Date: May 6, 2018
Pastor Matthew Burt
Title: Discipline for Duty, Part 3
Text: Psalm 47, Matthew 28:16-20, 1 Peter 1, Hebrews 12:11-17
Wellspring Church, Springfield, Mass.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears
Discipline: There have been faithful people and these people have become a great cloud of witness who chant to us “God is faithful”. Then as we come to Chapter 12 the author says so then continue to run the race. Do not become discouraged with discipline. The reason that He has disciplined us is so that we might grow in the holiness in God.
Peace: He says therefore strive for peace with everyone and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
There are probably 3 groups of us in the building: a) Those of us who have read the entirety of God’s Word; b) Those of us who have never read the Bible through and c) Those who have sought and tried out of reading the Bible from beginning to end starting in Genesis.
We sail through Genesis fairly easily reading the fairly straightforward narratives of the creation of the World, the first human beings, the entrance of sin, the exponential growth of sin, the flood, the dispersion of the human race at Babel, the call of Abraham, the establishment of the Covenant and the history of his son, Isaac, the grandsons Jacob and Esau and the movement of Jacob and his twelve sons 70 persons in all to Egypt. Exodus, too, is clear and easy. We are given the ten plagues, the deliverance of the whole of the people of Israel, easily two million or more in number out of their slavery, the giving of the ten commandments on Mount Sinai and the instructions for assembling the tabernacle and building its furnishings.
But then we come to Leviticus with all its laws, instructions about priests, and a wide variety of sacrifices. Here we bog down with lists of the kinds of animals that can and cannot by eaten, instructions for washings, leprosy, and even the kinds of fabric that could be used in the clothes the Jews were to wear. Almost every bit of this seems so foreign and even irrelevant to us, so we put it down and move to something more interesting. If you were read carefully you would see that the first fifteen chapters are a manual for worship, priestly function and sacrifices that were to be offered so people might live in covenantal relationship with God. The remaining 11 chapters deal with ethic, morality and what we would call case law, that is how to apply the Ten Commandments to everyday situation. However, if were to soldier on and come to the end of the eleventh chapter you are given a very clear statement for the whole of this opaque book. For here you would discover two verses that serve as the unifying theme of the whole book.
In Chapter 11:44-45 – we read this
“For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground.
45 For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”
The theme of the book of Leviticus is summarized in this short terse phrase: “Be holy because I am holy”.It is the theme of everything that God has given to us. This is exactly what we see in Hebrews 12.
When you think about salvation and consider the why of your conversion and decision to follow Christ, what attracted you to the gospel? Why today are you living a Christian life? For most of us, the first attraction or reason to come to the gospel is for benefits – forgiveness, heaven, peace, holiness. The reason that we come to Christ ought to be that our very happiness depends on our holiness. So when we come to this verse today we come out of the purposes of God’s discipline for His people. One of the things he wants us to be is peacemakers and peacekeepers. Last week we saw that each of us has a duty to work at peace and be the initiator of that peace.
Now we come to the next part of the verse.
OUTLINE FOR TODAY:
Point 1: The duty of holiness
Point 2: Definition of holiness
Point 3: What’s the ability or enabling that we have for holiness?
Point 4: Next week we will work on understanding what striving means
Point 1: The duty of holiness
Is this important thing found in our life?
“If there is not, then, at least a yearning in our hearts to live a holy life pleasing to God, we need to seriously question whether our faith in Christ is genuine.” Jerry Bridges, Pursuit of Holiness,
A) Some scripture:
22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.
So between conversion and heaven is sanctification which is holiness.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
Holiness is an expectation of the sacrifice of the live we live before God.
1 Corinthians 6:19
19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,
The very reason of our conversion is our lives might be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful[a] in Christ Jesus
The saints – the holy ones.
The reason for the election is that we should be holy and blameless
13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
2 Timothy 1:9
9 who saved us and called us to[a] a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began
He called us to be holy people because of His own purpose and grace.
1 Peter 1:13
So holiness is an expectation. It is a reality and a duty
2 Peter 3:11
11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness
So throughout the entirety of the New Testament we see there is a duty of holiness. The duty of holiness is because holiness is part of the purpose of the gospel. We have been saved for the purpose of holiness.
B) What do we mean by this?
Go back to creation in Genesis. There are two places where God speaks about the creation of man and woman. In His image, He created them. That doesn’t mean we are “little gods” but rather we are image bearers. This means that every one of us has been created to reflect back to God and the people around us the character and person of the God who created us. We exist as image bearers in order that when God sees us and others see us they see a reflection of the perfection of God. So the very purpose of our creation was that we would reflect God to God. This forces us to ask a question. When people look at me – what do they see? What do they see reflected out of our lives? Sadly they see anger, bitterness, discontent, they hear shouts of“look at me”. When people look at you do they see discontent? All too often people see a desire to reflect our own glory to anyone who would listen. Twice this week Pastor Burt heard people discussing the purpose of life. The sports show only asked the question to make a joke. But in a sermon Pastor Burt listened to the pastor asked Siri what is the purpose of life. The purpose of life is as an image bearer that I would reflect God back to God and to others. For every one of us the purpose of life question is one that all of us have to answer. For a child the purpose of life is to make mommy and daddy happy. As teens the meaning of life changes to people noticing us. Why am I here? Life seems cruel and pointless. Sometimes it seems desparate – what’s the reason? Why is this all happening? Here’s what I know: the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. What is it to glorify God? I know that’s what I am supposed to be doing. To reflect back the essence, the personality of who God is. As I do that I honor Him and I show others the beauty and majesty of God.
