"I WOULD SEE JESUS"
1. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 12.14. Once you have found that portion of Scripture, please stand for the reading of Godís Word: "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
2. I commend for your consideration three sermons which have this verse for their texts, "Holiness" by J. C. Ryle, along with "Holiness Demanded" and "The Winnowing Fan" by Charles H. Spurgeon. All three sermons have had an impact on me, and I have borrowed heavily from those two 19th century British divines.
3. I remember the precise moment this verse of Scripture came alive to me. I heard Dr. Arthur Houk pray at some gathering. And as he arranged his petitions before God he had occasion to mention the subject of holiness, and then he said "without which no man shall see the Lord."
4. I had been converted for some twenty years at the time. I had read the Bible some twenty times at the time. I had studied Godís Word for years. But Dr. Houkís prayer struck a chord in my heart thatís resonated ever since. My friends, without holiness no man shall see the Lord.
5. Before brother Isenberger comes to lead us in a hymn before this morningís sermon, let me try to open up to you this subject of holiness in three ways. Of course, our rule of faith and practice, our infallible source of objective truth about things spiritual, is Godís inspired Word.
1A. First, HOLINESS COMMANDED
"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
1B. I Would Like You To Look Very Carefully At Our Text. There Is A Single Verb In The Sentence Which Serves Two Direct Objects. For The Purpose Of Understanding, Let Me Paraphrase In This Way:
1C. First, you have the statement "Follow peace with all men." Then you would have the statement
"Follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
2C. What I want you to see very clearly is that the verb, "follow," applies to both direct objects, "peace" and "holiness." So the writer of Hebrews is telling his readers to "Follow . . . holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
2B. With The Connection Of The Verb "Follow" To The Direct Object "Holiness" Established, Letís Take A Close Look At This Word "Follow."
1C. As I said before, itís a verb. But what kind of verb? Itís an imperative verb, meaning that itís a commanding verb. The writer of Hebrews has issued a directive, a command, an order.
2C. You are to move rapidly and decisively toward an objective. You are to follow in haste in order to find something. But what is it you are to pursue? Holiness.
3C. So, whatever this thing called holiness is, it isnít something that just happens. Whatever holiness is, itís something that is somehow a goal to be strived for, an objective to be pursued. And since itís commanded that you pursue holiness, itís importance, whatever it is, is not to be denied.
2A. Next, HOLINESS CONSIDERED
What a vast topic for our consideration is this thing called holiness. And what a disservice is done to the subject of holiness by passing over it lightly. But because of the constraints of time I am severely limited to at this point consider holiness in three ways:
1B. Let Me Begin With The Position Of Holiness
1C. There can be no doubt that holiness is partly related to the position of something, to the ownership of something, the proper use of something, since brass and silver and gold vessels that were used in the Tabernacle and in the Temple were designated holy vessels.
2C. Though not superior either in quality of materials or artistry in craftsmanship, nevertheless the vessels used in the sacrifices and ordinances of the Mosaic system were holy. That is, they were exclusive, separate, distinct. They were Godís vessels and not manís, to be used for Godís purposes and for Godís Own ends, and not manís.
3C. In that sense the believer is holy. The believer is Godís, to be used for Godís purposes and to achieve Godís Own ends. That is what is meant, and that only is meant when a believer is referred to in the Bible as a saint. It simply means "this one belongs exclusively to God."
2B. But Beyond The Position Of Holiness There Is The Progression Of Holiness
1C. If every Christian is holy by reason of position, a position granted at the moment of conversion, a position that is recognized by the Biblical designation "saint," let it be recognized that Godís will is never so clearly stated on a variety of subjects as is His will clearly stated that He wants His people to be holy, which is to say become holy.
2C. How can someone become holy who is already holy? When God says "be ye holy, for I am holy" He is not commanding that we become holy by our position. That occurs at conversion. Thatís a given. Thatís a fact. Thatís a gracious gift. When God commands that we be holy He is directing us to move from being holy by our position to being holy by our experience.
3C. Friends, itís one thing to be owned by God, to be separated by God to better uses than the world has for the lost, but itís an entirely different matter for a person to begin to move from where he is when he gets converted to where God wants him to be when all is said and done.
4C. Remember, God has predestined the Christian to be conformed to the image of Christ, to be like Jesus. Godís command, Godís demand, Godís expectation, is that some portion of that change of personality and disposition and character take place during the course of your lifetime.
5C. So, what is it to follow holiness? Paul had it in mind from the human perspective when he wrote, "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus," Philippians 3.14. From Godís side of the equation we read, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ," Philippians 1.6
6C. So, what is it to follow holiness? It is striving to become, by Godís grace, what He has already declared you to be.
3B. But This Does Not Culminate In The Perfection Of Holiness
1C. Perfection in holiness is not attainable in this lifetime. You see, we do always, and we will always, struggle with this flesh and battle against indwelling sin. And the only person who does not struggle against the flesh and indwelling sin is the person who has completely given in to it.
2C. But this is not the Christian. To achieve the perfection of holiness would be to achieve a state of sinlessness in this lifetime. And that is something only unconverted people claim to have achieved, First John 1.8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."
3C. On the contrary, Paul, perhaps the greatest example of the grace of God in the life of a sinner ever to walk on this earth, wrote in Philippians 3.12, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus." Reach out to grasp holiness.
3A. Finally, HOLINESS CORRUPTED
1B. There Used To Be A Time When Those Who Claimed To Be Christians Recognized That The Pursuit Of Holiness Was As Much A Part Of Being A Christian As Claiming To Be Born Again. There Used To Be A Time When Christians Of Every Stripe And Variety Recognized That The Christian Faith Is Something Considerably More Than A One Time Religious Conversion Experience, But That Conversion Is Only The Beginning Of A Life Of Pressing Toward The Mark, A Life Of Following Holiness.
2B. But Such Scriptural Notions Of Conversion And Consecration, Justification Followed By Sanctification, Getting Saved Followed By A Lifetime Of Pressing Toward The Mark, Were Cast Aside By Such Men As C. I. Scofield And The Increasing Numbers Of Decisionists Like Him. They Accommodated Their Views About The Christian Life To Conform To The Multitudes Of Unconverted Professing Christians Who Wanted To Be Relieved Of Their Feelings Of Guilt, And Who Wanted To Think Themselves Delivered From The Torments Of Hell, But Who Had No Interest In Communion With God Or Likeness With Christ.
3B. So, A System Of Theology Was Devised That Sought To Explain These Supposed "Christians." Ignore The Biblical Command To "Follow Holiness, Without Which No Man Shall See The Lord." Set Aside Christís Declaration, "Blessed Are The Pure In Heart: For They Shall See God," Matthew 5.8. Such Verses As These Are Virtually Ignored These Days By So-Called Christian Leaders.
4B. The Concept Of Holiness Has Been So Completely Corrupted In Our Time That The Phrase "Carnal Christian" Is Used As A Blanket Indulgence From Godís Requirement That His People Be Holy, And As A Cover-All Justification For Explaining Why A So-Called Christian Exhibits No Growth In The Grace And In The Knowledge Of Jesus Christ.
1. So, holiness is an important part of every Christianís life. But peopleís understanding about holiness has been so corrupted that many folks who think themselves Christians are so completely deceived that they think holiness is an optional feature in Christianity.
2. But is holiness optional? Holiness is optional if seeing Jesus face to face someday is optional. If you can do without seeing Jesus then you can do without holiness.
3. But if you would see Jesus, then holiness is not optional, since without holiness no man shall see the Lord.