Revive Our Hearts Podcast

The Holiness of God’s Commands

Leslie Basham: Do you ever get frustrated when unbelievers act like unbelievers? Here’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss with some perspective.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: The world has always been dark since Genesis chapter 3 with the flood. You expect nonbelievers to live like nonbelievers. You don’t expect them to live like God. They have no capacity to be God-like, to be holy.

The problem in the world today is not so much unbelievers are living like darkness. The problem is that the children of a holy God are living like the darkness.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for August 29.

When we see God in the beauty of holiness, we suddenly look at His commands differently. They are not designed to restrict us. They’re to bring us joy, to help us be holy as God is holy.

Nancy has written a book called Holiness, and this topic is fresh on her mind. Let’s listen.

Nancy: Shortly after my dad died, over twenty-five years ago, my mom gave each of us children a beautiful silver frame with an 8 x 10 photo of my father in it. Some time later I moved, and that picture frame with that picture ended up in storage with some other belongings, and I didn’t uncover it until years later.

By that time, that once beautiful frame, silver frame, had become tarnished and black and ugly. When you looked at the picture, you didn’t notice the picture as much as you noticed that ugly picture frame. So I decided to clean up this frame. I wanted to be able to admire the picture of my dad in it.

I bought a silver polishing cloth, and I set to work on that frame. And I tell you, it wasn’t easy. It had been in there for years, and it took a lot of time and effort. Some of those marks were pretty stubborn and weren’t going to come off easily. But it was worth the effort. When I was finished, the frame no longer drew attention to itself but enhanced and complimented the picture of my father in the frame.

Our lives are not intended to draw attention to themselves. Rather, God intends that as His children, our lives should frame, compliment, and draw attention to the picture of God within us.

So the Scripture tells us that just as He who called you is holy, so you are to be holy in all that you do.

We’re talking about motivations for holiness, and we’re camped on this first one that is so often quoted in the Scripture. God says, “Because I am holy, therefore, you are to be holy.”

Now, it’s interesting how many of God’s commandments follow this same pattern. God says, “I am just, so you be just. I am loving; you be loving. I am merciful; you be merciful. I am forgiving; you be forgiving. I am holy; you are to be holy.”

So God gives us His commandments, not to restrict us, not to burden us, but to show us what He is like and to help us become like Him. When we obey His commandments, we become like Him.

Now, it was hard for us to see what God was like, so God sent His Son, Jesus, His perfect Son, the exact representation, the exact image of God. God sent Him into this world to show us what God is like, to show us what holiness looks like in human flesh.

In His first sermon, the Sermon on the Mount found in the gospel of Matthew beginning in chapter 5, Jesus describes to us the character traits and the ways of a child of God. If we’re going to be like God, this is what that’s going to look like. There’s a portrait of a holy Person there.

And how does He end that passage in Matthew chapter 5? He says, “You are to be perfect as your Father is perfect. You are to look like Him. You are to reflect Him. You are to make Him attractive to others.” (see v. 48).

The apostle Peter repeats this same heartbeat of God in 1 Peter chapter 1. He says, “If you call God your Father, you must be like your Father in every aspect of life. He is holy; so you be holy.” (see vv. 16-17)

Now in the verse immediately preceding that positive command to be holy, Peter gives a contrasting command that represents the alternative to holiness. He says in verse 14, “As obedient children"—here’s a father/child relationship—"do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance.”

So what’s he saying in this passage? Since you are the children of God, don’t live like the ungodly person that you were before you were born into God’s family. Instead, be obedient to your Heavenly Father. In everything you do, be holy like He is holy. Reflect His image rather than reflecting the likeness of your old fleshly, unregenerate self—which you were before you were His child.

And you see this principle throughout the New Testament. The apostle Paul makes the same point in Philippians chapter 2 where he says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.” Why? “So that you may become blameless and harmless, the children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among whom you shine as lights in the world” (v. 15 NKJV).

You see, Paul is saying your life is reflecting something, even when it comes down to picky little things like murmuring and arguing. He says, "When you do that, you’re not reflecting God."

