Posts Tagged ‘holiness’

[This is the text of the sermon I preached at the wedding of some dear friends. I trust they will not be angry that I have published the sermon here for others to benefit from. I admit that I took some liberties with my application of Isaiah 6, but not too many. I also confess to sneaking in a reference to David Crowder*Band song lyrics. I hope Crowder doesn’t mind. Be blessed. jerry]

Marriage, Holiness and Grace

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
4 At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
6 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

As far as I can tell, the Bible doesn’t have much to say, relatively speaking, about weddings or marriage specifically. I suppose our concept of marriage and weddings is somewhat foreign to Scripture. To be sure, God did say that for this reason a man would leave his father and mother and cleave unto his wife. And, furthermore, Jesus did perform his first miracle, changing water into wine, at a wedding banquet. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that in the book of Revelation the consummation of the church’s life and history is described in terms of a wedding between a man and a woman.

As images for the relationship between God and His people, Christ and the Church, marriage is an appropriate metaphor. It describes at once the beauty of intimacy, the glory of fidelity, the joy of friendship, and the grandeur of love. It at once shows us a picture of protection and comfort. We can speak on these things all day long if we like, but I’d like to talk about two other ideas that are married to the marriage and I think demonstrated for us here in Isaiah 6—a text that you may not normally associate with marriage and weddings.

These things might not normally be thought of in marriage. They might seem givens. They might seem irrelevant. They might seem out of date, but I believe that in a marriage that is blessed by Christ they will be evident and courageously practiced.

The first is holiness. I firmly believe that at the heart of marriage—given to us at the beginning by God—is about holiness. Most people get married in today’s world because they fully hope and expect to be happy forever. I’m not suggesting we should get married with the expectation of being unhappy as if unhappiness will make us holier. That’s not what I’m suggesting at all. But I am suggesting that in the divine economy, marriage is far more about your holiness in the Lord than it is about your happiness in each other.

This is why so many marriages fail, Christian and not-Christian alike.

It seems to me that after 17 ½ years of marriage I have had to learn that someone else matters in this world far more than I do and that as such there were aspects of me that were ugly, terribly ugly. We see that in the presence of God—our true selves, our true ambition. Marriage has a unique way of teaching us that we are not quite as important as we, in our own eyes, presumed. Marriage has a way of opening our eyes to the truth about ourselves.

To love someone else more than the self is, I believe, part of the essence of holiness. That doesn’t fully capture it, but it approaches it. Holiness means that we begin to shake off those parts of us that are imperfect, unrefined, and completely self-absorbed that we may give our whole self to another. Holiness means that we begin, actually, to be made complete. To be made holy means that we are at some level incomplete.

Marriage begins to make us whole—which is not to suggest that marriage is the only way to be made whole—but only to suggest that in marriage we are made whole.

Isaiah came into the presence of a holy God and was undone. I think as you wed today in the presence of God you are taking your first steps to being undone. Holiness is about God remaking what is broken and making you wholly alive, wholly other (as you two become one flesh), and whole.

This is what Paul wrote to the church in Ephesus: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing of the water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” Not to make her happy; but to make her holy.

The second is grace. Isaiah came into the presence of a Holy God and instead of that Holy God striking him dead, that Holy God cleansed him and made him pure.

If misconceptions about holiness and happiness cause the downfall of many marriages, lack of grace causes the downfall of most and the rest. We have created a culture where the sin of Genesis 3 and the blame of Genesis 3 have triumphed over the grace of Genesis 3. In other words: we find it much easier to sin and to blame than we do to assume responsibility and to forgive. Much of this has to do with pride. Marriage has a way of breaking down pride. Grace and forgiveness go a long way to humbling the arrogant and deepening the well of grace we can dispense to others. Marriage is a lifetime of grace and forgiveness.

You know, one of the things that bugs me about my own marriage is that it seems I am the one who always has to say I’m sorry. It seems that when there is an argument or a fight or a disagreement I am always the one who has to go to Renee and say, “I am sorry; will you forgive me?” I don’t know why that is. Oh, wait, yes I do. I am nearly always wrong. Seriously. A temper tantrum here, a harsh word there, a snide remark instead of a loving brush, and inconsiderate avoidance instead of a compassionate caress, or a selfish consumption of time instead of a generous display of affection.

But this has taught me about Christ, because I can honestly say that there is nothing that Renee hasn’t forgiven me. She has spared no amount of grace. She has reserved no amount of mercy. She has retained no right to double-jeopardy. She has always received my apologies with grace and kisses, with affection and quiet rebuke. Marriage is humbling. She has, time and time again, shown me the necessary grace to allow our marriage to grow in holiness. Time and time again, because of her grace, I have been undone.

