This sermon begins a series on the topic of sanctification or holiness. Only God can make something holy as He Himself is holy. In Isaiah 6, God is called "holy, holy, holy". The repetition of the word in Hebrew was to show the importance of this attribute of God. This series will explore the topic of sanctification and it's importance to understanding God and our place in His plan.
[Gary Petty] We talk, once in a while, about the Ark of the Covenant. Because of all the objects God designed for the tabernacle – and remember, God designed , the tabernacle – there are chapters in Exodus explaining how the tabernacle was to be designed – because He said it was holy . The most holy of all those objects was the Ark of the Covenant. It was covered with gold inside, where the two tablets of stone – which the Ten Commandments were written on – a jar of manna – which the manna had never decayed – and Aaron’s rod (which of course was just a stick. It was carved out of a live piece of wood – it was dead – but it kept budding. Flowers and leaves kept appearing on it – and those were kept in there. For hundreds of years, it was this holy object, and the high priest and the kings of Israel – the judges and then the kings of Israel – would go to the ark, because it represented the throne of God. To go into that inner section of the tabernacle without permission, and without the right time, or the right place, was a death penalty. So there was a death penalty to approach this object. Now it’s just an object. It’s wood and gold. Of itself, it’s common. Of itself, it’s mundane. But God said, “That’s holy.” And when He declared it holy, He said it had to be treated a certain way.
Now we are going to look at a story, in fact it was covered sometime this last year in a message, but I want to just briefly touch on this. Let’s go to 1 Chronicles 13. I think Mr. Myers talked about this – I think. Someone did. 1 Chronicles 13 – what had happened was, Israel drifted away from God. Saul was the king and he was no longer being guided by God. And they went into the battle with the Philistines, and they lost. The Philistines captured the ark. Now you have to understand the gravity – what it meant to the people of Israel. What it meant was, God was no longer with us – the very object that represents the throne of God. Remember, the forty years they wandered, every time they looked at that tent, there was a cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. And it came down and rested on top of this object – representing God’s presence. When it was gone, they were no longer God’s people. They were no longer protected by God. They were no longer guided by God. The Philistines, though, found out that having the ark around wasn’t a good thing. Every place it went, they were cursed. And so finally, what they said was, “Okay, the God of Israel” – because remember, they believed in the God of Israel. He was just Israel’s God. They had their own gods. “The God of Israel is mad at us.” So they put it on a cart and let it go. The oxen pulled the cart and it went off, and went to Israel. There it was! The object was now brought back. David is King now and the object’s brought back. So we jump ahead now in the story now to where David is king.
1 Chronicles 13:1-10 1 Chronicles 13:1-10 1 And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.
2 And David said to all the congregation of Israel, If it seem good to you, and that it be of the LORD our God, let us send abroad to our brothers every where, that are left in all the land of Israel, and with them also to the priests and Levites which are in their cities and suburbs, that they may gather themselves to us:
3 And let us bring again the ark of our God to us: for we inquired not at it in the days of Saul.
4 And all the congregation said that they would do so: for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people.
5 So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor of Egypt even to the entering of Hemath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjathjearim.
6 And David went up, and all Israel, to Baalah, that is, to Kirjathjearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up there the ark of God the LORD, that dwells between the cherubim, whose name is called on it.
7 And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart.
8 And David and all Israel played before God with all their might, and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with tambourines, and with cymbals, and with trumpets.
9 And when they came to the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.
10 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
American King James Version×– T hen David consulted with the captains of thousands – this is 1 Chronicles 13:1 1 Chronicles 13:1And David consulted with the captains of thousands and hundreds, and with every leader.
