Pastor David B. Curtis

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Pleasing God - Part 3

1 Peter 1:15-16

10/26/2000

I have done two messages in the past couple of months on "Pleasing God" The question that we have been looking at is, "How can we live in such a way as to please a holy God?" What can we think or do that would bring God pleasure? We know that this is a legitimate biblical question, because Paul said pleasing God was his aim:

2 Corinthians 5:9 (NKJV) Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him.

Pleasing God was not just a personal passion for Paul, he admonished all believers to live in a way that was pleasing to God:

Colossians 1:10 (NKJV) that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

In our first message on "Pleasing God", we saw that God is pleased by: Our Faith- trusting in God and not in our selves pleases Him; our Worship - which is ascribing worth to God. Our Service - giving of ourselves to Him; our Obedience - God delights in our obedience, because everything God commands us is for our own good. Then in our second message on "Pleasing God", we looked at the fact that prayer pleases God:

Proverbs 15:8 (NKJV) The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight.

"The prayer of the upright is His delight" - Believer, please grasp this, God delights in our prayers. We saw that God is the kind of God who delights most deeply, not in making demands, but in meeting needs. Prayer is his delight, because prayer shows the reaches of our poverty and the riches of his grace. Prayer is that wonderful transaction where the wealth of God's glory is magnified, and the wants of our soul are satisfied. Therefore, God delights in the prayers of the upright.

This morning, I want us to look at another area that pleases God.

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 (NKJV) Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.

This passage addresses the concept of the believer's walk. The Christian life is compared to walking. Walking becomes a visual aid to teach us how to live. Throughout the Bible, we are exhorted to walk in a manner worthy of our calling:

Romans 13:13 (NKJV) Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.
Ephesians 4:1 (NKJV) I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,
Colossians 1:10 (NKJV) that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;

Learning to walk or live to please God is a matter of biblical instruction. It is neither natural nor innate. Without the Word, there is simply no way any of us are going to be able to walk as we should so we are able to please the Lord. Over and over again in the Old Testament, we read that God's people are to walk in His ways, statutes, and laws, i.e., according to the Word (Lev. 26:3; Deut. 5:33; 8:6; 10:12; Josh. 22:5).

It seems that far too often some Christians just want to hear new truth. Certainly, God wants us to grow in the knowledge of His Word, but we also need the exhortation to excel still more in the truth we know; our goal should be to press on to greater and greater appropriation of the truths which we already know and are already practicing, but to only a limited degree.

These verses in 1 Thessalonians 4, teach us that we can walk in a way that is pleasing to God, and the walk it calls for is holiness. The word "sanctification" used in 1 Thessalonians 4:3 is the Greek word hagiasmos, it means: "to make holy, separation from sin." Our holiness pleases God. God is pleased by our holiness, because He is holy and he wants us to be like Him in our every day life.

1 Peter 1:15-16 (NKJV) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

If I were to ask your closest friend or your parents, or spouse or child to describe you in a hand full of words, would "holy" be one of them? "Well they are fun, silly, generous, loving and holy!" "Uh did you say holy?" The word "holy" may seem a bit archaic to us as it conjures up images of the "church lady" and "hair buns." It may cause us to think of those who have a "holier than thou" attitude to which we would never see ourselves being like that. Or we might see holiness as something so unattainable that it gives us the shivers to even think about it. I mean really, who can be holy? Only God, we might suppose.

Leaving these conjured up images and thoughts, let's move into the realm of God's holiness and the practicality of it. God wants us to live holy lives because He is Holy.

Do you know your heritage? By that I mean the status acquired by a person through birth. Looking into your family lineage, can you say you have a great heritage? Looking into our spiritual lineage, I can assure you we have a "holy heritage." Peter speaks of the self description our Heavenly Father places upon Himself . The words of Peter are a reiteration of God's already proclaimed declaration of Himself found in the book of Leviticus:

Leviticus 19:2 (NKJV) "Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

Our God is holy. We hear it in the voice of the seraphim in Isaiah 6 that God is holy:

Isaiah 6:3 (NKJV) And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"

The living creatures in Revelation 4 also describe our God as "holy" in this same three fold manner signifying His absolute holiness:

Revelation 4:8 (NKJV) The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!"

Our God is holy! This might be a good time to ask what it means to be holy. Holy, in the simplest definition, means "to separate." To be holy is to be distinct, separate, in a class by oneself. As Sproul puts it:

The primary meaning of holy is 'separate.' It comes from an ancient word that meant, 'to cut,' or 'to separate.' Perhaps even more accurate would be the phrase 'a cut above something.' When we find a garment or another piece of merchandise that is outstanding, that has a superior excellence, we use the expression that it is 'a cut above the rest.' R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1985), page 54

This means that the one who is holy is uniquely holy, with no rivals or competition.

