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Monday, December 11, 2006

The Word Of God: The Standard Of Holiness

The following is the fifth message in a series on personal separation. These messages are rarely preached in one evening but normally two or three. I see no reason to get in any hurry when teaching the Scripture. The important thing is not getting through with a message but getting through to the people. The following is given for you thoughtful consideration.

It was preceeded by the following messages.

The foundation of these previous messages is important for this one and the ones to come.

2 CORINTHIANS 6:14-7:1


PSALMS 119:128 - Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.

I suppose there are numerous verses that would have been appropriate for the introduction of our thoughts under this heading. I determined for this one because it expresses in no uncertain terms what I want to be the clarion call of my life. There are several things that I believe are worthy of note in this short verse.

There is a right way and there is a false way.
God is always right.
His mind is expressed in his precepts.
Every way that is at odds with God’s way is a false way.

The important thing is that we rightly esteem these matters. We must esteem God’s precepts concerning all things to be right. Our failure to esteem it as such spells ruin for our capacity to see things, as we ought. We must esteem all that is at odds with God’s precepts as a false way. It matters not who holds to a false way. It matters not how many hold to a false way. If it is a false way it is false no matter who or how many may happen to espouse it.

When it comes to separation, or the perfecting of holiness in the fear of God, the Bible is the only place we can and should go to make our judgments. While it is to be admitted that there are times that it can be hard to discern the application of the Scripture to some of our modern day issues it should also be admitted that the problem rest within our own bosom and not the Scripture’s ability to give direction.

I think the real problem is that people do not begin with a commitment to holiness and separation in spite of the numerous exhortations in Scripture to that end. Consequently it becomes easy to argue that the Bible does not really give clear direction on the issues of modestly, gender distinctive clothing, hair lengths, language, submission, nakedness, entertainment choices, music, and a host of other things. Thus there is never a real attempt on the part of many to get the mind of God on these issues but to simply live life and not get “bogged down” in such “legalistic” wrangling.

What I hope to do over the course of this message is to direct our thoughts to the Bible and elevate its excellencies in our hearts and minds. In so doing it is my prayer that our earnest desire might be to judge the whole of our lives in the context of an inspired volume that is sufficient to give us direction for every area of this life. And may God help us that when understanding has been granted that an obedient heart would submit to the clear teaching of God’s blessed word.

Psalms 19:7-11 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Vs: 7 – It is perfect converting the soul.
Vs: 7 – It is sure making wise the simple.
Vs: 8 – It is right rejoicing the heart.
Vs: 8 – It is pure enlightening the eyes.
Vs: 9 – It is clean enduring forever.
Vs: 9 – It is true and righteous altogether.
Vs: 10 – More to be desired than gold.
Vs: 10 – Sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.
Vs: 11 – By them the servant is warned.
Vs: 11 – In keeping them there is great reward.
Psalms 119:104 – Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
Understanding is to be gained through the precepts of God. Anything that is at odds with his precepts is a false way and is rightly hated by those who love God.
Psalms 119:9 - Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
We are cleansed by taking heed to his word. Christianity is not simply something that effect our heart it effect our behaviour. Our lives are cleaned up. We become more like God, we become more holy when we take heed to His word.
Psalms 119:98-100 – Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
His commandments make us wiser than our enemies. His testimonies give us more understanding than our teacher. The fact is God bears witness about many things in life. The question is, are we willing to accept his testimony on the issues of life? In fact in keeping the precepts of God we have more understanding than the ancients.
Psalms 119:105 – Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
It is the word of God that illumines the way we should live. Our problem is that we want light where we want it and where we don't we do not want to be bothered by light.
Psalms 119:130 – The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
By nature we are simple. It is not in man that liveth to direct his steps. It is His word that gives light, that gives understanding.
Isaiah 8:20 – To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Everything can be judged by the word of God. We do not go to the culture around us. We do not go to the lukewarm christianity all around us. To the law and the testimony is to be our clarion call.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
The word of God is furnished for doctrine.
The word of God is furnished for reproof.
The word of God is furnished for correction.
The word of God is furnished for instruction in righteousness.
The mans of God through the word of God is commissioned by the Scriptures to teach his people doctrine (sound teaching), to bring their attention to their missteps, to instruct them how to correct the missteps. The man of God through the word of God is to instruct his people in righteousness. How to live righteously. How to behave holy. How to abstain from worldliness.
2 Tim. 4:1-4 – I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
The faithful man of God will not back away from and impassioned plea for holiness. He will preach the word and in doing so instruct his people how to live to please God. He will set the example in his own home and he will continually sound the alarm against the encroachment of worldliness.
Hebrews 4:12,13 – For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
Faithful preaching of the word of God sets people as they really are before a holy God. People feel exposed under the proclamation of divine truth hearalded forth as a trumpet.
Jn. 17:17 – Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
We are sanctified, or cleansed, or made holy through exposure to the Word of God. Separation is the result of the sanctification process. A person who is not becoming more holy and separated from the world is not being sanctified.
John 15:3 - Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
There is a direct correlation between the word of God beings spoken and cleansing taking place in the life of the beliver.
Psalms 119:11 - Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
How do we know what sin is? Sin is a transgression of the law. The Bible reveals sin. The word of God hidden in our heart helps preserve us against sin. It does so by making our conscience sensitive to it and by working in us a holy detestation of it.
Eph. 5:25-27 - Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
God’s desire is to sanctify us.
Sanctification is a cleansing process.
The cleansing process takes place through the Word of God.

