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Posts tagged ‘holiness’

Sermon – The God of Joy and His people of joy

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A God of Joy and His people

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Introduction

Four weeks ago we looked together at Psalm 66 and discovered that true joy involved praise, testimony and sacrifice. That only by being serving instruments of God’s orchestra of joy, can true joy be experienced! Then last week we looked at a momentous and joyous event followed by a great tragedy as Nadab and Abihu stumbled and incurred God’s wrath on their sin.

Book of Leviticus

Tonight, we look again in the book of Leviticus. Some of the words and phrases we commonly use come straight from the book of Leviticus. Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today. And what husband hasn’t offered a form of guilt offering to his wife!

Leviticus does have important things to tell us about sin, obedience and holiness. Perhaps most importantly it tells of God dwelling with His people. So tonight we delve into Leviticus chapter 16, which is the centre and pinnacle of the book. So please do turn in your bibles to Leviticus 16.

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Instruments in God’s Orchestra of Joy

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Obedient Service as

Instruments in

God’s Orchestra of Joy!

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Introduction

You may remember from a couple of weeks ago, we looked at Psalm 66 and discussed Joy and how a life of true joy could be seen in the life of the Psalmist through praise, sacrifice and testimony. That this was also true of Jesus Christ and lastly that it was also to be true of all those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ and have Him as Lord and master of their life. I wonder, where in the intervening weeks between then and now, true joy has taken you. I also wonder what role you have played as a member of God’s orchestra of joy during that time. Tonight, we will look at another aspect of being instruments of God’s orchestra of joy – obedient service!

So, please turn in your bibles to Leviticus 9v22 and let us witness together a scene of great and exuberant joy!

The first seven chapters of Leviticus talk about the different offerings or sacrifices that the nation of Israel was to make to God. Then in chapter 8 we see the beginning of the priesthood and the joyful work of Aaron and the priests. Their main role of service was to act as mediators between a holy God and the people of Israel, particularly in the role of making those offerings and sacrifices. In fact, they were the ultimate multi-taskers, as they seemed equally adept as butchers, doctors, teachers, quality assurors and public health inspectors! The passage we have in front of us tonight shows the culmination of this priestly ordination.

1. Great joy!

Read Leviticus 9v22-24

Israel was a nation, chosen by God, to be His people and to be a shining light of God’s glory to the world around them. This nation, God’s treasured and precious people, however, way back in Exodus 19, refused to be a nation of royal priests. Instead they preferred being represented by Moses and Aaron. So Moses and Aaron have gone into the Tent of Meeting or Tabernacle to meet with God. This was where Moses and Aaron would meet with the Lord during the travels to the Promised Land. The whole nation is waiting for them! So Moses and Aaron, as we just read, come out, give a blessing to the people and God’s glory appeared to the nation!

WOW! That must have been some blessing Aaron gave! Whatever his words were in v24, they were words that invocated Almighty God’s power, presence and peace to be with and upon His people. No wonder the people fell on the ground with their noses in the dirt as an act of joyful worship and praise to God!!

The burnt offering and fat portions on the altar were consumed in a great fire emanating from the manifestation of the glory of God! So amazing was this sight that a tremendous wave of exuberant joy overcame the people and they all fell with their face in the ground! There was probably a mixture of amazement, surprise and reverent fear! That must have been a tremendous sight to behold! Falling face forward was a characteristic method of showing total surrender and submission to a king or master. Here it is adopted by the Israelites as symbolic surrender to their God! The infinite, almighty, majestic and glorious God, was living and being worshipped by His people. This God was a holy God and these people were to be His people.

So there is tremendous joy in the nation of Israel and this is evident in their spontaneous act of submissive, voluntary worship and expressions of thanks to their Almighty God. Moses and Aaron had followed God’s guidelines obediently and the nations true joy was in evidence. Not just joy as an emotion, but true joy as evidenced through sacrifice, praise and testimony!

Now it would be very nice to just stop there, but the story continues! The Bible is an honest book! Just as the celebrations were concluding and the priests were taking up their sacred roles, something happens!

2. Great tragedy!

Read Leviticus 10v1-11

These two men, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron the High Priest, start their duties. They take their pans, fill them with hot coals from a fire, place aromatic incense on the coals and offer this to God as an act of worship. The fire from the glory of the Lord comes out, engulfs them and they die. What happened? They hadn’t followed the strict guidelines as given by the Lord and had therefore violated all the instructions given to them. Strict regulations were required by sinful humans to be in and work in God’s holy presence!

How different can these two scenes be? In the first passage we looked at, fire represented God’s presence and spoke of His love, warmth, purity and blessing upon His people. Here though, the fire represents a different aspect of His presence through his active holiness and therefore danger and judgement.

Who were Nadab and Abihu? They were Aaron’s eldest sons and had received a privileged upbringing. They had seen God working from close quarters. When Moses went up Mount Sinai to speak with God and receive the stone tablets containing the Ten Commandments, they were there. They had just spent the previous week in training for their new jobs as priests in service to God. No doubt they had witnessed at close quarters, the fire we spoke of earlier in Leviticus 9v24. So they were not only important people, but also experienced.

Yet in spite of all this, they did what was contrary to the guidelines given them. They were disobedient. We don’t know why they did it. It could have been old hairy legs satan whispering in their ears “Go on. You have a go now. Your dad did it, didn’t he? So can you. Don’t worry about those guidelines God gave you. it will be alright tonight, my sons. You felt good and happy, didn’t you? Trust yourself.”

It could have been pride, jealousy or impatience that led them to disobey the strict guidelines, or in light of 10v8 perhaps too much wine! Perhaps they were caught up in the excitable fever of the joyful occasion and wanted joy like a drug! What may have seemed right to them, most certainly wasn’t right to God. Perhaps they thought they were doing God a big favour by zealously embracing their roles as priests and wanting to offer as many sacrifices as they could! We will never know!

