"I am the vine, you are the branches"
Holiness For the Believer, Part 1
Be Holy for I Am Holy
We want to look at a subject that is not talked enough about and that is holiness. Most people do not really know what holiness is. They do not understand the concept of it. Yet, as believers and God-fearers, we should all be walking in holiness. So what is the definition of holiness? According to Vine's Expository Dictionary, holiness is sanctification. It signifies a separation to God. It is characteristically called godliness. In other words, we are to be like God. But you may say, "When we accept Yeshua into our lives, we are then sanctified." This is true, but that is only our position in Messiah. Just as we know our position is that we are seated in the heavenly realm with Messiah, yet we all know that in the physical we are here on Earth, so too in our position of being sanctified, we must live out our daily lives being set apart from the world. Most Christians go through life making themselves believe that they could never walk in God's ways or keep the commandments of God and so they don't. Christians say, "Yeshua perfectly kept the commandments of God so that we wouldn't have to." But this is not so. We are told that we are to keep the commandments of God and live according to His ways. Yeshua said, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." By thinking that all we need is Yeshua, then we can live and act however we please; we begin to think that the sacrifice of Yeshua is some kind of season pass that allows us to jump in and out of the realm of God when we choose. This is a gross misuse of grace. Paul asks, "Should we go on sinning because of grace? Absolutely not!"
When you follow God's ways, you will see that you can stay on the straight and narrow path and if you should stray, then God has made a way for us to return and it is called repentance, the turning back to God's ways. The question is, do we have a willing heart to follow God's ways? Paul writes to the Corinthians, "Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership has righteousness and Torahlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Messiah with Belial, or what have believers in common with unbelievers? Or what agreement has the Temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,' says the Lord. ‘And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you. And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,' says the Lord Almighty. Therefore having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God." We see that with God we must be separate. So how do we attain to holiness? We are going to look at what separates us from everyone else.
You Shall Be Holy, for I Am Holy
When Peter wrote, "You shall be Holy for I am Holy," in his first letter to the Messianic believers, he was quoting from the Book of Leviticus. In fact, three times God says these words to not just Moses or Aaron, but to the whole congregation. In other words, God does not want just the High Priest or the Prophet or the Man of God, the Pastor, or the Deacons to be holy, but God wants everyone to be holy. The whole community of believers, the congregation, corporately and individually must be holy. So we are going to take a closer look at holiness because we want to see just what holiness should look like in the life of a believer and in the life of the community according to God's Word.
Now, it is important that our lives line up with the Word of God and not with the words of a teacher or preacher because the Holy Spirit needs to be our teacher. It is alright for a teacher or preacher to spur you on and challenge you to keep God's Word, but it is God's Word that must abide in us and it is God's Word that we must obey. Peter, who was a Torah-keeper, knew these words about being holy. One of the yearly sections of Bible reading in Torah is called Kedoshim. Each week, a section of the Torah is read and each section is called a Parasha. The name of each Parasha gets its name from the beginning lines read in that Parasha. So Kedoshim starts in Leviticus 19:1-2, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, 'Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy."'" So let's start at verse 3 of Leviticus and see exactly what is considered holy to God.
Honor Your Father and Mother
"Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father." Timothy says that in the last days (which refers to any time after Yeshua's death), children will not honor their fathers or mothers. Yeshua Himself dealt with this when He told the Pharisees that their tradition of Corban, which was something set apart to be a gift to God, nullified the commandment to honor and obey one's father and mother because people would say that they could not financially support their parents because a portion of their money was set apart, or Corban, to God. Yet in reality they never did give that money to God.