Vs: 27 – The purpose of the cleansing.
Present it a glorious church.
Glorious – Splendid, noble.

The negative.
Not having spot – Stain, disgrace, defect.
Not having wrinkle - A fold (as drawing together), i.e. a wrinkle (especially on the face)
Not having any such thing.
Cleansing yourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. God want us to be throughly cleansed inside and out. No spot, no wrinkle. He wants us to be glorious, glorious in holiness.

The positive.
That is should be holy.
Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Be ye holy for I am holy.
That is should be without blemish.
Blemish – Without blame, fault, spot.
2 Cor. 3:12-18 - Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech: And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
With open face we behold the glory of the Lord. Where? In the pages of Scripture. As we behold we are changed into that same image from glory to glory. As we examine the Scripture with a submissive heart we are changed by each encounter. The changes may be and often are small but they have a cumulative affect of bringing about holiness and separation from the world in the life of the believer. The change is effected by the Spirit of God. It is not something that is done in the flesh. It is a manifestation of the power of God in one’s life that they are becoming less worldly and more holy.

This is where God gives a direct command. It is either a prohibition or an injunction. Probably the greatest list of precepts is the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).
There are many places where God specifically tells us what to do and what we should not do.

Eph. 4:26 – Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
Eph. 5:3,4 – No fornication or uncleanness.
Eph. 5:20 Giving thanks always for all things.
Eph. 5:22 – Wives submit to your own husbands.
Eph. 5:25 – Husbands love your wives.
Col. 3;9 – Lie not one to another.
Col. 3:20 – Children obey your parents.
Col. 4:2 – Continue in prayer.
1 Thess. 5:20 – Despise not prophesyings.
These are not simply "sweet" suggestions. A Christian is not obedient and has commited sin if he lets the sun go down upon his wrath. If he does not give than always for all things he is sinning. Any time we do not do what God said we are in disobedience. Any time we do what God forbids we are in disobedience.

The fact is, had God given a precept for every eventuality we would have had a multi-volume bible that would have been ponderous at best. The Bible is a remarkable book in that it provides everything we need for life and godliness in a volume that is held easily in our hands. In many cases God give principles to help govern our lives. Principles are different than precepts in that they do not necessarily deal with a specific issue. Principles are broad underlying understandings that are to provide guidance in many areas of life. They provide a platform upon which we can judge a wide range of issues. They are clearly subject to abuse and dismissal.

It is the people who say, “the Bible doesn’t say we can’t do it or it doesn’t say we have to do it” that deny the reality and application of Biblical principles.
We must cultivate a spiritual mind to be able to properly understand and apply the principles appropriately to life situations. A couple of things will help here.

1. Be thoroughly influenced by the nature of God. Be immersed in his attributes and his attribute of attributes, which is holiness.
2. Apply the principles in the light of the precepts. There are ample precepts in the Scripture that we should be able in most cases to have a clear understanding of how the principles are to be applied. The principles will never be applied in a spirit that is contrary to the precepts. The clear precepts provide a basic understanding as to how the principles are to be applied. Knowing God's mind in the areas where he speaks directly helps us understand in the areas where he does not speak quite so directly but rather in broad sweeping principles.
Heb. 5:12-14 – For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
There are several things these verses tell us.
1. Not everyone matures and develops as they ought to or as they have had opportunity to.
2. It is possible to be unskillful in the word of righteousness.
3. Not everyone has developed the capacity to discern good and evil.

Some examples of Bible principles:
Matt. 6:33 – Seek first the kingdom of God.
Rom. 12:1,2 – Present bodies a living sacrifice. Be not conformed to this world.
1 Cor. 4:2 – Required of stewards that a man be found faithful.
1 Cor. 6:12 – All things are lawful but I will not be brought under the power of any.
1 Cor. 10:31 – Whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
2 Cor. 6:14,17 – Come out from among them and be ye separate.
2 Cor. 9:6-8 – The principle of sowing and reaping.
Gal. 4:17-19 – Walk not as other Gentiles walk.
Eph. 4:30 – Grieve not the Holy Spirit.
Eph. 5:1 – Be ye followers of God.
Eph. 5:11 – Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
Col. 3:1,2 – Set your affections on things above.
Col. 3:17 – Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

We will all be held individually responsible for how we apply the principles.

There are examples in the Bible. The O.T. especially is full of examples. The narrative portions of Scripture are instructive and impart truth. We watch what people did and see the outcome and draw conclusions. Was what they did a bad idea or good idea? Did God bless their actions are judge their actions. While examples too may be subject to abuse and disregard, it is important to recognize the role they play in helping us discern the will of God.

