Revive Our Hearts Podcast

A Family Resemblance

Leslie Basham: Do you look like your father? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: If we’re truly children of God, there will be a family resemblance. We’ll look like Him. We’ll act like Him. If we are saints, we must live as saints.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, August 30. You just might be a saint. Does that sound like too lofty a title? Nancy will explain why that name might describe you as she begins day three of a four-part series called, Why Be Holy?

Nancy: We’ve considered already three motivations from God’s Word for why we should be holy. First, because God is holy; second, because holiness is God’s stated goal for our lives. We’ve been called to be holy and one day we will be holy, so we should be pursing that now. And then thirdly, because Jesus died to set us free from our sins—to deliver us from our sins.

I want us today to look at another motivation for holiness and that is this fourth one. We are to be holy because we are saints. Now, you may not feel very much like a saint. At times, you may not act very much like a saint. But according to God’s Word, as we are going to see, we are saints, and in other words, because we are saints, we ought to live as saints.

Now, sometimes we hear the word saint used to describe someone who is unusually pious or virtuous. They live a really super godly life and according to some religious traditions, after that person is deceased, they will come back and venerate that deceased person and attach to them the label of a saint. This is all very confusing because the Scripture doesn’t have any of that kind of teaching in it.

When the apostle Paul wrote to the New Testament churches, he often began his letters by addressing all the believers as saints—the saints in Corinth, the saints in Ephesus, the saints in Philippi. That word saint literally means “a holy one, a set apart one.”

Ironically, many of the people to whom Paul was writing were acting like anything but saints. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he wrote some of these letters—they were guilty of many of the same sins that we find among believers today—a contentious spirit, bitterness, immorality, selfishness, a love affair with the world. They weren’t acting very saintly, but Paul nonetheless called them “saints.”

So why did he call them saints if they weren’t living like saints? Because that’s what they were. Their sinful hearts had been washed by the blood of Jesus. They were born again children of God. Paul wanted them to see how inconsistent their carnal, fleshly, worldly, ungodly behavior was with their standing as holy ones, saints, set-apart ones. So Paul was saying to them and to us, in effect, “Because you are saints, live like saints.”

When an unbeliever sins, he is doing what comes naturally. He sins because it’s his nature to sin. He’s a sinner. But when that sinner becomes a child of God, he’s born again. He’s set apart from Satan and the world to belong wholly to God. He becomes a saint. He’s given a new heart and the Holy Spirit within him begins the process—the lifelong process—of transforming him into the very likeness of Jesus Christ.

So that’s why the Scripture says that he is a new creation. And as a new creation, he fundamentally desires to please God. And can I say that if you do not have deep in your heart a fundamental desire to please God, then you have no reason to believe that you are a child of God.

So Paul reminds the Ephesians, “We used to be children of darkness, now we are children of light.” He says, “We were enemies of God at one time. Now we are His dearly beloved children. We were slaves of sin. Now we’ve been set free from sin. We’re able to be servants of righteousness.” And Paul says in Ephesians 4: “We have put off the old man with its deceitful lusts and we have put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (see vv. 22-23).

So Paul says, “Because of that, what you were and what you are now, therefore the things that are part of that old corrupt, fleshly, worldly of life should not even be named among you. They should not be hinted at because these things are not becoming of saints” (see 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Children of God want to be holy. Children of God want to be separated from the world. And I’ll tell you, those who want to be like the world, those who have no deep inner desire to be holy, have good reason to question whether they’re really God’s children.

That’s the message of the First Epistle of John. The way we live, John says, reveals our true nature. We do what is our nature to do. If we live righteously, that’s an evidence that we’ve been born of God who is righteous. If we continue to commit sin persistently, habitually, without a repentant heart, we prove that we have never been born of God. If we’re truly children of God, there will be a family resemblance. We’ll look like Him. We’ll act like Him. If we are saints, we must live as saints.

