Summary: This is holiness: to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. This is holiness: to love your neighbor has yourself. This is holiness: to recognize our identity and our purpose, both wrapped up in the work of God.
Holiness Is Our Message, Our Goal, Our Calling
Scripture Text: 1 Peter 2.9-17 (9-12)
Last week we discovered that mission and purpose are characteristics of God’s design for His Church. We are not an aimless ship, wandering the seas of history, …blown about by winds of change that may-or-may not be guided by the Spirit of God.
I believe that the Church of Jesus Christ is much-bigger-than any-single denomination. No denomination has a corner-on-the-market. But I-also-believe that each-denomination is a blessing to the Church-at-large. Each denomination contributes to the life of God’s Church; …each offers something important to the world, as it serves in Jesus’ name; …each denomination has something significant to give ~ (…because each denomination has been blessed with gifts and talents and opportunities that others do not have). In-other-words, …although I have a prejudice in-favor-of our denomination, …I have great admiration and respect for the denominational-families who serve the Kingdom of God under other names. As a matter of fact, there are times when denominations have-been-birthed because some important-teaching-of-Scripture has been neglected. Martin Luther’s emphasis on salvation by faith alone was something that the whole-of-Christendom needed to hear. When the Revival-movements of the 18th and 19th centuries gave birth to various charismatic-churches, …they were reminding the whole-of-Christianity that our faith must be alive-and-vibrant. Several of the monastic movements within the Roman Catholic church have reminded all-Christians-everywhere that the Christian life is not-to-be preoccupied with worldly pursuits-and-pleasures. And the holiness churches began when there was a general lack-of-emphasis by the churches-of-those-days, …a lack of emphasis on living a holy-life, …a transformed life, …a sanctified life. These holiness churches were born-out-of-a-desire to live holy-lives through whole-hearted commitment to God and compassionate-love toward neighbors.
As a member of a holiness denomination, …have the mission of advancing God’s kingdom by focusing attention on Scriptural holiness. It is our God-given duty, …our obligation, …our responsibility-and-calling to preach it, …to teach it, …to assist one-another in living holy-lives.
In Peter’s first letter, …a number of times, Peter talks about ‘holiness’. In the verses-that-we’re-focusing-on-today, …Scripture says that we are a “holy nation”. It is not referring to the United States of America. It is not referring the State of Israel. This passage of Scripture is not talking about any political-body; …but it is talking about the body-of-believers ~ …those who have heard the invitation-of-God to repent-of-their-sins, …and who-have turned to Him for mercy-and-forgiveness. Once you believe in the saving power of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, …then, you are grafted-in, …adopted-into, …incorporated into the group-of-people that Peter calls a “holy nation”.
A “holy” people… Is this intimidating, to you? “Holiness” is such a big-word, …such a big-idea, …such a big-thing! And-frankly, …there’s a lotta people who doubt that it’s possible. They think that it’s outta-reach, …that too-hard, …that it’s unrealistic ~ given the ugliness and the difficulties and the temptations that-we-face, in-this-world.
But… before you go down that road, …it’s important to begin with Scripture. What does it say about ‘holiness’? What does the Word-of-God say-about living holy-lives? What does Scripture teach us about God’s plan for us, in-terms-of-holiness?
Well… in Scripture we find amazing-statements like:
“I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.” (Lev. 11.44)
“Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” (1 Peter 1.15)
“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” (1 Thess 4.3)
And if there’s any-doubt, the kicker is Jesus’ prayer:
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17.17)
And-to-be-honest-with-you… this is really just-a-small-sampling of the Scriptural-admonitions, …letting us know that holiness-and-sanctification are God’s will for us. What’s a church to be like? ~ Well… holiness is one-of-the-key things that God desires for our fellowship to exhibit!
Now, whether you’re confused by what-holiness-is; …or whether you’ve struggled with this all-your-life; …or whether you saw-this-one-coming ~ The truth is that this is God’s plan for each-and-every church-body. It’s true of denominations, …and it’s true of local congregations. We are to be a holy-people. That is God’s will.
And-so, …rather-than being paralyzed-by-fear, …or defensive-in-spirit, …instead let’s screw-up our-courage, …and embolden-our-faith to embrace this calling. After-all, ...”He who began a good work in you is faithful to complete it!” So, …we don’t have to be fearful about the call to live holy lives. And we don’t have to confused over whether it’s possible in this crazy, mixed-up world. God says. We believe it. So, let’s get on with it!
It might help us, though, to unpack a-little-bit of what holiness is all about. If we are-to-be a holy-people, …what’s that look-like, …what’s-that mean?... Let’s begin with the Greek word for “church”…
The church can be defined a number of ways. Think-for-a-minute about the different ways we use the word: “I’m going to church.” “We sure-had church today!” “When are you going to join the church?” Different ways we use the word…