1 Cor. 10:11 – Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
Rom. 15:4 – For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Clearly we are to give due consideration to the examples set forth in Scripture. We disregard them at our won peril. Even in the New Testament the Lord told some people to "remember Lot's wife." What an example we have their as to the dangers of worldliness. In conjunction with the precepts and the principles strong conclusions can be drawn as to what God desires for our lives. Examples by themselves may be a shaky foundation for strong convictions but when connected to precepts and principles the convictions have the potential to become an unassailable stronghold. It gives us the ability to become steadfast in our convictions.

Examples of Bible examples:
Gen. 3:7,21 – Aprons of fig leaves were traded for coats of skin.
Gen. 7:23 – Deliverance through Noah’s obedience.
Sara giving Abraham Hagar to wife.
Abraham lying about his relationship to Sara on two occasions and the fault being reproduced in his son a generation later.
Esau selling his birthright and then having is blessing stole from him.
Jacob deceiving his father in order to obtain the blessing and then being deceived by Laban.
Joseph’s faithfulness in the midst of very trying circumstances.
Moses murdering the Egyptian when he got ahead of God.
David covering up his sin with Bathsheba by having her husband killed in battle.
2 Peter 2:6 - And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;
1 Peter 2:21 - For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

Human understanding
Proverbs 3:5-8 – Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

No place are we more subject and is there greater temptation to lean to our own understanding than in the area of personal separation. It is hard to acknowledge the Lord when the fashion of this world and human reasoning makes such good sense. Our problems arise because we cease to acknowledge him in areas that make us uncomfortable.
Jeremiah 10:23 - O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.
We do not know what we should do! We need direction! We must humbly rely upon God for understanding to order our lives in a way that will be pleasing with him. When I hear people say God is not concerned with the way you dress I know they have no discernment and they by their own profession are not concerned with what God might have to say on the matter.
1 Corinthians 8:2 - And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.
So we turn again and again to Scripture for knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.

Mark 7:13 - Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
We must be careful about thinking that tradition must be hundreds or thousands of years old. It does not take long for traditions to develop in a culture, family, or society. Everything must be weighed and examined in the light of Scripture.
Colossians 2:8 - Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
The word spoil here is not like we would say, "that child is spoiled." It is actually a military term that has reference to the plundering of a conquoring army. The "spoils" of battle. We are being warned here that we can be plundered. Philosophy, vain deceit, traditions of men, and the ruidements of the world. All of these different means by which we can be spoiled is the result of having too cozy of a relationship with the world. We are spoiled because we have not taken seriously the scriptural admonitions to be separate from the world. Thus we are influenced by the world's philosphy, we chase the bubbles of vanity, implement the traditions of men, and embrace the rudiments of this world, and we are drawn away from Christ and Christlikeness, which is holiness.
Proverbs 24:21,22 - My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both?
Where we are clearly warned about those that clamour for change. We should not be against change for change sake. But we should be very judicious in embracing change. If we change it should be toward holiness and not toward worldliness. God give us grace and discernment to know the difference!

One of the huge mistakes that I see people making in our day and it has a direct impact on the doctrine of separation is that they look at the Bible through the eyes of the culture instead of looking at the culture through the eyes of the Bible. The culture should not determine our understanding of the Bible. The Bible should determine our understanding of the culture.
In such a context the Bible becomes an impotent book that has some nice general ideas about how to live but nothing binding with the exception of the scandalous sins. We become comfortable with things in our lives because the culture no longer frowns upon it, it matters little that the Bible frowns upon it. You can live an unseparated life and still be found respectable. It is an unfortunate thing when believers have sunk to such a low place that they are content with the consent of their fellow man instead of steadily seeking the smile of God.
Consider the following:
Ephesians 2:2 - Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:
1 John 5:19 - And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.

Psalms 119:128 – Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.
Job 23:11,12 - My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.
James 1:22-25 - But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

Vs: 22 – Must be committed to do. Our heart must be conditioned to say, “Yes Lord!”
Vs: 23,24 – The man who approaches the Word of God without a submissive spirit.
Vs: 25 – The Word of God only impacts those who look and do.
Acts 17:11 - These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.
There are far too few who search the Scripture for direction and the mind of God in relation to modesty, gender distinctive dress, hair lengths, entertainment choices. They simply know what they like and how they want to live and they do not want to be bothered with anyone questioning their choices. You ask many of these people upon what premise they believe God is happy with their choices and they sit in stunned silence or mutter something about just knowing that God is OK with their choices. This is a sure sign that these folks have not spent the time searching the scripture in relation to these issues.

If we truly wish to be holy, if we truly wish to be perfecting holiness in the fear of God and as a result become more separated then we must of necessity be willing to examine the different areas of our life in the light of Scripture. We must humbly acknowledge the Scripture’s authority in our lives and be willing to submit to its teachings having examined its precepts, principles, and patterns. This we will do before the conclusion of this series.
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