This is a message preached at Delnco Camp in June and adapted for a combined worship service at Hancock's Bridge on September 24, 2006. It's based on NLT John 17:1-26 and speaks about holiness and "going on to perfection."
This is one big hunk of Scripture. Let’s pray for illumination. (Prayer of Illumination)
There’s a song that came out a few years back. It’s a song by a band called Plumb and it’s titled “God Shaped Hole.” The basic premise of the song is that we all have a God shaped hole in our souls. It’s a hole that only God can fill. Unfortunately, we do with this hole what we tend to do with lots of things in our lives. We try to fill it with things that don’t fit. Things like relationships, or sex, or alcohol, or food, or drugs. Obviously, these things don’t satisfy because only God will fill that hole the right way.
We’re all full of holes. In fact, if you were to pile up our hearts and souls, it’d look like a Swiss cheese!
Now, knowing that, I want to ask you all a question this morning. Is anyone here perfect?Anybody willing to say that they’ve got it all together and don’t need anyone or anything else?No? Good.
Perfection is a tough thing to come by, isn’t it? There’s a word in today’s Scripture passage that I want you to focus on. One word that’s going to bring our worship this morning together. One word that epitomizes everything that Christians ought to be about. Key word – holy. Holiness is something that Jesus prayed we would receive. He said, “They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth.”
Two points here. But they’re connected points. First, Jesus says we’re not part of this world. We’re different from everybody else. And he says we’re holy. But what is it to be holy?
Well, in Biblical times, something was considered holy when it was set aside for a specific use.
So, for instance the chalice for communion was set apart for the Communion element. It was a holy object. In the temple in Jerusalem, the mercy seat of God was in a place called the holy of holies. It was a place so set apart that only the priests could go in. And when they did, they had to have a rope tied around their waist in case they died from being in the presence of God, they could be pulled back out.
Holiness means being set apart, different, special. Very much like being from a different place, isn’t it? To be holy, to be different, to be set apart, that’s what we’re talking about this morning.
And we have a specific purpose if we are holy. We are meant for something special if we are holy. Our purpose is to call the whole world to repentance in Christ. We’re God’s messengers here. We’re not from here though. Our home is with God.
But we’ve got a problem. Because there’s something holding us back from doing what we ought to do. Personal Holiness. The question is: Have we been set aside? Can we really believe ourselves to be holy?
I think that that’s difficult for all of us. Especially when we allow the world to tell us what to think and say and do. Because, let’s face it folks, the world is going to lead you astray. The secular world would like nothing better than to see you or any Christian fail or fall.
Look at the news coverage that the church gets nowadays. Is it ever good? Rarely. It’s usually about priests molesting children or a church burning down or a treasurer running off with the church’s money. It’s never about any of the good things that churches and Christian organizations do. And we all know that our churches do good. We saw some of it this morning on the presentation about the mission trip.
Trust me on this, the world out there despises the church and is indifferent to Christians. You see, the world would love to see that you’re something less than holy.
Unfortunately for us, we know ourselves to be something less than completely holy. Every last one of us here is a work in progress. God’s not finished with any of us yet, but that’s what the world expects. If you’re Christian, you’re perfect. Except that we’re not perfect.
Flora Wilson, do you have it all together? Are you completely holy and sanctified?
Even your pastor, or any of your previous pastors! If you all think that we’ve got this Christianity/holiness/personal sanctification thing down, think again. I’m no less a work in progress than anyone else here today. All I’ve got is a little more concentrated study and a degree in a frame on the wall. We all need work toward being the holy people that God calls us to be. All of us.
We’re all a little broken. We’re all in need of updates and repairs and fixes. Let me show you what I mean with a movie clip. I want you to notice the condition of the majority of people in this clip.
(Roll clip from Robots Scene 16 on DVD)
Now think about it. We’re all a lot like those robots aren’t we? We are eternally broken. We’re always in need of repairs. We’re always looking to scrounge something from other people. A though or an idea or an affirmation. Whatever we can get.
