Purity & Holiness – Week 2 (Identity)

 0   Recap on 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.

Luke 9:23

Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’  

Matthew 15:8-9

ʻThis people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.ʼ

Matthew 15:19-20

For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person.

 1   Living Holy – Knowing Your Identity First

At it’s root – what does it mean to live in a way that is holy? … To live in a way that is consistent with our God given identity.

The question becomes then, who are you? What is your identity?

Illustration / Exercise:

Ask two kids to pretend that they are introducing themselves to each other.

Expected questions to ask – what’s your name? What school do you go to? What grade? What do you do for fun? Sports? Extra Curriculars? What do you like? Music? Games?

Ask a leader: When adults introduce each other and get to know each other, what questions do they ask? What do you do for work? Married? Kids? Where do you live?

Observations? Our functional identities – what makes us, us, are things that we either do or have accomplished. I am a photographer. I play soccer. I like pizza. I have two dogs. I work as an associate pastor. I like to learn. I like to read. I like to listen to Bob Marley and Rainbow Kitten Surprise.

So this is kinda meta – but think about it. If who we are at our core is the things that we do or have accomplished – then what happens if you begin to do something else? What if you play soccer and you tear your ACL and can’t play anymore? College kids often put their lives into their sports, but then they graduate and all of the sudden they don’t play anymore. The struggle becomes figuring out who they are. When you are in school, you maybe know that you’re a band kid and you have a 4.0. Or maybe you struggle in school and you grades don’t reflect your learning. You might have an identity that you’re not one of the “smart kids.”

What we often do is set ourselves up for failure because culturally, who we are the products of constructed identity. We have confused things that influence our character for the things that define what is true. Then, when we define our identity, the way we behave is shaped within that identity – and often, this can be beneficial, and sometimes it is heartbreaking. When Seth goes out on the baseball field to pay T-ball and he identifies himself as the leader on the team and that he is the guy on the team that is relied on for catching balls and getting the ball back to home plate – how would you expect him to behave? As an anchor on the team. How might it be if who he believed he was was someone that sucked at t ball. Someone who wasn’t needed on the team? It would be quite a different game. Who we believe that we are shapes how we live. Identity -> behavior. But we often want it to be opposite, for our behavior to shape our identity. Behavior -> identity. My grades don’t reflect my learning – so I am stupid. I feel like so and so doesn’t like me, therefore I’m an outcast. My parents work more then they are home, therefore they don’t love me. I like agriculture – so I am a hick. I like coding, so I am a geek. No one will date me, so I am worthless. Then at some point, we will decide that who we are needs to change, and so we start acting out. It’s then when we have the woman dressed to the nines with an inch of makeup; the balding, middle aged man who drives a sports car worth twice his annual salary. We can sense their falseness, their desperateness to be someone else. But what about us? Truth is that we all have a false self, a false identity – and without intervention, it becomes the rudder that steers our living.

The false self is the self created outside of the mind of God, the self that seeks existence apart from God. The false self is the facade that we construct in order to gain love and acceptance in the world, a mask of counterfeit adequacy. This mask is constructed of all the characteristics and qualities that we fiercely clutch as ours and want others to believe that we possess. It is our unreal identity, controlling and defining us.

Transformed by Fire, pg. 58

Do you see the flaws in this paradigm?

In the Ancient Near East, this wasn’t the way. Instead of our identity being based on what we do or what we’ve accomplished, it was defined by our relationships. I am the son of Jack. I am the father of two. I am the husband of Jenni. My God is Adonai.

One of the cool things about Scripture – and our God – is that he tells us who we are. God defines who we are, and if you compare side by side, who we believe we are based on what we do or accomplish, compared to who God says we are – which one do you think is right? It’s almost like when Seth thinks that mom is a mean person and he’s the victim, because she won’t let him run in the street, when in reality it is because of her love that she protects him. Our minds are so narrow – and we can be so prideful – to think that we know better than the God who created. Where is all of this going? Our identity should influence our behavior, and our identity is defined by God. So, what is it that God says about who we are?

In scripture, Paul speaks of the self that is created by our fallenness, identifying it as our “old self.” the term “false self communicates the same message, but emphasizes that this type of self is a mask with no reality in the light of God’s truth. Recognizing the spiritual danger inherent in the false, or old self, Paul calls God’s people to forsake this foundation of our sin nature.

Colossians 3:5-10

5 Therefore, put to death what belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, God’s wrath is coming upon the disobedient, 7 and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. 8 But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.

Ephesians 4:22-24

21 Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, 22 throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. 23 Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. 24 Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.

Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), Eph 4:21–24.

So if we have a false self, a former way of life, what is the new self, the new way of life? To live as the son or daughter of God – as his beloved, his possession.

Exodus 19:5-6

5 Now if you will carefully listen to me and keep my covenant, you will be my own possession out of all the peoples, although the whole earth is mine, 6 and you will be my kingdom of priests and my holy nation.’

Leviticus 20:22-26

You are to keep all my statutes and all my ordinances, and do them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live will not vomit you out. You must not follow the statutes of the nations I am driving out before you, for they did all these things, and I abhorred them. 24 And I promised you: You will inherit their land, since I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey. I am the LORD your God who set you apart from the peoples. 25 Therefore you are to distinguish the clean animal from the unclean one, and the unclean bird from the clean one. Do not become contaminated by any land animal, bird, or whatever crawls on the ground; I have set these apart as unclean for you. 26 You are to be holy to me because I, the LORD, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine.

Genesis 1:27

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

1st Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

2nd Corinthians 5:17

So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!

 2   Ephesians 1 – Knowing our Identity in Christ

Eph. 1:1-14

Chosen by God before the existence of the world.

Predestined to be sons and daughters

We are redeemed by the blood

We are forgiven of our trespasses

We have an inheritance

We are sealed by the Promise of the Holy Spirit

We have the Holy Spirit

Are you catching on? We are created, with value. We are designed, not an accident. We are chosen, not a burden. We are desired, not in the way. Before our actions, we were chosen – there is nothing we can do that would cause God to lose his grasp on us. We are holy, set apart, with a particular mission.

Do you believe that? If you do – then how is it carried out? How do we live? Life isn’t about you. It’s not about your accomplishments. The pursuit of your false self will end in want.

 3   Closing

Romans 12:1-2

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.