Leviticus 11: 44-45 & 19: 1-4
1 Thessalonians 4: 1-9

September 26, 2021

Make every effort to live in peace … WITH EVERYONE and TO BE HOLY, without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

Last week I asked all of you to consider only 3 verses out of the 31 102 verses in the Bible. To read three verses from Hebrews each day.

So, how many times did you take a look at verses 12 through 14 from Hebrews chapter 12 this past week? Did you read those verses in a park setting or in your backyard? Did you consider them as you started your day or during a lunch break? Did you allow the Holy Spirit to bring a personal meaning to you from these verses?

Here’s an answer to a trivia question or perhaps if you get on Jeopardy and the category Bible comes up you can be ready to get the right question. What is the middle verse in the Bible out of those 31, 102 verses? The answer is PSALM 118 verse 8, “It is far better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust humans.”

Perhaps that is the ultimate definition of living a holy life … to be holy is to take refuge in the Lord and live as God expects us to. It is a life reality that we all need because not only will we become holy in our relationship with God … we will become effective in growing the church by showcasing God’s love through Christ … we will be allowing ourselves to experience God’s love, receiving peace from the Holy Spirit, and showing the joy we can have in faith. But we need to get HOLY. And, it begins with taking refuge in the LORD and refusing to find our comfort in human-empowerment.

God’s Word … our Bibles … actually God’s Bibles because they contain the Word of God for the people of God are a challenge to many of us because we are just too busy to get engaged with reading something that might take us away from the latest tic tok video or seeing all the stuff poured onto our social media. The book of faith, which Hebrews is often called, is only 10 pages in the Bible I have at home … ten pages but reading 3 verses seems like a task doesn’t it … perhaps because Scripture delivers to us the reminders of who God wants us to be and the reading I provided to you last week, which forms the basis of my messages for the next few weeks, is truly challenging.

The author is not trying to tell us to be “holy rollers” or “holier than thou” rather we are reminded that if we, as individuals, want to see God … we need to be changed people who live by faith as if we truly believe what our membership or association with a church like St. Paul’s implies. It is essential that we know what it means to live as a Christian not just claim to be one.

It is easy for modern day Christians to dismiss Old Testament teachings by simply saying we are the love children of God … we love and we are rescued … we are loved and so we can be dismissive of God until those moments in time arrive when we really need God but of course we expect God to be there when we want and need God … just like we fully expect God to say welcome home when our final breaths are taken on earth because after all … we didn’t owe God anything because our life here is designed for us to live and to thrive and to pat ourselves on the back by telling folks we are Christians. I think that there are many people who truly believe that they will not have to account for anything before driving away in the fuel free luxury vehicle that is already parked in their heavenly mansion’s garage.

So, before I venture back into God’s clarion call to God’s people from today’s lessons from the Torah listen again to what Paul clarified to the early church in Thessalonica, located in northern Greece, “God’s will is that your lives are dedicated to Him. God didn’t call us to be immoral but to be … here’s that word again … DEDICATED TO GOD. Therefore whoever rejects these instructions IS NOT rejecting a human authority. They are rejecting GOD … God who gives God’s Holy Spirit to you.”

You see, when we allow God’s Holy Spirit into our lives … God begins to try to direct us in our daily walk and yes, we will slip and fall because we are not perfect but unless we are truly and intentionally saying ‘COME HOLY SPIRIT COME … direct our lives’ … if we don’t want that then how can we truly be focused on discovering who we are CALLED TO BE for God and more importantly the question of the reality of our faith needs to be considered. Jesus said, “I did not come to judge the world … whoever believes in me will not perish but will have everlasting life.”

But there is a judgment that will happen … God has expectations that God has clearly strived to make easier and easier for humanity but all too many people including perhaps some of you believe that reaching eternity with God is a matter of taking the escalator to heaven with a mere nod towards giving up personal time for worship … a passing acknowledgment of the importance of the church of Jesus Christ … perhaps even knowing the words to a song of praise and maybe even knowing a Bible verse by heart is the claim to a future of heavenly fame and fortune that is being made.

Now, Jesus did not come to judge humanity … “God loved us so much that God sent God’s only Son to earth” but God throughout God’s Word is pretty clear in reminding us that God does not like our sins; in fact God is pretty clear that we will be judged just take a look at Matthew 25 when you get home today.

God does not want to be ranked behind our self created gods whether they are humans we elevate to god-like standings or stuff that identifies who we are rather than being known as Christians first and foremost. By our love of God, which is always the first requirement and then through our love of all neighbors with ALL meaning ALL.