If I put the burden of holiness in the marriage on the man, then I put the burden of grace upon the woman. I think this is why Paul told wives to ‘submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which is the Savior.” It is no secret, and I have bared my heart, that men are often in far more need of grace than women when it comes to marriage. Paul’s words here do not mean ‘be a doormat.’ They mean, be a savior; demonstrate grace; come under his care and protection; be an instrument of grace. If the husband protects the wife through holiness, the wife protects the husband through grace.

The man confronted with his burden, ‘woe is me,’ he cries. And there, in the marriage, he finds grace and salvation even as Isaiah found grace and salvation even as the church finds grace and salvation, even as you will find grace and salvation.

So I charge you today not with wishy-washy sentiments about the bliss and joys of marriage. Marriage is hard work. Holiness does not come in a day; it is a lifetime project. Grace is not a one time coupon; it is an every day project. I charge you today in the presence of God and these witnesses: [Man], protect and perfect holiness in your marriage. [Woman], proffer and practice grace in your marriage.

If you keep holiness and grace before you, you will constantly be undone. But if you keep them before you, what will happen to your love? Even though you are undone, your love with prosper, Christ will truly be honored, and you will become the One. When holiness and grace collide, it is a beautiful collision.

May all your collisions be for the glory of God.



Here are my sermons and Powerpoints on the Crucifixion Driven Life. The sermons are based Matthew’s Gospel, and, as I said elsewhere, I have drawn illustrative material from a variety of sources. I have also included two study guides that I wrote for my Bible school class. The study guides contain short bibliographies on the back pages. Sadly, I have lost the print version of the first sermon in this series (“The Crucifixion Driven Life Begins with Birth“), but I have posted the audio version in a skycast (podcast)  elsewhere here. As I did with my sermons on Daniel, I have provided links to where the work can be downloaded. You can also use the widget on the right side of the blog.) If there happens to be any incorrect links, please let me know.

The Crucifixion Driven Life, 2006

Sermon 1 Powerpoint (The sermon itself, now lost, was from Matthew 1:18-25; Audio here.)

Sermon 2 The Crucifixion Driven Life is Victorious in Defeat, Matthew 16:21-28, PPT

Sermon 3 The Crucified Life Hates Sin: The Cross and Holiness, Matthew 17:22-23, PPT

Sermon 4 The Crucifixion Driven Life Does Not Avoid the Cross, Matthew 20:17-28, PPT

Sermon 5 The Crucifixion Driven Life Is an Owned Life, Matthew 21:33-46, PPT

Sermon 6 The Crucifixion Driven Life Is Concerned About Jesus, Matthew 26:1-13, PPT

Sermon 7 The Crucifixion Driven Life Partakes of Jesus’ Death, Matthew 26:20-30, PPT

Sermon 8 The Crucifixion Driven Life is Silent, Matthew, 27:11-31, PPT

Sermon 9 The Crucifixion Driven Life Dies With Jesus, Matthew 27:32-54, PPT

Sermon 10 The Crucifixion Driven Life: Carried to the Next Level, Genesis 22; Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Matthew’s Gospel; Various Letters, PPT
Study Guide 1: January 2006 (Opens in MS Publisher)

Study Guide 2: February 2006 (Opens in MS Publisher)

That’s all. I hope that you find these sermons helpful to you in your own studies of the Word of God. I know that the study and preparation that went into these sermons radically altered the course of my own discipleship in Jesus. May you be blessed in your efforts to serve our Lord.

Soli Deo Gloria!

John 14:15-21 (90 Days With Jesus, Day 67)

15″If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. 18I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.”

I have done a lot of talking on this blog, and in this series of meditations on John’s Gospel, about the nature of discipleship, what it costs, what its demands are. Being a disciple of Jesus is not cheap, nor is the grace that creates disciples in the first place. Cheap grace, according to Bonhoeffer, is the downfall of the Christian Church. And David Wells has written powerfully about how the church has become less powerful because we have adopted the methodologies of the prevailing culture rather than teaching the hard truth about God, the Cross, and the cost of discipleship. In a sense, we have lessened the demands of a Holy God by forcing God into our shapes and sizes and ideas instead of allowing His thoughts to shape us. So Wells,

“Holiness is what defines God’s character most fundamentally, and a vision of this holiness should inspire his people and evoke their worship, sustain their character, fuel their passion for truth, and encourage persistence in efforts to do his will and call on his name in petitionary prayer” (God in the Wasteland, 136)

Wells wrote many such things and we ignore his prophetic voice to our own peril. The author of Hebrews wrote it this way, “It is a dangerous thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Wells wrote, “In His holiness God is not to be trifled with; familiarity with God inherently borders on contempt and is subject to judgment” (Wasteland, 141). But the sad truth is that the American Church, in its ongoing charge to be taken seriously and be considered relevant and to have a voice that is heard, has trivialized God’s holiness and the demands of discipleship, the wonders of loving obedience, and blessings of Trinitarian fellowship. What is the solution?

