Gospel-Centered Community

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Notes:

For the past five months we have looked at the church: what is the church, the identity of the church, the purpose of the church, why we gather together on Sundays and at midweek Community Group, why we worship. We touched on the two ordinances of the church, baptism and communion. We spent several concentrated weeks on the power and presence of Jesus in His church through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit dwells within us, fills us, leads us, illuminates, and transform us into the likeness of Jesus. This is holiness. We defined holiness as being set apart, sanctified or peculiar. We have learned that God’s holiness permeates all that God is and all that He does; it is His otherness. When we become followers of Jesus He gives us His holiness. We are unique in Him and set apart in Him. As we begin to walk with Him our life begins to be shaped into His image or His uniqueness by the Holy Spirit whom Jesus places inside of us. Our uniqueness is not in our moral code or behavior but flows from our new hearts that beat in rhythm with Jesus.

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

The Spirit works within and transforms us from one degree of glory to the next. As we walk in holiness, we start to look more like Jesus. When Christ declared, “It is finished,” the veil in the temple separating the holy of holies from the common area or unholy place was torn. Before that moment no one dared go behind that curtain into the presence of God except the high priest who represented all the people once a year. He entered only after extensive washings, sacrifices and separation from all others and even then it was with great fear.

When the veil was torn, God was saying, “Come to me, you are holy through Jesus.” Jesus paid it all. We now walk in the holy presence of God gaining access through our Savior Jesus. As we look at His glory, the Spirit works in our lives to transform us into the same image. The process of holiness takes place individually and corporately. We are saved into a Body, the church, the bride of Christ, the family of God.

In Jesus we have been given a new race (not Jew or Gentile) and a new position. We are now a royal priesthood with a new citizenship; we belong to a holy nation. We live in America but our citizenship is in heaven, under new ownership. We are God’s possession with a new mission to proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. 1 Peter 2:9-10

Remedy, we were not a people. We were individually children of wrath, following the father of lies. But God has made us a people because of His mercy and we belong to a Body, the Church. We are saved personally and individually but not to be independent or individualistic. We are saved into the Church as a group of people who are interdependent on one another to function fully as God intended.

We need one another to encourage, to exhort, and to pray for our personal growth with Jesus and fulfillment of our mission. On a micro level, we are called out and into a family, the bride of Christ. On a macro level, this relates to the nations. Christians in the U.S. are needed by Christians who live across the world, like in Iraq.

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. Hebrews 13:3

Persecuted believers worldwide remind us of the suffering of Christ. As they represent Him and minister in His name, they suffer for Him (Colossians 1:24) and continue to demonstrate His love and sacrifice. They are a part of our mission.

As believers, we have been made new in Jesus. We are not who we once were, so we need to stop giving into the mindsets and desire of the world (and the past) and start acting like a part of a Body. If we want to develop a sense of belonging and experience all that God has for us, then we give! We give our lives to Jesus, to His Body, because that is what He did for us on the cross. The church doesn’t exist for us, it exists for Jesus.

Peter takes the time to contrast who we were and who we are now. He reminds us what we have been saved from and what we have been saved into. BUT YOU… are new and different, a holy nation. BUT YOU are a royal priesthood, BUT YOU are a chosen people. When we think of old and new, we often think of behavior issues like drunkenness or greed or anger or jealously but we’ve also been saved out of our moral striving. We’ve been saved from self-sufficiency and self-reliance, many of the things the world looks favorably upon. This is where most of us struggle. We fall back into thinking, “I’m not so bad” or “I was a good person.” We forget how much we need God. We need Jesus and we can’t do it on our own.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,…I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-8; 13-14

Paul said that he forgot everything that was behind him and set his eyes on Jesus, to be like Him. He said it was all nothing compared to Jesus. We’ve been called out of darkness into life. God didn’t save us out of hell into nothing; He saved us into relationship.