The problem in our world today is not so much that the world is dark. The world has always been dark since Genesis chapter 7 with the flood. You expect nonbelievers to live like nonbelievers. You don’t expect them to live like God. You shouldn’t expect it. They have no capacity to be God-like, to be holy.

The problem in the world today is not so much that unbelievers are living like darkness. The problem is that the children of a holy God are living like the darkness.

God’s supreme concern in this world is that His holiness would be manifest and that His name would be hallowed, that it would be revered, that it would be kept holy, that we would reflect His holiness in our conduct.

And by the same token, when our lives are not holy, we profane His holy name. We either hallow His name, or we profane it. We cause it to be kept as holy, or we give people reason to profane His holy name.

That was God’s major indictment of the Old Testament Jews. You read this repeatedly. For example, in Ezekiel chapter 43, God said, “They have defiled My holy name by their abominations that they have committed” (see v. 7).

You see, when we sin, it’s not a little thing, no matter how little you may think that sin is. When we sin, we are profaning the holy character and name of God. We’re treating His holiness as if it were something to be thrown in the dirt, something to be trampled, something to be trashed or trivialized or thought less of.

God’s purpose in redemption is that He could make us a holy people who will manifest His holiness in this world.

Let me read to you some verses from Ezekiel chapter 36, to gain an Old Testament look at what God was attempting to do through redemption. God said:

I will vindicate the holiness of my great name which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. (v. 23)

You see, this is the vision for revival in the church that has been on my heart since I was a little girl. It’s that the day would come when the world would know that God is God, that God is holy.

And God said, “The nations will know that I am the Lord when I vindicate my holiness through you before their eyes.”

And God goes on to say, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean from all your uncleannesses . . . then they will know that I am the Lord” (v. 25).

That’s the greatest witness, the most powerful instrument of the world knowing that God is God.

And so, in our every day life and conduct, we’re to reflect what God is like and what it means to belong to Him and to be His redeemed, set-apart people. Our lives are supposed to make God believable to our world. As they see His image reflected in us, they will be moved to worship and to glorify Him.

Remember what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 5:16? “Let your light so shine before men that they will see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

So when they see what you do, they’ll be seeing a reflection of God. You’ll be the frame that will be drawing attention to the picture of a holy God. So in everything we do, everything we are, in our relations, in the way people in the church keep their marriages together, when you stay faithful to your husband, when you parent your children in a godly fashion, when you choose the pathway of humility and honesty and holiness instead of doing what comes naturally to your flesh, you are reflecting an image of God to the world.

But when you don’t stay with your mate, when you don’t choose to obey God, when you choose to speak your mind even when it’s not kind, when you choose to speak critical words, when you choose to be hasty or cross or unkind, you’re reflecting an image to the world as well.

We’re always reflecting an image to the world, and it’s either the likeness of a holy God, whose children we claim to be, or it’s the image of our old, corrupt, unregenerate self.

So to whatever degree our lives are not holy, to that degree we obscure and tarnish the world’s view of God. That, in my view, is the biggest issue in the world today—that the Christians in the evangelical church, the people who claim to be children of God, are tarnishing the image of God.

You see, non-Christians, they work side by side with us in business, they carpool with us, with their kids, to school. They see how we respond to life. They see how we handle pressure. They see how we handle problems. They see the choices that we make, and they are not impressed, by and large. They’re not being drawn to God.

I believe if the church ever became a holy people of God that people would be falling all over themselves getting in line to get into our churches. Not because we have great programs, but because they see a great God reflected in us.

It saddens me if I stop and think about how often I have given to the world a tarnished view of God, a distorted perception of God through my un-Godlike choices and reactions, my attitudes, my words.

  • So what does your life reflect to those around you? 
  • Does it give the world an accurate picture of God? 
  • Your words, your attitudes, your behavior, do they show people what God is really like? 

Or do they profane His holiness perhaps by a complaining spirit, a controlling spirit, harsh or angry words, maybe participating in coarse conversation, laughing at off-color humor, bickering, divorce in the church? This is something that gives to the world a wrong picture of God who is a faithful, covenant-keeping God.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss will be right back with part two of today’s program.

I know a lot of listeners have been struck by the importance of holiness while listening to Nancy. Would you explore this topic further by getting a copy of Nancy’s book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies?