Elton Trueblood wrote in his little book A Place to Stand that what is needed, desperately, ‘is the emergence of Christian intellectuals. If Basic Christianity is to survive, it must be served by a highly dedicated and highly trained group of persons who are unabashed and unapologetic in the face of opposition and ridicule’ (A Place to Stand, 20 1969). I wonder if this is true or not. Don’t get me wrong: We need highly trained specialists whose focus is in areas of apologetics and logic and theology. My question is where do they come from? I think those people come not from the high towers of academia, but from the rank and file of the church. Their training, thus, begins from the pulpit.

Now this all serves as a brief introduction to my thoughts about what Jesus said here in John 14. Jesus said: If you love me, you will obey me. He did not equivocate. He did not mince words. He did not pull punches. While we are certainly not saved because we obey commands, there is no doubt whatsoever that Jesus fully expected we would obey his commands—not to be saved—but because we are saved. As we thus grow in our love of Christ our obedience demonstrates the character of Christ and the Spirit whom Jesus gives shapes, molds, perfects and sanctifies the Christian. Eventually, there will be no doubt in the minds of those who see us that God lives in us by His Spirit.

The point, I think, is rather clear and far reaching. If we truly love Jesus then we are not merely going to be hear his word. Nor are we merely going to mouth words like ‘I love Jesus.’ If we truly love Jesus then we are committed to obey Jesus. He is the authority to whom we answer. He is the one to whose Lordship we submit. “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do these things.” Now what he says is this, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” There is virtually no difference between these two statements. It is impossible to say that you love Jesus and not submit to his authority to dictate commands and his authority to demand of us holiness and perfection.

Am I advocating perfectionism? No. Am I saying we will never falter, fall, sin, do the wrong thing? No. Am I saying we should just be happy to rest in his grace and that we don’t really have to make any effort? No. What I am saying is that true love is true delight. In other words, if we really love Jesus it is a delight and an honor and pure joy to serve him by obeying him. We don’t think of this as an unreachable or unrealistic goal to achieve. We think of this as an everyday adventure to say, “Lord, how may I obey and serve you today?” It is, in the words of AW Tozer, the ‘Pursuit of God.’ It is the ongoing hunger and thirst for righteousness. It is the ongoing first seeking of His Kingdom and His righteousness. It is pure delight! Pure joy! It is pure blessedness! It is what we were created for and what we were not created for. That is, we were not created for slavish disobedience and slavery to the flesh. We were created for fellowship in Christ through obedience to His perfect will.

Is this not what he says? “If you obey…I will send the Counselor to be with you forever…he lives in you and will be in you…I will not leave you…I will come to you…Because I live you will live…I am in the Father…you are in me…I am in you…he who loves me will be loved by my Father…and I will love him too…and show myself to him…” Do you get it? We were created not to be pawns or playthings or disobedient devil worshipers. We were created to live in fellowship with God. Jesus is talking here about perfect fellowship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit! (See 1 John 1-2.) If there is anything that is a hindrance to fellowship it is most certainly disobedience because in disobedience we have ceased pursuing God and righteousness first.

I don’t know if I am adequately explaining this or not. I hope I am because what I see taking place in a lot of churches is exactly the opposite. I see striving and chasing and pursuit of many things that have nothing to do, necessarily, with the pursuit of holiness. There’s too much fluff; too much seeking of the ‘experience’ instead of the real Thing. Psalm 63:8 says, “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me” (KJV). What I wonder is if all the fluff that exists in churches is fluff because we love Jesus or because we want stuff? What is the pursuit really of?

Christianity is not merely a discipline to be mastered. Christianity is a joy. We don’t obey to get saved or to get happiness or to get necessarily anything. We obey because we love. We love because we are loved. There is fellowship and peace in loving obedience to Jesus Christ. We pursue, followeth hard after God, because we love Him. Is this not what God truly desires of his people most? Does God require anything of us be the impassioned pursuit of his holiness? Can we think about the fact that He gave us life and be full of love and joy and so seek the One who has shown us such favor? “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land, where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, NIV).