The people of Israel were slaves to Egypt, in bondage for over 400 years. They worked long days with little food, and at one point, Pharaoh ordered all of the firstborn sons to be killed to control the population. They cried out to God and God heard them – He told Moses that He saw their affliction, heard their cries, and understood their suffering (Exodus 3). God sent a deliverer, Moses, and He delivered them from bondage in a great display of power and love. His deliverance was a great display of grace and He gave them more than they could even grasp – He split the sea and provided manna from heaven.

The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? “We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.” Numbers 11:4-6

Israel forgot the bondage, the suffering, and God’s delivery. God set them free and provided for their every need, but they wanted more. They falsely remembered a life of bounty, of fish and meat. Their flesh deceived them, just as our flesh deceives us.

The manna God provided met their needs, but Israel thought they deserved more, that they were entitled to more. They also didn’t want to depend on God. The root of both of these attitudes was pride. Israel lost sight of what God called them out of and what He was calling them into. He was making them a nation and leading them to the land He had promised. All Israel had to do was follow God into the Promised Land, but instead they died complaining in the wilderness.

We are the church, the Bride of Christ, children of God, a holy nation, a royal priesthood, God’s people, chosen, called, empowered, indwelt by the Spirit of God
Himself to proclaim the greatest news in the history of mankind. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, to make a way, when there was no other way. So how do we want to live? We can live in captivity, carnality, or consecration.

Captivity – Living in captivity means returning to our “Egypt”. If we think our days of bondage to sin were better, then we have not tasted the manna of life, Jesus, who meets our deepest hunger and quenches our driest thirst.

Carnality – Living in carnality is a life wandering in the wilderness. Do we struggle to depend on God? Are we discontent with His provision? Do we misremember the past as better than it was? If we look back to Egypt, it will rob us of joy. Lot’s wife turned back toward Sodom and turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19). She turned back because that’s where her heart and affection was.

Consecration – Living a consecrated life means understanding that we are on our way to the Promised Land, with our eyes on Jesus. Do we want to live as a child of God, a holy people, set apart for the most significant mission today, to proclaim the excellencies of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light?There are no politics, no amount of money or goodwill to stop the evil in this world but there is the love of God. Against the love of God there is no law, meaning nothing can stand against Him. While the world frets and stirs and worry we proclaim the amazing love of God.

How are we living? Are we giving our time, resources, gifts and thoughts to the advancement of God’s kingdom as an ambassador, a royal priest, as a child of God? Or are we chasing the desires of our flesh, hoping to quiet the conflict in our heart while the world crumbles around us, families fall apart, kids are abused, and good intentioned people walk off the cliff following self-righteous religion? Are we willing to watch our brothers and sisters suffer and die in Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, Somalia, Myanmar, without a thought, a prayer, a hand?

Jesus promised:

• An abundant life
• Joy overflowing
• Contentment in all circumstances
• Peace that surpasses understanding
• Love, real love, perfect love that casts out fear, never-ending love
• If we follow Him. If we walk in who He has made us, who He redeemed us to be.

If we aren’t experiencing what God has promised, then we aren’t following Him. There is no neutral. Revelation contains seven letters to the churches, where God commends and rebukes:

To the Church in Laodicea

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Revelation 3:14-22

This church had lost its dependency on Jesus. This church had lost its understanding of the great need they had spiritually. They believed they had it together, but they weren’t useful in the kingdom of God. They weren’t hot, bringing warmth, or cold, bringing refreshment; they were lukewarm, worthy only to be spit out.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock” was written to a church, to Remedy, to stop being complacent and apathetic. God is saying to stop being middle of the road and lukewarm, or He will spit us out of His mouth. His message is in love – because He loves, He is saying, “Take heed! Listen up! I love you, this is why I’m saying this to you.” God is knocking; it’s not too late. “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” This is God’s invitation to us today.

Together we walk into the promises of Christ and become the church He designed us to be, and we experience all the things God has designed the church to do and be, and He is glorified, and many will come to know Him. All this is done in Christ and Him alone.