American King James Version×– and hundreds, and with every leader. And David said to all the assembly of Israel, “If it seems good to you, and if it is of the Lord our God, let us send out to our brethren everywhere who are left in all the land of Israel, and with them to the priests and Levites who are in their cities and their common-lands, that they may gather together to us, and let us bring the ark of our God back to us, for we have not inquired at it since the days of Saul. In other words, we have not gone before this object, that represents God’s throne, to receive an answer from God. It’s time to return to God. Now, imagine the excitement in Israel. It’s important to realize what they are going through. God was back with them. By a miracle, the very object that God says, “This is the holiest object there is on earth,” has come back to them. They were excited. They want to worship God again. They want to return to God. Verse 4: Then all the assembly said that they would do so, for the thing was right in the eyes of all the people. So David gathered all Israel together, from Shihor in Egypt to as far as the entrance of Hamath, to bring the ark of God from Kirjath Jearim. And David and all Israel went up to Baalah, to Kirjath Jearim, which belonged to Judah, to bring up from there the ark of God the Lord , who dwells…. Think about this. They knew He didn’t actually dwell there. David would talk about how God fills the universe. But they knew what this object represented – that God said it represented. …w ho dwells between the cherubim, where His name is proclaimed. He put His name there. His name was put on this object and there were two cherubim – two angels – on top of it. And it represented the throne where He was, where there are cherubim on both sides of his actual throne in heaven. So they carried the ark of God on a new cart from the house of Abinadab, and Uzza and Ahio drove the cart. (As I said in Nashville, Ahio was probably from somewhere in Cleveland…. They didn’t think that was funny either! I don’t understand!) And David and all Israel played music before God with all their might. Now there was this absolute worshipping of God taking place. They played music. They were singing. They were worshipping God with everything they had – praising Him, because God had shown them favor again. God had poured His grace out upon them and He was coming back to Israel. …and with singing, and with harps, and with psalteries, and with timbrels, and with cymbals, and with trumpets. And when they came to Chidon’s threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. So they are going along, and the oxen, that are pulling the cart, stumbled. And the Ark of the Covenant begins to tip. It would be disaster for this to have fallen on the ground. It is the special object of God. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused. This is very important. God became angry – at what? They are singing. They are praising. And they are worshipping God! He is with them again. He is the one who brought the ark back to them. Uzza reaches up to keep it from crashing to the ground. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.
This seems like one of the most unfair things in all the scripture – bizarre and unfair. Why would God kill a man for doing something that is right and good? There is a very important doctrine that we don’t talk about much. It’s a central part of the Old and New Testament. It’s called the doctrine of sanctification. That’s what we are going to be talking about today – sanctification . We’re going to explain that and we’re going to look at why God did what He did here.
Now look at David’s response in verse 11:
V-11 – And David became angry because of the Lord ’s outbreak against Uzza. Therefore, that place is called Perez Uzza to this day. David was afraid of God that day, saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?
He says, “What am I supposed to do?” So he’s both angry at God – “Here we are worshipping You, and this is the way You treat us!” – he’s angry at God and he is afraid of God. So what he does is, he takes the ark, and he puts it basically in the barn of an Edomite – a descendant of Esau. If you read the rest of this chapter, that family was just blessed by God. Now wait a minute, “We put it into the barn of a…he’s not even an Israelite, and he’s blessed. An Israelite saves it from falling and You kill him? How does this make sense?”
The concept we are going to deal with, is the concept of what is holy. What does it mean to be holy? In its purest form, both the Old Testament and Greek words, that are translated holy in the English Bible, simply mean to be separated . They are separated from what is common. They are separated from everyday things, or things that are mundane. And especially in the New Testament, the Greek word means devoted to God . It’s separated and devoted to God. So it’s pulled out of all the regular things, and God says, “This is mine. It is separated to Me, and for Me, and by Me.” By the way, only God can make something holy. There has been a concept in Christianity for a long, long time – mainstream Christianity – that people can make things holy, and they cannot. Only God can make something holy, because it is separated for Him. Now to really understand what that means, we have to think about God for a minute. Let’s go to Isaiah 6. We are going to come back to Uzza here in a minute – Isaiah 6, verse 1:
Isaiah 6:1 Isaiah 6:1In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
American King James Version×– In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim. Each one had six wings.
