24/1/2021 [Year of Knowing God’s Holiness 4]                                                                                                                                                                        www.lifechurchmissions.com  

Do Not Take Lightly the Holiness of the Lord <Lev 10:1-3, 9-11; 2 Sam 6:6-8; Ac 2:38-40; Gal 6:7-10>

Prelude: The Bible says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” <Gal 6:7>. God also said, “you will be sinning against the Lord; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out” <Num 32:23>. Think about it, if God is holy and the commands He has given us are consecrated truths, then He will surely do as He had said. Hence, which of us, if we continue to sin, can escape the punishment of sin? When the Bible very clearly gives us the commandments, laws, decrees and instructions, and even the New Testament has given us many moral teachings, why is it that many people take these teachings lightly? Why believers today, though knowing God’s grace, do not fear and tremble because of His holiness? The answer is simple. This is because we cannot seem to see the punishment, which the Lord had mentioned, coming upon us or others who have sinned. When we saw our first ancestors eat the forbidden fruit, they seemingly did not die immediately. How many times did we take the things of others or do things that are dishonest without being detected? Some people even commit crimes (e.g. evade taxes, cook the books, or use underhanded ways to earn money) but are not caught. Hence, our hearts will think, “That is not so serious. Moreover, many people are doing so and there are also no consequences.” When we think like that, we are first setting our moral standards based on others’ standards. Second, we did not ask a very important question, why is it that these people did not get the punishment they deserved? Did God make a mistake? Or is He sleeping? Actually, regardless of whether it is us or the people around us, when we did not suffer the consequences of our sins, it is because of God’s mercy not because He made a mistake. But if we think that there is no consequence and hence continue to do wrong, we are trampling on God’s grace and also taking His holiness lightly. Some people think that if it is not discovered, then there is no loss of face and hence the result does not seem too serious. Or some may think that if many people are also doing a certain thing then there is no need to worry about it becoming a problem. Actually, when a Christian has such thoughts, he is one who looks down upon the holiness of God because he does not ask God if He allows him to do as such. He rationalises his actions based on what “all others are doing”. Actually, this is the reason why a generation becomes more and more fallen. When a person’s heart does not have the holy word of God, and the church also preaches less of God’s holiness, humans will set their own moral standards according to the current cultural ideals and trends. Lastly, they will also use God’s words and explain them as they please. American theologian R. C. Sproul spoke of some interesting trends in church history. It was said that in the 18th century, the message from the church pulpit was: “Man is very, very, very bad and that God is very, very, very mad.” A typical example is what Jonathan Edwards, the most famous American theologian had preached, “Sinners in the hands of an angry God”. It was said that when he was preaching that sermon, some people in the church trembled so much that they passed out on the spot while listening. Later in the 19th century, the message from the church pulpit (including the speaker’s style and tone) to the believers was, “Man isn’t quite so bad, and God’s not really quite so mad.” Later in the 20th century, the church pulpit went through a transformation, as though indirectly dividing God into two different attributes, one being the attributes of God in the Old Testament and the other being the attributes of God in the New Testament. God in the Old Testament is harsh and causes people to fear. God in the New Testament is very loving, such that people can draw close to Him. The 21st century is only beginning, but we will see that the mega churches that bring in large crowds almost never talk about human sins or God’s holiness, but only talk more about grace, power, gifts, miracles and healing power. Why is this so? Their argument is, “We are no longer under the law, but under grace.” In fact, as early as the second century, a very intelligent figure called Marcion emerged in the church history. He advocated a dual Christian belief system. This dual belief system talks about how God in the Old Testament was different from God in the New Testament. He believed that Jesus was the Savior sent by God, and Paul was greatly used as God’s chief apostle. But he rejected the God worshipped by the Hebrews in the Old Testament. He believed that this God was not in line with the teaching of grace and love brought by Christ. He believed that the God in the Old Testament was a God filled with jealousy, wrath, and was unpredictable, killing people one moment, burning people to death another moment, and asking the Israelites to completely destroy the Canaanites. He felt that it was a mismatch with Christ in the New Testament. Of course, such a person was proven to be a heretic eventually. But we ask, why people have such an opinion of God? The reason is that when they read the Bible, they do not know that God is holy. They only want to know God from their mortal disposition, so they are inclined towards knowing a God with love and mercy but without holiness. Nonetheless, we have to ask whether there are many believers today who have inclinations similar to Marcion. Do we often hear people say that God in the Old Testament is harsh and God in the New Testament is very loving? In fact, the God in the Old Testament is also the God in the New Testament. The New Testament is a fulfilment of the Old Testament, and the Old Testament is the foundation of the New Testament. We easily separate the two because we do not know the holiness of God. There is the holiness of God in the wrath of God, and there is also the holiness of God in His grace. We tremble in the wrath of God, and we must all the more tremble in the grace of God. In this way, the grace of God can transform us to live holy lives.


