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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Holy, Holy, Holy - A Sermon

Are you holy? This is the manuscript of a sermon that I delivered at Christ Church, Los Angeles, CA.The audio recording of the sermon is included in the manuscript.

I want to start with a question.

What does it mean to be holy?

Holiness is not something that we talk a lot about in the church.  We talk about salvation a lot.  We talk about forgiveness a lot.  We talk about God’s promises a lot.  We talk about love a lot.  But we don’t talk about holiness a lot,  because, I think,  it makes people nervous.  It makes pastors, preachers, teachers, evangelists, and some prophets nervous so we just avoid the subject.

It makes us nervous because

Leviticus 20:26 (NKJV)26  And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.  


1 Peter 1:13-16 (NKJV)13  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;14  as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;15  but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,16  because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

We’re afraid that we don’t meet that standard so we avoid talking about it.

Well we are going to talk about holiness today.   

Here’s my next question;

Are you holy?

You don’t have to answer that.  

Notice that I didn’t ask if you are saved because if you're saved then I know that you are righteous.

Romans 4:5 (NKJV) But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

II Corinthians 5:20‭-‬21(NKJV) Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to  be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

So I know you are saved and righteous but what about holy?

First let’s  look at the definition of holy.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary - dedicated or consecrated to God or a religious purpose; sacred

The Hebrew word for holy is “qodesh” (ko'-desh),and means “apartness, set-apartness, separateness, sacredness”  In the New Testament, the Greek word for holy is “hagios” (hag'-ee-os), and means set apart, reverend, sacred, and worthy of veneration.”  

The word holy certainly applies to God because He is totally separate, sacred, transcendent, reverend, and set apart from every created thing.  Another way to say it is that God is absolute perfection.

The phrase "holy, holy, holy" is an important one that occurs only twice in the Bible. On both occasions, the phrase comes from heavenly beings and they are indicating God’s being like nothing else, no person or no thing.

Isaiah 6:1-3 (NKJV)1  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.2  Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3  And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"

Revelation 4:6-8 (NKJV)6  Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.7  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.8  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"

In both Isaiah and Revelation, the word holy is used three times to emphasize God's holiness and completeness.  We have a similar practice in English, for example we say "far, far away" to emphasize something being a longshot or in the distant future.  It’s like saying “Attention this is important!”

The emphasis of the phrase "holy, holy, holy" is clearly on the holiness of God, it refers to His being "set apart" or distinct from all of creation. He is separate from sin, corruption, and impurity. He is perfect in all ways; He is exceptional, in a category all by Himself.

These concepts are difficult for humans to grasp, just as God is difficult for us to understand completely yet we are clearly told to be holy because we belong to God and He’s holy.  
The word holy is used more than 600 times in the Bible. So to be holy is really important.   To be holy describes something or someone set apart from anything else. For example, the seventh day was called "holy" and set apart as special by God.  

Genesis 2:3 (NLT)  And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.

The garments of Israel's priests who served in the tabernacle and Temple were considered unique and holy.

Exodus 28:2 (NKJV)  And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.

The entire nation of Israel was set-apart by God Himself.  

Exodus 19:6 (NKJV)  And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."

When God gave the instructions about clean and unclean animals, how to deal with leprosy, mold in clothing and in houses, relationships between parents, neighbors,  foreigners, how to worship, all the regulations, including the Ten Commandments, that we read about in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, He was instructing them to be different from the other nations.

Here is what He had Moses write in Leviticus.

Leviticus 20:25 (NKJV)25  You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean.

Like Israel, Christians (the church) are commanded to be holy or distinct, set-apart.  Peter repeats the words of Leviticus;

1 Peter 1:16 (NLT)16  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”


1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)9  But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.

Let’s be clear, God isn't calling us to be perfect, but to be distinctly different from the world.

The difference between God and us is that He is inherently holy while we, on the other hand, only become holy when we have a relationship with Christ, through His shed blood.

Ephesians 1:7 (NKJV) In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
Romans 5:9‭-‬10 (NKJV) Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Here’s some of  what Jesus said when He prayed for His disciples.  

John 17:15-19 (NKJV)15  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.16  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.17  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.18  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.19  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

Jesus asked the Father to sanctify His disciples.  Sanctification is being set apart just as being holy is being separate or apart.

Pursue Holiness

We  increase in  holiness as we mature spiritually.  We have to pursue holiness, in other words, we have to work at it.  Not work for it because we were already set apart to God at salvation.

1 Peter 2:9 (NLT)9  But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
But we do have to pursue holiness.  

Hebrews 12:14 (NKJV)  Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

We should pursue holiness, but at the same time realizing that we  won’t obtain complete holiness until Jesus returns and we will be like Him.   

1 John 3:2-3 (NKJV)2  Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.3  And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  

It is a fact that as God’s children we are separated from the world; but we need to live out that reality in our day-to-day lives.  

Here’s how we live it out

Exercise Self-Control

We have to be on guard for things like pride, arrogance, greed, revenge, lust, things that take our minds off the goal of serving God.  

1 Peter 1:13-14 (NKJV)13  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;14  as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance;

Then the completion of that thought is

15  but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16  because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

Never Forget the Hope of Salvation

The hope of salvation is eternal life in God’s presence,  to be with the Lord when your life on earth is done and to be resurrected when Jesus returns to the earth  When you remember these things  it will then be much easier for you to live holy.

1 Peter 1:3-5 (NKJV)3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,4  to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,5  who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

We know that our hope for heaven is secure because it is based on the unchangeable nature of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NLT)8  But let us who live in the light be clearheaded, protected by the armor of faith and love, and wearing as our helmet the confidence of our salvation.

