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Aug 28, 2016

The Way of Holiness

Passage: Isaiah 35:3-10

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Living in God's Grip of Holiness

Category: Christian Walk

Keywords: being holy, happiness, holiness, sanctification, worship

Summary:

This message introduces the issue of HOW we can build and develop holiness. According to Scripture, genuine worship is one of God's means whereby we walk in the way of holiness.

Detail:

The Way of Holiness

August 28, 2016

REVIEW:

If you were with us last week, you will hopefully recall that we are focusing for a few weeks here on one of God’s very unique attribute—holiness.  We tried to nail down a working definition of what God’s holiness means.  Let me try to recap WHAT holiness is.

  • Negatively, holiness is separation from all that is evil…any form of sin. (Obviously, then, we need God’s determination of what is sin in order to even know what we should be separated from in order to be holy.)
  • Positively, holiness is absolute purity of thought, motive, character, emotion and action. It is holiness that allows us to be utterly confident that God’s justice, jealousy, knowledge, sovereignty, love, wisdom, patience—virtually every attribute of His character—is in perfect balance and relationship with every other attribute in such a way that everything God is and does is perfect in every way (morally, relationally, eternally, etc.). 

Of course, we as fallen, finite humans may occasionally or even often find ourselves questioning and doubting God’s holiness when we slam into some of the more troubling and painful results of humanity’s sin and even the creation’s lack of holiness.  But our doubts don’t change God’s holy character. 

So let’s try to make a definition of holiness that combines these two sides of the same coin of God’s holiness.  Holiness is God’s complete and continual separation from evil and involvement in absolute good.

            Notice a couple more important things about holiness.

  • Holiness is all about God. By that I mean that we cannot know what holiness is much less how to make it part of our character apart from knowing God. That is true of any what we call “communicable attribute” of God—any attribute that we might be able to personally share in or experience as humans such as love, patience, kindness, gentleness, grace, etc.
  • Holiness is all about every facet of life and character. It’s a package deal.  You can’t say, “Wow, that woman is really holy in her level of honesty but she has some serious issues when it comes to her anger and her covetousness.”  While we may approach God’s character better in some areas of our lives than others, holiness is about continual godliness, continual separation from sin and continual involvement in what is absolutely good.  Holiness will touch every area of our being and doing.  Holiness will transform every corner of our character and behavior.  Holiness is not selective or partial.  It is all-consuming in both its depth and breadth of impact. 

So, holiness is God’s complete and continual separation from evil and involvement in absolute good.

If we were then to talk about holiness in human beings, holiness is our engagement in God’s complete and continual separation from evil and involvement in good. So, as you can see, there is no possibility of human holiness apart from a miracle of salvation by God and a vital, ongoing sanctifying relationship with God.  And certainly holiness in human beings also has a lot to do with both our separation from what is evil and our engagement in what is good

To a culture that has lost even the ability to agree on what is “right” and what is “wrong,” this whole trait of holiness sounds downright Martian in its makeup if not entirely undesirable.

ILL: It’s a lot like Christian MARRIAGE.  Marriage is one of those radically reorienting shifts in life that, if you make it well, it rewards you wonderfully.  But if you just say “I DO” but don’t rearrange a whole lot of how you “do” life, you’re in for trouble.  This is one reason why courtship is so important:  it gives you time to change—the way you relate to all other members of the opposite sex, your “dating” pattern, where you now invest the vast majority of your time and relational energy, what you do with your finances, how you make decisions, etc.  Marriage will impact EVERY area of life if you do marriage God’s way.

Which brings us again to what we talked about last week in regard to the “happiness of holiness.”  All of us naturally gravitate to things that make us happy.  So WHY should we want holiness when it seems to call us to lots of things that may be downright difficult? 

The ANSWER to that is two-fold:

  • God is a happy God. In fact, He is the most supremely happy being in existence.  Since God is the perfection of all things good, it makes sense that God is the perfection of happiness as well. 
  • Since we’re created in God’s image, we’re designed to be happy people. But that design can only be fulfilled when we are in right relationship with God.  The best life possible for us is when we are rightly related to God and enjoying as much of Him as possible as well as as much of our true new nature in Him as possible. 
  • If those two statements are true, then God’s children should also be the happiest people on earth! Disneyland may be “the happiest place on earth,” but Christ-followers should definitely be the happiest PEOPLE on earth!

This is precisely what we find happening with the early church.  When the disciples deserted Jesus at his trial, when Peter denied Him three times that night, when they didn’t stake their future on His promises of resurrection, they were miserable.

But, throw them in prison, rip the skin on their backs open with brutal floggings, clap them in chains after the resurrection and indwelling work of the Holy Spirit, and what do you get? 

