Purity & Holiness – Week 1 (Spiritual Holiness)

 0   Hook

How do you decide what is ok and not ok? Who are you accountable to? For some people, the obvious answer is your parents. Your teachers. Your coaches. The DNR. The Government. The Church / church? Pastors? Elders? God? Jesus? For most of us, it’s ourselves. If it feels good, do it. If it doesn’t harm others, go for it.

Parents, teachers, coaches, make sense. DNR and government, sure, that makes sense too. The church? God? If I don’t do what they want, what are they going to do about it? If I wrong my parent, I get punished. If I wrong the teacher, I get disciplined. If I wrong the coach, I get kicked off the team. If I wrong the DNR, I get fined. If I wrong the government, I get arrested. But what if I wrong the church? or God? What happens in life is that often, people will give their allegiance to God, but their accountability to those who give direct consequences. Their allegiance to God is more or less like putting on a jersey of a team.

 1   Jesus Fish Syndrome

The first appearances of the Ichthys (Christian fish symbol) date to the 2nd century in Christian art and literature. The symbol’s use among Christians had become prevalent by the late 2nd century and spread widely in the 3rd and 4th centuries. In early Christian history, the Ichthys symbol held “the most sacred significance,” and Christians utilized it to identify churches and other believers during a period of persecution in the Roman Empire.

“Initially used as a secret sign during the time when Christians were persecuted by the Roman authorities, the fish symbolized the mission of the group it represented and did so simply and effectively.”

The name Ichthus, which is the Greek word for fish, and the fish itself, recur frequently amongst the sacred symbols of the early Christians in the Catacombs. The letters of the Greek word formed the initial letters of the phrase “Jesus Christ, of God the Son, our Saviour” The heavenly Ichthus, then, was Jesus Christ, and we are the smaller fishes, born in the waters of baptism, as Tertullian says, caught in the net of salvation, and thus made members of the heavenly kingdom.

ἸΧΘΥΣ (IKhThUS) is an acronym or acrostic for the Greek phrase “Ἰησοῦς Χρῑστός Θεοῦ Υἱός Σωτήρ”, which translates into English as ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior’.

  • Iota (i), Iēsoûs (Ἰησοῦς), “Jesus”
  • Chi (ch), Khrīstós (Χρῑστός), “anointed”
  • Theta (th), Theoû (Θεοῦ), “of God”
  • Upsilon (y or u), (h)uiós (Yἱός), “Son”
  • Sigma (s), sōtḗr (Σωτήρ), “Savior”

In the 1970s the “Jesus Fish” began to be used as a symbol of contemporary Christianity. In 1973 the symbol and message were taken to the Aquarius Rock Festival in Nimbin, Australia. Today, it can be seen as a decal or emblem on the rear of automobiles or as jewelry as an indication that the owner is Christian. Versions of this include an Ichthys with “Jesus” or “ΙΧΘΥΣ” in the center, or simply the Ichthys outline by itself.

Why would someone put a Jesus fish on the car, water bottle, body, or anywhere else?

To show their affinity. To show their support. A symbolic “putting on the jersey” of a team.

Some people think that Christianity is to be part of the right team. “I’m with ‘those guys.'” Say the prayer, get dunked, put on the sticker, come to church, pay tithe, you’re in. Sounds more like being part of a country club rather than a relationship with the Lord. If Christianity is not that, then what else is it?


It is not uncommon to hear Christian workers urging seekers to accept Christ now and leave moral and social questions to be decided later. The notion is that obedience and discipleship are unrelated to salvation. We may be saved by believing a historic fact about Jesus Christ (that He died for our sins and rose again) and applying this to our personal situation. The whole biblical concept of Lordship and obedience is completely absent from the mind of the seeker. 

A.W. Tozer, Discipleship, What It Truly Means To Be A Christian

Luke 9:23

23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

What we see in scripture, for what it means to be “part of those guys” to be in the church, to be part of God’s kingdom and be a child of God, is far more than putting on the jersey or going to practice. There is a wholehearted response to who God is and what He has done that permeates through the rest of your life. Everything from what job you have, to who you’re friends with, to what you eat, to how you talk, to how you dress, to who you date, to how you date, to how you respond to triggers, to how you take care of your body, all comes back to who is in the ultimate authority in your life.

 2   Example: Daniel

Daniel is a Judean, an Israelite, God’s chosen people. Israel was conquered by Babylon and placed into captivity, and the King took some of the “best men” and put them through “conversion therapy.” They were to become Babylonians, ridding themselves of their former-selves, and serve Babylon. Daniel was one of these men who were chosen to be converted, washed of his identity, and work for the empire.

Daniel 1:1-21

1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. 2 The Lord handed King Jehoiakim of Judah over to him, along with some of the vessels from the house of God. Nebuchadnezzar carried them to the land of Babylon,, to the house of his god, and put the vessels in the treasury of his god.

3 The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility—4 young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. 5 The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to attend the king., 6 Among them, from the Judahites, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. 7 The chief eunuch gave them names; he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

8 Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief eunuch not to defile himself. 9 God had granted Daniel kindness and compassion from the chief eunuch, 10 yet he said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and drink. What if he sees your faces looking thinner than the other young men your age? You would endanger my life with the king.”
11 So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief eunuch had assigned to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.” 14 He agreed with them about this and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. 16 So the guard continued to remove their food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables.

17 God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind. 18 At the end of the time that the king had said to present them, the chief eunuch presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king interviewed them, and among all of them, no one was found equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they began to attend the king. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding that the king consulted them about, he found them ten times, better than all the magicians and mediums in his entire kingdom. 21 Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Daniel was being made Babylonian, and being wiped from is identity as an Israelite, as being one of God’s chosen people. New language. New books. New food, new drinks. New names after the foreign gods. New home. New identity. And for some reason, v.8, Daniel determined in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food and drink. Why?

