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.