  • In Acts 4, persecution, jail time and threats of bodily harm to Christ-followers only moves the whole church to praying and be filled with the Holy Spirit so they are out sharing their faith in Christ despite the threats.
  • In Acts 5, take their leaders, the Apostles, put them in prison, flog them and order them not to speak of Jesus and they go off rejoicing because they had been counted worthy off suffering disgrace for the Name” (Jesus) (vs. 41).
  • In Acts 12, kill James, the brother of John, by evil king Herod and threaten to do the same to Peter and the church goes to God in prayer and gets a miraculous release of Peter by angels.
  • In Acts 16, Paul and Silas, having been arrested and again flogged in the foreign town of Philippi, go to praying and singing so loud that all the prisoners have to listen to their musical faith presentation at midnight.

Consistently, people redeemed by the blood of Jesus, sanctified by the work of Christ, saved by simple faith in Jesus, end up going after God in prayer and being so satisfied and happy in Christ despite sufferings that they sing and shout and rejoice in God.  There is a joy abiding in the holy presence of God that outweighs the pain of living even in an ease-filled as well as persecution-filled life.  Living under the shadow of the Almighty brings more happiness than living in the darkness of rebellion to God any day. 

            This is WHY God in both the Old and New Testaments calls His people to holiness.  Without godly holiness there will not be godly happiness…and God loves happy children.  Don’t you?J God doesn’t raise sour-patch kids!  He will train us to be happy, holy children in this world as well as eternity.

            That’s why God commands us who belong to Him to “be holy” in both the Old and New Testament. 

  • Leviticus 11:44, 45 (2 times)—God commands His people, “I am theLord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (3 more times in 19:2; 20:7, 26)
  • I Peter 1:15, 16—But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16) for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

APP:  This must naturally lead all of us here today who say we are followers of Jesus Christ to ask, “So how is my happiness factor in life right now?”  My happiness factor in life is often directly related to my holiness factor in life.

ILL:  My most miserable period of life was probably my least sanctified/holy period of life—our 1st term on the mission field.

I don’t mean to say that we will always be bubbling over with joy every moment of every day.  Paul admitted that he was “afflicted,” “perplexed,” “persecuted” and “struck down.”  But, in the same breath, he said he wasn’t “crushed,” “driven to despair,” “forsaken” or “destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8, 9).  And his N.T. epistle which most speaks of joy is Philippians which was written when he was in prison!

If our “joy-factor” in life is low, perhaps something is amiss with our holiness experience.  Holiness and happiness go together for the child of God. So when we are unhappy, I think it is appropriate to bring the holiness issue before our Father, asking questions like…

  • Father, why is my MIND not experiencing truth in holiness that leads to happiness? Where am I believing lies and not abiding in the truth of holiness?
  • Father, how are my expectations frustrating your work of happy holiness in my life and making me unhappy?
  • Father, how is my handling of pain and suffering not in line with your holy will for my pain and suffering?
  • Father, what is the uneasiness or boredom or anxiety of my life calling me to do about getting more in touch and in tune with your holiness?

[Time of listening to God.]

Now, over the last 10 minutes of this message, I would like to start us down the path of holiness.  HOW do we experience holiness? 

To do that, turn to Isaiah 35:3ff.  This was a prophecy given to Isaiah some 7 centuries before Christ.  God is in the process of disciplining His very rebellious people, Judah, by taking them captive by the Babylonians and Assyrians.  In the midst of some extremely sobering prophecies about judgment, God liberally sprinkles prophecies of hope for the people of God.  He will come and rescue them.  He will come and deliver them.  This passage is one of the most magnificent and clear references to Jesus Christ 700 years before He came.  See if you don’t agree. 

Strengthen the feeble hands,
    steady the knees that give way;
say to those with fearful hearts,
    “Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
    he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
    he will come to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
    and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Then will the lame leap like a deer,
    and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
    and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
    the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
    grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

And a highway will be there;
    it will be called the Way of Holiness;
    it will be for those who walk on that Way.
The unclean will not journey on it;
    wicked fools will not go about on it.
No lion will be there,
    nor any ravenous beast;
    they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,
10     and those the Lord has rescued will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
    everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
    and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Now I know that this “Way of Holiness” is, in this prophecy, a physical thoroughfare.  Something about this prophecy is still future probably.  That’s the nature of biblical prophecy:  it can have multiple fulfillments or progressive fulfillment.  Not every part of every prophecy has to happen in the same epoch of history.

            But most of this prophecy has already happened.  And in a very real sort of way, there is a “Way of Holiness” that every one of God’s children, every believer in Jesus Christ, is called to walk.  As this passage affirms, it is a way of “singingjoy…and gladness.”  Holiness just IS that way! 

