Summary: A message given to my homiletic class peers in seminary, on the why, how and where of holiness.
Context: 1 Peter 1
Text: 1 Peter 1:14-16
"Be holy, because I am holy." What does that statement mean to you? What does the word "holiness" bring to your mind? When I was growing up holiness meant not doing whatever the Baptist’s were doing. I’ve heard sermons on short-sleeved dresses, big necklaces and dangly ear-rings. And I’ve heard sermons on the sins of wearing make-up that makes you look like you just kissed a freshly painted barn door or had been working in a coal mine all day and when you were done, forgot to wash around your eyes. It meant putting on a happy face at the church door Sunday morning despite all the yelling and tears and tension in the car just a few minutes before. Now, as men, I’m sure you’ve not personally struggled with short-sleeved dresses or overdone make-up. So what was holiness for you? Total abstinance? Not going to dances? No movies? Maybe no television - remember when television was a sin. I do. Or was it sitting in pious intelligence as everyone else in your youth group frantically searched for Hezekiah 2:11? Or was it being able to recite some obscure chapter in the Bible? Maybe holiness wasn’t an issue for you. Maybe you hardly ever heard it mentioned. Or maybe you heard tell of it, but it was the negative label for "the other guys"!
Holiness, sanctification, Christian perfection. We don’t hear many sermons anymore even mentioning these words let alone a whole sermon on them. Why is that? Maybe it’s because of too much bad press in recent years. Or maybe holiness has been such a controversial issue that we’ve been afraid to preach about it. But Warren Wiersbe and John Stott in their respective booKs about preaching both say that it’s disrespectful to the Word and to our congregations to avoid a subject just because we’re afraid of it, or because we think we haven’t got it. Well, I admit to both this afternoon. I’m smack in the middle - I’m afraid to preach on it (I’m afraid I won’t be true to the text) and I don’t think I’ve got it (there aren’t many days when I feel very holy - maybe only those days that I don’t get out of bed and I don’t think a single solitary thought!)
So, in honour of God’s Word and you, my congregation let’s share and learn together what the Word has to teach us about holiness - it’s there - it’s biblical, and we dare not ignore it.
I did a little experiment while I was preparing this message. I went to the canteen to get a cup of coffee and I asked the young men standing there, around 19 to maybe 23 years old, "What it holiness?" Their reaction was quite interesting - "Whow! Phew! Oh - let’s see, holiness. One guy said "Purity" another "blameless" another piped in, "Well, God has made us holy." "Has he?" said another. "He made us sinless before God, but is that holiness?"
Clearly, we need to preach on this important subject because we are told in Hebrews that if we’re not holy, we will not see the Lord. Someone has said "The Bible is its own best commentary" and when it comes to the subject of holiness, Keith Drury in his book "Holiness for Ordinary People" says, "It’s everywhere!" And indeed it is. And the Bible itself answers some of the questions most often asked and most often ignored in our Twentieth Century world today.
The first question we most naturally would ask it why. Why be holy? If we’re going to preach messages on holiness and encourage our churches to be holy, we can expect about 90% of them to ask why? Gone are the days of doing things just because the preacher declares it. I’m a Baby Boomer - we have a wonderful habit of asking "Why" to everything. And we’ve instilled it in our children. So, unless your church is made up entirely of seniors, you’d better get ready!
Come along with me and let’s do a little tour of scripture. Keep your finger in our text and flip way back to the book of Leviticus. Look at Lev. 11:44-45: I am the Lord who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God: therefore be holy, because I am holy. Now scoot over a few chapters to 19:2: Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ’Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy. Look at 20:7 & 8: Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the Lord your God. Keep my decrees and follow them, I am the Lord, who makes you holy. Drop down to verse 26: You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own. Now go back to our text: 1 Peter 1:16 says, "Be holy, because I am holy." Do you notice any kind of pattern there. Tell me - what does it say here in these verses -