VICTORY in Holiness

Psalm 139: 1-6
HEBREWS 4: 9-16

October 17, 2021

There are songs that resonate … there are songs that reveal our thoughts and emotions. Some songs we ask our Google and Alexa devices to play for us because we need the melodies or the rhythms or the words. We share songs … we call some songs our own and all of you are well aware of how much I love music and that I can break out in song at the least expected or most expected moments both here in the pulpit and frankly sitting around at home. Sometimes singing to myself but other times ‘Oh, Victory in Jesus my Savior forever. He sought me …’

Oops, there I go again. Actually that hymn has been going around and around and around in my mind for at least a month now. “I heard an old, old story. How a Savior came from glory.” I think it was Vacation Bible School this year that returned this 1939 Gospel classic written by E.M. Bartlett into my daily consciousness and it hasn’t left yet. Almost every day … Oh Victory

Sometimes to the point of annoyance because in the middle of watching my Buffalo Bills march down the field this hymn pops into my brain. All about the victory we can experience through the holiness of God and Jesus Christ. Our coach being of course, the Holy Spirit. The psalmist referenced God’s coaching in what we heard this morning “You surround me, Lord, front and back. You put your hand on me.”

God ready to guide us and direct us. God who provides the clarity of God’s existence each day if we are awake enough to sing, ‘Yes, Lord … Yes, Lord … Yes, Yes Lord! I’m trading all my sorrows.’ Oh well, another song … perhaps some who come to church sing the songs of faith with no resonant heart felt meaning …. Just on the schedule of church songs rather than worshiping God and meaning what we sing and say. I wonder how many families still sing faith songs together at home? Amazing Grace? This Little Light of Mine? Victory … well you do know some others, right?

However, if we start to look clearly at ourselves the question arises, ‘are we willing to trade our sorrows, admit and trade our shame and lay them down for a victory in the joy of the Lord?’. As part of our human competitive reality and yes … we are all competitive to one degree or another … Are we, you and me, striving for a life-long and eternal life victory in Jesus? Are we calling out for the presence of God’s Holy Spirit … to sense God’s mighty hand on us and asking to be directed where God believes we should journey and what we should do and say along that journey according to God?

Or are we so invested in building our temporary careers that vanish when we get too old to work, striving to create an image that will get us far in the world of politics or doing all it takes to have growth in our personal bank accounts, which will not leave this planet with us by the way when life’s journey is over, … Are our human self interests the place we are putting our energy, our time, and are those priorities the examples we are setting for future generations to take careful note of? Forget eternity … forget God’s directions … strive for personal success my child and the world will be yours! Not God’s.

Skip the holy kids … one day you might be elected to the New Jersey State Assembly … one day you might be eliminating jobs so that the profit line goes up and up and you can move into an even bigger office and then move your family home into that gated community where you don’t have to notice the rif raf folks while driving your Porsche around for all to gawk at! Strive for the Lamborghini do all you can to get there … who needs prayer? Who has time to read Bible stories to the kids? Who needs hymns or praise songs that resonate in your heart and soul … join the human dividing zone because our family is not going to get caught up in the One who created everything for us because we are going to be on top of the world! Kids play your sports to get your scholarships and to become a pro athlete one day!

Frank Gargione died this Friday, 2 days ago, surrounded by his family. Frankly, he was not a friend but he was a face and voice and smile my family knew very well. He owned the bagel chain down at the shore where we have always bought our bagels. He was 48 years old … he coached little league baseball, he was active in youth wrestling circles, he was a politician, he vocally refused to mask up and this summer he contracted COVID from someone and then for more than a month he painfully suffered with a vent down his throat until he died on Friday surrounded by his family. His bagel shops are not entering the after life with him and apparently he was not even prepared for an illness with high bills maybe rejecting the ACA because there is now a go-fund me page to raise money for his expenses. Last year at this time all he was thinking about was life and not masking … now he is gone leaving his wife a widow and his teenage sons orphans.

“I heard about His healing; of His cleansing power revealing” … I actually was taught about how Jesus made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see in Sunday School. Bob and Ethel believed it was essential that David and Mark Delaney go to Sunday School. Art Banzhof … Dick Schoentholler … Jack Corbett … Glenn Childs … Richard Siefert, and yes, Stanley Lewis, the pastor … those men and others invested their time in me and others because my mom and dad and other moms and dads invested family time so that the Victory in Holiness could be found by their children.