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Notes:

Last week we addressed God’s holiness and defined holiness as being set apart, unique or being sanctified. Although there is a moral component to being holy (doing what is right), there is also a being set apart from the ordinary and common, from the world’s attitudes, thoughts and values.

In one CG discussion last week, the leader asked, “How are you different today than a year ago?” As people shared the changes that had taken place in their lives, it was clear that values, desires, and attitudes had changed. That is what it means to become holy and set apart – as we value the things of the world less, we become more unique, more holy.

When we come into relationship with Jesus, He calls us out of darkness into His light. He calls us out and into, He makes us holy, and He makes us unique or set apart to Him. In Jesus we are holy and the process begins of becoming holy or set apart in our actions. So we are both holy and becoming holy, we are sanctified and becoming sanctified, we are set apart and are being set apart.

As this takes place the attitudes, thoughts, values and behaviors in our life change. We begin to see sin not just as a moral offense but an offense to God and offenses that quench His work through the Holy Spirit in our lives. More importantly, our desires change as we are being made holy. Our love for God and people grow and we begin to look at others differently and act differently towards them.

We see this in Galatians 5. The result of being filled with the Spirit is holiness, manifested by the fruit of the Spirit:

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23

These are not common characteristics. This is what it means to be holy as it is the Holy Spirit who changes us. We are all about ourselves but when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, it changes us. Holiness comes through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus predicted the coming of the Spirit before His crucifixion and again after His resurrection before ascending into Heaven:

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8

Jesus said that the Spirit would bring power to be His witness in proclamation of the resurrection and in living out a holy or unique life. Our lives will convey a message contrary to what the world communicates.

In Acts 4 we see an expression of the filling of the Holy Spirit or a holy life. The church (meaning followers of Jesus) was gathered together in the City of Jerusalem. They met regularly to pray, eat, and study the Bible (for them, the Old Testament). But there was something unusual about the gathering. Jews and Gentiles, free and slaves, men and women, were all gathered together. It was unheard of for Jews to worship with Gentiles. Even more unusual was that they were giving their possessions away:

And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 4:31-37

The people around them were amazed and recognized it as supernatural because thousands started following Jesus. These were holy, set apart believers who were brand new Christians reading the Old Testament in light of the Messiah. They were filled with the Spirit and submitted to His will, leading, and power.

Being filled is not having more of the Spirit in a quantitative sense, but a denying of self, the flesh, in submission to the Holy Spirit. That is what makes us holy or unique – we mirror or reflect God’s image. In the Garden of Eden, God created man in His image. That image was tarnished when Adam and Eve took their eyes off of God, essentially rebelling against Him. Their perfect relationship with their Creator and each other was broken.

Holy God, completely unique, could no longer walk with man as He did before. The wages of sin is death and a penalty had to be paid (Romans 6:23). In the garden, God began to introduce us to His plan to send a savior, a Messiah, who would pay the penalty and take the judgment for all sin for those who believe in Him. The rest of the Old Testament unfolds the story of the coming Messiah, Jesus. The Gospels tell us of His coming, His life, death and resurrection, His ascension back into heaven, and the sending of the Holy Spirit. The church in Acts was set apart from darkness into light, walking in light because they were filled with the Spirit.

Being filled with the Spirit results in:

Boldness to proclaim Jesus – They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the Word of God with boldness and Apostles preached with great power the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 4:33). We take Christ’s work on the cross for granted but He died for our sins. The Spirit reminds us and gives us understanding to the unseen significance of what He did. The Spirit helps us understand the love of God (Ephesians 1:18-19).

Brings unity, not uniformity – The Spirit brings unity. The early church was made up of people from different cultures, economic status, and education levels, but they had one thing in common: Jesus. The Spirit of Jesus dwelled within them and their eyes were not on themselves but on Jesus. They did not focus on what they wanted or what was comfortable to them but on Jesus. The idea is not to be the same as everyone else but to love the same Jesus. The Spirit points us to Jesus and He is greater than our differences. We don’t demonstrate God’s love when we hang out with people just like us. Unity is supernatural.

