Holiness, the Ultimate Party Pooper
Mention holiness among a gathering of young Christians and you’ve likely killed a lively discussion about the latest box office hit or lady jaja pop song. It’s funny how we Christians of all people avoid holiness and I’m not just talking about talking – we don’t like the idea that we are to be wholly consecrated to our King and Savior.
Holiness at 5:30am
This morning was my turn to preach at 새벽기도 (early morning prayer) and since the Scripture passages follow a monthly devotional, we usually don’t get to pick our own sermon topics. The lot fell on me to preach Deuteronomy 23:1-14, a passage loaded with trouble because of the unusual (& uncomfortable) topics. Crushed testicles, nocturnal emissions, and being of a certain ethnic background were sufficient causes to be excluded from the assembly of the LORD. The express prohibition of certain ethnic groups to worship with the Jewish assembly sounds like racism (the book & story of Ruth showing us, however, that God graciously provided a glorious exception for the Moabite clan). Is the Lord bigoted, does He hate people with physical deformities?
How was I to preach this? To try and understand the logic behind every clause and prohibition would be missing the point. I decided to focus my message around the overarching theme of holiness. Holiness seems to be the firm foundation for these strong words found in Deuteronomy. In fact, holiness is the foundation for everything God has done in this universe. Ultimately, I shared with my beloved 1st generation Korean intercessors that I believe God is giving us a glimpse of His exacting standards of holiness. Whether we are at peacetime (vv. 1-8), and therefore able to gather as the assembly of God’s chosen people, or in wartime (vv. 9-14) camps set apart to be ready for battle, God expects us to be holy. Holiness is expected from God because God is holy and His will is to dwell among a people set apart and holy. His holiness does not take a break and He does not expect the church’s standard of holiness to wax and wane, either.
I wish we took Scripture passages like this one more seriously.
Jesus, make us holy! Make us want to be holy!
No, I do not advocate a more exclusivist view of the church or any church gathering. I also do not think that God wants a mere outward show of holiness as if the Holy Spirit is a “holiness compliance officer” ready and willing to enforce God’s demanding standards at a moment’s notice.
instead, if we were to truly consider the holiness of God…..if we were to realize how utterly hopeless we are in offering up to the Most High any offering worthy of His worth…..then, we would tremble with the fear of the Lord. Then, perhaps, agonizing humility and bold repentance would become the hallmarks of our Christian assemblies once again. Perhaps we would begin to see young women and men boldly discipled and trained to go out and wage warfare with the weapons of holiness and grace that Jesus has given us.
Perhaps our endurance would be for intercession and Spirit/Truth worship would be the norm of every service offered up to Jesus.
to begin our time of prayer this morning, we sang the hymn Holy, Holy, Holy. what a glorious anthem! here is verse 3:
Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r, in love, and purity.
don’t just read the words. sing it accompanied by bells! Holy Holy Holy