A God provided Victory in Holiness offered out of love that is an opportunity for all who believe but with a victory also comes the potential for defeat and loss. If you are old enough you remember the opening words of ABC’s Wide World of Sports … bringing the world the Thrills of victory and the agony of defeat. I don’t want to think about the agony of the eternal defeat for those who reject God and Christ in this life because they are just too busy to get into church or religion …

I am thrilled to have Jesus in my life …. I am thankful while fully knowing all the many times I have neglected the Holy Spirit and made wrong decisions sinning against God that God’s love for me has never stopped and God’s forgiveness has never failed to rescue me. I continue to struggle against sin but friends isn’t it good to know that God is alive and well and loving and forgiving and still teaching us the right directions through God’s Holy Spirit even when the world seems like a putrid swamp land.

When this sermon series started I gave you homework in the form of a challenge to read. Hebrews chapter 12 verses 12 through 14 every day for a week. As we consider our potential for victory through the holiness of God, I want you to focus in on a few more New Testament verses this week from Romans.

Beginning some time after church today and then for each day this week, I want you to read Romans chapter 8 verses 9 through 16. Yes, I know 7 Bible verses per day is a lot of work; it is more than double the challenge I issued a few weeks ago. I urge you to pray on those verses this week and then declare with Paul, ABBA FATHER, OUT LOUD as you finish your prayer and reading not caring who hears you declare that all things are possible when God is truly treated as our father whom we freely are choosing to obey. ‘Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name … thy kingdom come.

Oh wait, if we aren’t actually believing that we need to find our victory in holiness then those words about God’s Kingdom come on earth really don’t mean anything do they? Here’s the phrase from Paul’s letter to the early Roman church that struck me this week when I came across it, “Dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. If through the power of the Holy Spirit, you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live.”

Paul knew the world’s magnetic power to seduce and control … Jesus knew … God knows but God offers us so much more but its not in the context of big houses, fancy cars, gourmet meals, powerful jobs, or anything else that the world tells us should be our priorities … God offers us Jesus and yes, some people of faith will own big beautiful homes while some will live in abject poverty … some will not even blink at the tab at the best steak houses in New York City while others scrounge for anything that seems like food … some people of faith will hold the highest political positions in the world while others merely sweep up after them.

The challenge is and always will be … where is our allegiance? Where is our love? What or who is our God or gods? And, as the David, a clear and definite man who sinned, wrote in today’s Psalm, “Lord you have examined me, You know me. Even far away you comprehend my plans … You are familiar with all of my ways.” Friends, you can’t fool God … that business card or fish symbol passed out amidst the crowds implying your faith is only valid if that is who you really are. If you are striving each day for victory in holiness rather than victory in the world.

In THE CHASE, Jerry Bridges writes, [1]Because of our relationship with Christ, we’re free from the control of sin. But, sin still puts up a pretty good fight.” In Romans Paul writes a lot about evil and sin, which are powers that go up against God without ceasing. It should not be a surprise that Paul wrote to two of those early churches telling them to pray without ceasing because after all friends we need to be in regular connection with our God to insure that God is our God and the Holy Spirit is the guide who takes us away from the paths where Evil is lurking attempting to bring us back to where God’s priorities are no longer our own.

Our reading from Hebrews today called on people of faith to “make every effort to enter into the rest of God’s Sabbath because it is through the Sabbath” and worship and faith in God that “no one will fall. God’s Word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It is able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions.”

So, open up your Bibles this week to Romans chapter 8 verses 9 through 16 and then loudly shout out ABBA GOD … yes, some people might think you are calling out to your Alexa to hear Mamma Mia but that’s not the ABBA we should be calling to through our faith walk. Consider those you love and whether it is worth your time investment to share your faith with them especially if they are enjoying their journey away from God and Jesus … victory comes through holiness … our forever victory and yes, our victory during our time here on earth whether we live to be over 100 or our days end before we reach 50 like my bagel store owner … let’s focus on victory in holiness.

Oh, victory in Jesus, my Savior forever. He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood He loved me ‘ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him. He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood! AMEN

[1] THE CHASE by Jerry Bridges published by NavPress

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