Summary: This sermon discusses how we can live holy before the Lord
Be Ye Holy
Text: 1st Thessalonians 4:1-8
By: Ken McKinley
Now if you remember last time we talked about how Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that the Lord would make them increase and abound in love to one another and to all, so that He may establish their hearts blameless in holiness. I also told you how Paul had changed his focus, from what had already happened to the present and the future.
Now the main point of this passage is that God wants us to be holy. In fact, in verse one Paul even says this is pleasing to God. The holiness and sanctification of the Christian is in mind throughout this entire passage. We see it in verse 3, we see it in verse 4 and we see it in verse 7.
Now holiness is not only living a morally pure life. That’s a big part of it, but Paul tells us in Romans 12:1 that being holy also involves a form of offering ourselves, totally devoted to the Lord. He says, “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.” Now to a Jewish person, any time the word “sacrifice” was used, they would’ve immediately thought about the lambs that were sacrificed at the temple. Those sheep were raised up, they were fed, taken care of and protected, for the sole purpose of the sacrifice on the alter of God. That’s what a shepherd did. So in a sense, my job as a pastor is to lead you to offer yourselves up to Him in total devotion and service. That kind of puts a new twist on being the Lord’s flock doesn’t it? But in a sense that’s what is expected from us. And sometimes it’s a minute by minute choice that we have to make – Am I going to submit to the Word of God, or am I going to live by my own authority? Am I going to please God or please myself? Am I going to do what I know is right, honorable and holy, or am I going to do whatever I want? Is Jesus the Lord of our lives, or are we?
Over the Christmas break we had our nieces visiting, you all saw them in church last Sunday, and let me just tell you that there are few things in life that I find more enjoyable than being around those kids. Just wrestling around with them and being a part of their lives is a great joy to me. Well one particular evening we all got to drawing pictures and one of my nieces looked at the picture I drew and said, “Uncle Kenny how do you draw so good?” So I took the opportunity to give a quick art lesson, and she said, “I can’t do it.” And I said, “Sure you can, you’ve just got to stop your way and start my way.” And that’s really the choice that we face in every situation in life. Are we going to give up our way of living so that we can learn God’s way? That’s what holiness is about. It’s something that we develop through time, submission, through learning, God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s worldview.
The great reformer John Calvin, in talking about a heart fully devoted to God, once said, (my paraphrase), “there must be no little hidden ‘back shop’ in which a side line of business is carried out with secret customers.” We can’t do legitimate business with God up in the front room, while we’re doing business with sin in the back room. It doesn’t work that way.
So tonight I want to look at how we can cultivate this kind of desire in ourselves. Please understand that ultimately it’s a work of God’s grace, God has to be involved and central to it, but as you all have heard me say before, God not only ordains the ends, but He also ordains the means to those ends. And so I want to look a couple of ways that God uses to accomplish His will in our hearts.
The first and foremost way is to look at the cross. Study what that means, meditate on it, get a good understanding of what the cross is all about. On my first day of Ranger School our senior instructor said to us, “Some of you won’t make it through this training… most of you won’t. And it has nothing to do with your physical ability, your mental capabilities, or intellect. It has to do with how much heart you have. And what’s driving you.” And he was right. But let me give you an analogy if I can. The ability to make it through that training is like the life of holiness. People might go through the motions, but if there isn’t something compelling them, inspiring them, driving them, captivating them and giving them the desire and the power to offer themselves up to God as living sacrifices, they aren’t going to make it. 1st John 2:19 says it this way, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.”