When the Bible calls God holy, it means primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so far above and beyond us that He seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be "other," to be different in a special way. The same basic meaning is used when the word "holy" is applied to earthly things.

To be holy is the opposite of being "common" or "profane." God is holy in that He is utterly different and distinct from His creation. His people must also be distinct, separate from the heathen attitudes and actions which characterized them as unbelievers. The translation of 1 Peter 2:9 by the King James Version conveys this idea of "separateness":

1 Peter 2:9 (KJV) But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:

We are to be holy in every aspect of our conduct. Holiness is not to be compartmentalized into certain "religious" areas of our life. Holiness is a way of life that affects everything we do. Holiness is a lifestyle, rather than mere conformity to a list of rules.

Holiness is a lifestyle which differs dramatically from our manner of life before we were saved. When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He called them to live in a way which would set them apart from the Egyptians among whom they had lived and the Canaanites among whom they would live (see Leviticus 18:1-5).

Holiness is the choice to march to the beat of a different drummer. Rather than to live as our culture encourages us to, we must live as God requires.

Tucked away in the calling of Moses is a great understanding of God calling us to be holy.

Exodus 3:5 (NKJV) Then He said, "Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground."

God declared the ground where Moses stood as holy. The ground became holy because God separated it for His purpose and revealed His divine plan there. God has declared us to be holy (1 Peter 2:9). He has set you and I apart for His purpose and plan.

Isaiah 6:3-5 (NKJV) And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" 4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 So I said: "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The LORD of hosts."

Isaiah found himself in the holy presence of God. There was no place to run or hide. The best he could do was be confronted and convicted of his unholiness. One glimpse of God and His holiness, His purity, Isaiah quickly discovered that all his goodness was worthless. Isaiah would later write:

Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV) But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.

Holiness hounded his heart and soul. It pursued him relentlessly. And so holiness pursues us everyday in a relentless fashion.

Like Isaiah, we must begin with being confronted with God in all His holiness. It is then we will become uniquely aware and convicted of our own unholiness. This is not intended to drive us away, but to drive us into a deeper realization of our need for God. Holiness is God's agenda for our lives.

The Bible speaks of holiness as the possession of every believer, and as something which we are to grow in. One is the objective holiness that we have in Christ, the other is the subjective holiness produced by God in our lives.

POSITIONAL SANCTIFICATION:

1 Corinthians 1:30 (NKJV) But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God; and righteousness and sanctification and redemption;

We understand that Christ is our righteousness and the basis for our justification. But Christ is also our holiness. All believers are sanctified in Christ, even as we are justified in Christ.

Hebrews 10:10 (NKJV) By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Believers "have been"-- it is a completed work, made holy.

Colossians 1:22 (NKJV) in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight;

How can we, whose righteousness is as filthy rags, be seen by God as holy, without blame and above reproach in His sight? Because of our union with Christ, God sees His holiness as our holiness. A. W. Pink said, "In the person of Christ, God beholds a holiness which abides His closest scrutiny, yea, which rejoices and satisfies His heart; and whatever Christ is before God, He is for His people." The Doctrines of Sanctification.

So, the Bible teaches that you are already holy, because Christ's holiness in imputed to you. You have been made perfect forever. This is Positional sanctification. But, it also teaches that you are being made holy day by day through the work of God in your life. This is Practical sanctification. Peter says that because God is holy, we are also to be holy in our conduct.

We are to be holy in every aspect of our conduct. Holiness is to be a way of life that affects everything we do. What is different about us? How are we "set apart" to God? Let me give you several very practical areas of our lives that should be "set apart" unto God:

1. OUR MARRIAGES:

First of all, as Christians, we should view our marriage as permanent.

Matthew 19:5-6 (NKJV) "and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6 "So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."

We are to be set apart not only in the permanence of marriage but in how we live our married lives. Husbands, we are to love our wives:

Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV) Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,

Men, please notice carefully how we are to love our wives - "just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." The unsaved don't do this, but for the most part, neither do Christians - we are not set apart to God in our marriages.

Wives, notice how you are to conduct yourself in marriage:

Ephesians 5:22-24 (NKJV) Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

Let's be honest, most women are rebellious, not submissive. But as Christians, we are to be set apart to God, and the way a Christian's wife does this, is to live in submission to her husband.

2. CHILD REARING:

The world follows doctor Spock, and for the most part, children today run the homes. But as Christians, we are to be "holy" in our child rearing. We are to teach our children to live in obedience:

Proverbs 23:13-14 (NKJV) Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. 14 You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell.

Parents, how is the way you raise your children "set apart" unto God?

3. OUR JOBS:

We are to be good employees. The way we work is to be "set apart" unto God.

Colossians 3:22-25 (NKJV) Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

The principle is this: If you are an employee, you are to obey everything - not just when the boss is looking, as if to please him. This obedience was only according to the flesh and did not refer to spiritual, or moral relationships.

