to be characterized by holiness. God is different from His creation and as believers we are called to model him. Ephesians 5:1-2 says, Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Harrison says, “God’s holiness is to be taken as a model for individual and community life.” Currid defines holiness as “the imitation of God.” Jesus taught this principle when He said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” in Matthew 5:48. When God called His people to holiness, He was calling them to a lifestyle and an existence that was to be different to those around them. He is calling us to the same thing today.
Christians and non-Christians are similar in many ways. Rarely can you look at someone and just from the outside tell whether they are a Christian or not. The difference is related to someone’s desires, beliefs, values and aspirations. We should be different from the culture we live in and honestly we should unapologetically be offending the culture around us. There should be a difference in our behavior that is noticeable to them. We will examine examples of that behavior in the rest of chapter 19.
Our third principle is that holiness is a communal responsibility. God’s command to be holy as he is holy, was given in the context of community. Moses was commanded by God to command the entire assembly to holiness. No one was exempt from holy living, not even the stranger or the foreigner in the assembly. This means that everyone here in our congregation of Idaville Church has a part to play in being holy and the responsibility of ensuring that holiness is part of their everyday lives.
It is essential that I pursue holiness, but it is also essential that we all pursue holiness so that together we are holy. This requires an awareness of accountability. Moses gave these commands from God to the people publicly so that they were without excuse. There was a built-in accountability factor that no one could easily escape. It is the same for you and I. We sit here and hear Pastor Stuart preaching and teaching us directly from God’ Word every Sunday. We go to Sunday school and hear teachers teaching from Word of God. We read God’s Word for ourselves at home. We are now held accountable by God but also by each other to obey what God’s Word says. That accountability is part of pursuing holiness.
Our fourth principle is that holiness is a comprehensive responsibility. In Leviticus 19:3-18, Ross says, God gave the Israelites a “rapid, panoramic tour” of what it meant to be holy. The laws he gave covered every major sphere of daily life. They started in the home, and then with the sanctuary and then with society at large. Also, each of the Ten Commandments seem to be alluded to here. We are called to be holy and obedient in every area of our lives. Sometimes we are guilty of pursuing holiness in one aspect of our lives but not worrying about holiness in another. This may be played out in loving God but not being willing to love others as ourselves. We can’t love God if we don’t love others like us who are made in his image.
That brings us to our first next step which is to obey God’s command to be holy, different from the world we live in, individually and as a church community, in every part of our daily lives.
Our second point this morning is the practice of holiness. The pursuit of holiness is a practical pursuit. There are things that we are to do as well as things that we are to avoid. First, holiness is a concrete responsibility. There is a very definite behavior that God expects of those who claim Him as their Father and there should be concrete differences in our living compared to the world around us. And, this behavior is not beyond our reach; it is attainable. Tidball says, “Holy living involved goals that were manageable, by God’s grace, rather than goals that were so far out of reach that people were condemned to perpetual failure.” James 1:27 says, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” The pursuit of holiness is practical. It can be demonstrated, measured and attained.
In chapter 19, verses 3-18, we see what was required in the daily pursuit of holiness. The first thing that was required was to love God, and this was shown practically in several ways. First, we are to respect our parents because God has put them in authority over us. Two, we are to remember the Sabbath. Holiness begins in the home and remembering the Sabbath benefits our family life. When we have a respect for God we will have a respect for those he puts in authority over us such as our parents. And three, we are not to have any other gods before us or worship any idols. It is interesting how these are related. If you don’t remember the Sabbath and the worship of God then it won’t be long til you start to worship idols such as money, possessions, people, etc. Holiness is demonstrated in whom we worship. We were created for worship. Everyone worships; the only question is whom and how we worship.
David Foster Wallace delivered a commencement address at Kenyon College back in 2005. He makes no profession to faith in Jesus Christ, but at one point in his address he made the following statement: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what we worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship . . . is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” Anything you worship other than the God of the Bible—money, fame, sex, etc. will eventually eat you alive. If we do not want to be eaten alive by that which they worship, we must teach and model a remembrance of the Sabbath and a respect for God and parents. God is the only one worthy of our worship. Everything else is worthless.