Generosity – No one claimed anything for their own and no one was needy. We live in a self-focused world. We often use people and love things rather than love people and use things. We tend to love people just like us, who we’re comfortable with.

Generosity also extends to money. Money is not the issue – money is not evil in itself; the love of money or what money can bring is the evil. Power, control, status, material things, and security are all idols we seek and money provides them. Where and how we spend our money reflects our values. Jesus spoke a lot about money because of the effect it has on our hearts:

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is there will be your heart also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if our eye is bad your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Matthew 6:19-23

Jesus uses a metaphor to explain how money affects our perspective (the same metaphor is used in Luke 11 and 12). Light enters the body through the eye. If the eyes are blinded, then the whole body is dark. It does not matter if we are standing in a lighted room – if our eyes cannot see, we are in the dark. Money has the ability to affect all other aspects of our life. If our perspective on money is off, so will be our life.

The money itself is not the issue, but what it often represents to us: power, control, security, comfort, status. In many cases money satisfies the flesh. We do not want to trust God to provide; we want to depend on our credit card, our bank account, our position, our power to give us the things we desire, want, and need. These functional saviors are things we rely on apart from God that will get us what we think we need. An idol is a person, place or thing that we place our trust in over God and takes preeminence in our lives, like money.

This is not indicative of a Spirit-filled or set apart life but a life that is set on the flesh. Our God is a giving God and does not need our resources to accomplish His will but He does want our hearts. When we are reluctant to use our skills and abilities to serve Him, when we allocate our time to self-centered activities or allow greed to sit in our hearts, it will destroy us or at the very least, rob us of the best God has intended for us.

Being generous is a fruit of holiness and giving keeps us from getting too attached to things. Practicing generosity is a good thing. We are generous not to earn credit or because that’s who we are on are own. We are generous in Jesus because that’s who He is. That’s why generosity is an indication of holiness or being filled with the Spirit. We serve a generous God. We give love freely because He loves us freely. We give grace freely because God gives grace to us freely.

Barnabas was a man filled with the Spirit and a leader in the church who owned a tract of land. He sold the land and laid the money at the apostles’ feet for the needs of the body. He entrusted the leadership with the funds. He was not told to sell his land; he either saw needs to be met, or he was moved by the Holy Spirit out of an understanding of all that Jesus had done for him. He was willing to give Jesus everything and nothing was too much.

Barnabas went on to bring Paul into ministry and he traveled with Paul and preached the Word. He responded to the Holy Spirit and sold his property, which freed him to go where God called him. He was sent to Antioch when the Spirit of God began to work there and from Antioch he went to Tarsus to get Paul and then back to Antioch and the story continues. Had he not have given freely he may have been too encumbered to go. The Spirit led and Barnabas gave away his security – that is a unique life, a sanctified life, a holy life. A life submitted to the Holy Spirit is a unique life and it will look different from the world. Giving money did not make Barnabas holy or set apart; his heart was set apart and so he gave.

Abundant Grace was upon them all – A set apart life is characterized by abundant grace from God for us. We know the word grace and understand its meaning but we cannot fully experience God’s grace and His love without the Spirit. He illuminates and gives us understanding of what God has done. He gives the understanding of our brokenness and our inability to reconcile on our own. He gives us the faith to walk in grace, which brings freedom. We have the freedom to give others grace, freedom to love, freedom to forgive, freedom to let God move as He determines in the lives around us.

A holy life, a Spirit filled life, is a life of freedom. Our freedom comes from understanding that no one can love us more than Jesus did on the cross. When we are rejected by people or marginalized by the world, we aren’t losing anything. We worship this God who has made us peculiar, different, unique, holy and has set us free.

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Notes:

For the past several weeks we have been looking at the presence and power of Jesus in the church through the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that it was good for Him to go away because He would send the comforter, the helper, the Holy Spirit to teach us all things (John 16).

