Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Spirit of Divine Holiness

Audio Message: 

“If borne on a burning seraph’s wings I could rise to the Heaven of Heavens, and, like it’s holy inhabitants be allowed to enter the holy of holies where Jehovah especially manifests his glory; and if, prostrate before that Throne, with all reverence I should ask the question: “What is the first and most important qualification a salvationist must possess in order to do your Blessed Will?” God would reply: “Be ye holy, for I am holy.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits

Divine holiness is that chief nature which God himself is. Particularly, God the Father. Divine holiness is who God is, fundamentally. Before anything, before heaven and Earth, before the angels and humanity, and all else, there was God alone and His holiness as the constant reality of everything. Divine holiness is the natural and proper state of everything as it was meant to be.

It's important to note that Earth was originally intended to be a paradise where God lived in peace and harmony with humanity, humanity was meant to be holy, perfect and good, building civilizations, art, music, society, and liberty on a perfect Earth, in endless cities of people and animals, living in harmony with nature, building great cities, works of art, and cosmopolitan metropolises reflective of God’s endless glory. And God would especially reside amongst us, and enjoy fellowship with us, and us with Him.

Unfortunately, our ancestors chose to disobey God, and preferred to try to go it alone, to redefine reality, and tried to claim sole lordship over the Earth. So instead of a paradise, we got this, what we have today. A place where man reigns supreme, and behind the thrones of man, we have Satan and his demons at work, attacking humanity, twisting truth and reality, destroying, corrupting and adding endlessly to the misery of mankind.

Yet we also find God, who came to Earth, as Jesus Christ, to make a way for us to escape this broken reality, which is destined for destruction. So as we look back in history, the last two thousands, we saw a radical break from the madness of evil on this planet, with the rise of the church, the body of Christ, spreading across the Earth, as a sort of resistance movement against the kingdoms of darkness and evil.

God’s holiness, as the reality behind the spread of the church, is cleansing humanity of sin, and preparing humanity, through the blood of Jesus, to be presented spotless and blameless, for a new heavens and new Earth. Essentially, we were washed clean in Jesus Christ, and called to live in holiness, to prepare us for when God removes this broken universe, and makes a new universe, and a new Earth, and the city called the New Jerusalem. That is what we are being prepared for.

The other reality is the world as we see it now, Satan and his demons, attempting to drag us down to hell with them. They know they are doomed to hell. So they want to bring as many humans as they can with them. And we fight against them as the church, calling humanity home to God, day and night. The clock is ticking everyday on that clock. Which is why we fight so hard to get people saved before it’s too late.

Holiness at work in the heavens, sin at work on the Earth, and holiness come through the church, as the resistance movement against the kingdoms of darkness. All bound together by a reality of our existence known as free-will. Free will is our choice in the matter: Will we choose to walk the difficult path back home to God? Or will we choose the easy way of sin and pleasure, and lose everything with it? Ultimately we each make that choice, every day.

So if we are indeed the blood washed saints of God, made righteous in Christ, then we must choose holiness! Each and every day. I want heaven on Earth. I want it so badly. This bland life on Earth has little appeal to me. Anything, anything at all for heaven, for eternal life. So the question is how! How are we to live out holiness? What is holiness and how can we have it? William Booth wrote, first of all, as his prime definition for holiness these words: “…Holiness, in the sense in which The Salvation Army uses the word, means entire deliverance from sin.” -William Booth, The Seven Spirits, Pg. 25.

He said “holy souls are saved from sin.” All unrighteousness is sin. And he continues writing that “To be holy is to be delivered from the penalty of sin. Holiness is deliverance from the guilt of sin. Holiness is deliverance from the defilement of sin. Holiness means complete deliverance from the bondage of sin. And Holiness is the deliverance of the soul from the reign of selfishness.” Each of those phrases were headings for various subsections which Booth writes on what holiness is. But he also continues to indicate that holiness means “separation.” Holiness as a biblical term means to be set apart for special, or sacred use. And that is what it means for a Christian to be in the world, but not of the world. We as Christian salvationists are set apart from the old world, born again, into Christ, yet still living in this world, called to win the world for Christ, and live a “set apart” life, in which we keep ourselves from being defiled by the sins of the world.