So these are angelic beings. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another, and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory!”
I want you to think about this for a minute. The word holy means to be separate . So when we think of God making something holy, what does it mean that God is holy? In Hebrew, when something is repeated three times, it means it is really, really emphatic. God is separate, separate, separate. God is unique, unique, unique. To understand holiness, we have to understand God is Creator. He’s above His creation. He is beyond His creation. He transcends His creation. God is like nothing else. He is separate from everything. Now God interacts with His creation. Jesus said, “Even when a sparrow dies, God knows it.” That’s remarkable. He interacts with His creation, but He’s beyond it. He’s beyond the universe. David says, “If I go to the highest mountain, You are there. If I go to the deepest part of the ocean, You are there. How did You do that?” To understand holiness, we have to come to a much deeper understanding of the transcendence of God – the greatness of God, the power of God, the goodness of God. None of us have a complete understanding of that, because He is above it. God is beyond what we can imagine. God is beyond what we can imagine. Now He interacts with us. He is separate, separate, separate. There is an angel that cries out, “Unique, unique, unique! Different, different, different!” This is God. And God says, on occasion, “I pick this object. I pick this person. I pick this group of people. I pick this time. And I say it is separate for Me.”
When something is holy, God says, “It is My special thing. In all My creation, it is My special thing. And I make it separate from all the other things for Me.” It is submitting to this transcendence of God – this enormity of God, this beyond our imagination. I’ve had some people say, “I can’t worship a God I don’t understand.” Then you can’t worship the God of the Bible. The more I try to understand God, all I can tell you is, after 62 years, the smaller I feel. You think, “Oh wow! If I could just get to know God better, I would be, somehow, more complete, greater, have more faith.” The more I understand God, the smaller I feel. He is beyond us. He is beyond His creation. He is holy, holy, holy. And when He says, “I am separate, and when I separate something for Me, it is Mine, and it’s for My purpose.” You have to have absolute faith in God’s goodness to believe that. You could say, “Well, He is just being selfish!” You have to understand the greatness of God and what it means to be said, “This is holy.” Because when God says something is holy, He is actually going to impute some of His attributes to it. He is going to impute something about Himself. It reveals something about Himself. What did that holy of holies – that Ark of the Covenant set in the holy of holies – show us? For one thing, it was called the mercy seat. It showed God’s mercy. It showed His power. The pillar of fire and the cloud that was there on top of it for forty years said, “This is the presence of God.” The Ten Commandments, written by God, were in there. See, this little box, which was mundane…. It’s made out of wood and gold. It’s just average. It’s just common – made out of stuff. God says, “No, this reveals something about Me. It’s Mine. It’s for Me. This reveals My separateness.” And this takes on the qualities of separateness. Therefore, to disrespect what God calls holy is to disrespect God. Okay? When we disrespect something that God calls holy, we are disrespecting His holiness. It’s important to understand. So, let’s go back to Uzza for a moment. Numbers, chapter 4. There were instructions that no one was to touch that ark, except under certain circumstances. Numbers 4 verse 4.
Numbers 4:4 Numbers 4:4This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things:
American King James Version×– T his is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things. When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. So there was a veil – this really thick, heavy covering between what was called the holy place and the holy of holies. They were to come in – this particular group of Levites – and they were to take this down, and they were to cover that. And another group of Levites were to come along, and there were poles, because on the sides of the Ark of Covenant were loops. And these poles went through the loops. And there were four men, specifically trained, to pick that up, put it on their shoulders, and the four of them were to carry that. Wherever it went, they were to carry the Ark of the Covenant. No one was to touch it, because it was an object, but it was a symbol chosen by God to reveal Himself. This becomes very important. So what happens is, Uzza, King David, and all the people…God’s punishment on Uzza was a punishment on the entire nation of Israel and a punishment on David. They were so excited about worshipping God, they were so excited about the Ark of the Covenant coming back, they forgot who the Holy One is . Because without God declaring it holy, it’s just some shiny metal and wood. Only God makes something holy, because then God says, “This takes on some of My attributes, because it’s separate for Me, by Me, and for My purposes.” They were given all kinds of instructions on what to do, and David, and Uzza and all the people of Israel, all the priests – the high priests – they were so excited about worshipping God, but they did not understand His holiness, His greatness, His uniqueness, and that He will be worshipped how He says He will be worshipped. Because He is above all this. He is beyond all this.