But we do know, that regardless of the reason for doing so, they actively disobeyed God. They chose to do it! Not only was it a fragrant disobedience but also a flagrant disobedience. In offering a “strange” or unauthorised fire, they had disregarded God’s instructions for the timing, place or manner. They had been set apart and dedicated to a life of serving God and His people and had now paid the ultimate consequence for their disobedience. Their disobedience is referred to again in Leviticus 16 in the regulations for the annual Day of Atonement. Regulations probably given to ensure that this never again occurred! Aaron, their father, was silent – stunned I would imagine! He has seen at firsthand, that in a life of true joy, God requires obedience over sacrifice. Aaron and his remaining sons were not to mourn or appear to be sorrowful. This was to signify the seriousness of Nadab and Abihu’s disobedience. To us this may seem harsh, but Aaron and his remaining sons had to prioritize service to God over commitment to family. This was symbolic of Joy – Jehovah Over Yourself. Aaron and his other sons had to remain engaged in priestly duties and responsibilities. Other members of the family were allowed to mourn however.

3. A God of Judgement

Now today, in the 21st century, we have a problem. We are quite comfortable with a God of love, peace, joy and kindness. In the movie Crocodile Dundee, Mick Dundee announces that “Me and God – we’d be mates”. If that is the limit of our vision of God, then may I suggest that our vision and opinion of God is too small? Perhaps our God is too nice and too comfortable. Yet a problem seemingly remains. How on earth can a God of love, peace, gentleness, kindness and joy act like this against two of his dedicated servants, Nadab and Abihu? Is not that a God who is at odds with himself?

The first thing we can say here about God is that while He is most assuredly a God of love, kindness and peace, He is also a God of judgement – a God who judges. That is plainly evident from this passage. We need to acknowledge him as a great lover, but also as a terrifying Judge. Not just a friend, but also a Judge! The writer of the book of Hebrews reminds us that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God who is a consuming fire! Remember also, that God always prefers obedience to sacrifice.

We all have, I am sure, at some point liked to think of God as being all love and never judging. People say: “It will be alright in the end, because the love of God conquers all.” Well, that love involves judging! The judgement of God is unbiased. God shows no favouritism and He is always just and right. It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair. But God is not merely a God of mercy, peace and love but also as we have seen, He is a God who judges and administers justice impartially in accordance with His mercy, peace and love!

4. A God of Wrath!

Not only is He a God who judges but He is also a God who has great wrath – it is an essential, permanent and indelible part of His character! His wrath may be slow to burn, but it is still anger and wrath! The holiness of God requires that He punish sin through His wrath! What sort of God would He have been if He had not done what He did to Nadab and Abihu? What if He had said, “That’s ok boys, you will get it right next time.” Then He most would certainly be seen as a capricious, unjust, fickle and hostile being.

It’s not a popular subject these days in our churches! Most churches mumble when it comes to bible passages such as this! While most sections of our society, and indeed parts of the church, view God as a doddery benevolent being, sitting benignly in the sky in His rocking chair and mildly ‘tutting’ when people disobey His commands. But God is not a benevolent Grandfather figure and neither is His wrath or anger unwarranted, immoral, cruel, fickle, spiteful or capricious! God’s wrath is always to administer and mete out a divine loving justice, which corresponds to God’s innate and essential characteristics and attributes of light, perfection and holiness. That’s the picture given by all the Bible writers. When we speak of a perfect God in human terms, whether that is His being a wrathful judge or tremendous lover, it reflects the imperfect limitations of our humanity. We were made in the image of God and not the other way around!

Secondly, God’s honour was at stake! He is both zealous and jealous for His own honour and name! He can only act within the confines of His own characteristics and attributes! He must always work out of His immutable holiness! God was passionate about living at the centre of His people and there was no way He could allow renegade priests to disobediently defile His dwelling place!

Nadab and Abihu were punished because they worked in His immediate presence as illustrated by verse 3 “Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honoured.” If God had not punished them, then that would have made God out to be a hypocrite and a liar, acting contrary to His own essential nature and He would be seen as an impotent God with seemingly multiple personalities. This story illustrates that Nadab and Abihu had to serve as an example, which is why we have the story.

Thirdly, Nadab and Abihu broke the guidelines, given by God on how to enter into His presence. They took the wrong fire, went at the wrong time and were ill prepared for such an occasion. They entered a place of God’s holy presence in a sinful and disobedient state. People full of sin can never enter into a place where God resides, because God is uniquely holy, sinless and perfect without fault or defect.

Nadab and Abihu chose, for whatever reason, either intentionally or unintentionally, to break God’s guidelines in how, where and when to offer a sacrifice. There is no indication, however, from the Biblical text that they were eternally separated from God at their death, as in judgement of their sins. But rather it seems they were judged according to what they did with their abilities, talents and gifting as ministers in His service.

5. So what’s all this got to do with us today?

So what’s all this got to do with us today in the 21st century? Over and over again in the Old Testament, we see that the nation of Israel were to be a people of service separated out for God! Under the terms of the covenant God made with them through Moses, that was the core of God’s agreement with them. It commenced with the stipulation Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth; for all the earth belongs to me (Exodus 19v5)”.

This covenant was with the nation of Israel in order that those who believed God’s earlier promise to Abraham could know how to live a life worthy of being God’s people: to live a life relating socially to God and to other people. It was also to show how humanity could approach God on God’s terms alone and not on their own conditions! God was and is a perfect and holy God! His people, Israel, were to be a holy and separated people of service and to reflect God’s glory and greatness to the other nations!

This covenant was only in place until the Messiah came and made the perfect sacrifice. All the Old Testament Covenants pointed towards the time when the Saviour Messiah would come – God would come Himself to save His people! The Mosaic Covenant was never meant as a means towards salvation. It was given that they could realize the helplessness of their own efforts to save themselves and their need of God’s help. One day, there would be a New Covenant between God and humanity and this Mosaic covenant would be fulfilled!

6.New Covenant?