1.  God’s sternness is not devious, but holy

1Aaron’s sons offered unauthorized fire and was consumed by fire

We know that Aaron and his descendants for generations were the tribe of Levi set apart by the Lord Himself, to serve before God. Now Aaron’s sons were merely playing a harmless game, yet God consumed them alive by fire. We cannot imagine Aaron’s resentment and fear. We must first understand that not one sinful and defiled mortal can withstand serving the Holy God. Only Aaron and his descendants were chosen by God to be involved in this. However, there is a prerequisite, which is also a non-negotiable condition, that is God’s holiness. Aaron and his descendants absolutely could not treat God’s holiness with contempt. All the vessels and rituals in God’s temple are holy, and are meant to manifest God’s glory. Although Aaron and his descendants were mere mortals, God consecrated them in His grace, but God commanded that when they drew near to God, they must fully obey God’s instructions to cleanse themselves, then they could serve. God commanded Aaron, You and your sons are not to drink wine or other fermented drink whenever you go into the tent of meeting, or you will die. This is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, so that you can distinguish between the holy and the common, between the unclean and the clean, and so you can teach the Israelites all the decrees the Lord has given them through Moses.” <Lev 10:9-11>. The holy God absolutely cannot accept unholy serving. God certainly cannot accept unauthorized fire, and unauthorized fire will even provoke God to anger. Why does God so demand His people to hold His holiness in high regard? Because without holiness no one will see the Lord <Heb 12:14>. Think about it, the tribe of Levi was like the “mediator” between God and the people in the Old Testament. They offered sacrifices on behalf of the people, and they represented God to teach the people all the decrees of God. If they took the Lord’s holiness lightly, not only they themselves could not see the Lord, but all the people would also not see the Lord and would collectively walk in the path of sin. Today, we have to ask, what is unholy serving? What is unauthorized fire? “Unauthorized fire” is one which is offered with a typical heart. That does not require “dying”. If the person making the offering does not die to his own typical mind, motives and ways, then what he offers is unauthorized fire. Today, how many preachers are offering unauthorized fire? They may be wearing the pastor’s robe and opening the Bible, but the word they preach are all to seek human approval. The word they preach are not leading people to die together with Christ, thus the hearers are not cut to their hearts. Although they talk about God’s grace, it is not holy grace. They talk about God’s love, but it is not holy love. They talk about God’s wisdom, but that wisdom is not abandoning worldly wisdom and turning to seek heavenly wisdom, but it is a typical wisdom. Furthermore, today there are also many praise and worship leaders in the church who sing well to beautiful melodies, but what they sing are not holy songs. They are not bringing people to the glorious God, but into human emotions. These are all the unauthorized fire detested by God. We ask why are all these people not consumed by fire? That is because of God’s mercy. However, God having mercy does not mean that He supports His people to continue being like this.


2Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, and was struck down by God