After giving this sermon in Nashville, someone came up and said, “Is God beyond all time?” I said, “You know what? I don’t even know what time is before there were planets.” How do we measure time? Planets rotating around each other. Before God created planets, what is time? I don’t know, but it’s nothing we would understand by definition. So is God contained with time? I don’t even know what that means. Because I measure everything by little planets going around the sun. How does God measure time? I don’t know, because He is beyond all this! He is beyond planets. “Let Me create some planets. Let Me create a sun. Let Me create this thing called days.” Before creation, there is nothing that defines a day! I have no idea what God is above all this, because before this, I don’t know. He transcends it. He’s greater than it.
That is what holiness is about. It’s about looking at God and being absolutely overwhelmed with who God is. Now we could put Jesus Christ there with the Father. It’s about being overwhelmed by an understanding of who God is.
This is the first of a whole series on holiness, because we are going to have to break this down into practicality. What does the New Testament mean by sanctification – which is a major doctrine?
When you go through the Old Testament, with the instructions given to ancient Israel, when God called them out to give them the Ten Commandments, He said, “You are a holy people.” Now understand, God told Israel, “You are now separated from everybody else on the earth. You are separate from them to be Mine. You are to represent Me. You are to worship Me. All the nations are to see Me through you.” There are other places where He talks about that. It’s interesting. Some of the prophets come along, and they say, “You have shamed God.” How did they shame God? Because they were holy. God said, “I pick you.” Because God picks people, places, and times and things to do His will. He picked those people and said, “You are mine. You are not like anybody else. You’re Mine.” Now all people, eventually, are His. But at certain times, he works with certain people. And He gave them the Ten Commandments. And Israel, if you read through the Old Testament, basically, they failed at being holy – at being the separate people. For the separate God – the unique God – they were supposed to be a unique people.
Let’s go to 1 Chronicles 15, because David figures this out. It wasn’t about just this object. They weren’t being the holy people they were supposed to be. It wasn’t just about the Ark of the Covenant. 1 Chronicles 15, verse 1:
1 Chronicles 15:1-5 1 Chronicles 15:1-5 1 And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent.
2 Then David said, None ought to carry the ark of God but the Levites: for them has the LORD chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister to him for ever.
3 And David gathered all Israel together to Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the LORD to his place, which he had prepared for it.
4 And David assembled the children of Aaron, and the Levites:
5 Of the sons of Kohath; Uriel the chief, and his brothers an hundred and twenty:
American King James Version×– D avid built houses for himself in the City of David. And he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, “No one may carry the ark of God but the Levites, for the Lord has chosen them. Now look who has chosen them. He said, “I chose Uzza and Ahio. I chose those men.” God chose men. This is about God’s uniqueness. It’s about the seraphim saying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, whose glory fills the earth.” “Yeah, this is the God I worship,” David said, “and boy, did I treat him disrespectfully!” This was an act of disrespect towards God’s holiness. …the LORD has chosen them to carry the ark of God and to minister before Him forever. A nd David gathered all Israel together at Jerusalem, to bring up the ark of the Lord to its place, which had been prepared for it.” It was supposed to be in a tent, so they created a tent. Then David assembled the children of Aaron and the Levites: of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, and one hundred and twenty of his brethren….