That I believe in this last hour we live in, is a very difficult thing to do. It truly is very difficult. There are so many allurements of the flesh out there. So many temptations. It is very difficult to live holy in this world. But in Christ it can be done. And it must be done. The increase in wickedness in our world is foretold, as part of the end times. And it says in the word that the love of many will grow cold, because of the increasing wickedness. But as we discovered last week, we cannot allow ourselves to grow cold, and instead we see to have a heart of burning love.

Burning love, and divine holiness are of course intrinsically linked. They are two sides of the same coin. Divine holiness is simply the source of the flame of burning love. But still we struggle to truly understand what holiness really is. To understand what holiness really is, we have to ask the question, who is God, and what does it mean that God is holy? For that we must rise to the highest heaven, with John, in our scripture for today.

In Revelation chapter four, we find that John of Patmos has received the revelation of the message to the seven churches, and now John is called up to heaven. A voice like a trumpet blast burst forth into John’s ears and said, “Come up here.”

So we find ourselves with John in the very throne room of God. And it says he saw a throne, and someone seated on the throne. It was this massive brightness. But John looked intently into the brightness and he said it had the appearance of jasper. Here is a picture of what jasper rocks look like, jasper comes in all sorts of colors. And he said God also appeared as ruby. Here is what rubies look like. And there was a rainbow arching over the throne, that appeared to glow like emerald stone. Beautiful.

Why is God described in terms of precious stones and colors and brightness? Perhaps because God is not like us, in most ways. God is so far beyond us. And our minds and eyes, and senses can only perceive of God in terms of visuals, expressions of beauty, purity, and goodness. These precious stones, and brightness and colors and the majesty of the rainbow point us to the beauty and glory of God. But we also have another sensation being triggered here. It says there were bursts of lightning, visual power, and crackling of thunder and rumblings of thunder. This declares God’s power. God is fearful, mighty, and all powerful. And then we have the sea of transparent glass, this great expanse of glass, that seems to ripple like an ocean. Perhaps this represents God’s infinite nature, the fact that He exists outside of time, and has no beginning or end.

Before God’s throne we see the seven lamp stands which represent the 7 spirits of God, and perhaps also represent the church. We also see 24 elders, dressed in white, with crowns on their heads. And there are four beasts before God’s throne, constantly declaring these words: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.”

They are saying, pure, pure, pure, is our God, who is infinitely in the past, infinitely in the present, and infinitely forward into the future.

Wow. Simply amazing. All these things before God’s throne point us to God the Father’s unique holy nature. And that is ultimately the divine nature we here on Earth must adopt for ourselves in this world, to be fit for the next world that is to come.

Just as my cats walk around my house on all fours, watching me change, watching me read and write, and watching me think and consider, we also watch God do things that we can hardly understand. My cats don’t understand what I’m doing when I’m reading my Bible, or when I’m watching TV or talking on the phone. They just look on with wonder, and crawl onto my lap and love to be near me. It’s the same with you and I like God. We are like the cat watching the human. Or the ant watching the skyscraper. We don’t understand what he’s doing usually, and we don’t have to. We just love him and crawl onto his lap and love him anyway.

What amazes me is that this God, who resides in this throne room, is not only there, but also connected with us down here. God the Father’s presence goes from there, through Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, to us. And so God this infinite being in the highest heaven, so mighty, and endless, resides within us as well. That is absolutely shocking, stunning, and amazing. It is an incredible honor that God would reside in us.

In the past during the times of Moses and the tabernacle, God resided in the temple, in the holy of holies, but today, we as the church are God’s temple, so God actually resides within us. That is amazing. And it is also a great motivator to fight tooth and nail to remain temples that are pure and undefiled.

William Booth wrote “Holiness is the royal road to peace, contentment, and joy for you.” We sometimes think of holiness as a terrible burden ,this long list of things we can’t do. And it feels like at times God just wants to stop us from having fun. But that is not the reality my friends, truly it is not. For what sin has ever brought us lasting joy? What sin has ever made us better people? What sin has ever made us more fulfilled? None of them. Not one. Sin is the enemy of our peace, and sin is misery. It may at first appear to be fun or pleasurable, but so quickly it leads to misery.

So what is holiness, for us?

Booth wrote, “Holiness is a distinct definite state; a man can be in it, or out of it. Holiness is enjoyed partially or entirely by all converted people.”

He continues writing, “Every truly converted man is the master of sin, although he may not be entirely delivered from it.”

