Summary: Becoming holy requires intentional effort; being unholy requires no effort.
Keeping Clean in a Dirty World
Rev. Brian Bill
June 2-3, 2018
Video: A Prayer for Holiness
I came across this honest prayer written by Frank Morris...
“Dear Lord, so far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, haven’t lost my temper, haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, over-indulgent, coveted my neighbor’s spouse or taken your name in vain. I’m very thankful for that…but, in a few minutes, God, I’m going to get out of bed. And from then on, everyone that I encounter will probably need a lot of help from you. Amen.”
The Christian life would be easier if we could sleep all day. It’s all the stuff that happens after we get up that gives us problems.
How do we keep clean in a dirty world? How can we grow in holiness when we’re hammered by our flesh, the world and Satan?
Last weekend we saw that God works His way and His will for His glory. Here’s the main idea for today: Becoming holy requires intentional effort; being unholy requires no effort.
Please stand as I read our text from Haggai 2:10-14: “On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came by Haggai the prophet, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Ask the priests about the law: ‘If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?’ The priests answered and said, ‘No.’ Then Haggai said, ‘If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?’ The priests answered and said, ‘It does become unclean.’ Then Haggai answered and said, ‘So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, declares the LORD, and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean.”
This is our sixth sermon from the Book of Haggai but verse 10 establishes that this is the third sermon the remnant heard from Haggai. This message was preached two months after the previous sermon and three months after the people had started working again on the temple. Verse 18 indicates that this is “the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid.” This becomes a teachable moment. The foundation is finished but they needed to have their faith fortified before going any further. While God stirred them to get to work on the physical aspects of the temple, He’s now concerned about how each of them are doing spiritually.
To say it another way, it’s easy to focus on the external while ignoring the internal. The people may have thought that since they were serving they must be OK spiritually. However, as they worked on rebuilding a habitation for God, they needed to consider God’s call for holiness for His people.
The people were constructing the temple but not much had changed in their circumstances. Since they were doing what God wanted them to do they expected their problems to go away. They were starting to wonder if it was worth it to obey God.
Let me point out once again the doctrine of inspiration from the Book of Haggai. Look at verse 10: “…the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet.” We saw something similar at the beginning of the book in 1:1: “…the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet…” This is stated in a different way in 1:13: “Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke to the people with the LORD’s message…” and again in 2:1: “…the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai…” Haggai is not giving some “Helpful habits to have a happy life” but rather is the human messenger through whom the Lord of Hosts is communicating His message.
In verse 11 God first reminds them who He is: “Thus says the Lord of hosts…” The name for Lord is “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” Jehovah is the self-existent God who is personal, present, powerful, and the ultimate promise-keeper. “Lord of Hosts” is a translation from Jehovah Sabaoth, which references the Covenant Keeper as the commander of all the armies of heaven. It’s used 14 times alone in this brief book!
After reminding them who He is, He gives them an assignment: “Ask the priests about the law.” There’s a sense of urgency in the original: “Ask now…” This was one of the purposes of the priesthood according to Malachi 2:7: “For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.” Specifically, according to Ezekiel 44:23, the priests were to help the people learn how to live holy lives: “They shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean.”