And it just goes on and on. It says David did this and then…and you look at it, and he’s doing exactly what God had instructed and taught Moses to do in preparation of the holiness of the tabernacle. He now fulfilled all these instructions of holiness. Look at verse 14:
V-14-15 – So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves. Sanctification comes from – it’s a derivation of the same Hebrew word that is holy. They made themselves holy. In other words, they carried out the washings. They got all the correct clothing. And they did everything that God said to do – to remind them who they were worshipping and the great transcendence of God. So the priests and the Levites sanctified themselves to bring up the ark of the Lord God of Israel. And the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the Lord.
And now they brought the ark in and God was pleased. You say, “But this still was unfair.” No it’s not. It has to do with who we are and who God is. We are the created beings. We are not the Creator. We are trapped in time – trapped in the lives we live. We are in physical bodies that will die and decay. We are totally trapped so, without God, we have no future. We are trapped! God is above all that. God is beyond all that – in power, in majesty, in goodness. There is no evil in God. And He says, “You have to respect that.” We can never really understand God if we disrespect Him. It’s part of our nature to not want to submit to God. And if He is making me do something I don’t want to do, then He is the problem, right? He is just being selfish. He is just being mean. He killed Uzza because He really is just a bad God. And this is all about “No, I created everything and I know how this works.” And there are times when He says, “I make something holy.”
Now, I want to go to Ephesians 5. Why don’t we do a lot of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament? In fact, if you look at the 611 laws of the Old Testament, we actually don’t do the majority of them. We keep the moral laws. We don’t keep all the laws of holiness, because they were rituals that were commanded – “You do this to be reminded that you are holy.” Now there are a few that we do. Do you know what one of them is? Clean and unclean meats. You and I say, “We don’t eat clean and unclean meats, because they are bad for us.” That’s true, but that’s not why God told ancient Israel not to eat them. He didn’t say, “Don’t eat them, because they are bad for you.” He said, “Don’t eat them, because they are disgusting to Me, and you are holy. I find those things disgusting to be eaten.” He loved His creation, but eating lizards? That’s disgusting! Eating snails, that’s disgusting! He uses the word abomination , which literally means, “It makes me sick.” “This is sickening!” He said, “So, because you are holy , don’t do this.” Isn’t that interesting? He didn’t explain to them, “There are germs.” They didn’t know what that was. “Let me explain to you what pork does to your digestive system.” He didn’t tell them that. He says,” You don’t eat this stuff, because you are hol y. You are separate from this garbage.” That’s one we still do, because they did it in the New Testament. It’s because we are separate.
Ephesians 5. We read Ephesians 5, so much of the time, in reference to marriage, which we should, but there is something greater even that Paul was teaching here. He says the relationship between a husband and wife is to be like the relationship – for Christians – it’s like the relationship between Christ and the Church. The church is to learn to be a good bride – a good wife. As I said men, some of us may not make it, because we can’t learn how to be a good bride. We have learn how to be a good wife to Christ, right? So he uses Christ as an example: “Okay men, here is how you treat your wives. And wives, here is how you treat your husband.” This shows us a different relationship. His main point is, “Let me tell you about something that’s even greater than that. The reason for marriage is to show us about the relationship between the Church and Christ.” That’s one of the reasons. There are other reasons. It’s a foundation of society. In the New Testament we see this. Let’s look at verse 25.