So how do we honor and obey our parents? We take care of them when they become sick or too old to care for themselves. Too often we are quick to throw our parents into a nursing home and let someone else take care of them. There are times when we have no choice in doing this; then we are to see to it that they are comfortable and we are to call and visit them regularly. There is nothing more disturbing than when you go to a nursing home and see these elderly people who have no one to come and visit them. We are to provide for our parents if they do not have the means to provide for themselves. The Bible tells us that a person who does not provide for his own family members when in need is worse than an unbeliever. We are to reverence our parents and not speak evil of them. This was the story of Noah when his son Ham saw Noah naked because Noah had been drinking and uncovered himself. Ham should have just covered up his father, but instead he told his two other brothers and they went into Noah's tent and covered him. When Noah awoke, he cursed Ham because he was disrespectful to him by speaking to others about his nakedness, revealing his short-comings. To honor our parents is one of the Ten Commandments and the only one which has a promise. All too often we fall short of this command to reverence our parents. So when we honor our parents in these ways, we become separated from the world, for the world disregards their parents and speaks and does evil to them.
Keeping the Law
In the same verse 3 of Leviticus, God says, "You shall keep My Sabbaths; I am the Lord your God." God created time and space. As He created the world and the universe which houses it, He also was creating the day: "And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning the second day" (Genesis 1:8). To God, the day begins at sundown and goes till the next sundown. He has a lunar calendar; this alone sets apart the believer from the world which uses a calendar that is based on the worship of the sun. Pagans worshiped the sun god and so all the names of the days and months are pagan gods. God created the week, which ended with the keeping of the Sabbath on the seventh day. The Bible tells us that God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which He had created and made. From the beginning, from creation, God set apart certain days that were His special days and these days are called His Appointed Times. It is believed that Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, and so on that day it is the New Year.
These Appointed Times of God are so special to Him because on these days He chooses to be with us in an especially close way. God says that we can come to Him anytime, so can God have times that He chooses for Himself that He wants to meet with us? God created the Sabbath just for us to have the time that we can take out of our busy week and spend time with Him. Yeshua kept the seventh day Sabbath; is He not our example? If He thought that we should not keep it, wouldn't He have said so? He said many times using these words, "If it were not true I would tell you." So too with the seventh day Sabbath or with any of God's Appointed Times, He kept them all. If they were not for the keeping, He would have told us so! He is the Word of God, the very Word that we obey. Yeshua said, "I did not come to annul the Torah, but to uphold it." When Paul wrote, "Messiah is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes," he did not say that Messiah was the end of the Law, but only for righteousness. In other words, believers were still to obey God's laws and commands, but their righteousness was now in Messiah. We want to look at the Sabbath and what it stands for and then we will have a better understanding of why God made it holy.
First of all, the Sabbath is the seventh day. Seven is the number of completion.
1. God had completed His work.
1A. Yeshua Himself said, "It is finished (or complete)," on the cross and then He too rested on the Sabbath.
1B. When we become believers in Yeshua, we then are complete. We are set free from our dead works. We have crossed over from death to life, from darkness to light.
2. God rested on the seventh day because His work was completed.
2A. "For we who believe enter that rest... For the one who believes has entered His rest and has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His."
So let's stop there for a moment. Yeshua is our rest. He says, "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Yeshua is the Lord of the Sabbath. Sabbath was made for man. When we follow in the footsteps of Yeshua, we crucify our flesh as He did and we die to ourselves. Now we take the yoke of the Kingdom, which is the Word of God, and we carry it on our shoulders. In so doing we find rest for our souls. God's laws are not heavy, they are not a burden, but they are a joy to our soul, refreshing us. As Psalm 19 says, "The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true, they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than fine gold; sweeter than the honey and the drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward." This is a picture of the Sabbath. This is a picture of holiness.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer states, "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you come short of it." There were some who did not enter that rest because of disobedience, because of unbelief. When we keep the seventh day Sabbath, we are actually living out that promise of rest. We are living out that picture of the redeemed of the Lord resting in God forever. If the Kingdom of God is near as John the Baptist, Yeshua, Paul, and all the others preached that it is, then we must live out the Kingdom in our lives, and this is one way we can do that: by entering His rest on the seventh day. It is holiness, it is godliness, and it is what separates us from the world.
We will continue our look at holiness the next time.