We know that the ark is the most sacred holy thing in the Most Holy Place, no one can touch this holy thing without dying, thus the ark has to be carried by the priests using two poles going through the rings on the ark. Perhaps many people may think that Uzzah was acting out of goodwill, as he did not want the ark to fall to the soil when the cart was shaky, thus dirtying the holy ark. However, God saw this as not being reverent toward Him and thus He struck Uzzah down. Where did Uzzah’s fault lie? First, we know that the holy ark should not be placed on a cart pulled by oxen. This proved that they treated the holy ark like a very common instrument, or they were moving the ark in a very hasty and cavalier manner. Also, if we know the background of Uzzah, he was the descendant of the Kohathites, in charge of carrying the most holy things in the tent of meeting. From young, they had been taught not to touch the holy things, or they would die <Num 4:4, 15>. Why did God have such a strict command, such that those who violate it will be struck down by God? The main reason is because sinners cannot defile God’s holiness. Thus, when he used his hand to touch the ark, this showed that his heart already did not honour God’s holiness. Touching the cart was like touching the ark. He thought that it was better for his hand to support the ark rather than allowing it to touch the soil. This showed that he thought his hand was holier than the soil. Think about it, the soil which God created has never offended God, it exists by the purpose of God; when there is rain, the soil is soft; when there is no rain, it is hard. However, humans have offended God. In other words, Uzzah who touched the holy ark with his hand did not know his own sin. Therefore, he first took his serving lightly, then he also treated God’s holiness with contempt. Here, we must examine once again when we do holy work. In fact, many a times we did not view church’s holy work as holy. Either we do it with human-driven ways, or we do it with a distracted heart, or we do it by our convenience. Sometimes, when we do not feel like it, then we do not do. We are entangled by many worldly things, we do not manage our time, we do not guard our eyes and ears, we are always distracted by things of the world. Therefore, we cannot receive anointing. Sometimes when the church meets problems, if we test and approve, we will know it is because we who serve are not careful in our speech, actions, decisions. After these problems occur, we must examine, introspect and cleanse our hearts, instead of using human ways to resolve. In this way, we will not repeat the mistake. Although this is the age of grace, if we are not careful, we will realise our serving cannot progress. Beginning from the tribe of Levi (full-timers) to those who are serving part-time, we must bring out the spirit of holy work, and offer the best and holiest to the Lord.


2. God’s grace does not call us to be complacent, but to be vigilant

1) The law is not for us to be fearful, grace is not for us to let loose

In the Old Testament, the Bible recorded how God’s wrath led to him striking down people. That is not God being devious and strict. On the contrary, God is full of compassion. Think about it, the Lord told Adam “when you eat from the tree, you will surely die” but they lived on after eating. That was not because God did not take his word seriously earlier and only wanted to scare them. When Adam and Eve lived on, God had paid a price by slaying a lamb to make garments of skin for them to cover themselves, foreshadowing how His Son would come as a substitute for their sins. Therefore, the human race lived on under the mercy of God, in hope that they will learn to revere God. However, man continued to live in sin. In the midst of these, God, in His sovereignty, executed justice on some people, through certain incidents, revealing His wrath. That is what God decided to do in His authority, and He is not being excessively strict or unfair. Similarly, in His grace, God sent His son to fulfill His salvation plan for the world, and that is not for people to belittle His holiness. Instead, we will know that the Holy Spirit, who is holier than holy things or holy temples, is living in our heart. Many people just think that Holy Spirit grants freedom, liberation, power, etc, and eventually take His holiness lightly. Therefore, in the beginning of the New Testament, Ananias and Sapphira fell down and died because they deceive the Holy Spirit <Ac 5:3-5>. They took lightly the fact that the Lord in their heart is perfectly holy.


2) Being justified by faith is not a faith that is “spiritualized”, but it is to practically live out God’s commandments by relying on the Lord we believe in our heart.

New Testament believers have an underlying problem, and that is they will easily “spiritualized” their faith. Indeed, at the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord Jesus Christ had abolished the self-righteous thinking of “justification by works” held by Pharisees. Especially, when our Lord Jesus used the example of murder and adultery to illustrate that no one is without sin <Mt 5:21-30>, we know in our heart we have offended the holy God and the ones He had created in His image. Therefore, Christ used His life and sacrifice to satisfy the requirements of the law, and thus fulfilled the law, so that those who believe in Him will be transformed in their heart and mind. Many believers’ idea of faith remains there and they do not examine the relationship between their works and spirit. Therefore, their faith remains in believing God in their hearts, keeping Him in the heart, and knowing His word, and to them it is enough. Some believers think that because they have the Holy Spirit, so they will only act when they are prompted by the Holy Spirit. Actually, the faith of the New Testament calls us to manifest a faith that begins in the inner life and extends outward. That is to move from the renewing of the mind to having practical actions. Because Jesus’ conclusion at the Sermon on the Mount was: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock <Mt 7:24>.” If we do not become a person who keeps promises (let your yes be yes, no be no), if we do not give to the one who asks from us, do not love our enemy and pray for them, do not practically store treasures in heaven, do not bear good fruit, do not walk the narrow path and go through the narrow gate, then how do we know if our faith is real? Actually, the faith of the New Testament is not a faith of the spirit, but the faith of a whole person.