We’ll send you a copy as our way of saying, “Thanks,” when you donate any amount to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts. Just call 1-800-569-5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, so far in the series called, Why Be Holy? Nancy has given us the first of eight reasons to be holy: because God is holy. Now she’ll move into the next two reasons.

Nancy: The first of those is that we’re to be holy because holiness is God’s stated goal for every believer. Holiness is God’s goal for every believer. We’ve been called to be holy. That is our ultimate end. If you are a child of God, one day you will be holy.

The Scripture says in Ephesians chapter 1:4, that God chose us before the foundation of the world so that we should be holy and blameless before Him.

Now, in eternity past, God was in heaven as the perfect Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—co-equal, co-eternal. They lived in perfect, happy relationship, perfect love, perfect trust, perfect joy, perfect happiness in this holy Trinity. They didn’t need us to join their party. They were fine without us.

But in their wisdom and love and sovereignty and all the things that God is, They conceived a plan to have others join Them, to have others that God would create and then would make like Himself, that we could join in eternal fellowship and oneness and joy with Them, people who would fit into Their environment, people who would be comfortable and at home with Them.

And so all the way through the Scriptures you have this thread running that is the heart of God who says, “Be holy as I am holy because that’s why I made you.”

So when we present the gospel to people, we need to make it clear that Christ comes into your life with an agenda, and that is to change you into a being who reflects the image of God, to make you holy.

Instead, we tend to present a Christ who came to forgive you of your sins, and then without a changed life, take you to heaven. So, you have conversion, you live however you want to live, and then you have go to heaven.

And the Scripture says, “No!” God is taking you through a process of what the Scripture calls sanctification, to make you holy so that you can be fit to enjoy His presence forever. God is moving us toward a goal.

The goal is not praying a prayer, walking an aisle, saying a sinner’s prayer, and then it’s all over. If that were the case, we ought to just get people saved and baptized and shoot them. I mean, put them out of their misery. (I’m not suggesting we do that!) But God has a purpose from the point of salvation, and that is that He is taking us, making us holy. That’s God’s stated goal, that’s the end objective.

God has never abandoned His plan of making people like Himself for the purpose of living with Him in communion with the Trinity forever and ever. That’s God’s stated purpose for us.

So, let me say this: Your holiness is not secondary to whatever other goals you may have for your life. It is God’s primary goal for your life.

And let me say that not only is it our individual calling to be holy, it is our collective calling as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, to be holy. You see, the church is a living organism. It’s a body. It’s a family. It’s a bride. It’s indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, and it’s being prepared for being a bride for the Lord Jesus.

All believers of all ages, all centuries, all generations throughout all the world are collectively comprising the bride of Christ. The stated intent of the Bridegroom, this holy Bridegroom, for His bride, is that, according to Ephesians 5, "that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she should be holy and without blemish" (v. 27).

I think of how an earthly groom eagerly anticipates the moment when his bride will walk down the aisle to join him, to be united with him in that spotless, white wedding dress. I imagine that the Lord Jesus, as our heavenly, holy Bridegroom, anticipates the day when we individually and collectively will walk into His presence, pure, holy, sanctified, a radiant bride, dressed and ready to meet Him, clothed in His righteousness, ready to be His holy bride forever.

I think of how an engaged woman eagerly anticipates the moment of her wedding, and she lovingly prepares for that wedding. She wants to be beautiful for her groom. And so, the thought of being married to our heavenly, holy Groom should motivate us to spend our lives here on earth getting ready for the wedding, pursuing holiness, because we know that is our ultimate end, and it is His great desire for His bride.

Now, there’s another reason we’re to be holy, and that is because Jesus died to save us from our sins, to make us holy. Now, if you don’t stop and think about that, it sounds like, “What’s so profound about that?”

Well, I want to tell you that is very profound, that Jesus would have died for the purpose of delivering us from our sins. You see it all through the Scriptures.

Galatians 1: “[Jesus Christ] gave Himself for our sins.” Why? So that He might "deliver us from this present evil world” (v. 4). He didn’t die so that we could just go on living like the world. He died to rescue, redeem, deliver us from this present evil world.