So what is this New Covenant? Four primary features are:

  • ·God will write His law on the hearts of people.
  • ·God will be their God, and they will be His people.
  • ·God will indwell people and they will be led by Him
  • ·All sins will be forgiven and removed eternally

This new covenant was and is sealed only through the perfect sacrifice of the God-Man Jesus on the cross. His blood ensures the truth of this New Covenant. His death pays the penalty for the sins of all people who choose to say yes to God and follow Him. This New Covenant finalizes what the Mosaic Covenant could only point to: the follower of God engaged in a dynamic relationship of Joy with a God who loves them.

No longer would human priests need to mediate between God and humans, because Jesus Christ, the full visible manifestation of God, would fulfil that role as mediator and all people would have access to God through Him! Amazing stuff! You and I have instant access to Almighty God. We can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and assurance because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. God no longer dwells in a Tent of Meeting, the Tabernacle or the Temple made of stone – He now lives in each believer – immediate access guaranteed! Amazing and yet how often we don’t avail ourselves. But it is more than that, because as royal priests of this New Covenant, for that is what we are, we too are called into a joyful life of obedient service of God!

7. Called to service!

Just as it was for Aaron and the Old Testament priesthood, when we serve and minister, God’s honour is released. This is done because service is to show the beauty and glory of God to others. Serving, service and ministry are never to be about what we as mere humans can get out of it. When that is the motive, God is neither honoured nor glorified. God’s glory and supremacy is to be the ultimate reason for service! God is both zealous and jealous for His glory and honour to be upheld! Nadab and Abihu could testify to that I am sure!

As Christians, as part of our life of true Joy, we are called to serve and minister. We are called to exhibit and show our true Joy – just as Aaron and his family were called into a lifetime of obedient service to Jehovah God. Their JOY motto was to be “Jehovah Over Yourself”. For us, true joy is to be “Jesus Over Yourself”. Each of us here tonight is called to perform a unique serving and ministerial function.

Showing love, serving each other and giving to others are a practical outworking of our joyful obedience to God. The ministries of Nadab and Abihu were cut short and hallmarked with disobedience. Our ministry, and all Christians have one, is to be hallmarked by obedience borne out of love for God and Him alone. Devoted obedience to God borne out of a desire to see God glorified, regardless of what other people may say or think.

And we are not left alone to serve in our own power! We would most certainly fail if that was the case! God Himself has lovingly equipped all those who follow Him, to serve! God the Holy Spirit, who lives inside each believer, has endowed each Christian with gifts, talents and abilities for that purpose – service! This is so that the whole church is built up and “that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” God wants you and I to be active in service – life long service hallmarked by loving obedience to Him, which reflects our joyful dedication to Him, to His praise, honour and glory!

8. Judged for our service!

Finally, just as God’s judgement was upon Nadab and Abihu, the Bible also tells us that all those who follow Jesus Christ will be judged according to what they have done, with what God gave them. That includes any spiritual gifts, talents and abilities we have! This judgement will not be for salvation, because if we have decided to follow Jesus Christ, judgement for our sins has already fallen on Him, when He died on the cross.

Of our sinfulness we have been set free and declared innocent! If we here tonight, have accepted God’s free offer of salvation by grace alone, through Jesus Christ alone, then we are declared right with God and in a joyous relationship with Him. Again, it is amazing! However, our belief and faith are to be visibly manifested through joyful obedient service of, and to, God!

This judgement is not for your salvation but for your rewards! As followers of Jesus Christ, God will ask you and I, to give an account of ourselves, and we will be judged according to what we have done. The quality of our work will be tested and our motives exposed – either we did things for God’s glory or we did them for our own glory. We will give an account of the opportunities and abilities entrusted to us as instruments of God’s orchestra of joy.

Conclusion!

For those of us who would call ourselves Christians, the Bible is very clear – you are called to lovingly and obediently serve in some capacity. A life of true Joy is seen in obedient service to the glory of God the Father, through God the Son Jesus Christ, in the power of God the Holy Spirit who lives in you. Tonight, if you are engaging in either intentional or unintentional acts of disobedience, then you need to turn your life around to one of utter obedience to the God you profess to follow.

As a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit within you, as a seal of your salvation. Your body is the temple where God now resides! You can’t hide from Him, so you may as well choose to be obedient to Him in a life of joyful service, exhibiting that true Joy and the hope you have in Him! Just as joy followed Moses and Aaron’s obedience in Leviticus 9, so too can it be for those of us willing to lovingly serve obediently!

But if you are not a Christian here tonight, then please do make yourself known to us afterwards and we would love to talk to you about becoming a Christian. While you have breath, it’s not too late to start this life of joyful obedience to a loving God and enter into a living and dynamic relationship of true Joy with Him. Don’t leave it so late that you incur God’s judgement for your sins and have everlasting separation from Him and others! God does indeed love you and He is calling you to come into a dynamic relationship of true joy with Him today. Take the opportunity today – come and follow Jesus Christ. He is calling you to respond!

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Sermon – God pays a visit to Solomon

 

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God pays a visit to Solomon!

2 Chronicles 7v11-22

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Introduction

You may remember, from a month ago, we looked at David’s final recorded public prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. We saw that David’s God oozed greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty from all aspects of His very being! All of which are essential attributes of who He is: unchangeable and permanent. We discovered that this God is a God who gives and gives abundantly! The temple was yet to be built but the gifts from the King and the people had come in! People were waiting to start! Not only to build it but to serve within it! We came to the conclusion that we should pray not just for what God can give to us but also what we can give and do for our God! Giving not just money and goods, but our talents and imagination! Because from that, the community we live, work and worship within could be transformed to God’s glory!

But now the Chronicler has moved on in his story! The remnant of Israel you may remember has returned from exile and the Chronicler is giving them an abridged version of history! The great king David has died, and his son, Solomon, is now on the throne. Solomon has had his first encounter with God and received the gift of wisdom! In Chapter 6, Solomon has prayed a great prayer to His God! Here, in our first reading, from the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we hear the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament, when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!

In the passage before us tonight, v11 to v22, the temple is now complete. Solomon is now probably sleeping in his palace. It has been 13 years since he prayed that prayer in chapter 6! No doubt, during those 13 years, many times has Solomon wrestled in his mind over what he prayed… Then, one night God Himself turns up. Here the Chronicler reveals what God said to Solomon.

