17/1/2021 [Year of Knowing God’s Holiness 3] www.lifechurchmissions.com
The Holiness of the Incarnate Lord <Lk 5:5-9; Mk 4:35-41>
Prelude: There are two main significances to the incarnate Lord who took on human form to come to this world. First, He wanted to substitute us sinners in bearing the punishment; second, He wanted to reveal to us sinners the divine and holy God whom we can never know, and whom we cannot perceive. If He had not revealed God and His salvation in this way, none of us humans can know God and draw near to Him. However, have we asked, how does this unclean and sinful world face this holy Lord? When Christ the Lord, the Word who became flesh, came on earth, that is like the Most Holy One coming to an unholy place. He lived among unholy people, heard unholy words every day, was in contact with unholy things. Think about it, what kind of impact and tension would He bring to an unholy world? Have we ever asked why is it that this Lord who had never sinned before was so hated by some people (such as the religious leaders of Israel), but some people (such as tax-collectors and prostitutes) were so close to Him? Some did not really care about Him and were forgotten, some came before Him with a fearful heart and were healed and liberated, even becoming the lead characters of history. These are all related to Christ’s holiness. No one can ever come before a glorious and holy king without having something happen to him later on. He either receives huge rewards because he obeys the king, or he will be shamed because he shows contempt for the king. Otherwise, he will reject the king and become his enemy, and go through severe punishment. Thus, how we know Christ and are influenced by His holiness will determine the conclusion of our life. Today, many believers only have the idea that Lord Jesus came to draw humans close to God, but have they asked that when sinners like them face the holy Lord, how are their defiled lives being illuminated by His holy radiance? Often, we only sing for joy because of His redemption, but we do not tremble because of His holiness. If that is the case, how can we truly experience the great power and healing of His redemption? Today, if a religious leader of the world or a sage comes to save us, we do not need to consider the issue of “holiness” at all. Because the one who saves us is only a great mortal, but not the Holy One. In that case, we only need to be thankful to those sages for their compassion and mercy, but we ourselves do not need to fear and tremble because of them, nor do we need to be renewed in our hearts and minds. If we have done wrong, we just need to turn over a new leaf, but we do not need to become another person, or put on a new temperament. But if the one who saves us is holy, His holy attribute is always with us, then we cannot but find ourselves in fear and trembling, only then can we hear His voice, and serve His holy people. Indeed, if He is the Holy One, His distinction, His difference, His holiness will surely produce in us a holy fire. If not, that holy fire will become a consuming fire to judge us. Thus, <Heb 12:18-29> tells us that when God’s people came to Mount Sinai back then, they could not touch that mountain, and could not bear what was spoken to them from that mountain. Because God’s holiness filled that mountain. But the Bible also says that through Christ, we have now come to Mount Zion, which is the assembly (church) of the souls who are redeemed, the sprinkled blood of Christ the mediator is also there, and this blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (not “seeking redress”, but “forgiveness”). Perhaps when we read this, we will feel relieved and liberated, because our sins are not punished, but forgiven. But the Bible warns us not to refuse Him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? Think about it, if the God who spoke to humans from a mountain cannot be despised, then if God Himself became flesh and came to earth to speak to humans, isn’t that extremely great and awesome? In fact, this is a truth which many New Testament believers often neglect in their faith living, thus they easily trample on grace. The grace they preach about is without holiness, what they offer are sacrifices that do not come with a cost, but they only go to church for Sunday worship, yet after the worship service, the longings and pursuits of their hearts are all earthly things. The sacrifices they offer in faith are all “typical and thoughtless”, thus they do not get liberated or healed; even if they are temporarily liberated, new problems come very quickly. Indeed, if the various problems we have do not leave, it has nothing to do with God’s power. Because God’s power is never in lack, nor will it be reduced. The problem is, we look down on the holiness of the Lord.