But there’s a big difference when we need repaired. We have a slightly different mechanic. Our Rodney is a fella named Jesus. And Jesus can fix any problem that we have. We simply have to bring it to him. We have to recognize how broken we are and how broken we continue to be. And we have to bring that brokenness back to the only mechanic that can fix us.
Now, going to church is a good start. Going to Sunday School or youth group is a good start. Going on a mission trip is a good start. But they’re just the beginning.
Because if you stop there, if you delude yourself into thinking like other people, that you can just jump into this Christian thing and you’re done, you’re wrong. And we all know people who think that they’re good because they go to church. Right? We all know somebody who thinks that they’re a good person so God will see that and they’ll be OK in the end. I’m sorry to tell you, and you can tell them, they’re WRONG!
The fact of the matter is that going to church makes you a Christian about as much as going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger!
Going to Sunday school makes you holy about as much as sitting in your garage makes you a car.
Even mission trips aren’t immune. Because going on a mission trip makes you sanctified about as much as sitting in the Alloway Creek makes you a fish.
They’re all good starts, but they’re only starts! I’ve talked before about growing in your faith, I said that we’ve all got to grow somewhere somehow. Well, when that growth is directed toward becoming a better disciple of Jesus Christ, that’s when that growth is something called sanctification. John Wesley called it sanctifying grace. It is the ongoing process of becoming more and more like God more and more in the mold of Jesus every day. Wesley taught that we should all be going on to perfection. He said that sanctifying grace was the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives making us more Christ-like moment to moment.
The Spirit works in our lives like a Christian conscience. Convicting us when we do wrong. Convincing us of the truth of Scripture. And growing us to be the fully realized people God calls us to be.
But you’re only going to experience the work of the Spirit as much as you’ll allow the Spirit to work. Because you can quash the spirit. You can consciously prevent the Spirit from working in your life.
You’ve got to focus. You’ve got to want to grow in the right direction. I’m gonna say some things that’re gonna make you a little uncomfortable. Because if you want to grow in God’s grace you’ve got to turn off the porn sites on your computer. If you really want to experience the work of the Spirit, You’ve got to decide not to make a mean comment about that girls outfit.
You’ve got to turn the negative stuff around. You’ve got to get into God’s word on a daily basis. You’ve got to get into a small group of people who you can count on to keep you accountable to your spiritual growth. And you’ve got to focus on the good things, the things of God.
You know, in his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote the following words: Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.
Think on these things!
But wait, because there’s more.
Peter wrote the following in his first letter to the church: 1 Peter 3:11-15 Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard at living in peace with others. The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil." Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't be afraid and don't worry. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.
Turn away from evil and do good. Work hard to live at peace with others. Who will want to hurt you if you are a person who does good? These are pretty good words to live by.
It’s a challenge for us to try to live holier lives. We’ve all got a ways to go. We’re all learning because God’s still teaching.
What are you going to do about it? I’d like to offer all of us a real tangible way to grow in grace.
Remember when I talked about how you eat an elephant? (One bite at a time) This morning, I want us all to take one bite, or one step toward being conscious about our spiritual walk.Some of the young folk are going to be passing out paper and pens. I want you to take a minute or two to think about what you can do today, tomorrow, this week to move closer to God.
I’m going to tell you what I’m writing so you understand what I’m looking for. I’ve decided that I need a more focused schedule for my walk. I am making a covenant with God to be here at HB on Tuesdays at 7AM and at Quinton on Wednesdays at 7AM. I will be in prayer for these churches. I will read the Bible. And I invite anyone to join me.
Write down something like that for yourself. Write down whatever it is that you will do.
When you’re done, fold the sheet in half and bring it up with your morning offering. Drop your commitment sheet and your offering in the plate that corresponds to your church. I’m going to ask Lois to play some soft music as we ruminate and make our commitments.
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