Last week we looked at the disciples being baptized with the Spirit on Pentecost and subsequently filled with the Spirit. All who believe on and follow Jesus receive the Spirit or are baptized in the Spirit. We receive the Spirit when we come into relationship with Jesus – we are baptized into the Spirit all by God’s doing and volition. At that point, the Spirit seals and secures us and we are to be filled with the Spirit. The filling of the Spirit is being in submission to His leading. The opposite of filling is not emptiness but a submission to the flesh; it is grieving and quenching. Grieving is hurting the Spirit and quenching is cutting off the flow – sin does both.

Although it is God who does the work of change in our lives and gives us strength through the Spirit, the process of sanctification does take our participation. The flesh and Spirit are at war within us (Romans 7). Being filled with the Spirit is not quenching the Spirit by following the flesh but by denying the flesh and following the Spirit. The filling is God’s doing but we work in cooperation with the Spirit through obedience.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. Galatians 5:16-17

We have the ability to deny our flesh but we’re still in the struggle; the flesh and the Spirit are opposed to one another. When we walk by the Spirit, we walk by His leading and will. Being filled with the Spirit means walking in obedience and following Jesus. This is how we become more Christlike, more sanctified, more holy.

The Spirit illumines Scripture. The natural man can’t understand the things of God, they are discerned only through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:14). The Spirit works through prayer. Prayer is not just speaking to God; we have to stop to listen. The Spirit brings confirmation through prayer. The Spirit directs us through Godly counsel. The Spirit also leads us through circumstances (but in cooperation with Scripture, prayer, and Godly counsel).

We’re filled and the Spirit leads us. Our sanctification leads to holiness. When Peter writes to believers, he quotes Leviticus 11:44 and Leviticus 19:2:

“As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; … For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 7-8

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:26-29

The theme of these passages is to move from our former lusts to a life of purity and holiness. “Do not be conformed to former lusts” implies a change of understanding and behavior, and a call to be holy like God Himself. We walk away from the world to God; we are set apart from and set apart to. In Thessalonians we read that the will of God is our sanctification, or our holiness. Paul contrasts sanctification with impurity. If we reject sanctification, we reject the Spirit’s work in our lives.

In Romans we see the work of the Spirit in prayer. In our flesh we do not know how to pray so the Spirit prays on our behalf because He knows God’s will. And God will use all the circumstances in our life for good! That good is conforming us to the image of His Son, Jesus. The common thread is change. Sanctified from and to, it is set apart, it is holiness. This comes by the will and power of God through the Holy Spirit’s work in our life as we submit to Him. We cooperate in this process. We are changing into the likeness of Jesus. This is called sanctification, Christ likeness or holiness.

Before we can continue talking about our holiness, let’s look at God’s holiness. What does it mean when we say God is holy? This short film from The Bible Project gives us insight:

The great paradox is that God is holy and unapproachable, yet at the same time Jesus lets us approach Him. We see the holiness of God in His uniqueness, His purity, His goodness, and His life-giving being (Leviticus 11:44, 19:2, 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 6:3).

God’s holiness is absolute perfection. God is unlike any other (1 Samuel 2:2, Hosea 11:9), and His holiness is the essence of that “otherness.” His very being is completely absent of even a trace of commonality or sin (James 1:13; Hebrews 6:18). He is high above any other, and no one can compare to Him (Psalm 40:5). God’s holiness pervades His entire being and shapes all His attributes. His love is a holy love, His mercy is holy mercy, and even His anger and wrath are holy anger and holy wrath. God is unique in all these. These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp, just as God is difficult for us to understand in His entirety. When we say God loves us, it’s a unique, perfect, eternal, and selfless love.

