The Mission of Holiness

Intro: Some jobs are hard, so you put them off as long as you can. Both of my parents have been gone for a few years. Usually, when both parents die, the kids are left, at some point, with the task of settling their estate and going through the stuff. My brothers and I have been able to put that off until now. A few weekends ago 2 of my brothers and I met at my parents house to empty out the attic and some closets. A lot of emotions and memories. What do you keep and what do you get rid of? “If it really belonged to him then I want to keep it.” If it meant something to them, it means something to me. It was helpful when I found their name on it. (Dad’s drafting tools from the Ohio days, designing radar for Gov’t. Some of the tools had his name written on them. I kept those)

I. A Holy Nation – Does God write His name on the things that belong to Him? It is hard not to recognize the glorious work of God in creation. Of course, all things are His, but the OT scriptures speak often of God’s special and specific possession of His people, Israel. God’s ownership of His people is based on their redemption and deliverance for that very purpose.

• Ex 19:3-6 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4 ‘You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. 6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy‘ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.” How would Israel become God’ people? How would they be designated as such?

A. If we can look to the scriptures for the recognizable name God placed on His people, we might conclude that it was holiness. He identifies His people through holiness. Lev 20:26 – And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine. As this passage indicates, and as we have studied, the word holy and holiness denote separateness, distinctness. One of the purposes of God’s law to Israel was to make them distinct, or holy. Their holiness was evidence that they were God’s people.

1. The middle chapters of Leviticus reveal God’s laws of conduct, cleanness vs. uncleanness, holy vs. unholy. Israel was called upon to obey these laws and be holyLev 11:45For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.

2. The apostle Peter extends the OT picture of the special ownership of God’s people, Israel, to those redeemed by the blood of Jesus – to you and me as Christians. 1 Peter 1:14-16 – as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 2:9-10But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

B. “The beauty of holiness…”When David successfully brought the ark of the covenant from the house of Obed-Edom to the city of Jerusalem, he sang a song of celebration in 1 Chron 16.

1. 1 Chron16:8Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! 1 Chron 16:24-29 – Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples.25 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods. 26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. 27 Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and gladness are in His place. 28 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. 29 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come before Him. Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!

2. David’s plea is for Israel to declare the glory of their God to the nations. He calls on them to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. This phrase is used 3 more times in scripture. In each case it implies that holiness is attractive (and unholiness is ugly?). It would imply that God’s people must live holy in order to show its beauty to others. What does this mean to us?

II. The Mission of Holiness. Why was Israel set apart? Is it so they could know the right moral truths and go to heaven when they die? Was this just about their private spirituality and relationship with God? No, it was more. God told Abraham way back in Gen. 12 that His intention was to bless all nations through his seed. Of course that seed was Christ, but Israel’s call to be a holy people was an evangelistic mission in itself. Psalm 96:3-10Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. 4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. 6 Honor and majesty are before Him; Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. 7 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Give to the Lord glory and strength. 8 Give to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering, and come into His courts. 9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! Tremble before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; The world also is firmly established, It shall not be moved; He shall judge the peoples righteously.”

A. Although the nation’s holiness could only come through obedience to law and abstaining from sin, it was not a call to isolation so the bad people could not get close. Israel was set a part, given the Law, in order to reflect the Holiness of God to the other nations. That was the mission of Israel’s holiness.

III. Neglect of the Mission. Did Israel view the call for holiness as a mission? Did they fulfill it?

A. After the return from captivity in Babylon and up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, being a light to the world ceased to be a priority. A string of foreign powers, including Rome, ruled over the Jewish people. Israel viewed the hope of God’s kingdom as a national vindication and punishment of their enemies. This took center stage in Jewish thought.

1. The law, and the holiness it demanded, was viewed as a tool of isolation from others. This was particularly evident in the emphasis on the dietary laws and table fellowship. The inter-testamental literature displays the importance placed on food laws. The stories from the Maccabean revolt include accounts of Jews being martyred rather than violate the dietary laws (1 Maccabees 1; 2 Maccabees 6-7). The Qumran community of Essenes viewed themselves as the true Israel. They, therefore, separated themselves from sinners and held strictly to the food laws.

2. The hope of the kingdom and deliverance are tied directly to food and fellowship purity. If you associate with sinners, it is a clear sign you will not be in the kingdom. Because of this, holiness was viewed as a separation from the world for fear of being made unclean. No one wanted to miss the kingdom. Israel stopped being a light to the world and placed their light under a basket.