So what does that look like? Well, in the last couple of days, I’ve just been leafing through the book of 1 Peter as an example, and I’d encourage you to do that when you have a chance. But let me just read these few verses from 1 Peter. Peter says in chapter 1:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. (v. 22)

He says that if you are a saint, you have a pure heart, then love others. That’s an expression of a heart that has been purified.

First Peter 2:1 says:

Put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander.

That’s an evidence that you are an obedient, holy child of God.

First Peter 2:11 says:

I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles [or the unbelievers] honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution . . . (v. 13)

He talks about how in the work relationships as employers or employees, we are to live out what it means to be holy by respecting one another, by serving one another in love, by doing our best job. He talks about marriage relationships, “Wives be in subjection to your husbands . . . husbands live with your wives in an understanding way” (vv. 1, 7). He talks about in all relationships, in 3:8-9:

All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, [this is what a saint looks like] bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.

He’s saying if you are a saint, this is what it will look like. It will flesh its way out in your human relationships—the way you are at work, the way you are at home, the way you are in the church, the way you are in all your relationships.

It matters that you haven’t spoken to your mother for four years, as I’ve heard believers tell these kinds of stories about broken relationships. It matters in God’s economy, that you are not doing an honest job at work. It matters that you are a shrew with your children at home—not just because it makes you feel bad, but because if you are a saint, that’s not saintly living.

And so Peter says it, Paul says it, Jesus says it. If you are going to be a child of God, then live like your heavenly Father.

  • He forgives. 
  • He is merciful. 
  • He is just. 
  • He is kind. 
  • He is loving. 
  • He is pure. 
  • He doesn’t live according to fleshly worldly passions. 

Listen, a child of God cannot have an appetite—an ongoing, sustained appetite and love for the things of this world. If that’s where your love is, if that’s where your heart is, then you need to ask, “Am I really a child of God?”

 

And our churches today—this is what I think is so tragic—are filled with people who’ve made a profession of faith, but there is no evidence of the reality of Christ in their life. They have a love affair with the world. They love the world’s books and movies and television programs and music. Their relationships are just like the world’s, their families are just like the world’s, their work habits are as sloppy as the world’s. In fact, there are a lot of non-Christians who live better lives than some people who claim to be Christians. And the Scripture says something is wrong with that picture.

We shouldn’t go an assuming, just because that person holds a position in the church or that person leads a Sunday school class or a Bible study group that they are necessarily a child of God. If there is no family likeness, then you have reason to say, “Does that person really belong?”

So let me ask you, “Are you a saint?” If you are a child of God, the answer is “yes.” Now here’s the next question. “Are you living like a saint?” If you’re truly a child of God, the answer will be something like this: “Yes. Not perfectly, but that’s my heart’s desire. And by His grace I am actively pursuing holiness and becoming more like the One who saved me to make me holy.”

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with the second half of today’s message. She’s been speaking before a group of women answering the question, “Why be holy?” She’s given us two ways to respond today. One is to realize that if we’ve been forgiven by the blood of Christ, we are saved. The second is to learn by God’s power to live like saints.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ book, Holiness, can help you in your learning process. Nancy, what are some of the things you learned while writing this book?

Nancy: You know, Leslie, each book that I write has to do a work in me before it can really be released and minister to others. I spent about a year working on the Holiness book. As I did, I found myself praying over and over again, “Lord, would you give me a deeper love for holiness, a deeper hatred for sin, and true repentance over my sin.”

It was an amazing thing to see God answer that prayer through the course of that year and to make me more sensitive to areas where perhaps I had become desensitized. Now it’s a joy to think of how God could be using this resource to help others develop a love for holiness.

Leslie: We’ll send you a copy of Nancy’s book Holiness: The Heart That God Purifies when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts. Call to donate at 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com and donate there. Now, let’s hear part two of today’s message.

Nancy: From Genesis chapter three on, one of the things we see about sin is that it always separates. Sin separated Adam and Eve from each other, from God, from their children, ultimately. That’s where wars and conflicts and broken relationships come from is always from sin. And so as we’re considering motivations to be holy, we’re reminded that our intimacy with God depends on our holiness. We cannot have an intimate, close relationship with God if we’re sinning. Sinful people are separated from God.

