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?”

Sunday, January 18, 2009

About Holiness, Part One

The following is a manuscript from a friend. Dr. Tim Adams is pastor in middle-north Tennessee; he is a faithful prayer warrior for this wandering missionary. For brevity's sake, I am going to make this a two or three part post. Aside from that, the manuscript is unedited.

“The Vision of A Holy Heart” 2 Corinthians 7:1
It is October 14th, and the sun is reflecting mirages of water on an Air Force base runway in southern Florida. The silence of that scene is interrupted as a long-winged plane touches down on the runway and taxies to the hanger. A thousand planes a day go through this same routine, but this one plane’s payload is different from all the others. Its payload is just a few rolls of film, but the information on that film will shape the events of the world. It will shift the balance of power in the world. The film is transported to a top-secret laboratory and developed. It is sent to the Pentagon and then to the Oval Office in the White House. The year is 1962, and a young president, John F. Kennedy, just 44 years old, sits at the desk in the oval office of America. The decision he makes moves the armies of the most powerful nation in the world to counter a crisis of immense proportions. The photos taken were from a U2 reconnaissance aircraft. One picture in particular revealed that the Soviets had placed medium-range missile silos in Cuba. These missiles were capable of reaching strategic targets throughout the United States. The risk of world conflict hadn’t reached this level since WW2, and it involved the two greatest superpowers in the world, Russia and America. The president moved decisively, ordering Premier Khrushchev to halt all further deliveries of weapons and to immediately dismantle the missile sites. A broadcast to the American people let us know the gravity of the situation. The president said, “This secret, swift, extraordinary buildup of communist weapons is a deliberate and unjustifiable challenge to our national security, and it will not be accepted.” America braced for what was to come. President Kennedy ordered an immediate naval and air blockade of Cuba. Premier Khrushchev decided he would test this young president’s fabric and challenge this nation’s resolve. The Soviet ships sailed on toward Cuba. The world held its breath in nervous anticipation as hours crept by and ships grew closer and closer to one another. As kids we played a little game called ’chicken’ but this was no harmless game. There is a word for this standoff in wartime vocabulary. It is called “brinkmanship.” Brinkmanship is the willingness to expose oneself to risk, to press the limits of safety for a cause. It is walking the tightrope of disaster. The Soviets were going to press the boundary, walk the line, and see just how much they could get away with. The Soviet ships were 100 yards away from our American ships. Our Navy was on full battle alert with orders to stop the Russians at all costs. Some of you recall those moments as people were glued to the radios and TV’s to see who would flinch, who would fire, or what the world would look like in this latest age of nuclear war. With just feet to spare, at the brink of disaster and destruction, the Soviets turned.
There are a lot of people who play this game of spiritual brinkmanship with God. They push the envelope of their lives into realms of darkness, compromise, filth, carnality, and wickedness all the while calling themselves a Christian. Some of the greatest pornography lovers are in the church. Some of the worst thieves are in the church. Some of the worst liars are in the church. Some of the worst adulterers are in the church. But that doesn’t mean they’re in the family of God. Let those who name the name of Christ forsake their iniquity. Brinkmanship - pushing God to the limits of mercy and grace right on up to the last few hours in the Intensive Care ward at the hospital and crying crocodile tears for a life wasted in the devil’s lair and these folks think God will treat them royally in the judgment. Better to think again. Brinkmanship - sailing deep into the waters of adultery and fornication and expecting God to rescue a condemned vessel when the storms of disease and death hit. Wearing the wedding ring of God is no guarantee you’ll make it to the marriage supper. Brinkmanship - very little church involvement, don’t want to talk about your salvation, couldn’t quote one scripture if your life depended on it but you expect that God will smile on you as you walk through the pearly gates. There may be no gates except the prison walls of consuming darkness in hell and no smile, just weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
We are living in times of unprecedented deception. The god of this world has indeed blinded the minds of men lest they truly believe and the light should shine unto them. Did you know that 21 percent of Americans consider themselves to be holy. Yet the same 21 percent of those responding to a holiness questionnaire said they admit they don’t know how to be holy. There is a mass of people attending church today that do not understand the concept of holiness. Proverbs 30:12 says, “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness.”
Would we dare to think God is not serious about holiness when He mentions it 659 times in scripture? “Ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.” That verse echoes across the centuries of time and 1500 years later Christ is saying, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” The incense they burned in the tabernacle was holy incense made of specific and unique ingredients. Only the best and pure for God. The High Priest could only go into the Holy of Holies where God dwelt between the cherubim on the ark of the covenant once a year and when he did it he was scared senseless. They tied a rope to his waist and feet to drag him out in case he died in the holy presence of God. The Bible says in Habakkuk 1:13 that God is too pure in His eyes to even look upon evil. If you were to come into the presence of God in your mortal state and see Him face to face the exposure of mortal with immortal, corruption with total incorruption, filth and wretchedness with absolute purity would kill you dead right in the spot where you stand. The great prophet Isaiah who encountered the call of God on his life in an amazing way: one of the seraphim who stood before the throne of God shouting praise, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” flew down with a live, white hot, cleansing coal off of God’s altar and burned purity into Isaiah’s mouth and tongue calling him to the prophetic ministry, that Isaiah declares in the 57th chapter of his prophecy and the 15th verse, “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” God’s name is holy. God’s celestial city is holy. God’s worshipers are all holy or they don’t ascend the hill - remember Psalm 24:4, “clean hands and a pure heart.” The offerings given to God all had to be holy and consecrated. God’s thoughts are holy and just. The Bible says all of God’s judgments are holy (Isaiah 5:16). God never, never, never, ever makes a wrong judgment. If He wiped every living soul off the earth it would be a holy act of God justified because of man’s defiance of a thrice holy God.

God has moved upon my heart to preach this morning on The Vision of a Holy Heart for God. In the earth today there are tremors of God’s judgment to bring the church back to His bosom. We must come back to be a people of prayer, extraordinary prayer, spending time - even hours with our God to be sustained by His power. There is the tightening of the noose of judgment upon the economics of the land, not that we elect another president of another mind hoping he can solve the disappearing dollar mystery. It is no mystery, I promise you. It is God waiting for His people worship Him in spirit and truth, to have no other gods including the ones in our wallet or even the ones we wish were in our wallet, so that the Lord of Heaven may operate within His righteous character, turning calamity into blessing for those who seek Him. Now, this morning we are called to the Throne Room to be smitten once again for our healing. The church is sick, deathly sick. We suffer from a grossly backslidden heart that has let all kinds of unholy and carnal infestations creep into the soul, a soul that in salvation was set apart to be a clean vessel for God. Do you drink of clean water from a scum crusted cup? No, you don’t. Neither will God drink and fill Himself full from a life that has docked in the harbor of sin and iniquity becoming totally crusted with the barnacles of filth and wickedness. God has called us to have a holy heart, church. He has not called us to clean the saucer up on the outside that it may be a pretty place setting in the church house while bearing the smears and smudges of hidden sin. There are three things you need to see in our passage today to receive the message of God on having a holy heart.