The original readers/hearers are a remnant of the great nation of Israel, just returned to their land after being in exile! Probably wondering what happened, because under Solomon, the nation of Israel reached its pinnacle! Asking themselves questions like: Who is our God? Who are we, Israel, as a nation? Why are we in the situation we find ourselves in?

The Chronicler is putting across his own theology as he writes this book of Chronicles! His theology, however, is consistent with the writings of the rest of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament! So what does the Chronicler wish to convey to the remnant about this God from this encounter with Solomon?

 

1. A God of all History

The first thing I see, from this passage, is that their God is a God of history! All human history is covered beneath his throne – the past, present and future!

a. God of the past!

He is the God of Israel’s past! God throughout history had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and here, God reminds Solomon of the Covenant that He made with Solomon’s father, David! This covenant promised 3 things!

That there would be:

  • A land forever
  • A dynasty without end
  • A perpetual kingdom

 

b. God of the present

But not only is He a God of the past, He is also a God of the present! He has heard the prayers and accepted the temple as a place of worship – v12 “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” He is the God of the present because He is speaking to Solomon in Solomon’s present! Visiting Solomon, probably while Solomon is snoring his head off!

c. God of the Future

So God is a God of the past and the present, but also a God of the future! And because God is the God of the future, all things are under His control! Even v13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people”, shows the God of the past, present and future being in control.

The Lord God says in this speech to Solomon, “I will…” several times! “I will hear!” “I will forgive!” “I will heal the land!” “I will open my eyes!” “I will establish your throne!” But not only of these humanly beneficial things but also Gods says in v20 “I will uproot you from here and send you into exile!” All in the future tense!

And in v16 “I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” Their God, who is the God of all human history – past, present and future – is from everlasting to everlasting!

Nothing in the future is set rigidly! God may know what is going to happen but He also knows all that may happen as well! We see this through the tension of “If you do this, I will do this!” God is all-knowing, far beyond our human capacity and capability!

2. A God Who Lives!

So a God over all human history – past, present and future. So what else is there here about this God? This God is also a God who lives and lives dynamically! This God is not like the gods of Israel’s neighbours – a mere inert block of wood, bone or stone to be lumped about, put on a pedestal, have many copies made, bowed to impersonally and chanted manically at. No! This God of Israel is a God who lives! This God lives and wants to live with His people! God is a God who exhibits His life in at least 3 ways from this encounter with Solomon!

a. A God who is Personal!

This God is personal! Fourteen times, the Chronicler uses for God the personal pronoun “I” and fourteen times, he uses “me” or “myself.” Twelve times, he uses the word “you” – on a single individual basis as well as a collective “you” on the basis of the nation itself. This God is personal to the individual Solomon, the King of Israel, but also personal to the nation of Israel. The Chronicler is intimating that no other nation had enjoyed a dynamic, robust and intimate relationship with their God, like Israel does! Our God is personal the Chronicler cries out! Because He is personal, it cries out that He lives! This God wants to be intimately involved with the people and nation He has chosen for Himself.

Read through with me as I share some of these with you and hear how intimate and personal this God is!

Listen for the ‘I’

I have heard your prayer; I shut; I will forgive; I will heal; I have chosen; I will establish; I have covenanted; I have given; I will uproot; I will reject; I will make

This is a personal God! Listen for the ‘my’

chosen this place for myself; among my people, called by my name; seek my face; my eyes will be open; my ears attentive; my Name may be there forever; my heart will always be there; an object of ridicule for my Name,

Now listen for the ‘you’, ‘their’, themselves’ and ‘they’

you walk before me faithfully; humble themselves and pray; You do; Your father David; You observe; Your royal throne; their wicked ways ; if you turn away and forsake; you and go off to serve other gods; they have forsaken the LORD and they embraced other gods

This is a personal, living and dynamic God wanting a personal and dynamic relationship with His people! Not some mere impersonal piece of wood, metal or stone like the gods of the surrounding nations to whom people babble!

b. A God who is Responsive!

This personal God is also responsive! This God, the Chronicler writes, has responded to the worship of the people when at the beginning of this chapter, His glory filled the temple to overflowing! Their worship was pleasing to Him and He acknowledged this with fire! WOW – v1 “the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple!” That must have been an awe-inspiring moment when their living God did that! So awe inspiring that they continued in worship by singing and offering sacrifices! This God responds to His gathered people!

But this God also responds and appears to the individual, in this case, their King and leader, Solomon and with a personal answer to Solomon’s own prayer we read in chapter 6! Here in v17-18, God confirms Solomon’s anointing as King and leader of Israel! He reminds Solomon of the importance of the Temple in the life of Israel and as a symbol of commitment to the Covenant of David. This is a direct response to Solomon’s prayer we read in 6v16-17. God is personally committed to the line of David.

Now that’s all very well when things are going swimmingly and Israel is being obedient, following the commands and ordinances of their personal God! But what happens if they choose not to obey or serve him rightly? God administers judgement, but v14 offers a way back – of humble repentance. However, if they continue to sin and are not repentant, well that leads us to another part of God being responsive – God judges! And not unjustly or recklessly but with justice!

c. A God who Judges and Restores!

In v13 we see that disasters can be sent by God! Droughts and plagues can be used by God to bring people ultimately back to repentance.

In v19-23, we see what happens if Israel abandons their God and continues in their sinful ways (v19)! God abandons them because they first abandoned Him and went away to embrace other gods – gods of non-personality! Then God uproots them from the land that He had given them and rejects this very same Temple which He chose Himself to be a place of prayer and sacrifice. That’s the reason Israel was to go into exile, away from the land of promise.

But if God is the God who judges and does these things, He is also the God who enables restoration! When evil befalls Israel, natural, social or political, it is because of their disobedience and God must judge it or He would be a pretty impotent, capricious, spiteful and fickle God if He didn’t! So while God maybe the author of disasters, He is also the agent of restoration!

3. A God Who Expects!

This is a personal God of all human history who lives! This God judges disobedience but offers a way back through repentance. Part of His being personal is that this is a God who expects!

a. God Expects His People to be Holy!

