Wednesday 24th Jul 2024Lighthouse

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We are continuing our series on What makes Christ's followers different - what does it mean to be counter-cultural? 


There are parts of our culture today that need to be critiqued. 


However, Christians can be seen as those who only are critical of others, constant complainers and think we are somehow better than others. When we understand the grace of God in our lives we see people who like us need a Saviour. It's not with an air of superiority but passion to see people set free from the evil works of darkness.


However evil prevails when good people say nothing, who are the ones to speak out.  Perhaps like the prophets of old, we need to call out things in our Western culture that are anti-gospel, 


Those without Christ, trapped in their sin, need a Saviour, they need our compassion and love, but if we love someone who is falling into a ditch we pull them out, and not follow them in afterwards.


Jesus called out those in his day who were not following the way of the Lord. He called out those who were virtue-signalling. Something we see a lot in our culture today. To the blind guides, he called them out and said to his followers do as they say but not as they do.


There is meant to be a difference between those following Christ and the world around us.  The difference we know is by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s gift of the new creation means that we are called to be in the world but not of it.


There are or there should be Contrasts today in our lives that make us Christ-followers.


The apostle Paul wrote 


“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect. For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.”

Romans 12:1-3 NRSV


Last week we spoke about what makes us different to the culture around us. It’s in the character of Christ.


This week I want to pick up on this phrase holy and acceptable 


Holy or holiness


Meaning set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred.


Holiness in scripture can refer to a day, the sabbath for example or a place, like a Holy city, holy of holies, holy temple or holy ground


The sabbath God "sanctifies" it

(makes it holy by setting it apart) as a day of rest from all work to enjoy the goodness of creation. GENESIS 2:3


The first time a place is called holy is the burning bush 


Moses takes his shoes off the holy ground


“Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” 


When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 


He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

Exodus 3:1-6 NRSV



God's presence is so powerful and unique that it makes the area surrounding his presence set apart as well.

EXODUS 3:1-6


The idea of holiness is throughout the bible People, places, and things are considered "holy". because they have a close relationship to God, who is the source and definition of holiness.


God's holiness is so pure and good that it poses a danger for humans living in a world ruined by sin. God is called holy in Exodus and the people dared not approach God, saying to Moses you go and speak to God and we will do as you say.


The people of Israel had to be set apart.


“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations,”

Deuteronomy 7:6-9 NRSV


However, Isaiah has a vision that opens the way for humans to come into God's presence. 


“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.” The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. 


And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” 


Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I; send me!””

Isaiah 6:1-8 NRSV


He is terrified for his life because of his moral impurity ("unclean lips")



Instead of being destroyed, God takes a lump of burning, holy coal from his presence and applies it to Isaiah's lips 



Instead of the temple becoming contaminated by Isaiah's impurity, the opposite happens: God's holiness transfers to Isaiah and erases his sin and impurity.



In the New Testament, the apostles pick up on this doctrine of holiness 


hágios ("holy") has the "technical" meaning "different from the world" the implications are to be "like the Lord."


Like Paul writing to the Romans Peter has a similar idea


Be holy as I am holy 


“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; for it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

1 Peter 1:13-16 NRSV


John picks up this too, writing as we see Christ we will be like him 


Although the fullness is not yet while we do this we purify ourselves. 



“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 


And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. 


The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God's seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:1-10 NRSV


We spoke last week about how Christ was in the world but not of it, he could be surrounded by sinful people but they wouldn’t touch him. We have this hope too, that while evil surrounds us we do not sin. 


For example, when Jesus cleansed people the sickness had to go, Leprosy couldn't survive in the presence of Christ 


Jesus' contact with the leper (Matthew 8:1-4), the bleeding woman (Matthew 9:20-23), and the dead boy (Luke 7:11-17) should have made him "unclean," but instead his holiness and purity transfer to them, healing and restoring their bodies.


Jesus declared that people are not made impure by anything that touches or enters their bodies, but rather by the moral corruption and selfishness that comes out of their minds and hearts.


Jesus claimed that he was the new temple, the place where God's holiness meets people in their sin and uncleanness: He offered forgiveness of sins apart from the temple and said his death was a sacrifice that covered the sin of others.


We have a holy calling to be separate from the world of evil and sin. We have the promise of the Holy Spirit therefore our sin cannot stay in God's presence. 


Jesus established the community of his followers as a new temple, where God's holiness meets with his people and changes them forever.


“Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple.”

1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NRSV


Close with the holiness of God in the New Testament 


“Do not be mismatched with unbelievers. For what partnership is there between righteousness and lawlessness? Or what fellowship is there between light and darkness? What agreement does Christ have with Beliar? Or what does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be your father, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”

2 Corinthians 6:14-18 NRSV


Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and of spirit, making holiness perfect in the fear of God.”

2 Corinthians 7:1 NRSV


There is meant to be a difference between those following Christ and the world around us.  The difference we know is by the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s gift of the new creation me as we are called to be in the world but not of it.


The grace of God enables us to remain Holy and separate from the world. By His Holy Spirit, our minds are renewed and we are transformed. We are no longer under the sway of evil but liberated to live Holy and acceptable as a living sacrifice.

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