When Scripture clearly states we must be HOLY … well it’s all about priorities and reflections on who we are and not mere pleas that throughout our lives we put up a manger scene amongst the many Christmas decorations both inside and outside our homes and oh yes, we say grace at our meals … at least some meals.

So this morning’s Old Testament readings should have been like a loud clanging gong to each of us … “THE LORD SAID … YOU MUST be HOLY because I the LORD your God am HOLY… DO NOT turn to idols or make gods for yourselves. I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD! YOU MUST BE HOLY!

The Lord our God … the God of all creation as our closing song of praise reflects. God of wonders … God of love but God with expectations that once we discover who God is we will change … we will live as people of faith with God as our priority and God’s directives as our life’s guidelines.

The rich man approached Jesus according to Matthew’s Gospel and asked, “What good thing must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus then carried on a conversation where the young man claimed to have always obeyed the commandments that Moses brought down. He then asked, “What am I missing?” Jesus replied, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. AND … AND … come follow me. When the young man heard this he went away saddened because he had many possessions.”

Friends, it was not that the man was wealthy rather it was about the truth that his many things mattered more to him than his faith in God. He did not want to be holy … he wanted an easy path to eternal life; he did not want to give up his priorities rather he wanted Jesus to wave His hand and declare come on in! But … “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” We MUST follow Jesus …

I hope that you find joy and peace and happiness in aligning with God when considering our choices of being one with the world or one with God and Christ. I pray for each of you and for me, that we love the God of creation as the priority of our life and of course that we showcase our love of God by loving all of our neighbors even as we experience neighbors who thrive on hating or dismissing others for their personal empowerment.

Our reading from Thessalonians, verse 7 teaches “God did not call us to be impure or immoral but to live a HOLY LIFE, which also means a life dedicated to God.” And, no that does not mean everyone goes to seminary … nor that everyone becomes a recluse but it does mean we change our focus of life by making God a priority. If we do that friends the first thing that will happen is that your friends and family will notice … if you are no longer putting people down or if you are telling people that you don’t want to hear them put people down … it will open the door to saying you don’t want that kind of anti-love language towards others in your presence because you have Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Yes, some will reject you but some might give pause … and some might come to know the Lord because of your faith.

In his book, ‘The Chase,” Jerry Bridges quotes Walter Marshall, a 17th century theologian, who wrote, “What kind of strange salvation do they desire that cares not for holiness. They would have their sins forgiven not that they may walk with God in love, in time to come, but that they may practice their enmity against God without any fear of punishment.” You see friends, when we have faith … when we believe … our lives will change if the faith is real and frankly we pray for heaven on earth every Sunday and God has plans for true believers that are more important in the here and now rather than just a one way ticket to heaven someday. But, you have to believe … you have to change … faith has to be real.

It is important for me to clarify that I am not saying that holiness gets you to heaven … just living a secluded life of goodness is not God’s requirement for salvation. Rather when we believe in God and Jesus Christ … when we have reached the understanding that we are to love God, follow Jesus, love our neighbors, and live lives that reflect holiness then our faith is verified through our works. Works without faith in God is as dead as claiming faith without living as if we believed.

But when we strive for holiness in our life then we each can experience God in a closer and more personal way because we are living as God expects. [1]Prayer is a vital part of our fellowship with God yet the psalmist said, If I had been cozy with evil, the Lord would never have listened.”

So, as today goes forward take some time for self evaluation. How does your life reflect holiness in faith? What evidence do you have that you’re truly in Christ and do others see it? Are you striving with regularity to discover new ways to become actively engaged with and for God in your life? Are you bothered by your sins? And, are you seeking God’s help in discovering what God wants you to do for God or do you think that God is happy with how you’re working for God in the life you have here on earth?

Challenging questions …. So, this week I am going to ask you to read one less verse every day. I want you to read JAMES chapter 2 verses 19 and 20. I want you to seriously consider what is written there in God’s Word in relationship to where you stand with God as the autumn of 2021 begins. Read it in different translations if you have them and pray with God about them.

The world needs us … the world needs our focus to be on living for God in this world not as a life of sorrow and sacrifice without joy but a life where joy abounds as does love. We need to align with God and Christ … we need to be holy and closer to God.

Jesus in Matthew chapter 7 teaches, “Not everybody who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will get into the kingdom of heaven. Only those who do the will of my Father who is in heaven will enter.”

Remember the verse that answered the trivia question about the verse halfway through God’s Word, “It is far better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust humans.”

And, then strive to live for God … taking the Scripture lesson from last week two ways both as a persona lesson and as one about sharing who God is … Make every effort to live in peace … WITH EVERYONE and TO BE HOLY, without holiness no one will see the Lord.”



[1] THE CHASE by Jerry Bridges published by NAVPRESS

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