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A High Way Called Holiness
Throughout this year, I’d like to go back and revisit those doctrines that we looked at during my sermon series that became the basis of the new book I’m writing, “Wells of Living Waters.”
These wells are those doctrines that contain God’s living waters that has brought revival and renewal to the church in the past, but the enemy of our faith, Satan, has cover over and made of no effect.
And unless the church begins to open what Satan has so successfully covered over, then we’ll never see that renewal or revival that we so desperately want and are praying for.
There’s a popular saying in Christianity today; that while we’re to be living in the world, we’re not to be of the world. What this means is that we’re not suppose to be living our lives in accordance to what the world says, but rather by what the Lord says, which is the meaning of our topic today.
Today I’d like to talk with you about the one singular thing that all revivals have in common, and that is holiness. Without holiness there is no revival, there is no renewal.
Holiness is a key component, not only in the House of God, as the Psalmist says, “Holiness adorns Your house, O Lord, forever,” Psalm 93:5 NKJV, but holiness should also be the heart of God’s people. The Apostle Paul said that God has not called us to uncleanness, but holiness, 1 Thessalonians 4:7. The writer of Hebrews says,
“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14 NKJV)
This word “see” is interesting. It means to have a vision of something, and so without holiness we’ll never get a clear view of God, and we’ll never understand His ways.
Over this past generation the church has undergone many changes in its attempt to make itself relevant to the society. And as I have listened to what is being taught, read what is being written, and witnessed how those who call themselves Christians are living, what has become evident is that the church has gotten itself off track.
And one of the reasons is because the church has largely forgotten about Holiness, but it’s a road God says we need to travel.
In speaking about the time of the coming Messiah, when the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped, and the mute will shout for joy. When water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams will flow in the desert, the Lord says,
“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way.” (Isaiah 35:8 NIV)
Now this word for highway doesn’t mean what we refer to it as being, rather it means exactly what it says, a way that is high. A highway was a road built on a raised causeway making it visible and unmistakable to everyone even at a far distance.
In the church this elevated way is called the way of holiness. Yet the church has lost its way, even though God’s word has clearly marked it out for us to follow.
John Wesley said that God raised up Methodism to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. Wesley had actually formed a holiness club at Oxford. And Methodism was the source of a great revival that broke out in the mid 19th century known as the “Holiness Revival.”
But today much of Wesley’s teaching and this holiness revival has been forgotten, or better yet ignore it all togetherr because we’ve relegated holiness to a set of behaviors, like not smoking or drinking, or the way we are to act, or how we are dress and speak. Others speak about holiness as some perfectionistic ideal, which has discouraged many because there’s no way we can ever reach this ideal of perfection.
What then is holiness? What does it mean? The word holiness belongs to the same word grouping as sanctify and sanctification. It means to be separated and set apart for God, and it implies living a life of service for God, along with conforming to and becoming like the God in which we serve, or to become like Christ.
Holiness is then to become like Christ. That is the process of holiness.
And so to be holy is to be separate from sin and set apart for God and His kingdom purposes.
Now, does this mean that we have no sin? No, that’s impossible because within each believer, whom the Bible identifies as saints, which is another derivative of the word holy, within each of us exists the sin nature.
The Apostle Paul said, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)
Evil is always present inside of us, and it’s messing up the works, trying to draw us away from holiness. This is what the Apostle Paul revealed saying,
“For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” (Romans 7:19-21 NKJV)
Paul is saying, “Hey, I want to do what is right, but there’s this evil that is present within me that is messing up the works.”
And so those who are on this road of holiness are not at peace with the sin dwelling within. In fact they hate it and long to be free from its grip.
Now, what might help is knowing that as long as we’re on this side of death, none of us will be perfect, which means that while we’ve been called to be holy, the sin nature is still present.
And so our holiness does not begin with a set of rules and regulations, rather it begins with the Lord Himself. He is holy and calls us to be the same, that is, separate from sin.
“But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:15-16 NKJV)
God has called us to a holy life. And this call to a holy life is based in the Lord. Some live their lives based upon cultural holiness, that is, they adopt their character and behavior to the culture around them. This is where we get statements like, “Everyone else is doing it.”
But God hasn’t called us to be like those around us, instead He’s called us to be like Him. And so holiness is conforming to the character of God, who is holy, pure and separate from sin.
Because God is holy, He cannot ignore or approve of any evil that is committed, because it goes against His character.
The prophet Habakkuk said of God, “You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness” (Habakkuk 1:13).
God is holy and therefore He cannot excuse or overlook sin, no matter how we might like to excuse it away saying, “Well that’s the way I am,” or “I had not other choice,” as if God is tempting us to do it. But God doesn’t accept our excuses, and He cannot be blamed.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” (James 1:13-14 NKJV)
Let’s get this straight. It’s us, not God. Somewhere along the line we have to start taking accountability for our own actions rather than blaming God or someone else.
So what does holiness do in and for our lives?
What do I mean? If God is holy, then we can be confident that everything He does is perfect and just. To consider otherwise would be saying that God isn’t God.
At Seminary a professor asked, “If we get mad at God for something unfair, is God still God to us?” Interesting question! We are often tempted to question God’s actions and complain that He is somehow unfair. But isn’t that the same lie Satan told Eve, that God wasn’t fair by withholding the fruit from the tree of good and evil.
