Help For Holiness.
Deuteronomy 13-14, John 16
For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the people who are on the face of the earth. – Deuteronomy 14:2 ESV
Over and over again, God reminded the people of Israel that they were to be holy, because they belonged to Him. They were His possession and, as a result, they were to live lives that reflected their unique position as His chosen people. He had given them rules and regulations for conducting their lives that included dietary laws and a sacrificial unlike any other. They were to worship only God and were not allowed to have any other gods as substitutes or options. God took idolatry quite seriously, demanding that any prophet who encouraged the people to worship other gods was to be executed. Any friend or family member who tried to tempt a loved one to worship a false god was to be stoned to death. It didn’t matter if it was a wife, mother, father, brother, son or daughter. Any city that ended up worshiping a false god was to be destroyed and all its inhabitants put to death. Nothing was to be taken as spoil and the city was to remain a ruins forever. Holiness was a non-optional requirement for the people of God. They had been set apart by God for His glory and so they were to live lives that reflected their unique standing as His possession.
This demand to live holy lives was passed on to the New Testament believers. Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:14-15 ESV). God still expects His children to live holy, set-apart lives. But we have a distinct advantage over the people of Israel. We have been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who makes our pursuit of holiness possible.
What does this passage reveal about God?
What we see in the Old Testament is a vivid glimpse of God’s holiness in full display. By the time He had called the people of Israel and led them to the border of the Promised Land, idolatry was in full swing in the world. False gods were everywhere. Mankind had developed the capacity to make gods out of just about anything and everything. They worshiped gods they made with their own hands. They worshiped the trees, the planets, the water, and other parts of creation. They made gods who handled everything from fertility and fruitfulness to war. Nations borrowed the gods of other nations. They saw nothing wrong with having multiple gods and would add new gods to their retinue of deities in a heartbeat. But the God of the Israelites would not tolerate the worship of any other gods. He claimed to be the one and only God. He let them know that they, as His possession, were to have no other gods before them. They were to remain devoted solely to Him and worship Him alone. God was intolerant and inflexible on this matter. His people were to remain faithful to Him. He knew they were surrounded by nations who worshiped all kinds of gods. He realized that they would be constantly tempted to turn to those other gods and give their devotion and allegiance to them. That is why God was so adamant that the people of Israel destroy the nations who lived in the land and tear down their altars and the places of worship dedicated to these false gods. The people of Israel belonged to God. He had chosen them. He had redeemed them from slavery. He had made a covenant with them. And He had kept His part of the covenant. Now He was expecting them to keep theirs.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Faithfulness is not a natural character trait among men, and spiritual faithfulness is a virtual impossibility. When it comes to the worship of God, the human race has proven it has a difficult time remaining faithful and true. Ever since the fall, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by listening to the lies of the enemy, man has made a habit out of making gods of his own creation. We have a long track record of remaking God in our own image, or simply making a whole new god altogether. And with our new gods we have ended up making our own set of rules and standards by which to live. The various gods available today tend to offer conflicting views regarding life and how one can enjoy the afterlife. Each offers their version of the truth. But Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 ESV). He claimed to be the only means by which man could be made right with God. False gods offer false hope when it comes to mankind’s condition. Sacrifice to a false god can never provide true forgiveness or redemption. Belief in a false god, not matter how sincere, can never deliver anyone from the penalty that sin deserves. Even the Israelites, while they worshiped the one true God, could not keep His laws perfectly and completely. They were incapable of living the holy lives He demanded. They couldn’t keep His laws or live up to His standards. They struggled with disobedience and unfaithfulness. The law constantly reminded them of their sins and the sacrificial system provided little more than a temporary pardon, delaying the inevitable consequences for their sin because they couldn’t stop sinning.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
But God fully understood man’s condition and had a divine solution already in place. He had planned all along to send His Son to die in man’s place as a payment for the penalty for man’s sin. Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh and lived as one of us, so that He might live in complete obedience to the law of God. He did what no other man had ever done: obey God’s law to perfection, which made Him the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man. He was the sinless sacrifice that God required. And because of His death in our place, God is able to offer us forgiveness from sin and salvation from death – and all we have to do is trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When we do, God offers us forgiveness from sin and promises us eternal life. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). But even with the promise of eternal life, God still demands that His children live holy lives. He still expects us to live set-apart lives, in keeping with His divine standards and reflective of our unique position as His holy possession. But the good news is that He has given us a “Helper” – the Holy Spirit – to assist us in living the life to which God has called us. Jesus told His disciples, “it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11 ESV). After His death and resurrection, Jesus ascended back to heaven, and this triggered the arrival of the Holy Spirit. The story of Pentecost found in the second chapter of Acts, tells of His initial coming. The Holy Spirit was a game changer. He turned cowering, fearful disciples into bold, fearless spokesmen for the Kingdom of God. He turned timid, uneducated men and women into passionate evangelists for the Good News of Jesus Christ. He made possible powerful preaching and unbelievable miracles. He empowered, guided and comforted those who had, just a few hours earlier, been fearful and hopeless. Jesus ended up leaving His disciples behind, but He did not leave them alone. He gave them His Holy Spirit, and today, as Christ followers, we have that same Holy Spirit available to us and resident within us. As a result, we have all that we need to live the lives God has called us to live. We can be holy. We can live distinctively and differently from the world around us. Peter tells us, “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence” ( 2 Peter 1:3 NLT).
Father, thank You for making holiness possible. You have given me Your Spirit to assist me in the process. And never let me forget that it is a process. It is a transformational process that takes time and requires my willing participation. I must desire to live differently and then allow Your Spirit to lead me and empower me to make it possible. I have the ability to live according to Your divine standards and live up to Your righteous requirements, just as Your Son did, because Your Spirit lives within me. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men