How do you glorify God? The whole answer to the question is I glorify God as I live out the reality of being an image bearer. So this duty is the explanation of when God says I am holy, be holy as I am. Old covenant people and new covenant people – be holy. Why this duty? It is a duty because it is the purpose of life.
Now we have a problem here. All too often we think that God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ in self-centered ways. We hear the gospel in terms of ourselves – you need a savior; you need to be delivered from hell; hell is God’s punishment to each individual who has sinned and all have sinned. We have to be careful we don’t hear it this way. We can’t hear the gospel that way. We need to hear it in such a way that says that the holiness of God is so great that He must send a redeemer in order that His people might reflect His perfection back to Him. Salvation is primarily about God receiving the reflection of His own holiness back to himself. When we hear the gospel in man-centered terms we are thankful to be delivered. BUT that is not the end of salvation. It is not the terminus. It is not the end of the line. Forgiveness, redemption, new birth, promise of heaven are just the beginning point so that God has changed you and me in order that He might have a dwelling place for His spirit in order that we might reflect His person back to Him. So the duty of holiness is to reflect God to God.
Point 2:Definition of holiness
That doesn’t help us much if we don’t know the definition of holiness. We see holiness as a bunch of rules. Holiness means to be “other than”. So God is separated from, God is free from, God is without sin or blemish on His character. There is no wickedness or sin in Him. There’s a problem with that definition that we can say this way. We can’t define God or the attributes of God in terms of what God has made. If I say God is different from His creatures, it is logically correct to say that before there was a fall, God was not holy because there was nothing to be separate from. So we can’t define him in contrast to creation. Sin didn’t exist before creation but God has always been holy.
We have in scripture the trinity referred to as Holy Father, Holy Son and Holy Spirit. The trinity is the Holy trinity. They, each one, have been eternally holy – before there was anything to contrast to. Ferguson suggests that this holiness is seen as a relational devotedness to one another. The Father is fully committed to the Son who is committed to the Spirit who is totally committed to and loves the Father. So that the Holy Father is not in distinction against sin but positively as devotion to one another. Then comes creation. God’s absolute love for Himself is His holiness. Instead of using separation, use devotion to God.
“What the is God’s holiness?
What do we mean we say, Holy Father, Holy Son, Holy Spirit, and Holy Trinity?
We mean the perfectly pure devotion of each of these three persons to the other two. We mean the attribute in the Trinity that corresponds to the ancient words that describe marriage; ‘forsaking all others, and cleaving only unto thee’—a absolute, permanent, exclusive, pure, irreversible, and fully expressed devotion.” Ferguson
Holiness is devotion to God.
This helps us when we come to the furnishings of the temple. The dishes were to be devoted to the use of God for His glory.
The second word that helps us comes from Bonar
“Holiness is likeness to God, to Him who is the Holy One of Israel, to whom the laud in heaven as Holy, Holy, Holy.”
We want to have our lives conformed to what we know about God, to His character as He has revealed Himself to us. You cannot be confirmed to God in His omnipresence. We can’t be everywhere at once. We can’t conform ourselves to His knowledge, power, self-sufficiency, self-existence, His love, His mercy, His hatred of sin. But God has given us instruction in the 10 commandments which are reflections of God’s character to us. As you obey these commandments, you will reflect who God is to Him.
The character of God is expressed to us in the 10 commandments. This is who God is. As you obey these commandments you show the beauty of His person to Him and the world.
So holiness is a devotion to the person of God in my life and conformity to His character as He has revealed Himself to me.Without your holiness, no one around you will see the Lord.
Point 3:How can I be holy?
The reason that we struggle is because although we are created as mirrors of the character of God, when sin came into the world that image became broken. If you look into a cracked mirror the reflection back is corrupted. That’s what people see. We can’t see because of the fog on the mirror. The mirror of our lives has been fogged over by our sin. But when Jesus comes into our lives, He fixes cracks, He wipes away the fog. So when people look at us they see the beauty of the restored Jesus in our lives. Christ in you. The Holy Spirit in you. Maybe there are still some cracks but God continues to command us to strive towards Him. Allow Him to continue to wipe off the fog. Ask God for a deeper, more intense hot devotedness to Him. Ask Him to bring our lives to conformity with Him in His law. That is what the gospel to come to do in our lives. It allows us to reflect God in a way that we could never do before. It’s about giving us the ability and the privilege of reflecting Him back to Him and others.