How is this? Why does He judge? Because God is holy! He is of utter moral excellence and perfection. There is and can be no stain of sin and He must be totally separated from sin. Holy is what God is!! This holiness of God is seen in righteousness, which is holiness in action. God’s actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the ab­sence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with deal with it He will and must!

If God were not Holy, He could not and would not be God! If He were to cast aside his Holiness even for the briefest of times, he would cease to be God!

b. God expects obedience!

Not only is God holy, writes the Chronicler, but His people must also be holy and be seen to live rightly! God expects obedience! Israel was to be a nation of light reflecting their great and living God to the surrounding nations! They alone had the law of the Lord and they were to live rightly and obediently before God and the surrounding nations! They were to worship this living God and Him alone! In v17, we see the request to walk with God alone and follow His decrees and commands – the law of Moses! In v19-20, as we saw earlier, there was the penalty for idolatry and abandoning this living God!

c. God expects prayers of repentance

Now you may be saying, yeah right, Dave… If God is just, and of grace, He will provide a way out of these judgments! But you know what! He does! The people can be restored! How can this be? Verse 14 is the key! This is a key of grace: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

How does He restore? Through the humility and repentance of the disobedient! Even when this great Living God is angry! Prayers by the disobedient, consisting of humility and repentance are necessary, in order to enable God to forgive and heal the destruction of sin and disobedience. In 6v32-33, we can see that anyone who acknowledges God’s name and authority may pray with utter confidence that God would hear their petitions. Seeking God’s face with humility is the key.

What is repentance? It is a voluntary change in mind, in which the person and nation turn from a life of disobedience to living a life of obedience to God. It is done firstly in the Mind or the Intellect, where it is recognition of disobedience and guilt before God. Then, there is also at an Emotional level, exhibiting genuine sorrow for disobedience, a bit more difficult for us men! Finally it’s also an act of the Will – a decision to turn back to God from disobedience, self-pleasure and self-centredness.

And what is humility? Humility is where total trust is placed in God alone, and He has priority in all aspects of life. Humility is a lack of pride and of total commitment to God.

This is a living and holy God, who expects His people to be holy, reflecting His holiness and being prepared to make themselves nothing in order to be restored and for their disobedience to be forgiven.

Conclusion

What an awesome and great God this is! This is the God who is the God over all human history – past, present and future! This is a God who is personal and responsive! This is a God who is holy, commands obedience and yet accepts humble repentance! What a great and Almighty God! Not only those things but He is a God of grace! How do we see that?

This chapter from Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7v11-22, could well be a summary of all 1 & 2 Chronicles, if not the Old Testament and indeed all of Scripture! Some say that grace is missing from the book, just as some say that grace is missing from the Old Testament itself! But as we have hopefully seen, one aspect of God that shines through this passage is that He is a God of grace, with a message of grace as exemplified in v14! “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

But so what? What are we to do with and for this God?

We are to be personally and collectively obedient to Him. Following closely to the leading of the Spirit and following our leaders, the pastors, elders and deacons as they seek to follow this great God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “You can only learn what obedience is, by obeying.”

Lets be an obedient people. How do we do that? By loving God! How do we show we love God? By loving others, for as Jesus said, this sums up the whole Law!. The community out there, which we are a part of, is looking at us. We have this fantastic new building, and I can guarantee you, that there will be some people out there, just waiting for this adventure of ours with God to fail. Let us not allow that to happen.

One of the key areas of obedience concerns idolatry! Now we may not go off to other gods and worship them, as Solomon and ancient Israel did. But we can set up false idols of our own, both as individuals and collectively. Calvin wrote that “What is idolatry? It is to worship the gifts instead of the great Giver?” This is a beautiful building! But let us not worship it and consider it so sanctified even for a moment, that it becomes our idol of worship. Let us be thankful to God for the gift and allow Him to use it for the benefit of the whole community and not just for our own sake. Let each of us ensure that God takes first place over everything in our individual and collective lives. Let us worship alone our great living God who gives abundantly, rather than commit disobedient idolatry by worshipping the gifts of the Giver.

Then finally, let us hold our leaders up in prayer that they will be, collectively and individually, obedient to God! As Adam shared this morning, old hairy legs satan likes to stick his nose in and try to get leaders like Adam off track. Many churches have built new buildings, only for them to lie wasted shortly after, due to personal disobedience of the leadership. Lets not be one of those.

The church I attended in Australia before coming to the UK, 21 years ago this coming Saturday, was very much like PBC is now! Growing, vibrant and they had just finished building a new church building! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the future! I am not going to say specifically what happened, but within 2 years that church was practically empty. In fact it is still going but it hasn’t recovered to the way that it was. The leadership were found to have committed both personal and corporate disobedience and when it became public; it decimated the church and made it a public mockery. Those people who were in leadership are now restored back into a right relationship with God, but they had to find humility the hard way.

Somebody asked me during the week, “If Solomon was the wisest man on earth, how come he fell into idolatry?” The answer I gave was not because he had so many wives and girlfriends. Nor was it, as suggested by a certain member of this congregation here tonight, the number of mother in laws. I think it was because he became proud, forgot not just who he was in God’s eyes but he also forgot who God was! That led him to forsake the God of His youth and commit idolatrous acts.

Let’s go from here, willing to be obedient to this great God, remembering who we are and who our God is. This great God we love and serve who is the God of all human history – past, present and future. This Almighty God, who is living, dynamic, personal, and responsive: who both judges and restores. This is a God who is holy and expects His followers to be holy, living obedient lives and being quick to seek repentance after disobedience. Let’s go out into our community this week, being His voice and light, confident that our living God is within us, as we engage actively and passively with those who don’t know this great God!

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Sermon – Solomon has a night time visitor!

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God pays a visit to Solomon!