Yet Booth also said, “Then again, Holiness is a continued growth in sincere souls. With faith, watchfulness, prayer, and obedience, the power of sin diminishes as the days pass along, and the strength of Holiness increases.”

And finally Booth wrote, “The line which separates a state of entire from a state of partial Holiness may be approached very gradually, but there is a moment when it is crossed.”

Just a word on my own walk in holiness. I do not consider myself to have come to the point of “entire sanctification” which is a reality of the Christian life. I’ve only been a Christian for about seven years. I’m not there yet. But I do believe I walk in a sort of holiness, though at this point in my life, it’s one in which I sort of slip in and out of, on any given day. Just the other day, it was about noon I felt the Lord calling me to go before him and repent of something sinful I had said to another. So I did. So in my life, there is this sort of balancing act, where I live holy in Christ, but every few days in prayer I have to confess and repent of certain things that I do that should not be in my life. But I honestly and sincerely believe that there will come a day in my life when I realize, I’ve come to the point of entire sanctification, where sin no longer occurs in my life.

As Booth himself, “By perseverance in the sanctified life spiritual manhood is reached, and the soul is perfected in love; that is maturity.”

Some don’t believe this is possible, unfortunately. They think they must always be mired in sin. But that is not the case. But I do think I understand why some think that. Booth has a good word for us on that. He wrote: “I have no doubt that many fail here by confounding temptation with sin. They pray-they consecrate they believe that they receive, and they rejoice. But by and by when bad thoughts are suggested to their minds, they say to themselves, “Oh I can’t be saved from sin, or I would not have all those wicked thoughts and suggestions streaming through my soul. They confuse temptation with sin.” Being tempted is not sinning. Never forget that. Remember the Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way we are, but He never sinned.

A second mistaken reality is that people assume that holiness must mean total freedom from serious depression and low spirits. That is completely false. Holiness is not to be mistaken for “happiness” or feeling good all the time. If you feel really down or depressed, you can be pure and holy at that same moment. Believe it. Always recall that Jesus Christ himself was a man of sorrows and deeply acquainted with grief and loss. Yet he was perfectly holy.

A third mistake is made also, in that people think it is for others but not for them, or doesn’t really apply to them. Booth said, ““They think there is some fatal necessity laid upon them to sin---at least a little or just now and then. They think that God cannot, or that He will not, or that He has not arranged to save them altogether from their inward evils. They know that the Bible says over and over again in a thousand different ways that the Blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin; and they read God’s promises again and again, that He will pour out His Spirit upon them, to save them from all their idols and filthiness; but they doubt whether it is strictly true or anyway whether it applies to them. And so tossed to and fro by doubts about this holy experience, no wonder that they do not seek to realize it in their own hearts.”

In conclusion today, hear these words clearly: Holiness is not something always out of reach. Remember that today. Hide that truth in your heart. Persevere in your walk with God toward holiness. Never give up. Keep persevering, over weeks, months, years, decades, and further. Holiness is possible. Because our God is holy. And he has put His Spirit in us. And our ultimate destiny is holy universe. A new heavens. A new Earth. A new city of God. Holy heavens. Holy Earth. Holy City. With a holy people residing in the city.

Holiness is the natural state of the ultimate meaning and baseline for the universe. God is holy. Therefore holiness is the default setting for everything. Sin is the exception. Sin is the defect in the system that will be removed. In the end there will be a great burst from the throne room of God, that destroys everything in this universe, the earth, the universe, the heavens, all of it. A giant reset button. All that is sin, whether, Satan, his demons, the works of the flesh, and the people who decided to side with Satan in the rebellion, they will be quarantined in a place of darkness, called hell. Sin must be quarantined, because is ruins everything.

And we ourselves who live out holiness in Christ, will then be taken from this world, found fitting for paradise, and placed in the new heavens, the new universe, on the new Earth, in the new city of God, to live out blissful holy joyous happiness for all eternity. Billions and billions of years, and we will live forever. It wont’ be boring, there will work for us to do, works of art to create, books to write, structures to build, and roads to traverse that lead to places we can hardly imagine. That is your destiny if you will live out holiness in this world. Live it personally, live it in community, and may your humble holiness always shine out as a witness to the world of the amazing glory and goodness of God our heavenly Father. 

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