How many of you have ever raced a car?
This weekend in Indianapolis there was a race (Indy 500). Kind of a big deal.
Among those in the race each one had a point in their lives when they knew that they had a day and time when they knew that what they wanted beyond all else was to dedicate themselves to THIS race. All of their time, their effort, and their emotions would be dedicated to being a world class race car driver and for many of them to specifically win the Indianapolis 500.
You can listen to them before the race, one after the other, telling the story of the first time they saw the race or walked onto the grounds. It becomes a part of them.
(This writing will give you context, but really the video is the complete story. It will hopefully be a blessing.)
In the Church today there are people had that same day and time, but for them it was to dedicate themselves to the THIS race.
1 Corinthians 9:23-25 (NIV)
23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
There is a God centered way of Life and we are called to it.
In the Church we call this way of life ‘Holiness’ and when you make the choice to make this your top priority in life we believe that God honors that by setting you apart or sanctifying you Holy. Some have even said that when the Lord blesses you in this way you are living “Christian Perfection”.
Please don’t stop reading when you see this, but hear me out. I believe humans can live a Holy life. Let’s understand what is meant by Christion Perfection and whether God even set that standard.
First let’s discuss what Holiness isn’t!
For so many Holiness is obeying a set of rules.
How do people do with lists of rules? “Does this count as annoying?”
- The Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 3)
- The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20)
- Lot’s Wife (Genesis 19)
Holiness, as it applies to Christians, means belonging to God.
If we look back as the history of humanity and our relationship with God what we see is God showing us again and again that it isn’t about the rules.
- The Tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil
- God dressed them in animal skins (Genesis 3:21)
- Mosaic Law
- Jesus tells the people of his day that Moses allowed them to do things that were never part of God’s plan, but they were stiff necked. (Matt 19:8)
As we look at these drivers today how many of them are what you or I would call ‘perfect’? Even at racing, how many are perfect at doing what the rules say they must? What about the winner? Of course, none of them are by human standards.
See God is more about the relationship we have with him that he is about some set of rules to follow. If we look back through our Bibles we see again and again that the people God considers to be Men or Women after his heart are not those who we would consider Holy.
- David: Committed Adultery, Killed, Danced Naked in the streets
- Samson: Killed thousands with the Jawbone of an ass, slept around, was cruel
- Noah: Got drunk and fell asleep naked in his tent, then cursed his son for seeing him that way
- Jacob: Stole, lied, cheated
- Rahab: A prostitute
With the exception of Rehab all of these people did these things after being called the chosen one of God. But if we look these people up in the New Testament we find them in the Holiness Hall of fame (Hebrews 11)
What did they do that got them there?
- David: David was not afraid to do God’s bidding at any cost, David always returned to God… Even in his error
- Samson: In his defeat and at his dying moment he called upon God
- Noah: When no one else even believed in God, Noah built an ark on dry ground because he believed it was God’s desire.
- Jacob: When he stood as a man covered with riches, wives, and children he wrestled with God and came to have a relationship with him.
- Rahab: Did the will of God are the risk of her people, her family, and her home.
So what did God have in mind when He said to tell his people this…
“Be holy, because I, the Lord your God, am holy” (Leviticus 19:1)
Well at least he didn’t say be perfect…
Then Jesus translates for us…
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
There it is again, another Church setting a standard that humans can’t follow. Right?
No… Read on.
Impossible commands, right?
No… Listen to the gospel.
Holiness is a God centered way of Life
“For by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made Holy.” – Hebrews 10:14 (NIV)
Jesus has done for us and is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Praise be to God! “He has made perfect forever, those who are being made holy.” This verse is the climax of all that the writer of Hebrews is trying to say.
I want us to concentrate on is the connection that the people in Hebrew had with God. It was not adhering to some set of rules, it was a change of heart. It was about living each day as if God was real and you belong to Him.
When Jesus tells us to be perfect the Bible writers use the word ‘teleios’. The word does not mean flawless as we think of a perfect diamond. Instead it means to have matured to the place being able to reach your end goal. To be the ready instrument of God.
You are not to just be a hammer, but the specific hammer for the job.
Holiness makes us one in spirit with every true Child of God
God wants us be a part of His family. To walk with Him. Not some days, every day.
The idea of being a part of His family means divorcing ourselves from the world as our primary focus and focusing on the things of God. We find Christian perfection when we find ourselves becoming a part of His flow, His motivation, His desires. Fully ready for His use.
Paul put it this way:
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
… 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Holiness is a Holy covenant relationship with God
The book of Romans should really be called “a letter to Paul’s friends in Rome”, but it is also an incredible theology text. He does an great job of describing our duty to live this covenant life with God.
11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. 13 Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness. 14 For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace…
As we go through the next few weeks we will look more deeply at what it means to live a Holy life as human beings.
You may find that you have been doing it for years.
You may find that you once understood, but have left the trail.
You may find a deeper richer relationship with Jesus Christ than you ever imagined possible.
You just might find the relationship that you always wanted.
You won’t find instructions on how to live as a perfect human being. But you may find how to live as a Perfect / Holy Child of God.