Lastly, to love God was shown practically by obeying the rules. This is seen in Leviticus 19:5-10. The first rule had to do with the peace offering. The peace offering was the culmination of all of the sacrificial rituals. It was a meal in which God shared with His people. It celebrated reconciliation with God. It was a statement expressing fellowship and oneness with Him. The second rule had to do with gleaning which was a God-prescribed means for caring for the poor among His people. When a landowner harvested his field he was not to reap in the corners of his fields or to harvest every grape and olive. He was to leave some for the poor to harvest. It was a means of feeding the poor while at the same time guarding their dignity. In other words, they could find food but they had to labor for it themselves.
What was important about these two rules being together? The peace offering was also a thank offering, in which the worshipper would bring a sacrifice to express gratitude to God for His goodness in giving them a harvest. And this thankfulness was to spill over into their lives as they went back home to their fields. They were in community together and this was a practical way to have compassion for others just as God had compassion on them.
The second thing that was required in the daily pursuit of holiness was love for their neighbor and these practical things are found in Leviticus 19:11-18. The first is honesty. If oneness, fellowship and unity were to be maintained in the community, there must be integrity among the people. To deceive others is to dishonour God and to destroy communal holiness. We should expect and even demand honesty from those who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ and call themselves Christians. Second, we are not to take advantage of others. We are not to cheat our neighbor or withhold from someone what they have earned. We are not to take advantage of the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised. The Israelites were to be compassionate and sympathetic towards those who were in such a predicament. They were not to take advantage of those who did not know or could not perceive what was happening to them. He mentions the blind and the deaf. God can see and hear how we treat others even if they can’t. Third, we are to practice justice towards others. God’s people are to be characterized by justice, truthfulness and fairness. We are not supposed to stab people in the back. Lastly, a practical way to love our neighbor is to be constructive not destructive. Verses 17-18 means that we are to be passionately concerned for the spiritual welfare of others. We are to love our fellow believers so much that we will do what is necessary to help them live differently and to be holy. We don’t love others when we refuse to hold them accountable to personal holiness, or hold a grudge against them instead of reconciling and restoring fellowship with them.
Why is holiness important especially in our relationship to God and with others? Because if we obey these concrete laws of holiness commanded by God then good will be the result. Our homes will be blessed, our church will be blessed and the overflow is that our society will be blessed. Imagine what our world would look like if we obeyed the command in Leviticus 19:17-18 to love and not hate each other. How different our communities would be if we lived by this simple yet demanding rule.
That brings us to our second next step this morning which is to love God and love my neighbors so that our homes, our church, and our society will be blessed.
I want to say one last thing about this holiness. In Matthew 5:48, Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Does that scare you? Which one of us can be perfect? Only Jesus was perfect and perfectly lived out these laws we see in Leviticus 19. The good news is we have the power as Christians to be perfect, to be holy. It is because we are Christians, not in name but in nature, that we have the power to pursue holiness. We need to be born again as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3. Apart from being born again, all our attempts to love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God will be nothing but self-righteousness. Of course, we can never be perfect even though we are called to be perfect. But the key is when we aren’t perfect and we do sin, we confess our sin and repent from it and we turn to Christ alone for forgiveness and for the ability to seek his righteousness and to live a holy life. Christ through his sacrifice gives us the power to daily pursue holiness and live holy, obedient lives.
In conclusion, I want to introduce the 2021 Spiritual Life Journal to you. Our theme for 2021, if you haven’t figured it out is Holiness. In 2020, our theme was Unity, and hopefully you all feel as I do that even though 2020 was a difficult year, we come into 2021, more unified than in the past, even though we spent a little over three months apart and are spending some time apart even now from our friends here at Idaville Church. But as Pastor Stuart and I were talking about 2021, we felt that a next logical step was a pursuit of holiness. I have been praying that we as a congregation pursue holiness and I have prayed that it would start with me. We spent 2020 working on our relationships with each other and now in 2021 we want to spend time on our relationship with God and in growing closer and staying close to him.
