Monday, January 19, 2009

About Holiness, part two

Yesterday, I posted part of a message one of my friends preached to his congregation in Tennessee. He told me virtually all of the church stood before him during the invitation, head bowed, tears falling to the floor. Here is the second part of that message:

The Models of a Holy Heart

First of all, Paul is quite clear to announce who can be the models of a holy heart. It is the ones that are “having these promises.” It is not just any promises that declares who is qualified to have a holy heart. “These promises” are the ones that Paul gives right in the text. It is unfortunate that the compilers made a chapter division here in the Corinthian letter because the first verse of 2 Corinthians 7 depends on at least five other verses of chapter six to understand the whole of the message of God here. The first verse of chapter six says, “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” Did you know that some people can and do receive the grace of God in vain. They get under conviction under the gospel preacher. They squirm in their seat. Someone nudges them to go forward and talk to the preacher. They even go so far as to step into the public eye and profess faith in the grace of God through Jesus Christ and are baptized to show their death to the old way of life and resurrection to a new life. Then they last not longer than a fish out of water. They immediately head back to their holes and hideouts of sin. They believed in vain. They took the grace of God in vain. It was useless, absolutely useless, an empty formality that didn’t even raise the pen of God to write their names in the Lamb’s Book of Life. The devil himself has deceived them because they had a two-faced heart. They courted heaven all the while thinking of their hellish lovers they couldn’t leave. But they wanted to appear spiritual in the church. Because of that they will never appear in heaven but for a moment before they are sentenced in the damnation of their own unbelief and sent to hell. Why? Why? Why would people do that? It is because the pleasures of sin for a season are more tantalizing than the promises of God for eternity.

What are those promises? Look at them with me in verse 16. “I will dwell in them” - that is habitation. “I will walk in them” - that is occupation. “I will be their God” - that is invitation. “They shall be my people” - that is salvation. “I will receive you” - that’s affiliation. “I will be a Father unto you” - that is regeneration. Finally, “ye shall be my sons and daughters” - that is appreciation. My dear friend, seven promises and the thought that you could miss these is the worst of all predicaments of life. It would have been better that you were not even born to miss these or play with the gift of God’s grace and toss it aside as it were nothing to cherish and rearrange your life by. What does it take to have a holy heart and get these promises? Maybe I should say that the other way around. What does it take to get these promises and have a holy heart? Dear friend, you cannot be holy without the Holy Spirit living in your heart. Paul says in chapter six and verse 14, “for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Some folks think they are saved and have the promises but they have never once and for all turned their back on unrighteousness. I don’t mean to say that these waterless wells, these figless fig trees haven’t put on a spiritual garment. Oh no, they may wear the finest church garments but their heart is not changed. Let me tell you dear soul if that is the case with your heart you don’t have these promises but you have some others. You have the promise of condemnation upon your soul right now as I speak. You’re not a condemned criminal against the cross of Calvary because you do certain things that God doesn’t like. You’re condemned because of your unbelief. True faith and true belief has a heart change, a total remake of your life. You have the promise of death to your body and death to your soul because it is appointed unto man once to die and then the judgment. You have the promise of experiencing the greatest shock of your life that can never be reversed when Jesus opens the Lamb’s Book of Life and your name is not there. You have the promise of hearing words that will send electrifying waves of shame over your being, “depart from me ye workers of iniquity for I never knew you.” You have the promise of living without end in a place called hell where there is weeping, screaming, and grinding of teeth. You will never get out. How can you bear it this morning to hear this truth and not reach out with the most sincere heart for Jesus Christ to be your Saviour?

Seven precious promises and all given to the ones Paul calls “dearly beloved.” Did you see that? How those words ring the highest bells of affection. Ephesians 1:6 says, “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” It is because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross of Calvary that the thrice Holy Father can call us “beloved”. If you don’t accept Jesus you cannot be given this title of affection by God - beloved. If you don’t have such a life change through the blood of Jesus that you separate yourself from a patterned life of sin you’ll never be able to have a holy heart. Jesus today for real - that is the greatest decision a human soul can ever come to.