Titus chapter 2:14: “[He] gave himself for us, so that he might redeem us from all iniquity.” (KJV) Do you really want to be redeemed from all iniquity? Or is there some sin you’d just like of like to hang on to? “He died to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” 

Ephesians 5:25: “Christ loved the church and gave himself for it.” Why? “That He might sanctify . . .  and cleanse it.”

Revelation 1:5: “[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” That says there was a price tag attached to our salvation. It was the life, the death of Christ.

J. C. Ryle, hundreds of years ago, wrote a classic book on holiness, and he has this to say in that book. He says,

Surely that man must be in an unhealthy state of soul who can think of all that Jesus suffered and yet cling to those sins for which that suffering was undergone. It was sin that wove the crown of thorns. It was sin that pierced our Lord’s hands and feet and side. It was sin that brought Him to Gethsemane and Calvary, to the cross and to the grave. Cold must be our hearts if we do not hate sin and labor to get rid of it though we may have to cut off the right hand and pluck out the right eye in doing it.

I remember as I sat and watched Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of Christ, and saw the physical suffering of Christ depicted. There was no way in a visual format to depict the spiritual price that He paid, but just seeing the physical suffering, and I’ll tell you what happened to me.

There just began a flash of specific sins that I had committed over years, things I hadn’t thought about in a long time. And they just began to flash in my mind as He was carrying that cross, being tormented, whipped, beaten, and then dying on that cross. And all I could think was, “He did that because of my sin.”

He put my sin in a whole different perspective. It made me realize the price, the cost, the greatness of the sacrifice that He had to pay to deal with my sin. So when we tolerate sin in our lives, we make a little deal about it or no deal at all. When we refuse to be parted from it, what we’re doing is really spurning the love and the grace of Christ. We’re trampling on His cross, and we’re counting His sacrificial death to be of no value.

I want to tell you, ladies, Jesus didn’t shed His blood so that you and I could have a passport to heaven and happiness while continuing to indulge our anger, our impatience, our critical spirits, our backbiting tongues, our competitive spirits, our selfishness, our pride, our lust, and on and on.

His death provides the motivation and the power to say "no" to sin; to say "no" to those addictions; to say "no" to those fleshly, sinful habit patterns, and to say "yes" to holiness in every area of our lives. Jesus died to make us holy. Jesus died to deliver us from sin. How then can we carelessly or casually continue to sin against such a Savior?

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been describing our only hope in the quest for holiness. She’s in the middle of a series called, Why Be Holy?

To help you grow in this topic, we’d like to send you Nancy’s book, Holiness: The Heart God Purifies. This book will help your passion for holiness grow, and it will show you how to incorporate holiness in your day-to-day life. We’ll send you a copy of the book, Holiness, when you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts.

Your gift will help make it possible for us to proclaim the truth to women who need to hear it. You’ll help us speak to women like the one who emailed and said,

I listen to Revive Our Hearts every day in my car while picking up my kids from school. [She said if she’s ever early,] I drive slowly so I can hear the whole program.

Every time I hear Nancy’s voice, it’s like listening to a friend. Her warmth and realness comes through the radio, and that warmth and realness is proclaiming biblical truth that has power to transform lives.

Nancy, how do you feel knowing that women are looking to you each day as a friend?

Nancy: Leslie, I love getting emails like that because I really do feel like our listeners are my friends and together we are growing in the Lord. I take the responsibility to teach God’s Word very seriously. From the outset of this ministry, I asked the Lord to make every word count. And I’m so thankful to be there each day for this woman and thousands more like her who look forward to exploring God’s truth with Revive Our Hearts.

We’re able to speak to women like this woman as she’s picking up her kids from school because of listeners who support the ministry financially. So if Revive Our Hearts has made a difference in your life, would you ask the Lord what He might want you to give to help support this ministry? Your gift at this time will help women connect day by day with the biblical truth that really does transform lives.

Leslie: When you donate any amount, ask for Nancy’s book, Holiness. The number is 1-800-569-5959, or donate at ReviveOurHearts.com.

Well, tomorrow we’ll talk about holiness and family resemblances. I hope you can be here for Revive Our Hearts.

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

All Scripture was taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

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