Ephesians 5:25-27 Ephesians 5:25-27 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
American King James Version×- H usbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her – He said, “You love your wife so much that you would die for her.” That’s the example Jesus gives us as a husband. Here’s why: that He might sanctify – make her holy. Hagios is holiness in Greek. Hagiasmos is what sanctification is. Sanctify is just a variation of that. …that He may make her separate. Christ calls a church and builds a church so that these people might be made holy. “Holy Holy Holy, is the Lord God Almighty.” Unique, unique, unique. Separate, separate, separate. You have been called by God to be holy and to be made holy. Sanctification is about being made holy . That’s what the word means. … that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself…. Why were you called into the church? So that you can be prepared – separated – to marry Jesus Christ. If we don’t believe that, then why do this? Why do we do this if we don’t believe the calling? You were called because God said, “I choose you to be separate from everything else. Everything else is mundane. Everything else is average. In fact, everything else in this world is corrupted. I choose you to become sanctified – to become holy for My purpose.” You were personally called by God to be made holy for His purpose. Now sometimes, we don’t want to do that because we don’t like His purpose. We don’t really understand what He is doing. He said, “ …so that He might present her to Himself… .” So Christ is working in the church, as the head of the church, to do what? To create a holy group of people to marry Him. In other words, to have that kind of close of relationship at the resurrection that we literally respond to Christ in this intimate relationship – a spiritual relationship, not physical – a spiritual relationship. “…a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.”
See, we read through that, and we sort of skip through that, because, husbands, this is how you should treat your wives. But there is actually a greater principle being taught here. It’s about the holiness of the church and what it means to be called into the church. You were justified when you repented before God. And if you confess your sins, God justifies you. He says, “The blood of Jesus Christ now applies to you, and you are now allowed into a relationship with Me.” You’re allow to come before Him. You have a privilege. But our calling isn’t just to be justified. You can say, “Well I’m justified, I can go before God. He accepts me just the way I am, and I can stay the way I am.” Well, that’s not true, because you are justified – and Paul usually puts them in this order – he says, “You are justified and you are sanctified.” He puts them in that order for a reason. You don’t go before God because you are already made holy. You go before God because he says, “I will make you holy. You are justified. You can come before Me because of the holiness of Jesus Christ. And now you are separate from Me and I will sanctify you.” There are all kinds of things that are sanctified. Boy, I could give a whole sermon on what it means to be a sanctified person. What does that mean in our conduct? What does that mean in the way we think? What does that mean to say you are participating in a process called sanctification? The Passover comes up in six months – or a little less than that – and we will be talking about justification – how do you and I get this privilege to come before God through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and His death and His life applied to us. Do you know what the Days of Unleavened Bread are about? Sanctification – removing sin and putting something else in. It’s the process of being sanctified. It’s a very, very important doctrine – a very important doctrine that we sometimes do not center on the way that we should.
Let’s go to 1 Peter, chapter 2, and look at the word hagios again here. There are some subtle differences in the Greek and Hebrew meaning of holy – that are translated holy . Hagios is very interesting, because it not only refers to being separated , but being consecrated . In other words, “You are not only separate, but you are Mine – you are made now for Me.” God says, “You are now going to be made for Me.” To be justified and have no corresponding sanctification is to be a non-Christian. To get the privilege to come before God and stay unholy means you will not always be justified. Now, most Protestants don’t believe that, but it’s the truth. To be justified and stay unholy means you can eventually become unjustified. God says, “You can’t come before Me anymore.” Okay, you say, “I am a holy person, so God listens to me.” No, God calls you, God works with you, God forgives you, and then you become holy. That’s justification, then sanctification. They have to be in that order. You can’t knock on the door and say, “God, I want to talk to you because, hey, I’m holy.” It doesn’t work that way. God has to justify us first. We have to be forgiven first. Then we have to become sanctified. 1 Peter 2, verse 4 – breaking in the middle of a thought here – but Peter writes:
1 Peter 2:4 1 Peter 2:4To whom coming, as to a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious,
American King James Version×– Coming to Him – Christ – as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious. He’s talking about Christ here and how we all now come to God through Christ. So let’s go down to verse 9 – he’s talking to the church here, and He uses the same phraseology you find in the Old Testament that was applied to ancient Israel – now that is applied to the church:
V-9-10 – But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light – who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.