1. The Holy Lord appeared to the disciples
1）The disciples were helpless because of the storm
The sea of Galilee was a very special sea (because its surface area was not huge, sometimes people called it a lake). Its height was very low, about 200m below sea level, but there were small mountains surrounding it, some which were 600m tall. When the warm sea surface, humid wind, coldness from high mountains and dry wind met, it would suddenly produce a great change in temperature and air pressure, such that strong wind will blow toward the sea surface. At this moment, very strong wind and waves will hit the sea of Galilee. Although such wind and waves will only rise up for a short while, it is hard to guard against it, and its intensity can even damage very big fishing boats. Even fishermen at Galilee today cannot grasp when such wind and waves will come. It so happened that just when the Lord and the disciples were crossing over to the other side, this squall and waves struck, even the few seasoned fishermen among the Lord’s disciples were unable to cope with such wind and waves. In fact, the most terrifying problems in this world have two characteristics: (1) Problems which humans cannot predict. Earthquakes, tsunamis, storms, etc., are scary, not just because of their lethality, but because they cannot be predicted. (2) Problems which cannot be resolved by current human knowledge (or experiences). Example: If our medical knowledge can know and treat this coronavirus, then that is not a scary virus. Thus, the problem which the disciples were encountering now was precisely a problem which humans could not predict and which human knowledge (or experiences) could not resolve. They were so afraid, but at this moment also, Lord Jesus was soundly asleep on the boat.
2）The disciples all cried out to the Lord to get up to save and help them
Many atheists do not believe in the existence of God, but they are always perplexed about why among all creatures, humans are the only ones who keep seeking religions. Some races worship one God (monotheistic), some worship many gods (polytheistic), worshipping whatever they see. Examples: See the mountain then worship the mountain god, see the wind then worship the wind god, see the sea then worship the sea god, see animals then worship some animals like gods. Thus, modern atheists deduce that humans have relatively weaker psychological makeup, just like vulnerable and helpless animals. Therefore, in order to survive, they imagine a god with personality and attributes and cry out to him, hoping that they can be saved. This is like if a person wants to kill us, we can plead with him or use material possessions to bribe him, but if it is earthquakes, storms, or viruses, or cancerous cells, all these are without personality. If they have no personality and temperament, how can we humans plead or bargain with them? Thus, humans impose the concept of “god” on these objects, or at least they believe in one god and plead with him, hoping that through him, they can find relief from some predicaments or dangers. Is there any realness in such concepts? It seems so. When the disciples faced the great storm, they also called out in panic for Jesus to help them. However, when the disciples saw Jesus calm the storm, we see that they had very different reaction, and that was sinners’ fear toward the Holy One.
3）The Lord got up, rebuked the wind, then the wind died down and it was completely calm, but after that, the disciples were terrified
When the Lord got up and rebuked the wind, the howling wind immediately quieted, and the sea surface was suddenly calm, just like a sea of glass. We must notice the disciples’ reaction at that time. Did they congratulate one another and celebrate? Or did they give Lord Jesus a hug? No. Instead, the Bible says, “they were terrified”. Even if they had already followed the Lord for a period of time, they were still filled with fear and trembling before this Lord who calmed the wind and waves. Think about it, when Peter first encountered the Lord at the seaside, they had two boats full of fish, what did Peter say? He said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” That time, those who were with him were astonished. If it were an ordinary person, what would be his reaction? Perhaps he will be full of thanksgiving for Jesus, or ask Him to come back again to perform miracles for him. However, to the disciples who saw Jesus’ holiness, their sinful temperament made them unable to face this Son of God. Indeed, the Lord’s holiness produced in their inner hearts an amazing fear, such that they cannot come near this Lord. The disciples were instantly illuminated by the holy radiance of Lord Jesus. Indeed, our Lord is too holy, too consecrated, too different, and all these provoked the souls of the disciples. What He did was unlike the gods worshipped by common people. Perhaps what He did seem like outward miracles, but to the souls of those who belong to Him, it is a huge shock.