When you look through the Spiritual Life Journal you will see the same main headings with holiness in place of unity, such as, Holiness in Prayer, Holiness in the Word, Holiness in Service, Holiness in Giving, Holiness in Relationships, Holiness in the Gospel and Holiness in Worship. There are commitments that can be made for each section and Bible verses for each section as well. There is also a daily Bible reading plan and monthly memory verses that we as a congregation will recite together on Sunday mornings. I want to challenge everyone to sign the commitments this year that are in the Journal and I want to challenge everyone to do the daily Bible reading plan and to memorize the monthly memory verses. If we all make this commitment to God and to each other and hold each other accountable we will attain a goal of holiness this year not only personally but as a community of faith as well. That brings us to our last next step which is to make a commitment to holiness in prayer, in the Word, in service, in giving, in my relationships, in the Gospel and in worship and to daily Bible reading and memorization.
As Gene and Roxey come to lead us in our final song, let’s pray: Holy God, I pray that we who call Idaville Church home would pursue holiness every day and I pray that it would start with me. Help us to hold each other accountable and to strive to be better in our relationships with you and with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Pursuit Of Holiness
(1 John 3:1-10)
“The United States Treasury Department has a special group of men whose job it is to track down counterfeiters. Naturally, these men need to know a counterfeit bill when they see it.
How do they learn to identify fake bills?
Oddly enough, they are not trained by spending hours examining counterfeit money. Rather, they study the real thing. They become so familiar with authentic bills that they can spot a counterfeit by looking at it or, often, simply feeling it.”
[Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, New Testament, Volume 2, 503].
“The United States Treasury uses a number of sophisticated techniques to keep counterfeiters from reproducing the look of paper currency. The exact makeup of paper bills is a secret, but it is widely known that the paper is made of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, with red and blue flecks of silk. In addition to the high quality of the paper, United States currency also has magnetic ink, an almost invisible ink on the left side of larger bills, and an engraved ‘United State of America’ around the face of the larger bills. The final feature that is impossible for anyone to replicate is that the paper is run through machines with high-pressure rollers that create a uniform thickness. Without these machines, this feature cannot be duplicated.
These sophisticated measures do not keep counterfeiters from trying, nevertheless, because they can get so close that many people cannot tell the difference. Deceit of course, is the whole point of counterfeiting. Someone who does not have the real thing wants someone else to believe he has. We must be aware, alert, on guard against deceit, in regard to money as well as other things in life.”
[Walls & Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary, I & II Peter, I, II, & III John, Jude, 187].
Right out of college, I worked as a bank teller
After being hired, I had to go through several days of training, which included learning what real currency looked like
They trained us to identify the attributes and characteristics of real money before they ever tested us to see if we could identify counterfeit money
After working with money every day for months, I was able to tell when paper money didn’t feel right
One thing I also learned while working at the bank was that Canadian coins sounded different when dropped on the counter top or floor than American coins
I could tell when someone gave me a Canadian coin mixed in American coins without looking at it because of the sound that it made when dropped on the counter
Counterfeit Detector Pens
How many of us have every used one of those counterfeit detector pens?
I did when I worked as a cashier at Walmart, many years ago
UV Counterfeit Detectors
Now they have UV counterfeit detectors
These detectors can be used for U.S. dollars and many other currencies
It can also be used to check credit cards, ID’s and passports
Carob instead of chocolate
How many of you know what carob is?
It’s basically a chocolate substitute made from a carob pod instead of cocoa pod
Carob is less bitter and has a roasted, naturally sweet flavor
Carob is caffeine-free and high in fiber
I remember the first time my Mom made carob brownies (I knew something was different, but I didn’t know what)
How many of us are able to tell when something has been substituted in our favorite foods? (we know what the original ingredient tastes like, so we know something’s different)
John was writing to reassure Christians, in several Gentile churches, to hold on to their faith and not be led astray by antichrists that had joined, not only the Ephesian church, but other churches as well. They were spiritual counterfeiters. In 1 John 3, “God reveals the characteristics of the bad currency and the good, so that his church can grasp the good” [Walls & Anders, 187]. John compares the characteristics of those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil. John wants us to understand that . . .