What does it mean for us to be holy? When God told Israel to be holy in Leviticus 11 and 19, He was instructing them to be distinct from other nations by giving them specific regulations to govern their lives. Israel is God’s chosen nation and set apart by God from all other people groups. They are His special people and He gave them special instructions to live by to demonstrate their uniqueness so that the world would know they belonged to Him. When Peter repeats the Lord’s words in 1 Peter 1:16, he is talking specifically to believers. As believers, we’re to be set apart from the world unto the Lord. God has set us part to Himself and we are holy:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

Man was created in the image of God and bore His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27) We were called to express that likeness, His holiness, in every aspect of our lives but we’ve fallen short in our sin. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, the holiness of God. We are no longer a unique creation but have become common, ordinary, and impure (the opposite of holiness). We are unclean – in our fallenness, we are less than human as God intended.

The more holy we become, the more unique we are. We are told not to be conformed to this world which is common and ordinary because we are a unique, peculiar people. We are a chosen race, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. These are all expressions of holiness and our lives are to be different from this world. If we are holy, we will be kind. If we are holy, we will be generous. Our kindness or our generosity or any of our works don’t make us holy.

How do we become holy? We like Isaiah are unclean and common and cannot be in the presence of a holy God. We cry out, “Woe is me! for I am a man of unclean lips in the midst of a people with unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5). In Isaiah’s vision God makes a way – He touches His lips with a burning coal and says, “your iniquity is taken away and you sin is forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7). There aren’t enough good things we could do to make us holy – God made the way!

Jesus is the greater cleanser who purifies us and makes us holy in Him. He is the Lamb of God who takes away (continually) the sin of the world. He who was perfectly holy took on sin and the consequences of our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Jesus makes us legally holy before a just God so that we can be relationally holy or set apart to our Abba. Holiness only exists by having a right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior, accepting His gift of eternal life. If we have not placed our faith in God’s Son alone to save us from our sins, then our pursuit of holiness is in vain. If we are truly born-again believers (John 3), then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world (1 Peter 2:9). We have a relationship with the living God! It is an overflow of that relationship that overflows into our holiness – holiness is not about a list of dos and don’ts but about spending time with Jesus.

We can understand holiness in our heads, but the struggle is in our feet and hands, the living out in communion with God. When we understand our unique relationship with our Father, our Savior Jesus through the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives, holiness moves from positional to practical. Holiness is the daily submission to Him.

Holiness for us has two parts:
1. We are set apart from the world (Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2)
2. We are set apart to God (1 Peter 2:9)

Holiness is found in an abandonment to this world and a passion for Jesus. Holiness is a relentless submission to His will and work. We cannot do enough right things or avoid enough wrong things to be holy on our own. But as we pursue our relationship with Jesus, as we desire to know Him and not just about Him, as we desire to spend time with Him, that’s when holiness comes. That is also when we begin to experience the river of flowing water, the abundant life, the fruit that comes from being filled with the Spirit. Following Jesus, being filled with the Spirit, and holiness are all connected.

Divorced from the holiness of God, sin is merely self-defeating behavior or a breach in etiquette. Divorced from the holiness of God, grace is merely empty rhetoric, pious window dressing for the modern technique by which sinners work out their own salvation. Divorced from the holiness of God, our gospel becomes indistinguishable from any of a host of alternative self-help doctrines. Divorced from the holiness of God, our public morality is reduced to little more than an accumulation of trade-offs between competing private interests. Divorced from the holiness of God, our worship becomes mere entertainment. The holiness of God is the very cornerstone of Christian faith, for it is the foundation of reality. Sin is defiance of God’s holiness, the Cross is the outworking and victory of God’s holiness, and faith is the recognition of God’s holiness. Knowing that God is holy is therefore the key to knowing life as it truly is, knowing Christ as he truly is, knowing why he came, and knowing how life will end.1

We cannot be in Jesus and remain the same – there is a call to holiness. It is a life set apart in communion with the God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a life that embodies proclamation of the person of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit through its uniqueness of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control. What makes us unique is being like Jesus, who is all holy.

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1Dr. David F Wells, Excerpt from: No Place For Truth: or Whatever Happened to Evangelical Theology? in “A Puritan’s Mind”

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