2 Chronicles 7v11-22

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Introduction

You may remember, from a month ago, we looked at David’s final recorded public prayer in 1 Chronicles 29. We saw that David’s God oozed greatness, power, glory, victory and majesty from all aspects of His very being! All of which are essential attributes of who He is: unchangeable and permanent. We discovered that this God is a God who gives and gives abundantly! The temple was yet to be built but the gifts from the King and the people had come in! People were waiting to start! Not only to build it but to serve within it! We came to the conclusion that we should pray not just for what God can give to us but also what we can give and do for our God! Giving not just money and goods, but our talents and imagination! Because from that, the community we live, work and worship within could be transformed to God’s glory!

But now the Chronicler has moved on in his story! The remnant of Israel you may remember has returned from exile and the Chronicler is giving them an abridged version of history! The great king David has died, and his son, Solomon, is now on the throne. Solomon has had his first encounter with God and received the gift of wisdom! In Chapter 6, Solomon has prayed a great prayer to His God! Here, in our first reading, from the first 3 verses of chapter 7, we hear the Chronicler regaling one of the many great WOW moments of the Old Testament, when the glory of the Lord came down like fire and filled the temple to overflowing! The people fell down in worship of a great God, who was their God! This was followed by a great scene of abundantly joyful sacrificial worship to this God!

In the passage before us tonight, v11 to v22, the temple is now complete. Solomon is now probably sleeping in his palace. It has been 13 years since he prayed that prayer in chapter 6! No doubt, during those 13 years, many times has Solomon wrestled in his mind over what he prayed… Then, one night God Himself turns up. Here the Chronicler reveals what God said to Solomon.

The original readers/hearers are a remnant of the great nation of Israel, just returned to their land after being in exile! Probably wondering what happened, because under Solomon, the nation of Israel reached its pinnacle! Asking themselves questions like: Who is our God? Who are we, Israel, as a nation? Why are we in the situation we find ourselves in?

The Chronicler is putting across his own theology as he writes this book of Chronicles! His theology, however, is consistent with the writings of the rest of the Old Testament and indeed the New Testament! So what does the Chronicler wish to convey to the remnant about this God from this encounter with Solomon?

1. A God of all History

The first thing I see, from this passage, is that their God is a God of history! All human history is covered beneath his throne – the past, present and future!

a. God of the past!

He is the God of Israel’s past! God throughout history had made covenants with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and here, God reminds Solomon of the Covenant that He made with Solomon’s father, David! This covenant promised 3 things!

That there would be:

  • A land forever
  • A dynasty without end
  • A perpetual kingdom

b. God of the present

But not only is He a God of the past, He is also a God of the present! He has heard the prayers and accepted the temple as a place of worship – v12 “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a temple for sacrifices.” He is the God of the present because He is speaking to Solomon in Solomon’s present! Visiting Solomon, probably while Solomon is snoring his head off!

c. God of the Future

So God is a God of the past and the present, but also a God of the future! And because God is the God of the future, all things are under His control! Even v13 “When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people”, shows the God of the past, present and future being in control.

The Lord God says in this speech to Solomon, “I will…” several times! “I will hear!” “I will forgive!” “I will heal the land!” “I will open my eyes!” “I will establish your throne!” But not only of these humanly beneficial things but also Gods says in v20 “I will uproot you from here and send you into exile!” All in the future tense!

And in v16 “I have chosen and consecrated this temple so that my Name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there.” Their God, who is the God of all human history – past, present and future – is from everlasting to everlasting!

Nothing in the future is set rigidly! God may know what is going to happen but He also knows all that may happen as well! We see this through the tension of “If you do this, I will do this!” God is all-knowing, far beyond our human capacity and capability!

2. A God Who Lives!

So a God over all human history – past, present and future. So what else is there here about this God? This God is also a God who lives and lives dynamically! This God is not like the gods of Israel’s neighbours – a mere inert block of wood, bone or stone to be lumped about, put on a pedestal, have many copies made, bowed to impersonally and chanted manically at. No! This God of Israel is a God who lives! This God lives and wants to live with His people! God is a God who exhibits His life in at least 3 ways from this encounter with Solomon!

a. A God who is Personal!

This God is personal! Fourteen times, the Chronicler uses for God the personal pronoun “I” and fourteen times, he uses “me” or “myself.” Twelve times, he uses the word “you” – on a single individual basis as well as a collective “you” on the basis of the nation itself. This God is personal to the individual Solomon, the King of Israel, but also personal to the nation of Israel. The Chronicler is intimating that no other nation had enjoyed a dynamic, robust and intimate relationship with their God, like Israel does! Our God is personal the Chronicler cries out! Because He is personal, it cries out that He lives! This God wants to be intimately involved with the people and nation He has chosen for Himself.

Read through with me as I share some of these with you and hear how intimate and personal this God is!

Listen for the ‘I’

I have heard your prayer; I shut; I will forgive; I will heal; I have chosen; I will establish; I have covenanted; I have given; I will uproot; I will reject; I will make

This is a personal God! Listen for the ‘my’

chosen this place for myself; among my people, called by my name; seek my face; my eyes will be open; my ears attentive; my Name may be there forever; my heart will always be there; an object of ridicule for my Name,

Now listen for the ‘you’, ‘their’, themselves’ and ‘they’

you walk before me faithfully; humble themselves and pray; You do; Your father David; You observe; Your royal throne; their wicked ways ; if you turn away and forsake; you and go off to serve other gods; they have forsaken the LORD and they embraced other gods

This is a personal, living and dynamic God wanting a personal and dynamic relationship with His people! Not some mere impersonal piece of wood, metal or stone like the gods of the surrounding nations to whom people babble!

b. A God who is Responsive!

This personal God is also responsive! This God, the Chronicler writes, has responded to the worship of the people when at the beginning of this chapter, His glory filled the temple to overflowing! Their worship was pleasing to Him and He acknowledged this with fire! WOW – v1 “the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple!” That must have been an awe-inspiring moment when their living God did that! So awe inspiring that they continued in worship by singing and offering sacrifices! This God responds to His gathered people!

But this God also responds and appears to the individual, in this case, their King and leader, Solomon and with a personal answer to Solomon’s own prayer we read in chapter 6! Here in v17-18, God confirms Solomon’s anointing as King and leader of Israel! He reminds Solomon of the importance of the Temple in the life of Israel and as a symbol of commitment to the Covenant of David. This is a direct response to Solomon’s prayer we read in 6v16-17. God is personally committed to the line of David.