IV. Jesus and the Mission of Holiness. Jesus entered the scene and challenged Israel’s neglect of their mission of holiness. Despite the emphasis on isolation and eating with only the right people, Jesus was constantly eating with sinners and tax collectors. Is this significant?

A. Jesus’ social interaction with sinners is explicitly or implicitly found in twelve distinct passages throughout the gospels.

1. We see it when He called Matthew (Mark 2) and Zacchaeus (Luke 19) both tax-collectors. Luke 19:7 – But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”

2. We see it in Luke 7 Luke 7:31-34And the Lord said, “To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying: ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not weep.’ 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

a. Later in the house of Simon, the Pharisee as the sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears. Simon immediately questioned Jesus’ claim to be a prophet.

b. Consider the accusations against Jesus. He was labeled a drunkard and glutton by His opponents (Luke 7:33-34). These dinners do not sound like solemn, judgmental confrontations. They sound instead like celebrations of mercy, love, and deliverance. This is why the sinners and tax collectors were comfortable around Jesus. As we shine as holy people of God, let us reflect the Creator’s love which inspires a transformation of heart.

3. We see it on display on Jesus’ parables. Concerning who would be in the kingdom in Luke 14 Jesus spoke of a King who issued an invitation, but those who were initially invited declined. … Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ 23 Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I say to you that none of those men who were invited shall taste my supper.'” (v. 21-24).This cannot be dismissed as a fluke. It was integral. Jesus’ actions violated their concept of the kingdom and the call to holiness. What did Jesus think He was doing?

B. Jesus viewed His holiness as a motivation to be drawn to sinners, not isolated from them. Jesus concludes His encounter with Zacchaeus by declaring that the Son of Man came to “SEEK and save the lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus sought Levi, Zacchaeus, and countless unnamed others who saw Him as the Holy One of Israel, the fulfillment of God’s plan for Israel and the world.

V. Embracing the Mission of Our Holiness – How are we then to utilize this in our mission?

A. First we must recognize that holiness, as separation from the pollution of sin, is absolutely essential. It is how God identifies us as His people. God’s people must be distinct in both conduct and mind.

• Heb 12:14 – Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness—without it no one will see the Lord.

• 2 Cor 6:16-18 – And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 17 Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” 18 ‘I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the Lord Almighty.”

• Rom 6:19 – For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

• 2 Cor 7:1 – Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

B. But we must also know that holiness is to be spread, not bottled up. It is to be spread by taking it to the people who are lost and broken. We must show the world the beauty of holiness. It will not suffice to say “Well, the doors are open on Sunday and they can come if they want.” Sometimes we frown when they do come.

1. Our holiness is a mission to call people through the love of God, just as Jesus did. Jesus did not condone of participate in the sins of the “sinners and tax-collectors”. But He graciously extended to them the love and mercy of God.

a. Look back at the account Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Luke 19:8-10Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Jesus’ hospitality did not make Him unclean, as the Pharisees thought, but rather led to the unclean being made clean. It led to repentance of sin, and God putting His name on Zacchaeus (son of Abraham)

b. Holiness was the objective, but Jesus sought it on a much larger scale than did His detractors. He understood the comprehensive purpose of holiness. Do we?

Conclusion: I pray that I have not been misunderstood. If you view this lesson as a compromise on moral issues or a call for the toleration of sinful conduct, you have misunderstood what I wanted to teach. Please talk to me.

I am challenged by Jesus every time I see Him in the scriptures. At times my struggle against sin, and my desire to be holy leads me to fail in the mission He has called me to. Sin needs to be reproved; Sinners need to be avoided; I need to be separate; Facebook posts need to be “liked”, lest someone conclude that I am weak on holiness. I find pride in the fact I am not like them or with them.

Then I see Jesus. His relentless desire to associate with sinners. How does this fit with the call to holiness and abstaining from sin? I need His discernment. I need His love for the lost. I need to see the mission of holiness, as He lived it.

Jesus called people to repent in light of God’s love for them. Ironically, it was those who thought of themselves as the morally pure which received the harshest rebuke.

I must diligently try to be like My Savior. I must seek to show the world His holiness. I want to belong to Him and have Him put His name on me. Do you belong to Jesus?