The Methods to a Holy Heart

Let me hasten on to tell you of the methods to a holy heart. Paul says, “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness.” There are three methods to God’s sanctifying work on our hearts. First of all, there must be some personal action. “Let us cleanse ourselves” - that means we would do a good job if we were just as fond of straightening our own selves out as we are to find the faults of others. It is God’s Holy Spirit that will do the work but we must enter in to an active cooperation with God on this matter. The word for cleanse is the same word for what the Jews did when they celebrated the Passover. Seven days before the Passover the wife of the home searches for all leaven used in bread and cleans it all out except for ten pieces. Her husband has instructed his wife purposely to leave ten small pieces of leavened bread in the house. Then the father takes the children, along with a candle, a wooden spoon, a feather, and a piece of linen cloth, and searches through the house for the ten pieces of leaven. By nightfall on the day before Passover a final and comprehensive search is performed. At this time, the house is completely dark except for the candles. Once the father finds the leaven, he sets the candle down by the leaven and lays the wooden spoon beside the leaven. Then he uses the feather to sweep the leaven onto the spoon. Without touching the leaven, he takes the feather, spoon, and leaven, wraps them in a linen cloth, and casts them out of the door of the house. The next morning, on the fourteenth of the Jewish month Nisan, he goes into the synagogue and puts the linen cloth and its contents into a fire to be burned. This is called purging out the old leaven. Children of God, we need to do a good bit of this. Leaven in the Bible is the symbol for sin. We need to search it out and take it out. We need to search for it by the candlelight of God’s word. We live in dark houses, overcome by the darkness of this world. I grew up in a G-rated society. Our entertainment was movies like Roy Rogers, Tarzan and Huckleberry Finn. In just 50 years we have become a XXX society where Christians think nothing of sinning because everybody else is doing it. When Dan Brown can write a book, The DaVinci Code, saying that Jesus Christ married Mary Magdalene and had a child, and that blasphemous nonsense sells at $25 for 25 million copies, and Christians buy the trash we’ve got filthy hearts. Ron Howard made a movie out of it and it grossed over $700 million worldwide. All I’ve got to say about that is Opie has gone Dopie. When multitudes of parents just smile and look the other way as their children read Harry Potter novels which teach the casting of spells, rebellion against parents, lying, and divination, we’ve got a sickness in our Christian homes that is far worse than cancer. We need to get clean. We need a holy heart.

Second, there not only must be personal action, there must be some painstaking acknowledgment. Paul says we are to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to put the spotlight on both sins of the flesh and spirit. Sins of the spirit lead to sins of the flesh. Have you got anger you can’t control? Its time to get rid of it. You’re a filthy hearted Christian if you don’t. Have you got a lazy disposition about working in the kingdom of God? That is dangerous leaven in the home of your heart that defiles the message of Passover. Have you got pride in your heart that you think you’re pretty clean? Maybe you’re hiding from the spotlight of God. Turn off your little penlight that hardly finds a speck and let the blazing noonday sun of His convicting word shine all over your dirty spots so you can get clean. You know, Christians have for the most part in this age lost their sensitivity to the ruin of sin. We’re dangerously close to an Ananias and Sapphira scandal in the church today. When Christians keep back what belongs to God and they pretend to be such fine dedicated saints it is a mystery to me why God allows them to live. He didn’t let Ananias and Sapphira live in the first century. He cleaned up His church by death then and it is only the mercy of God in longsuffering that He’s patient and doesn’t do that as the first resort today. But I can tell you, He will not be patient forever.

Thirdly, there must be some powerful accomplishment. Paul describes this process to a holy heart with the words “perfecting holiness”. That word “perfecting” is epiteleo in the Greek. It comes from the same word Jesus used at the cross, tetelestai, “It is finished.” There is no accomplishment of holiness if the cleansing stops midstream. If you edit the sermon for your pleasure you’ve short circuited God’s cleansing work. If you hear the whole sermon well and have the presence of mind to recall the sermon point by point yet you file away those points that convicted you making no response, hoping they’ll go away, you’ve derailed God’s train of holiness from its tracks. Follow through. Decide to get clean. Accomplish the full work of God’s cleansing Word by making a decision during the invitation time. Hebrews 12:11 says, “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” This is why folk’s problems seem to never go away because they choose an alternate route than to take God’s correction, a quick solution devised from the heart of man calculated to avoid the deeper cleansing of God upon their heart. You see, men and women, God loves us the way we are but He also loves us too much to leave us that way.

The Motivation for a Holy Heart

Now, I must close to tell you the motivation for a holy heart: “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” The fear of God is something that is dangerously missing from God’s church today. Do you know why a Church of England bishop, the Right Rev. David Gillet, can stand in his pulpit and say that they are going to have a Mothering Sunday to emphasize the motherhood of God in order to counter masculine images? It is because that bishop has no fear of God. Do you know why the inauguration committee and Barrack Obama can invite a homosexual episcopalian bishop to come and pray at the 2009 inauguration of a new president and Rick Warren, the pastor of the largest Baptist church in America, a man who led the fight against the same-sex marriage amendment in California, praises the decision. It is because Barrack Obama nor Rick Warren has any fear of God. Do you know why church members can sit in their pews or chairs on Sunday and act as though they have nothing to change in their hearts demonstrated by their unwillingness to come to God’s altar at invitation time? It is because they have no fear of God. Another passage echoes it well, “Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

We have witnessed to airplane crashes this week on the news. A few years ago a US AIR airplane crashed near Pittsburgh. The cause of that crash was a mystery, because the plane just seemed to fall from the sky. So it was with great interest that the investigators listened to the information recorded in the plane’s black box. CNN played a portion of that recording on the air, revealing that there were just a few seconds from the time the pilot detected trouble until the plane crashed. The black box revealed these sounds from the cockpit: First, there was an “Oh,” followed by profanity and a string of “curse words,” then came the crash and silence. It was in those final moments that the pilot’s real habits and life message was laid bare before the whole world. There is going to come a day when you’ll have your last chance to change and cleanse a defiled heart and then you’ll meet Jesus Christ face to face. In that last hour you will be exactly what you have left your heart to be. Revelation 22:11 says, “He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.” If you were to describe your life in one word would that word honestly be “holy?”

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