Now that’s all very well when things are going swimmingly and Israel is being obedient, following the commands and ordinances of their personal God! But what happens if they choose not to obey or serve him rightly? God administers judgement, but v14 offers a way back – of humble repentance. However, if they continue to sin and are not repentant, well that leads us to another part of God being responsive – God judges! And not unjustly or recklessly but with justice!

c. A God who Judges and Restores!

In v13 we see that disasters can be sent by God! Droughts and plagues can be used by God to bring people ultimately back to repentance.

In v19-23, we see what happens if Israel abandons their God and continues in their sinful ways (v19)! God abandons them because they first abandoned Him and went away to embrace other gods – gods of non-personality! Then God uproots them from the land that He had given them and rejects this very same Temple which He chose Himself to be a place of prayer and sacrifice. That’s the reason Israel was to go into exile, away from the land of promise.

But if God is the God who judges and does these things, He is also the God who enables restoration! When evil befalls Israel, natural, social or political, it is because of their disobedience and God must judge it or He would be a pretty impotent, capricious, spiteful and fickle God if He didn’t! So while God maybe the author of disasters, He is also the agent of restoration!

3. A God Who Expects!

This is a personal God of all human history who lives! This God judges disobedience but offers a way back through repentance. Part of His being personal is that this is a God who expects!

a. God Expects His People to be Holy!

How is this? Why does He judge? Because God is holy! He is of utter moral excellence and perfection. There is and can be no stain of sin and He must be totally separated from sin. Holy is what God is!! This holiness of God is seen in righteousness, which is holiness in action. God’s actions conform to His Holiness. Justice deals with the ab­sence of righteousness. Sin must be dealt with deal with it He will and must!

If God were not Holy, He could not and would not be God! If He were to cast aside his Holiness even for the briefest of times, he would cease to be God!

b. God expects obedience!

Not only is God holy, writes the Chronicler, but His people must also be holy and be seen to live rightly! God expects obedience! Israel was to be a nation of light reflecting their great and living God to the surrounding nations! They alone had the law of the Lord and they were to live rightly and obediently before God and the surrounding nations! They were to worship this living God and Him alone! In v17, we see the request to walk with God alone and follow His decrees and commands – the law of Moses! In v19-20, as we saw earlier, there was the penalty for idolatry and abandoning this living God!

c. God expects prayers of repentance

Now you may be saying, yeah right, Dave… If God is just, and of grace, He will provide a way out of these judgments! But you know what! He does! The people can be restored! How can this be? Verse 14 is the key! This is a key of grace: “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

How does He restore? Through the humility and repentance of the disobedient! Even when this great Living God is angry! Prayers by the disobedient, consisting of humility and repentance are necessary, in order to enable God to forgive and heal the destruction of sin and disobedience. In 6v32-33, we can see that anyone who acknowledges God’s name and authority may pray with utter confidence that God would hear their petitions. Seeking God’s face with humility is the key.

What is repentance? It is a voluntary change in mind, in which the person and nation turn from a life of disobedience to living a life of obedience to God. It is done firstly in the Mind or the Intellect, where it is recognition of disobedience and guilt before God. Then, there is also at an Emotional level, exhibiting genuine sorrow for disobedience, a bit more difficult for us men! Finally it’s also an act of the Will – a decision to turn back to God from disobedience, self-pleasure and self-centredness.

And what is humility? Humility is where total trust is placed in God alone, and He has priority in all aspects of life. Humility is a lack of pride and of total commitment to God.

This is a living and holy God, who expects His people to be holy, reflecting His holiness and being prepared to make themselves nothing in order to be restored and for their disobedience to be forgiven.

Conclusion

What an awesome and great God this is! This is the God who is the God over all human history – past, present and future! This is a God who is personal and responsive! This is a God who is holy, commands obedience and yet accepts humble repentance! What a great and Almighty God! Not only those things but He is a God of grace! How do we see that?

This chapter from Scripture, 2 Chronicles 7v11-22, could well be a summary of all 1 & 2 Chronicles, if not the Old Testament and indeed all of Scripture! Some say that grace is missing from the book, just as some say that grace is missing from the Old Testament itself! But as we have hopefully seen, one aspect of God that shines through this passage is that He is a God of grace, with a message of grace as exemplified in v14! “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

But so what? What are we to do with and for this God?

We are to be personally and collectively obedient to Him. Following closely to the leading of the Spirit and following our leaders, the pastors, elders and deacons as they seek to follow this great God. Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said “You can only learn what obedience is, by obeying.”

Lets be an obedient people. How do we do that? By loving God! How do we show we love God? By loving others, for as Jesus said, this sums up the whole Law!. The community out there, which we are a part of, is looking at us. We have this fantastic new building, and I can guarantee you, that there will be some people out there, just waiting for this adventure of ours with God to fail. Let us not allow that to happen.

One of the key areas of obedience concerns idolatry! Now we may not go off to other gods and worship them, as Solomon and ancient Israel did. But we can set up false idols of our own, both as individuals and collectively. Calvin wrote that “What is idolatry? It is to worship the gifts instead of the great Giver?” This is a beautiful building! But let us not worship it and consider it so sanctified even for a moment, that it becomes our idol of worship. Let us be thankful to God for the gift and allow Him to use it for the benefit of the whole community and not just for our own sake. Let each of us ensure that God takes first place over everything in our individual and collective lives. Let us worship alone our great living God who gives abundantly, rather than commit disobedient idolatry by worshipping the gifts of the Giver.

Then finally, let us hold our leaders up in prayer that they will be, collectively and individually, obedient to God! As Adam shared this morning, old hairy legs satan likes to stick his nose in and try to get leaders like Adam off track. Many churches have built new buildings, only for them to lie wasted shortly after, due to personal disobedience of the leadership. Lets not be one of those.