BIG IDEA – Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
A faith that’s real is characterized by the pursuit of holiness
Warren Wiersbe says that “John gives three reasons for a holy life” [Wiersbe, 504]. Those are going to be our three points this morning.
GOD (1 John 3:1-10)
God the Father loves us (vv. 1-3)
What we are (v. 1)
We are loved
The NIV doesn’t translate the first Greek word in chapter 3, which is ὁράω (horaō) and means “behold” or “see” (most other translations have one or the other)
The Greek for “how great” means, “what kind/sort of or quality”
Wiersbe translates it this way, “Behold, what peculiar, out-of-this-world kind of love the Father has bestowed on us.” [Wiersbe, 504]
It’s an unconditional, never ending kind of love
Jeremiah 31:3, The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”
Romans 5:8, But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That’s unconditional love at its best
While we don’t want anything to do with God, He still loves us – no matter what!
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is love!
That is one of God’s many attributes
His attributes are qualities about Him that we can hold on to and have confidence in
No matter how bad you think your sins are, God still loves you – unconditionally
His love is so great that He is willing to adopt you into His forever family
When is the last time you’ve experienced that kind of love?
I would venture to say, that most of us have never experienced that kind or quality of love
We’ve experienced conditional love a lot
Perhaps children who have been adopted understand God’s unconditional love better than children who grew up in a biological family
God’s love for us is of such incredible quality that He calls us His children
We are children of God
NOTE: most manuscripts do not have “and that is what we are!”
John tells us in his Gospel how we become children of God
John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
This isn’t a natural, biological birth that John is talking about
It’s a supernatural adoption that takes place by believing in Jesus name and receiving Him into our lives
We have to repent (turn from our sins) and begin to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior
Repentance is more than saying a prayer, it’s a lifestyle change that affects every area of our life
Have you received Jesus into your life and believed in His name?
Have you turned from your sins and pursued a relationship with Jesus?
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Receive Jesus and believe in His name, so I can become a child of God.
When this transformation truly takes place in our lives, the world will not understand it
We are unknown by the world
“[The world] Does not understand our principles; the reasons of our conduct; the sources of our comforts and joys.” [Barnes, Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), paragraph 32512.]
The world has a hard time understanding how we can have a smile on our face and be optimistic when everything seems to be falling down around us
The hope that we have comes from the Lord
We understand that this world is not the end, that the difficulties we are currently experiencing are only temporary, and the glory we will experience will far exceed the hardships we are going through
We are in great company
John 15:18, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”
The world won’t understand our transformation, because they don’t know the Lord
John 1:10, He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.
The world doesn’t know Jesus, because they have rejected Him
Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
We know from verse 1 what we are, but verse 2 tells us what we will be
What we will be (v. 2)
Now we are children of God
The moment that we receive Jesus into our lives and believe in Him, is when we become children of God
It’s not something that happens later on
“The present possession of believers requires constant reaffirmation because of what daily life present them with, as seen in Calvin’s (1988: 266) memorable words: ‘Physically, we are dust and a shadow, and death is always before our eyes. We are exposed to a thousand miseries and our souls to innumerable evils, so that we always find a hell within us. The more necessary is it that our sense should be withdrawn from the view of present things, lest the miseries . . . should shake our trust in that happiness which as yet is hidden.’” [Yarbrough, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 1-3 John, 177]
What John is addressing here is the tension between the already and not yet that we see throughout Scripture
Already – Romans 8:15, For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship [adoption]. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
Not yet – Romans 8:23, Not only so, be we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
[show figure B] [https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/already-not-yet]
What we will be has not yet been made known
John tells us a little about what we will be when he says that when Jesus appears, we will be like Him
Scripture helps us understand what Jesus is like now, so we know what we will be like
Colossians 3:4, When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
2 Corinthians 3:18, And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 4:6, For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
Philippians 3:20-21, But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
We know what we are and what we will be, which should affect what we should be
What we should be (v. 3)
Because we know that Jesus is returning again, we should strive for holiness (to keep our lives clean)
Paul expresses it this way to the Corinthian believers, Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God (2 Corinthians 7:1)
James expresses it as standing firm (James 5:8)
Peter tells us to be self-controlled (1 Peter 1:13)
Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
Are you striving for holiness, purity, and self-control?