Lots of logical conclusions, but none of them hold up when tested. The vegetables would have been an offering to the gods as well. King Jehoiachinin 2 Kings 25:29 did not hesitate to eat the kings food and drink, nor is there any hint of judgement or wrong doing in the text. The meat would have needed to be “kosher” to be suitable for a jew, but the wine would have been fine. What was wrong the the wine then? The focus is not an adherence to the law, but something else.

2nd Kings 25:29-30

So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life. 30 As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king, a portion for each day, for the rest of his life.

In what we eat, drink, speak, wear, is a representation of the heart, an expression of self-identity. Daniel is resisting complete Babylonian assimilation. Why? He desires to maintain his prior identity as belonging to God.

What does it mean to defile? Hebrew Ga.al. Defile, pollute, desecrate, stain, unclean. Refers to being ceremonially unclean from covenant behavior, figuratively “hands with blood.”

There is something that Daniel knew about the value of maintaining his identity as belonging to God. Do we have that identity today? We put on the Jesus Fish, wear the jersey, but do we actually have our identity of one who belongs to God?

 3   Lordship of God & Our Response

Our outward actions do not determine our identity. Holy actions do not make us holy.

Matthew 15:8-11

8 This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me.
9 They worship me in vain,
teaching as doctrines human commands.”,

10 Summoning the crowd, he told them, “Listen and understand: 11 It’s not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth—this defiles a person.”

Who? Jesus speaking to the Pharisees & Sadducees, quoting Isaiah 29:13 regarding disobeying the Torah in the name of adhering to tradition.

Matthew 15:19-20

Don’t you realize that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is eliminated? 18 But what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, slander. 20 These are the things that defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile a person.”

Clearly, Jesus was concerned with his people not living as defiled, stained, people. So if not defiled, then what?

1st Peter 1:13-16

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.,

Bible Project Video: Holiness

The word Holy, to most people, means a morally good person. God is holy because he’s morally perfect.

In the Bible, God is the creative force behind the entire universe, the one and only with the power. These powers make him unique, which is to be holy.

Illustration: The Sun – unique, powerful, source of life (Holy). The area around the sun is also holy. The closer you get to the sun, the more intense it gets. The very power and goodness is also dangerous. IF you get too close to the sun, you will be annihilated.

Paradox of God’s own holiness. God is holy. If you are impure and you get too close, it is dangerous to you. Not because it is bad, but because it is so good.

In Scripture – Moses and burning bush. Take off sandals, standing on holy ground. Don’t come closer.

In Scripture – Center of the temple, room of the most holy place. In the temple you are in the proximity of God’s holy presence, which is dangerous. So, be pure. Ritually pure. Separated from anything related to death. Ritually impure =/ sinful, but being in God’s presence while impure.

In Scripture – Leviticus is rules to become pure.

In Scripture – Isaiah. In the temple, in God’s presence. Totally terrified. He knows the rules, shouldn’t be in there. Worried about getting destroyed. Seraphim flies over with hot coal, sears lips with coal. “Your guilt is taken away and your sin is atoned for.” The burning coal somehow made Isaiah pure. Normally, if you touch impure, it transfers impurity to you. But now, you touch the coal (holy) and it transfers it’s holiness to Isaiah. It does not destroy, but transforms Isaiah into holiness.

In Scripture – Ezekiel. Standing at the temple, sees water trickling. That water turns into stream, into river, flows in desert leaving a trail of trees. Goes to the dead sea and makes everything clean. The Holiness of God comes out of the temple and brings life. What does it mean? We don’t know until Jesus.

In Scripture – Jesus fulfills all these ancient visions in new ways. He touches people who are impure (skin disease, bleeding, dead people). Jesus should be made impure, but instead Jesus makes the unclean clean. Jesus is like the coal. Jesus claimed he was the human embodiment of God’s holiness. Jesus and his followers are now God’s temple. So through them, God’s holy presence goes out into the world and brings life and healing and hope. Jesus describes his followers having streams of holy water flowing out of them.

… Then comes us.

In Scripture – Revelation, in the vision, the whole world is made new. The entire earth is made God’s temple. Ezekiel’s river is there, and encompasses all of creation and makes everything pure and back to life.

Bible Project – Holiness

So, what does it mean to be “un-holy”?

 4   Connecting Holiness to Idolatry

Holy means to be set apart, actively, intentionally, worshipfully, humbly, posture yourself before God as Prophet, Priest, King, as LORD.

When you are un-holy, that means that something else comes first, which is what we call idolatry.

Romans 1:21-25

21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became worthless, and their senseless hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.
24 Therefore God delivered them over in the desires of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served what has been created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

What does it look like to be set apart, actively, intentionally, worshipfully, humbly, posture yourself before God as Prophet, Priest, King, as LORD?

God as Priority – RightNow Media

When Jesus is Lord, you recognize the sacrifice He made when He died in your place to reconcile you to God. You understand both the facts, and the intentions.

When you are lord of your life, then you are the ultimate authority and you become god unto yourself.

At the end of the day, anyone can follow rules, but that doesn’t mean their heart is pure.

1st Peter 1:13-16

13 Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be sober-minded and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. 15 But as the one who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; 16 for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.,

Let’s go back to the top. Jesus says we are to take up our cross daily.

Luke 9:23

23 Then he said to them all, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me.

How can we be spiritually pure & holy? Today. Tomorrow. This week?


Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.

Thomas Watson , Unknown