The church I attended in Australia before coming to the UK, 21 years ago this coming Saturday, was very much like PBC is now! Growing, vibrant and they had just finished building a new church building! Everyone was excited and looking forward to the future! I am not going to say specifically what happened, but within 2 years that church was practically empty. In fact it is still going but it hasn’t recovered to the way that it was. The leadership were found to have committed both personal and corporate disobedience and when it became public; it decimated the church and made it a public mockery. Those people who were in leadership are now restored back into a right relationship with God, but they had to find humility the hard way.

Somebody asked me during the week, “If Solomon was the wisest man on earth, how come he fell into idolatry?” The answer I gave was not because he had so many wives and girlfriends. Nor was it, as suggested by a certain member of this congregation here tonight, the number of mother in laws. I think it was because he became proud, forgot not just who he was in God’s eyes but he also forgot who God was! That led him to forsake the God of His youth and commit idolatrous acts.

Let’s go from here, willing to be obedient to this great God, remembering who we are and who our God is. This great God we love and serve who is the God of all human history – past, present and future. This Almighty God, who is living, dynamic, personal, and responsive: who both judges and restores. This is a God who is holy and expects His followers to be holy, living obedient lives and being quick to seek repentance after disobedience. Let’s go out into our community this week, being His voice and light, confident that our living God is within us, as we engage actively and passively with those who don’t know this great God!

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Sermon – A God of Joy and His people

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A God of Joy and His people

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Introduction

Four weeks ago we looked together at Psalm 66 and discovered that true joy involved praise, testimony and sacrifice. That only by being serving instruments of God’s orchestra of joy, can true joy be experienced! Then last week we looked at a momentous and joyous event followed by a great tragedy as Nadab and Abihu stumbled and incurred God’s wrath on their sin.

Book of Leviticus

Tonight, we look again in the book of Leviticus. Some of the words and phrases we commonly use come straight from the book of Leviticus. Words such as jubilee and scapegoat are commonly used today. And what husband hasn’t offered a form of guilt offering to his wife!

Leviticus does have important things to tell us about sin, obedience and holiness. Perhaps most importantly it tells of God dwelling with His people. So tonight we delve into Leviticus chapter 16, which is the centre and pinnacle of the book. So please do turn in your bibles to Leviticus 16.

(more…)

WISE – Holiness

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Holiness


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I wonder what the biggest fence, wall or barrier is that you have either seen or that you know about! Perhaps one of the biggest walls in the world is the Great Wall of China. It is seen from space and is over 4000 miles long, about 25 feet high and up to 30 feet thick! It is huge and enormous!! It was built to keep out invaders – for that is what walls and barriers do: Keep out enemies!

Holy Barrier

However big the Great Wall of China is, there is one barrier that is even bigger! I wonder if you know what it is!! The biggest barrier to exist is the one, which separates God from all His creation. This barrier is holiness, for God is a holy God. Ezekiel 1v27-28 gives us a vivid picture of the holiness of God and is seen in the fire, light, radiance, full of glory and majesty.

What is holiness?

Holiness is what separates God from all His creation. For God alone is holy and full of glory. Exodus 15v2 “Who is like you, O God, glorious in holiness!” Or Isaiah 60v25 “To whom will you liken me, or shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Holiness is also a moral attribute of God, of purity and freedom from the stain of ALL sin. Habakkuk 1v13 “of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look upon sin. Holiness is still more than that! It is in fact the sum of all His attributes! God is holiness and holiness is God!

Holy People:

Perfect holiness, while to us is inconceivable, has been revealed; revealed in the sinless man, Jesus Christ. As a Christian Disciple, you also are declared holy! That is because of what Jesus did on the cross… He has broken down the barrier between God and man. And if you are a Christian Disciple, you are declared holy, and therefore you are to live a holy life worthy of Jesus Chrsit.! As a Christian Disciple, the Holy Spirit is transforming you into the very image of the holy one, Jesus Christ. As a Christian Disciple, you are no longer an enemy of God but a friend of God and belong to God! So live out your faith and live your Christian Discipleship in holiness.

Two books I can recommend on Holiness are:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and A Passion for Holiness by JI Packer

Thank you

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Holiness

Partake – Big Bible Words – Holiness

Welcome to Partake Big Bible Words. The word for today is Holiness.

I wonder what the biggest fence, wall or barrier is that you have either seen or that you know about! Perhaps one of the biggest walls in the world is the Great Wall of China. It is seen from space and is over 4000 miles long, about 25 feet high and up to 30 feet thick! It is huge and enormous!! It was built to keep out invaders – for that is what walls and barriers do: Keep out enemies!

Holy Barrier

However big the Great Wall of China is, there is one barrier that is even bigger! I wonder if you know what it is!! The biggest barrier to exist is the one, which separates God from all His creation. This barrier is holiness, for God is a holy God. Ezekiel 1v27-28 gives us a vivid picture of the holiness of God and is seen in the fire, light, radiance, full of glory and majesty.

What is holiness?

Holiness is what separates God from all His creation. For God alone is holy and full of glory. Exodus 15v2 “Who is like you, O God, glorious in holiness!” Or Isaiah 60v25 “To whom will you liken me, or shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. Holiness is also a moral attribute of God, of purity and freedom from the stain of ALL sin. Habakkuk 1v13 “of purer eyes than to behold evil and cannot look upon sin. Holiness is still more than that! It is in fact the sum of all His attributes! God is holiness and holiness is God!

Holy People:

Perfect holiness, while to us is inconceivable, has been revealed; revealed in the sinless man, Jesus Christ. As a Christian Disciple, you also are declared holy! That is because of what Jesus did on the cross… He has broken down the barrier between God and man. And if you are a Christian Disciple, you are declared holy, and therefore you are to live a holy life worthy of Jesus Chrsit.! As a Christian Disciple, the Holy Spirit is transforming you into the very image of the holy one, Jesus Christ. As a Christian Disciple, you are no longer an enemy of God but a friend of God and belong to God! So live out your faith and live your Christian Discipleship in holiness.

Two books I can recommend on Holiness are:

The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges and A Passion for Holiness by JI Packer

Thank you

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