Summary: Holiness is something we are attain to, by "putting on" our Jesus suit

Putting Him On:

Your Jesus Suit

TCF Sermon

June 22, 2008

How little people know who think that holiness is dull. When one meets real thing, it is irresistible. C. S. Lewis, Letters to an American Lady

With that quote, let me begin what to some of you may be a dull sermon. It may be dull because you think holiness is dull. It may be dull because you’d rather hear something more like what Joel spoke about last week – heaven. Now that’s exciting, huh?

Holiness is not something we about hear often in the church at large, and perhaps not often enough even in this church.

We did hear a sermon just a few weeks ago on the sinfulness of sin. That definitely relates to what we’re going to look at this morning. An opposite of sinfulness is holiness, and righteousness. It’s precisely when we don’t take seriously the sinfulness of sin, that we don’t take seriously our need to attain to holiness in our lives.

I read about in USA Today, a recent survey by Ellison Research in Phoenix, which finds 87% of U.S. adults believe in the existence of sin, which (they) defined as "something that is almost always considered wrong, particularly from a religious or moral perspective."

Topping the list are adultery (81%) and racism (74%). But other sins no longer draw majority condemnation. Premarital sex? Only 45% call it sin. Gambling? Just 30% say it’s sinful. "A lot of this is relative,” says Ellison president Ron Sellers. “We tend to view sin not as God views it, but how we view it.”

Isn’t it good that sins aren’t subject to majority votes?

David Kinnaman, president of Barna Research, draws a similar conclusion: "People are quick to toe the line on traditional thinking" that there is sin "but interpret that reality in a very personal and self-congratulatory manner" — I have to do what’s best for me; I am not as sinful as most. USA Today

Another thing we see in the church today is what one theology professor calls “moral therapy.” That’s defined as changing your lifestyle to receive God’s favor. In other words, "It’s not heaven in the hereafter, but happiness here and now. But it is still up to you to make it happen."

Michael Horton, professor of theology at Westminster Seminary in Escondido, Calif., finds a sad truth in an old newspaper headline he once saw: " ’To hell with sin when being good is enough.’ He says, “That’s the drift of American preaching today in a lot of churches. People know what sin is; they just don’t believe in it anymore. We mix up happiness and holiness, and God is no longer the reference point."

Holiness is the real key to understanding sin. The reference point is not how good we can be, or how good we are, compared to those other miserable sinners who commit much worse sins than we do. It’s not about being good enough to make us good citizens or happy people. It’s about what David confessed to God in Psalm 51:

Psalms 51:4 (NIV) 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.

Albert Mohler said:

Even some people who say sin is real, still steer by a compass of "moral pragmatics," not a bright line of absolute truth. "People say, ’I have high moral expectations of myself and others, but I know we are all human so I’m looking for a batting average.’ "We find a comfort zone of morality, a kind of middle-class middle level where we think we are doing well. We cut the grass. We don’t double-park. But we ignore the larger issues of sin. "Instead of violating the law of the Creator, it becomes more a matter of etiquette. … We want our kids to play well in the sandbox and know their place in line. We want people to do things decently and in order. But it’s etiquette of morality without the ethics. The end result is that when we do things we wish people wouldn’t do, there’s no sense of guilt or shame."

How we think about ourselves has clear implications for how we understand the process of growing in Christ, of being molded into His image as followers of Jesus. If we think we’re basically good, then Jesus becomes for us a sort of life coach, a good guy who will help us be better people. Seen this way, Jesus is a lot like Oprah.

But if we understand that we are deeply flawed, then we can understand better what the apostle Paul means when he writes that those who are in Christ are new creations. Is our goal to reform ourselves into the best possible people we can be? At first blush, we might say, sure – that’s a worthy goal. Or is our goal to become completely new persons?

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