But know this, it’s impossible for God to be unfair. It’s against His nature, because God is holy and all of His actions are holy. And this is a fact we need to accept by faith even when circumstances make it appear otherwise. To complain against God is to deny His holiness.
Because God is holy He hates sin. Concerning the various sins committed by Israel, the Lord said, “For all these things are what I hate,” Zachariah 8:17.
The more we grow in holiness, the more our hatred for sin should grow. The Psalmist said, “Your commandments give me understanding; no wonder I hate every false way of life,” Psalm 119:104. What he was saying is that the more he understood about God through His word, the more he hated sin.
The Apostle Paul said,
“Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people.” (Ephesians 5:3 NLT)
So let’s stop deceiving ourselves thinking that we can continue to sin and that there won’t be consequences for it. God is holy, and therefore God is just, and as such He will not overlook our sin. God hates sin; therefore we need to start hating it as well and quit trifling with sin and excusing our sins away.
I heard it said like this:
It was sin that wove the crown of thorns that drew blood from Jesus’ head.
It was sin that caused His hands, feet, and side to be pierced.
It was sin that brought Him to Calvary, the cross, and the tomb.
Now do you see why we should hate sin!
Further, because God has called us to be holy, holiness is not an option on our part; it’s a command.
To the church in Corinth, Paul said,
“To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints.” (1 Corinthians 1:2a NKJV)
This verse speaks of holiness in two parts.
First he said, “those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus.” Remember to sanctify means to make holy, and so this could read, “those who are made holy in Christ Jesus.”
What we need to remember is that our own holiness can never save us. Isaiah tells us that our righteousness is like filthy rags in the sight of God, Isaiah 64:6. In our own righteousness we are still sinners in the eyes of God. Our best is still stained with sin.
Therefore we are made holy by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ and what He did upon the cross that saves us. It is a gift given to us by God, and not through anything that we might do so that we don’t boast in our own holiness or righteousness.
The second aspect of holiness is seen when it says we are called to be saints. This word “saint” is the same word as the word holy. So this might also be read, “called to be holy.”
When we begin to live holy lives people will begin to see that our faith is real.
Next I’d like to look at those things that keep us from living a holy life.
What Prevents Holiness
That which prevents us from living holy lives is that our attitudes are more self-centered than they are God-centered. We’re more concerned with the blessings of God than we are that our sins grieve His heart.
What God desires is for us to walk in obedience. It’s from obedience that victory and God’s blessings come.
Not Living By Faith
To live by faith is to believe in Jesus Christ and what He did for us upon the cross, taking our place and dying the death we all deserve. That is saving faith. But there is also what is known as sanctifying faith, that is faith in which we live out in front of others.
The Apostle James explains this.
“Faith by itself, if it doesn’t have works, is dead,” James 2:17.
The Apostle Paul said that Abraham was justified by faith, that is, saving faith, Romans 12:2, and in Ephesians 2:8-9 we’re told that by grace we are saved by faith, and not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Yet the Apostle James said that Abraham was also justified by works when he offered Isaac upon the altar, James 2:21. This is then sanctifying faith, that is, the faith we proclaim being lived out in front of others.
Not Taking Sin Seriously
What we do is categorize sins. We have this sin scale, where on one side are those sins that are unacceptable, and on the other side are those sins that can be tolerated. But God hates all sins, and to compromise in this way is not only not taking sin seriously, but also its not taking God’s holiness and righteousness seriously.
Now, before we close we need to take time to settle these issues in our hearts.
The holiness of God and His command for us to be holy should make us sit up and take stock in our lives, or as the prophet Haggai said, “Consider your ways. “ King David prayed,
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24 NKJV)
Let me take a moment and remove any barriers that you may have or are putting up in regards to this command to be holy.
And so the question is, do you want to be a part of the few who are on this narrow road, the way called holiness, or do you want to be part of the many who are on the highway to hell?
Unfortunately, holiness no longer holds the place that it should in our hearts. I think what we need to do is clear. The Lord tells us,
“Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die.” (Ezekiel 18:31 NKJV)
Let’s begin today to walk on this Highway, this elevated way called Holiness.
I believe the night is just about gone and a brand new day and a new beginning is at hand. So let’s wake up to God’s truth. Let’s lay aside all that is hindering our walk with the Lord, and let’s cleanse ourselves by the living water of God’s word and confession of sin and begin to live in holiness.
But to be holy you must begin with Jesus Christ. You must take this step of faith and accept Jesus Christ into your heart to be both your Savior and Lord. Don’t wait until you get your life right or your act together, because you never will without Christ.
It’s kind of like trying to bail out a leaky boat without stopping the leak. You bail and bail only to find yourself deeper in water where your boat eventually sinks.
Come to the Lord Jesus Christ today. Don’t wait, because no one is guaranteed tomorrow.
Today is the day of salvation.
The Apostle Paul said,
“I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
Today as we close with this song offering, will you bring yourself as that living sacrifice, holy, pleasing, and what is acceptable to God?
My question to you is do want to get serious about God and about being holy?
If you’ve recognized that you haven’t been living a life that is pleasing to God, and if you’re desire is to live a holy life, then as this song of bringing an offering is playing, then bring yourself to the altar and offer yourself as that living sacrifice to the Lord.
Unless we start today, nothing new will ever happen.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study