2. But the key is how does Man face the holiness of Christ?
1) Israel’s religious leaders and the Jews looked down upon the holiness of Christ
In the Lord Jesus’ life on earth, the scribes and Pharisees were the most hostile to Him. They were the people who felt the most uncomfortable because Christ and the holiness of His word revealed all their hypocrisy. Not only did they feel uncomfortable because of Christ’s holiness, they even hated him and wanted to kill him. Think about it, why does the world hate us, saints? The Lord said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” <Jn 15:18>. We must know that if the world hates us, it is not because we promote some social issues every day, but because the Lord we serve is holy. Our purpose and philosophy reveal the uncleanness of the world and expose its carnality. In addition, those who looked down upon the holiness of Christ are the large crowds who followed Christ. They followed Him for their personal benefits. The most typical example was those who went to find Jesus after benefiting from the five loaves and two fish. The Lord told these people, “You are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.” <Jn 6:26>. Therefore, when the Lord wanted to give them His holy body and blood (the Lord said, “You will eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood”), they all left, one after another. Think about it, how many of such people are there in the church today? When they come before the Lord, they just cannot understand His holy word. Neither are they influenced by His holiness, but they only want know if they have received God's blessings in the things they want to do. Actually, such people have one thing in common, that is, they are all frightened by the world. What they are afraid of is Man, not God. They obey the laws of Man, not the laws of God. What they seek is human approval, not God’s praise. <Pro 28: 1-2>: “The wicked flee though no one pursues... When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers.” This is what continues to happen to people of this world who reject God's holiness.
2) Yet the holiness of Christ attracts sinners
It is strange that most of the tax collectors, prostitutes, or those who were unclean in the eyes of people were attracted to Christ because of His holiness. Why was it so? This was because this group of people did not have any misconceptions of their goodness. They knew that they had no holiness and righteousness within them. There was fear and trembling in them due to Christ’s holiness, but they were accepted by Christ because of His mercy. This is like the woman who was subject to bleeding for twelve years. When she knew that the Lord’s healing power was upon her, she came and fell at Jesus’ feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth <Mk 5:33>. When Peter said to the Lord, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” What he received after that was the forgiveness of Christ. Hence, we know that the holiness manifested by the incarnate Lord brings about two types of experiences in our lives. One is to make us fear and tremble so that we cannot treat the Lord’s grace with contempt; the other is to make us feel that we have been shown mercy and so get close to the Lord. Such a person has peace with God, and the joy of God’s grace is in his heart <Ro 5:1-2>. Even if such a person still has weakness in his life, he will not hide from the Lord. On the contrary, he will pray like David, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” <Ps 139:23-24>. These people do not keep a distance from Christ because of His holiness, but they long for His holiness and yearn to live out His holiness.
3. How to follow Christ the Holy Lord?
1）Must not trample on the Lord’s grace
The peak of God’s glory is His grace, because by His grace, we sinners can draw close to God. But think about it, if today, God’s glorious grace is viewed as one which only gives us earthly blessings and satisfies our selfish desires, is that trampling on God’s grace? By right, this grace enables us to be born again and saved, to be on the path of sanctification, to take up our own cross every day to follow the Lord, such that even as we suffer for the gospel, we can also have a heart of joy and thanksgiving. But if such grace is used to satisfy our earthly and physical longings, then that is trampling on God’s grace. Woe to teachers who teach grace like this, or to those who rely on such grace to satisfy their own desires. For their lifetime, they will be miserable because of the gains and losses on earth. The conflict of one hand holding onto God while another hand holding onto the world will not leave them or their descendants. If a person truly does not trample on the Lord’s grace, his first move would be to remove the first motive he had when he came before God, just as Peter worked hard all night but did not catch one fish, so he was only troubled because of his livelihood. Today, all kinds of people flood into the church to find God for earthly material possessions, wellbeing, prosperity, etc. But once that holy grace comes upon them, they will discover that their more serious problem is their sins. Thus, they will be convicted of their sins and repent, henceforth forsaking their first motive, and follow the Lord wholeheartedly. What they ask of the Lord are human souls and heavenly blessings, instead of earthly blessings which can be destroyed.