3) After New Testament believers have received the Holy Spirit, they must know what grieves the Holy Spirit

When Peter encouraged all to receive the gift of Holy Spirit, he said, “save yourselves from this corrupt generation” <Ac 2:40>. How do we save ourselves? That is through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. If we truly have the Holy Spirit in us, and this Holy Spirit is the living Lord, not what we created, then if we live in this fallen and corrupt world, we will hear His groans and warnings. Some believers do not have any spiritual consciousness as they live in this world. They will feel happy and secure if they have a good job, the future looks bright and they live comfortably. Actually, we need the Holy Spirit to save us and our children from this corrupt generation every day. If we are influenced by sinful culture or live by our flesh, we must hear the voice of grief of the Holy Spirit, because we were sealed for the day of redemption <Ep 4:30>. Therefore, the holier we are, the more we can hear the noise from the conflict between the world and Holy Spirit, and between the flesh and Holy Spirit. It is easy to spot a blemish in an exquisite vessel. A person who has just showered will feel uncomfortable with a little dirt. Therefore, how can we live in a corrupt, defiled, and secular world and feel comfortable? If so, our sanctification is only an illusion. Actually, every generation will see a corrupt and anti-Christ culture rise up, and believers who can detect it will be stirred in their hearts to rise up to battle it, if not the church will be swept away by the tides.


3.  Key elements to believers’ holy living

1Do not be deceived

<Gal 6:7>: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Why does the Bible not say, “do not sin”, why say, “do not be deceived”? It is because you know very well in your heart the relationship between the consequences you face and what you have done. First, if God’s spirit lives in our hearts, we clearly know whether what we think, say and do is pleasing to God. Especially those of us who have read the Bible, and often hear sermons and receive the teachings of God’s word, whether our current lifestyle is pleasing to the Lord or not, you do not need Pastor Choo to tell you, but the Holy Spirit will tell you. Thus, the Bible says, “God cannot be mocked.” If you say, “I truly do not know and have not heard the Lord’s instructions”, then at least you surely can confirm the outcomes of your conduct. Because the Bible says, “You reap what you sow.” In fact, we who preach the word of God do not rebuke man’s sin one by one, but we want to awaken man’s conscience. During the age of the Holy Spirit (or age of grace), the Lord gives us grace, so that we do not deceive the Holy Spirit and face instant death, but what is the main work of the Holy Spirit? That is to awaken our conscience through the true word, so that we know what pleases the Lord and submit accordingly. If we did not learn when we were young, then we will learn when we age. If we did not learn when we encountered small setbacks, then in future we will learn with tears. Our regeneration sows for us the fruit of sanctification. None of those whom the Lord loves can escape the process of being sanctified by the Lord, unless he is being abandoned by God. Indeed, a life which is not deceived is a vessel which the Lord will use greatly. Such a person will not rationalise sin for the sake of convenience or because no one knows. He sets the Lord always before him, and asks the Lord to guide him along the right paths for His name’s sake.


2If do not become weary in doing good, at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up

Why do we get weary in doing good and want to give up? The main reason is, the motive behind doing good is not to imitate the Lord, but to gain some personal interests. However, over here, the Bible also promises a harvest. The serving of all the apostles were very difficult, but they all had harvest. The gospel they preached was not obliterated, but the Lord’s gospel was passed on. If we parents raise our children wanting them to be successful to satisfy our own vanity, our disappointments and sorrows will multiply. But if we raise them up wanting them to love the Lord piously and eventually be used by the Lord, then we should not be weary nor give up, for we will surely reap the harvest. In fact, our weariness and discouragement often make us cease the good work the Lord has entrusted us, such that we cannot see the beautiful fruits in the end. Thus, those of us who often do good and serve the Lord, must most importantly first: (1) guard our heart, so that it will not waver because of circumstances or environment; (2) next, do good whenever there are opportunities. Opportunities will not come back once they slip away. Time and space keep changing, so are the people we meet and their circumstances. Those who do good cheerfully will surely seize the opportunities to bless others or evangelise to them. Sometimes, we need to learn to spot opportunities in adversities, instead of being beaten down by negative situations; (3) in particular, we must know how to do good to those who belong to the family of believers. If we do not use our gifts, talents and time well to bless the group of people whom the Lord cares most about, then what we do is not too valuable. Particularly, those who can come to church during this pandemic must have loved and hungered a lot for the Lord, otherwise they are harassed and helpless. If we do not seek their good, then whose good should we seek? May the Lord’s holiness spur us to do good cheerfully.