Colossians 3:23 (NKJV) And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

The employee was to be totally committed to serve his employer as if he were working for the Lord Himself.

4. OUR MONEY:

The way we spend our money should be "set apart" unto God. How do you differ from the non-believer in how you spend you money?

Luke 12:15-21 (NKJV) And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." 16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 "And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?' 18 "So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 'And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."' 20 "But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' 21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."

It's no coincidence that the word "miser" and the word "miserable" come from the same root. God didn't bless you financially so you could keep it to yourself. When you try to hang on to everything, you lose the joy of abundance. You also miss out on the joy of being a blessing to other people.

The only way to release the grip of materialism is to learn to give. Most people intend to be generous, but too often we put it off until we can afford it. For most of us, that day may never come, because our expenses tend to rise with our income. It is easy for our entire paycheck to be consumed by "necessities." If we do not make a concentrated effort to start giving, then we'll procrastinate forever.

5. OUR SEXUALITY:

1 Thessalonians 4:1-3 (NKJV) Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God; 2 for you know what commandments we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality.

Please notice that God's will for our lives is that we abstain from sexual immorality. God's will for believers is sexual purity. Sexual immorality is any sexual activity outside the marriage relationship. He says in verse 6, "The Lord is the avenger of all such." The word "avenger" is the Greek word ekdikos, which means: "one who carries out a legal sentence." This word is only used one other time in Romans 13:4, where it refers to the magistrate as the bearer of the sword of justice, that is, as inflicting capital punishment.

Sexual sin never comes out of the blue. It is the predictable result of a long natural process in which a mind susceptible to sin is granted unguarded exposure to immoral input. We are what we think. Today's thoughts are the stuff of which tomorrow's character is made. Temptation may come suddenly, but sin does not. The best way to guard against tomorrow's sexual temptation is to cultivate a pure mind today, a mind saturated with God's input rather than the world's input. The battle is in our minds. Proverbs puts it this way:

Proverbs 4:23 (NKJV) "Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life."

So what is being asked of us? Our progressive or practical holiness is the working out in our lives what we are in position. How do we do this?

1 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV) But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.

The word "godliness" is eusebeia. It's: "personal piety, or holiness." The word "exercise" is gumnazo, from which we get our word "gymnasium." Do you go to a gym to be passive? Have you ever played passive sports? This word is related to athletics-- hard work, sweat and toil. Gumnazo means: "to train or discipline." Paul is telling Timothy that he must discipline himself for the purpose of holiness. Discipline is the key to practical sanctification. Let me give you a working definition of what discipline is: Discipline is doing what we don't want to do so that we can accomplish what we've always wanted.

There is no such thing as drifting into godliness, you drift into sin. We need discipline, we need to train ourselves, we need to exercise ourselves toward personal holiness. This is personal responsibility. We tend to be very lazy when it comes to our spiritual lives. It seems that the effort that most Christians put into their spiritual lives wouldn't exhaust a butterfly.

Proverbs 25:28 (NKJV) Whoever has no rule over his own spirit Is like a city broken down, without walls.

To have "no rule over his own spirit" is to have no discipline, no self-control, to be unable to govern one's desires. In the ancient east, a city without walls had no defense to an attack. Self control is not just saying, "no" to what you shouldn't do, it is also saying, "yes" to what you should do.

What are the Christian disciplines? Bible study, prayer, fellowship. It all starts with the study of the Bible. How can you even begin to live the Christian life apart from the Bible? You can't really know anything about God or your own sinfulness apart for the Scriptures. How much time do you spend a week in God's word getting to know your Creator and Redeemer?

Why holiness? Why should we strive to live holy lives? Because being holy, we enjoy our relationship with God our Father in a depth we may never know otherwise. To pursue holiness means to pursue Jesus, because the better we know Him, the more clearly we see how little like Him we really are. This leads us to deeper repentance, which leads to deeper forgiveness, which leads to a greater usefulness by God and greater holiness.

Let me close with this illustration pulled from the life of Mother Teresa. Charles Colson tells of it in his book, Loving God. A brother in the order was complaining to Mother Teresa about a superior whose rules over him were interfering with his ministry. He said to her, "My vocation is to work with lepers. I want to spend myself for the lepers." She stared at him a moment, then smiled and said, "Brother, your vocation is not to work for lepers, your vocation is to belong to Jesus."

Charles Colson says, "Mother Teresa is not in love with a cause, noble as her cause is. Rather, she loves God and is dedicated to living His life, not her own. This is holiness. It is the complete surrender of self in obedience to the will and service of God."

We have excused ourselves and taken the easy route for too long. We need to pursue holiness. We need to seek God. We need to hunger and thirst for righteousness. We need to get out of the world and get into the Word. Holiness pleases God.

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