Are you struggling with habitual sin, right now?
Do you have someone to help hold you accountable?
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Strive for holiness as I wait, with hope, for Jesus to return.
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!
John tells us that our model, our guide, our standard of holiness is Jesus
“In every case Painter’s observation (2002: 228) holds true: ‘The use of this word [καθώς] suggests that Jesus is the source and mode of the believer’s righteousness.’” [Yarbrough, 179]
“A group of teenagers were enjoying a party, and someone suggested that they go to a certain restaurant for a good time. ‘I’d rather you took me home,’ Jan said to her date. ‘My parents don’t approve of that place.’ ‘Afraid your father will hurt you?’ one of the girls asked sarcastically. ‘No,’ Jan replied, ‘I’m not afraid my father will hurt me, but I am afraid I might hurt him.’ She understood the principle that a true child of God, who has experienced the love of God, has no desire to sin against that love.” [Wiersbe, 504-5]
God’s love for us is a great reason to live a holy life!
John gives us a second reason in verse 4-8
God the Son died for us (vv. 4-8)
In these verses we see that there were two reasons why Jesus died for us
To take away our sins (vv. 4-6)
John 1:29, The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
I like the NASB 1995 translation of verse 4, Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness
The tense (present), voice (active), and mood (participle) of the Greek word for “practices” helps us understand that it is a habit of doing sin and not occasionally sinning [Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2001), paragraph 7795]
Definitions of sin in the Bible
Lawlessness – breaking God’s laws (1 John 3:4)
Anything not from faith (Romans 14:23b, everything that does not come from faith is sin)
Thought of foolishness (Proverbs 24:9a, the schemes of folly are sin . . .)
Knowing to do good, but not doing it (James 4:17, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins)
All unrighteousness (1 John 5:17a, All wrongdoing is sin . . .)
“Sin is basically a matter of the will. For us to assert our will against God’s will is rebellion, and rebellion is the root of sin.” [Wiersbe, 505]
We can fake holiness and purity on the outside, so that other people think we’re a good person
We can’t fake holiness and purity on the inside, and God is able to see both the inside and the outside – He knows the attitude of our hearts
“Little Judy was riding in the care with her father. She decided to stand up in the front seat. Her father commanded her to sit down and put on the seat belt, but she declined. He told her a second time, and again she refused. ‘If you don’t sit down immediately, I’ll pull over to the side of the road and spank you!’ Dad finally said, and at this the little girl obeyed. But in a few minutes she said quietly, ‘Daddy, I’m still standing up inside.’” [Wiersbe, 505]
We’re all born with a rebellious attitude toward God
Isaiah 53:6a, We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; . . .
Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
We know that all human beings are sinners, but God had a plan to deal with our sin
Jesus came to take away our sins
Isaiah 53:6b, . . . and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
1 Peter 3:18, For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 5:21, God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
He is the only One who can take away our sins, because He is perfect, without sin
PRINCIPLE #2 – Jesus is pure (holy)!
He lived a sinless life while on earth
That’s why He was able to take away our sins when He died on the cross – He fulfilled God’s standard and required payment for sin
Real faith vs. counterfeit faith
John makes it clear that a genuine, real faith and relationship with Jesus Christ means that we will not keep on practicing habitual sin
To live in Jesus means to remain in Him, to abide in Him
John 15:5-6, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.
PRINCIPLE #3 – God completely transforms those who live/abide in Jesus Christ.
The opposite is also true, that if we continue to practice habitual sin we have a counterfeit faith and we have neither seen or known Jesus
Jesus not only died to take away our sins, but to destroy the works of the devil
To destroy the works of the devil (vv. 7-8)
John knew that there were antichrists in the various churches trying to deceive and lead followers of Jesus Christ astray
Actions speak louder than words
Doing what is right
The same Greek word is used here as in verse 4 and means practices
Again, it means a habit of doing what is right
1 John 3:7, Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous (NASB 1995).
Doing what is sinful
1 John 3:8a, the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning (NASB 1995).
Those who follow the devil are the ones who habitually practice sin
Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
Destruction of the devil’s work
When we think of the word “destroy” we usually think of something being completely taken away (annihilated), but we know that the devil is still active in our world today
So, what is John saying here about the purpose or reason why Jesus appeared
The Greek word can mean, “to loosen, release; melt” or “to loosen, undo, dissolve, anything bound, tied, or compacted together.”