2) Since you are walking with the Lord, work out your salvation with fear and trembling
Indeed, the essence of the Christian faith is not complacency, but thanksgiving. The driving force in Christian living is not self-confidence, but fear and trembling. <Php 2:21> says, “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. <Heb 12:28-29>: Since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken (unlike the kingdom of the world which is shaken every day), let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. Ask ourselves why we drag our feet when we serve God. Some people lead cell groups each month, and sharing the word of God sounds like a chore. That is because they did not have fear and trembling from serving God. Their serving has become a routine, not a rare opportunity. If we preachers do not set apart our whole week, seize the time every day and live each moment in godliness, how do we preach the holy word of God? We may unknowingly be preaching the principles of man. As we stand at the pulpit, we will seek man’s approval and be distracted by the problems of many people. (Testimony, once my wife asked me how should one prepare to preach the word of God? Is it to spend a lot of time? I said, “Of course! But that is not the main point, but it is to hear the voice of God. So who can hear from God? The prerequisite is to be holy). Imagine if a day in our life is a huge mess. The moment we wake up, we are bombarded by all kinds of information and news on the mobile phone. After that, for the rest of the day, we lose the focus and concentration from the Holy Spirit. Our heart which is being rebuked will not be able to hear God’s voice. However, if we wake up in the morning and look to the Lord with fear and trembling, wanting the receive the grace of the Holy Spirit to get through the day. And when that consecrated day becomes 2, 7, 30 and 365 days, a holy living pattern will be built up and the voice of God will become clearer and clearer. Some people may think that those who preach will have the fear and trembling more easily, because from the first waking moment, they are “forced” to pray and meditate on God’s word. But the working class have to rush out after waking up, and then work in the world, and be swept by a secular rhythm. Indeed, unless we love money very much and are always trying to make more money, we usually go to work just to make a living. How then can we have a heart of fear and trembling? That is unless we go to the workplace with a different mission, and a critical mission – to live out holiness, to witness for the Lord. If not, we will find it difficult to enter into a faith living of relying and following the Lord. Therefore, first of all, our Christian living must not be too easy. If our lives do not have challenges, and we have so much time that we can get through each day leisurely, that may not be a healthy life, as we will slowly develop some unhealthy hobbies; if not, we may enter into a form of spiritual laziness. Furthermore, a believer’s church living should not be just centered on Sunday service. There should be cell group or serving in the week days, so that we can edify one another. If not, it is hard to remain in a state of fear and trembling, and a living rhythm of relying on the Lord in all things.
3）We cannot stop seeing the Lord’s holiness
When our holy Lord Jesus lived on earth, He was like us, with practical living, time, relationships, etc. The disciples not only occasionally came into contact with Him, but they lived together with Him every day, every moment. However, the disciples never detested the Lord’s holiness, or viewed Him as more and more ordinary and typical. On the contrary, the disciples continued to praise the Holy Lord’s teachings and guidance. Then think about it, why are we being viewed as more and more typical in the eyes of people around us (even our loved ones)? Sometimes, they see us and feel sick, bored, and even dislike us. Sometimes their words and actions do not respect us. Of course, that is because we are mere mortals, no matter how holy we are, it also cannot be compared to Lord Jesus’ holiness. Perhaps we are filled with the Holy Spirit today, but a few days later we may be filled with the flesh. But it is also possible that we do not see the Lord’s holiness clearer and clearer, and so we cannot continue to live out His holiness. Thus, there is no progress in our love and good deeds. Perhaps like 4-5 years ago, when we encounter certain predicaments, our reactions are still the same. From here we can see, to those who truly follow the Holy Lord, their understanding of the Lord and His works cannot remain the same, otherwise the entire faith will become lifeless. Our Lord is living, His holiness is boundless, what He prepared for us is daily new grace. When we continue to see Him, we will surely be able to live out the new way of the Spirit every day. Compared to yesterday, our today will be even more consecrated and holy.