What’s amazing about that is, that he is playing on words that were used by Hosea. That’s actually right out of the book of Hosea, where God is talking about ancient Israel. And now Peter says, “But you weren’t a people, and you have now become the people of God, because the church is made up of all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds and ethnic groups.” God brings people together. And he says, “You are now a people.” And he uses the same phraseology that is used in Hosea. I wish we had time to go through that, because it’s fascinating – the play on words he is doing here.
You have been called to be separate by the separate God. You have been called to be unique by the unique God. “Oh good, I must be unique and wonderful. God called me to be unique.” God is unique. Only He can make us unique. Most of us are unique because we are a little weird or whatever. That’s not what we are talking about – or, we have unique skills, or we have unique personalities. That’s not what we are talking about at all. Of ourselves we are mundane. We are common. That’s all we are. We are just common people. God says, “I wish to call you to make you unique as I am unique” – “as I am unique.” Think about all the laws given to ancient Israel – dozens and dozens of laws – about the priesthood, so that they would be holy. And you and I are called to be a holy priesthood . Now we are not going to go back and dress the way they dress and do the sacrifices and the washings. No, we aren’t supposed to do all that, but we are to understand that we are holy . In this series of sermons, we are going to have to talk about marriage being holy. We are going to have to talk about what does it mean, hallowed be thy name? Hallowed means holy . Holy be your name. What does that mean? We have a whole lot of things to talk about here that have to do with the doctrine of sanctification and what God wants to do in your life.
Now think about this. Justification without sanctification is like this: What if you had fallen into a cesspool and you are just covered with all this stuff, and someone comes along and says, “Hey, I want you to be clean with new clothes and washed.” And you say, “Good! I am clean with new clothes and washed.” And you stay covered with the sewage. Are you really clean? Are you really washed? Of course not! You’re still covered with the sewage. It’s the same concept. If we are justified, God says,” I wash you to make you holy. Now, let me clean you up, and give you new clothes.” If we don’t do the sanctification part, we just stay filthy. That’s all we do.
1 Peter here – let’s go to 1 Peter – let’s go back one chapter. Verse 13 is always difficult for me, because the imagery makes no sense to me. It does to them . Okay? You have to go back to the first century where, if you were going to run – and men wore what we would call skirts – you have to pull them up and tie them up to run. So you would have to gird your loins. What does that mean? We don’t have to do that today. This metaphor really blows my mind here. Peter doesn’t usually do them, Paul makes metaphors all the time.
1 Peter 1:13 1 Peter 1:13Why gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;
American King James Version×– Therefore gird up the loins of your mind. Huh? But I understand what he is saying, “Get prepared for the run. Get prepared for the race.” I guess today we would say, “Look everybody, go put on your gym shorts. Take off your suit, put on the gym shorts, put on the t-shirt, and put on good running shoes.” That would be a metaphor we could understand. But you do it in your mind. You are mentally preparing for what God wants to do with you. Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You were made holy. If I am made holy, it’s only because of the grace of God. You can’t make yourself holy. You can’t. You can’t say, “I am separate. I am unique. I am like God. I have His attributes.” God gives those attributes to us, right? We don’t do it. So he says it is an act of grace that we become holy. It’s because God reaches out and touches you. God says, “You, you are for Me. You, you are for Me. You, you are for Me.” God does that. “And I want you to do something special for Me.” He says: … as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance, but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy – now listen to this next statement, because this one is a tough one – but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct – act like God. And Then He quotes Leviticus: … because it is written, “Be holy as I am holy.”