I think back to that passage in Deuteronomy chapter 23 where Moses said to the Children of Israel, “Because the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and to give up your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy, so that he may not see anything indecent among you and turn away from you” (v. 14).

Wouldn’t that be a great verse to apply in our churches today—in our Christian families? Because the Lord your God walks in your midst. He’s there to deliver you—to give up your enemies before you; therefore, you must be holy. Therefore, your family, your fellowship, your small group, your church must be holy so that God may not see anything indecent among you and be forced to turn away His presence from you.

Psalm 24 puts it this way: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place?” The answer? Who can get close to God? “He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (vv. 3-4a).

As I was reviewing these notes just before this session started, I thought of that revival on the Island of Lewis in the early 1950s where people had been praying for a revival, for a moving of God’s Spirit which was greatly needed in those days on that island just off the coast of Scotland. But there was a group of deacons, spiritual leaders in the church, who met for months at night in a barn to pray for revival among the young people, among the families and in the churches of Lewis.

At one point, one of those deacons, who as I understand it was a blacksmith by trade, rose to his feet and said, “You know, I think it is so much humbug for us to be waiting and praying as we are for revival in this community if we ourselves are not rightly related to God.” And then he read this verse from Psalm 24: “Who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (vv. 3-4a). And there on that straw in that barn, the men knelt and began to confess their sins and to plead with God to pour out a spirit of revival and awakening and holiness there in that island. And within months God did come and visit that island in an extraordinary movement of revival.

Jesus said it this way in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” Our intimacy with God, our vision of God, our ability to connect with God in a personal and intimate way depends on holiness. Unholy people cannot fellowship intimately with a holy God. I cannot cling to my impatience, my gluttony, my slothfulness, my moodiness and have fellowship with God at the same time. It’s just not possible. Isaiah 33 says: “Who can dwell with the consuming fire? He who walks righteously” (vv. 14-15). You see, God is a holy God and “two cannot walk together except they be agreed.” Those who walk righteously can dwell with Him.

Second Corinthians 6: “For what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness, or what communion has light with darkness . . . Therefore come out from them and be separate and touch not the unclean thing . . . and I will be a Father to you and you will be my sons and daughters.” (vv. 14-18) That’s a picture of family intimacy. And where does family intimacy come in our relationship with God or in our human families? It comes as we are willing to forsake sin and pursue holiness.

Sin breaks that fellowship with God just as a teenager who willfully disobeys his parents is going to have a hard time looking them in the eyes when he gets home late that night. Or a wife who lies to her husband about why she spent hundreds of dollars that they didn’t have on their credit card is not likely to enjoy marital intimacy when they climb into bed that night. Sin creates barriers. It creates obstacles. It puts up walls between people and between people and God. A verse in Psalm 5 says: “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you” (v. 4).

Now, I want to be quick to say that in many of our churches we’re going through a lot of religious motions. We’re doing a lot of things that look holy, look worshipful, look religious but may not be cultivating intimacy with God. For example, we can sing praise choruses loudly enough to be heard in the next county; we can join sell-out crowds in cheering for God at conferences and concerts; we can applaud at celebrity speakers who stir our emotions; we can have these mystical, spiritual experiences and think we are really close to God. But none of that, no matter how good you feel, how loudly you cheer, how much you applaud, none of that will bring us one iota closer to God if we are cherishing sin in our hearts.

The sin separates no matter what motions we go through, no matter what it looks like on the outside. Intimacy with God is reserved for those who are holy. Psalm 11: “For the Lord is righteous. He loves righteous deeds. The upright shall behold his face.” (v. 7)

Now let me give you another motivation to pursue holiness—not only because our intimacy with God depends on it, but also we are to be holy because we are going to live eternally in a holy city. If you were planning on moving to another part of the world, you would give careful thought for how you prepared for the move. You wouldn’t want, for example, to be burdened down with snow mittens and snow suits and winter boots if you were planning on spending the rest of your life living in a tropical paradise. You’d leave those things behind because you wouldn’t need them.