Ephesians 1:13-14 (NKJV)13  In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Don’t Slip Back Into Your Old Fleshly Ways

When we became Christians we broke some patterns of living and we shouldn’t go back to them and we probably need to break more patterns to get to the level of holiness that God has called us to, so that we don’t resemble the world at all.  

2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NKJV) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he  is  a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconcilia

Ephesians 4:20-24 (NKJV)20  But you have not so learned Christ,21  if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:22  that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,23  and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,24  and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)1  I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.2  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Accept God’s Challenge and His Encouragement to Be Holy

God created man in His image which is completely holy.  Adam blew it but God provided a way for us to attain it again through the shed blood of Jesus.  Once we have been washed in His blood we should start to live a lifestyle which reflects that holiness.

Some people think that to be holy you have to run away from the world, but you can’t really do that.   Jesus said we are in the world but not of it and He never asked His Father to take us out of it.  

John 17:14-15 (NKJV)14  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.15  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.

That means we are physically present—but not of it, not part of its values. Remember holy is to be set apart.  We shouldn’t participate in sinful activities the world promotes, like extra marital or premarital sex, pronagraphy, homosexuality, revenge, things against God’s will.   Here’s what Romans 12:1-2 says in the New Living Translation;

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)1  And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.2  Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Jesus didn’t ask the Father to take his disciples and now us out of the world because if we were taken out of the world then the world wouldn’t have any examples of what God wants for them and the gospel wouldn’t be delivered.  There would be nobody to lead others to salvation if we were out of the world.  The world wouldn't know how much God loved them if we were out of the world.  

So what does it mean to be holy?  

Some people think in order to be holy you have to be in church on your knees praying all day,  walking around with a halo, not having any fun or enjoying yourself.  They think to be holy you have to despise everything of this world.  There are some good things in this world like burritos and cheeseburgers so everything is not bad, but you need to be led by the Holy Spirit and not your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)5  Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.6  Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Does being holy mean that we that we don’t drink, or smoke, or dance, play cards, or gamble?  For many, maybe most Christians,  that’s what it means, and that’s okay.  Does it mean that we maintain sexual purity, financial honesty, and commitment to private prayer?   Of course it does. Those things are obviously things that set us apart from the world, but those things are not what Scripture is talking about with regard to holiness.

Again the most basic meaning of the word is to be "set apart" or "dedicated" to God—to belong to God.   So how often a person goes to church, how many hours they spend in prayer, what good spiritual books they have read, all the good things they do doesn’t make a person holy.  These things are a result of being holy they don’t make you holy.  The thing that makes you holy is the desire to become all God created you to be, It’s the commitment to do the will of God.

When God said “be holy because I am holy”  it describes a unique and special  relationship between us and God. This relationship has moral ramifications, but the relationship comes first. Before we are ever called to be good, we are called to be holy. If we don’t understand that the relationship itself is the most important thing, we fall into the inevitable trap of reducing holiness to morality only.

My ex-daughter-in-law,  posted this on Facebook yesterday and I want to share it with you.

"And such were some of you..." I believe in being a new creation and leaving the past behind...I believe in sanctification as a process...I have also observed that the true believers get better over time, they keep on yielding to the transformation, even though they age, they are being renewed in mind, and soul and spirit...more of Jesus shows...because we all are closer to death. I believe we should carry around the death of Jesus in our hearts everyday...and that somehow lets us know we can rest in His perfection without being perfect...and more important, we can admit that we aren't.

Holiness is not just about moral purity. It's about union with God in Christ and sharing in Christ's holiness.   A lifestyle of holiness does not mean that we have a list of do’s and don’ts to live by. We are free from the letter of the law remember.  
2 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NKJV)4  And we have such trust through Christ toward God.5  Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God,6  who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
But we are to fulfill the law of Christ.
What exactly is the law of Christ?  
Mark 12:28-31 (NKJV)28  Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, "Which is the first commandment of all?"29  Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one.30  And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment.31  And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."
To love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the law of Christ.
Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others. Our motivation for holiness should be love, not a desire to legalistically obey a series of commandments. We are to obey the law of Christ because we love Him, not so that we can check off a list of commands.  
To be holy is to be led by the Holy Spirit.  
Galatians 5:16-23 (NKJV)16  I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.17  For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.18  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.19  Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,20  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,21  envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,23  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Living a holy life means letting our decisions be guided by the Holy Spirit.  Holiness is surrendering to the will of God, and at the same time, it is grasping each moment and making it all it can be. Holiness is allowing God to fill every corner of your being.  Holiness doesn’t stifle us; it sets us free.

Holiness is the will of God us

1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 (NKJV)3  For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality;4  that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,5  not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God;6  that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified.7  For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.8  Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit.  

Being holy is to be "set apart" or "dedicated" to God—to belong to God.

God’s ultimate desire for us in being holy is that we be that we be conformed into the image of His Son.

Romans 8:28-29 (NLT)28  And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.29  For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

Finally, how can we become holy? Holiness only results from 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. So, we must first make sure we are born-again believers

John 3:5 (NKJV)  Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
If we truly are believers, then we recognize that our position in Christ automatically sets us apart from the world

1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)  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;

Now is your opportunity to become holy.  Apart from Jesus you don’t have a chance of becoming holy, at least not holy to God.  All the good stuff you do doesn’t make you holy.  That can only happen with right relationship with God by believing in Jesus Christ as Savior.  You can have that relationship today.  How? Well Romans 10:9-10 says;

Romans 10:8-10 (NKJV)8  But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith which we preach):9  that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.10  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Sermon Audio

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