            So the question I want us to pursue for the next couple of weeks is, “HOW do we learn to walk in holiness?”  How does this “Way of Holiness,” this lifestyle of holiness, happen for us who are not yet holy in our thoughts, desires, words and actions?  There are many parts and components to learning to walk “The Way of Holiness.”  But for today, I just want us to focus on ONE.

              Notice the last descriptive words of vs. 10singing, joy, gladness.  Something happens to our hearts in holiness when we engage in WORSHIP.  In a world of rebels who believe and propagate lies about God, worship is the means whereby God’s people proclaim the truth to heaven and earth, to sinners and saints, about God himself.  He IS good.  He IS righteous.  He IS holy.  He IS merciful.  He IS our Savior.  He IS…He IS…He IS…so much that the world never wants to admit or recognize.  But WE must!  Our holiness and happiness depend on it.

            The O.T. saints wrote about the “beauty” and “splendorof God’s holiness

  • Psalm 29:2-- Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
  • Psalm 96-- Oh sing to theLord a new song;
        sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
        tell of his salvation from day to day.
    Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
        bring an offering, and come into his courts!
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
        tremble before him, all the earth!
  • I Chron. 16:29—David’s Psalm of praise when he brought the Ark of the Covenant to the tent that David had pitched for it. “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
        bring an offering and come before him!
    Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness….”
     

ILL:  When you see a sunset that sets the sky ablaze as happened numerous evenings last week, what’s your first thought? You want to call others to come and enjoy it, no?

            When you walk out of the house on some crystal clear night and look at the stars or see the Northern Lights ablaze with beauty, what do you do?  Walk back in and say nothing to the family?  Let the kids keep watching TV?  Keep it all to yourself?  Impossible!  Exposure to stunning beauty makes any half-holy, half-good person spontaneously want to include others. 

            This is why the Psalmist called his singers and fellow-saints to worship God “in the splendor/beauty of holiness.” 

Worship has consistently been, for the people of God throughout all ages, one of the chief means of experiencing and accessing the holy presence of God. Worship has always been the appropriate response to God’s holy presence just as calling others to share in a beautiful nature scene has always been mankind’s appropriate response to beauty in nature.

            That’s why I think it is time we started challenging self-proclaimed “Christians” who say, “You know, I don’t need to be with God’s people to worship.”  That is only a half-truth.  I’m not denying that we can worship God “in spirit and in truth” anywhere, anytime.  But there is something unique, powerful and beautiful about worshiping God in visible and audible and sacrificial ways with the people of God. The Bible is full of far more references to God’s people coming together…separating from regular life and sinful people…in order to worship our great and holy God. 

            Holy people hunger for worship because they hunger for the holy God.

            Holy people delight in worship because they know that there is a joy and happiness in worship of God that they never get in all of life’s wonderful pursuits. 

            That’s why understanding true worship and engaging in it frequently and creatively is so important to our holiness and happiness.  Worshipping is one of life’s greatest ways to connect with our holy God.  Singing isn’t the only way to worship with others.  So is giving of time, money and yourselfFellowship can be a way to show God His value to you.  Breaking bread together in shared meals, taking the Lord’s Supper together, seeking God’s heart and face together in prayer whether at prayer meetings Wednesday night or Thursday morning or just getting together with a group of people you like to hang out with and seek God with together through prayer and Bible study is worship. Whatever puts us into the presence of our God will bring us into the Way of Holiness.   

APP

  • We must be continually seeking fresh and new ways to connect with God. The more we do that, the more we will get to know our holy God. 

SHARE:  Other ways you have experienced the holiness of God in WORSHIP?

  • We must engage in grateful worship regardless of the situation we find ourselves in if we are to experience the happiness of holiness in this life. Life doesn’t get easier the older you get.  But hopefully we will become holier as we walk with God through more and more of life and find happiness in Him worth more than any other relationship, any amount of money, any level of health, any degree of peace and security… anything! 
  • So let’s WORSHIP right now! (Time of shared affirmation of God’s greatness and holiness in PRAYER and SINGING.)

I Chronicles 16—

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
    make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
    tell of all his wondrous works!
10 Glory in his holy name;
    let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
11 Seek the Lord and his strength;
    seek his presence continually!
12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
    his miracles and the judgments he uttered,

23 Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
    Tell of his salvation from day to day.
24 Declare his glory among the nations,
    his marvelous works among all the peoples!
25 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
    and he is to be feared above all gods.
26 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
    but the Lord made the heavens.
27 Splendor and majesty are before him;
    strength and joy are in his place.

28 Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
29 Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
30     tremble before him, all the earth;
    yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
31 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
    and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
32 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
    let the field exult, and everything in it!
33 Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
    before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
34 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    for his steadfast love endures forever!