The ministry I serve with is in the process of relocating to a brand new headquarters facility. And as we are getting ready for the move, our staff are in the midst of a massive effort to get rid of the clutter—eliminate all the things we don’t need. They’re sorting through unnecessary files, obsolete equipment that doesn’t operate or nobody uses any more, worn out furniture, accent pieces that won’t fit with the new décor, anything and everything that isn’t going to be needed in the new facility we’re getting rid of.

The fact is, you and I are not going to be here long. We are moving to an eternal home. And the question is, how much thought have you given to your ultimate destination and to what you need to do to get ready for the move? Are you thinking about that? Or have you put down your stakes so far, so deep in this world that you’re not even thinking about the next?

Three times in the last two chapters of the Bible our heavenly home is referred to as the holy city. The holy city. The city is holy because it’s where our holy God lives. It’s where He rules. Heaven. It’s a place of indescribable beauty and joy; a place where there will be no sickness, no sadness, no sorrow. But that’s all because Heaven is a holy place. That’s what makes it a happy place. And by the way, if you want your home to be a happy home, you need to make sure it is a holy home. If you want to have a happy life, you need to make sure you’re living a holy life.

Heaven is a holy place. It’s where God lives and wherever God lives must be holy. Scripture tells us that there will be no sin in Heaven. Revelation 21:27 says: “nothing unclean will ever enter it.” Now, stop and think about that verse for a minute. I wrote in my notes, “Selah.” That’s that Old Testament Hebrew word that means, “Stop and think about this.” Nothing unholy, nothing unclean will ever enter that holy city.

Have you ever considered that? If you were to die this afternoon on your way home from this session and you were to be in the presence of the Lord, would you be prepared to enter that holy city? How much of a change would have to take place between your leaving this earth and your entering that holy city where nothing unclean will ever enter there?

Now, we have no cleanness apart from the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’re not talking about a self-reformation or self-improvement process to make us worthy of Heaven. We could never do that no matter how hard we try. There is none worthy, there is none who seeks after God, there is none holy apart from God. But through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of our sins, He comes to dwell in us by His Holy Spirit to make us holy by His righteousness.

So having been made holy, having become saints, having been cleansed by the blood of Christ, how can we hold on to our sins and think that we’re ready for Heaven? Charles Spurgeon said it this way:

Do you think to go to Heaven with your unholiness? God smote an angel down from Heaven for sin. And will He let man in with sin in his right hand? God would sooner extinguish Heaven than see sin despoil it.

It’s a holy place. You are going to live there eternally. And we’re supposed to be getting ready for the move—getting ready for where we’re going to spend eternity. We’re just pilgrims here. We’re just travelers. We’re just passing through. We’re heading to spend eternity in a holy city, so shouldn’t we be getting rid of all our unholy baggage down here on earth?

J.C. Ryle points out in his book that “those who don’t have a heart for holiness can hardly expect to feel comfortable in Heaven.” He said that “without holiness on earth we should never be prepared to enjoy it in Heaven. Heaven is a holy place. The Lord of Heaven is a holy being. The angels are holy creatures. Holiness is written on everything in Heaven. How shall we ever be at home and happy in Heaven if we die unholy?” This world is not our home. We are enroute to a city where righteousness dwells according to the Scripture. So in light of that new and holy home that God is preparing for us, the apostle Peter says in 2 Peter 3, “Since you are waiting for these things, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish” (v. 14). Holy.

You see, ladies, this world is just a dressing room—a staging area for eternity. And the question is how much attention and effort are you devoting to preparing for your move to that holy city?

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss in a series called, Why Be Holy? I hope this series represents a new passion for holiness in your life. To help you thrive in this area, I hope you’ll get a copy of Nancy’s book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. We’ll send it to you when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Call with your gift: 1-800-569-5959. Or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, your personal holiness could have a huge effect on someone else that you know. Find out how tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

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