God told ancient Israel, “Be holy as I am holy.” Act like God? And by the way, there is no way you and I could even begin to understand that, except for Jesus Christ. We see what God in the flesh acted like. Without that reference point, I have no idea how to fulfill that – “Be like God.” I can’t even get my grandkids to eat their peas. And I’m supposed to be like God? There were times…I was listening to The Messiah Thursday night, and I just sat there and thought – in listening to the words and listening to the music – and I thought, “We are so small! We are so little and God is so transcendent!” How in the world do we relate to that? And then Christ came. “You can’t get to Me so I will get to you and show you how to be holy.” This is what you and I are called to – to be sanctified, to be made holy. It’s something we can’t generate ourselves. It’s only something we can submit to. We submit to it. We can decide not to be holy. You can decide not to be holy. You can decide to be unholy. But we submit to something God does, because you and I can’t do it. How do we become holy as “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, whose glory fills the earth?” “Oh yeah, I gotta be like that.” God does something and in a very little way, we become holy. None of us will ever be holy like God. We will never be holy like Jesus Christ, but we take on certain attributes. That’s why eventually, we will have to talk about the Holy Spirit.
Romans 6 – Romans, chapter 6. So today we are just touching on the idea of holiness. We will really have to start breaking this down. Romans 6, verse 15:
Romans 6:15 Romans 6:15What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
American King James Version×- What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! He talks about, “If you live to sin, you become a slave to sin, but we are not to be slaves to sin.” So he goes on in verse 19 – Paul says:
V-19 – I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
We have to talk about what it means to be a slave to righteousness, because as a slave to righteousness, that’s the way holiness – sanctification – is developed. What does that even mean? I know how to be a slave to sin. That’s pretty easy. We all know how to do that. We can do that in our sleep! But how do we reverse this? How do we reverse this? So remember, it is God who declares what is holy. He says His law is holy.
What’s interesting is – right here in Romans – the apostle Paul says the commandments of God are holy. So when people say they are done away with, that’s showing disrespect to God, because it is God who made the Law. It’s like I’ve said before, the Law of God is an act of grace. I would not know “thou shall not steal” except He said, “Don’t steal.” If God hadn’t called me, I’d probably be cheating and lying and stealing – doing all kinds of stuff! Paul said, “I wouldn’t have even known what coveting was, except the Law.” That’s an argument from Romans, where people say he had done away with the Law. No he didn’t. He shows the purpose of the Law, which is to express what God says is unholy. There is sort of a negative aspect to the Law. This is what’s unholy. This is what’s bad. So he brings out the positive aspect of how God develops holiness in us. God says marriage is holy. God says the Sabbath is holy. We’re going to have to start thinking about. Do we actually keep this day holy? If we understand what God says, “This day is imbued with My attributes. It’s separate from other days. It’s different from other days.” He even says our children are holy. Our children are holy, which means we should have special relationship with them. And we will have to go through what that means. Because if we don’t understand, we can make the same mistake Uzza did. We could be worshipping…. Uzza wasn’t breaking the Ten Commandments. Uzza was doing everything right. He was picked by David. He must have been a good man. But he really didn’t understand God’s holiness. We don’t want to make that mistake.
That early church was driven by a vision of Christ’s return and a vision of holiness. Sanctification is a huge subject in Paul’s writing. Well, it is in the entire New Testament. We must understand the difference between the common, the mundane, the regular and the uniqueness of when the Almighty God says, “That’s mine.”
Let’s finish by going to 2 Peter 3. 2 Peter, chapter 3, and let’s go to verse 10. Now this is talking about when the lake of fire consumes the covering of the earth – the face of the earth – and God rebuilds the earth. Actually, He is going to rebuild the whole universe, but He begins with the earth.
2 Peter 3:10 2 Peter 3:10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.
American King James Version×– But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat – both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things – the mundane, the common, the average, and unfortunately the corrupt. Once we got kicked out of Eden, it all became corrupt. So the corrupt world we live in will be dissolved . Because of that, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness.
Holy conduct is godliness. It’s being like God. “Be you holy as I am holy.” Do we take lightly what God has declared holy?
So this is the first of a series of sermons that we are going to be exploring. It’s probably going to take us almost up to the Passover. Because we are going to go through the whole doctrine of sanctification and what it means to our lives, and break it down to be practical – to understand that God has called us to be separate, to be unique, to be holy as He is separate, unique, and holy.