We are tied up and bound by sin
“Destroy, here, means ‘to render inoperative, to rob of power.’” [Wiersbe, 506]
Hebrews 2:14-15, Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil – and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
2 Timothy 1:10, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Acts 10:38, how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.
Jesus won over sin and death when He died on the cross, was buried, and came alive again the third day
I don’t know about you, but I’m grateful for all that Jesus has done for me
Because Jesus died for us, we should pursue holiness as His followers
John gives us one more reason to live a holy life
God the Holy Spirit lives in us (vv. 9-10)
“A person who can enjoy deliberate sin and who does not feel convicted or experience God’s chastening had better examine himself to see whether or not he is really born of God.” [Wiersbe, 506]
God’s seed remains in us (v. 9)
Chiastic structure [Kruse, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letters of John, 125]
a No one who is born of God
b will continue to sin,
c because God’s seed remains in him;
b’ he cannot sin,
a’ because he has been born of God.
Born of God
We already talked about this in verse 1
We are children of God
Everyone who receives Jesus and believes in His name is given the right to become a child of God – born of God (John 1:12-13)
Will continue to sin and cannot sin
What the NIV translates as “continue to sin,” the NASB translates as “practices sin”
The same Greek word is used here as in verses 4, 7, & 8
This is not talking about sinless perfection
It is talking about willful, habitual sin – being characterized as a sinner
As children of God we will not continue to sin or cannot sin, because God disciplines His children
Hebrews 12:4-6, In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punished everyone he accepts as a son.”
In addition, we will not continue to practice sin, because we have a new nature – God’s nature living in us
When we become a child of God several incredible transformations take place [Wiersbe, 506]
Justification – a new standing before God (He sees us a righteous, through the blood of Jesus Christ)
Sanctification – a new position before God (this is the ongoing, continual growth to become more like Jesus)
Regeneration – a new nature (we have the Holy Spirit that lives within us to help us say “no” to sin and “yes” to righteousness)
2 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
“Based on his readers’ divine parentage, John is confident that God’s true children, like those of the devil, ultimately cannot conceal their identity. The nature of their inner identity will be ‘evident’ (φανερά, phanera) from their actions.” [Yarbrough, 196]
Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
In this final verse, John addresses the two families that humanity can be a part of
Who’s your Father?
Children of the devil
John states it in the negative as it pertains to children of the devil
Anyone who does not practice righteousness (make a habit of doing what is right)
Anyone who does not love his brother
Children of God
The positive is also true as it pertains to children of God
Anyone who practices righteousness
Anyone who loves his brother
People will know that we are children of God when we love God and others
“Augustine summarizes John’s counsel this way: ‘Love, and sin is undone’ (Bray 2000: 200).” [Yarbrough, 197]
Questions to contemplate [Wiersbe, 509]
“Do I have the divine nature within me or am I merely pretending to be a Christian?”
“Do I cultivate this divine nature by daily Bible reading and prayer?”
“Has any unconfessed sin defiled my inner man? Am I willing to confess and forsake it?”
“Do I allow my old nature to control my thoughts and desires, or does the divine nature rule me?”
“When temptation comes, do I ‘play with it’ or do I flee from it? Do I immediately yield to the divine nature within me?”
Our actions show whether our faith is real or counterfeit.
As a body of believers here at Idaville Church, we should be characterized as people who practice righteousness
Our community, neighbors, coworkers, and family members should be able to tell that we are children of God
“You sum up the whole of New Testament teaching in a single phrase, if you speak of it as a revelation of the Fatherhood of the holy Creator. In the same way, you sum up the whole of New Testament religion if you describe it as the knowledge of God as one's holy Father.
If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.”
J. I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 182; submitted by Aaron Goerner, Utica, New York.