Just ask yourself what you are pursuing. Ask yourself why you are pursuing God. Why are you striving to be obedient? Is it because you truly love Jesus and desire perfect fellowship with Him? Or is it something else, something less, something here? “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they will be filled.”

Soli Deo Gloria!



I have been noting in some of these posts that there is an assault being mounted by the unrighteous of this world against Christ. But it’s more than a mere assault (which I’m certain Christ will withstand) and more like an evangelistic crusade. Atheists are doing it, consider this quote by Richard Dawkins which I nipped from another website:

“If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down… Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature. Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan.” (From The God Delusion at

Even atheists are recruiting.

Well, homosexuals are recruiting too. This is from a website called Out of Context ( The author, John Rumple, wrote this in a devotional he titled “God Made Me Gay.”

  • Right now, gay people know what it’s like to live as the “unclean” and unlovable outsiders, and can therefore reach out to others in society who are also in this position.
  • Two people of the same sex share a unique and special bond, often living as equals in Christ in a way that counters the patriarchal, domineering relationships still fostered by some versions of Christianity.
  • Gay people often have gifts and sensitivities that others do not (this may stereotype to some extent, but stereotypes usually contain some truth!).
  • Gay people appreciate the ironies of life, the irreconcilable complexities, and thus learn to appreciate God’s mysterious greatness and the constant need for a humble faith.
  • Gay people live as counters to the idolization of one type of person (has your church ever made you feel that you weren’t “acceptable” until you looked, talked, and acted like a straight person living in the 1950s?).
  • Gay people possess perspectives, insights, and wisdom that can only come from their unique experience of life in this world.

Is this last sentence for real? So, the gist of this is simple: If you want to have special insights, perspectives, live outside the 1950’s (I would counter that homsexuals are living in the pre-dawn days of Sodom and Gomorrah), and all this other stuff, then all one has to do is become gay. And, certainly, none of us non-gay people have any idea what it’s like to be ‘unclean’ because Christ came down and saved us while we were pristine and none of us have any idea what it means to struggle with sin in our lives because we have already been made perfect! The best way, he seems to be saying, to understand the things of this world and of God, is by living in a wholly sinful, physically relationship with another man. And those who do not, or object, are abusers, malcontents, and serious misusers of the Scripture! Really? Is this meant to be taken as credible scholarship and insight into the Holy Word of God??

I’ll take my risks that that perspective is one I don’t need or desire. 

So he’s recruting too. He wants, like so many other homosexuals, full inclusion in all aspects of life and, worse, the church and will be profoundly unhappy until all churches follow the likes of certain other denominations that have made homosexuality a part of their creed.

Is it really necessary to become a homsexual in order to be a sensitive man (or do we want that sort of sensitivity?)? But even so, it’s that last sentence that really got to me: Gay people possess perspectives, insights, and wisdom that can only come from their unique experience of life in this world. If that is not a recruiting phrase, nothing is, because who wants to be known as un-insightful, unwise (The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom), and un-perspectivized (I made that word up)?

But, so that no one thinks I invented this, let’s hear from the apostle:

9Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

The only way this verse does not mean what it says is if it is relativized to be applicable to only those Paul wrote to in Corinth.

I don’t personally know anyone who says that homsexuals should be beaten or abused or ridiculed or taunted or treated as second class citizens. And the States of this United States will, sadly, continue to take rights away from folks in order to make new rights for others. I can vote to change it but not much else.

But the Church? The Scripture? The Scripture is not ours to manipulate to our ends and the church, the Body of Christ, of which Christ Jesus Himself is the Head, is not ours to contaminate. And, worse, using Scripture to justify something God has explicitely decreed sinful, is, well, sinful. This is wrong, and this fella who is trying desparately to bring about, in his own words, ‘the full inclusion of gay people into the Body of Christ, is wrong for suggesting it. He wants to ‘. . . to end the abuse of gay people by conservative Christians though education, dialogue, and building community in Christ.’ But what he does not understand from the Scripture he claims to adore is that there is no fellowship between righteousness and unrighteousness, light and darkness, good and evil. He mistakes protecting and maintaining the purity of the church for ‘abuse’.

I’ll say it this way: There can be no community of Christ where Scripture is distorted and taken, by their own admission, ‘out of context’, where sin is tolerated, advocated, and practiced, and where such unrepentant folks seek to do away with Christ’s Cross by refusing to repent of sin and bring their lives into full submission to Christ Jesus.

Paul said it: There is no fellowship between Christ and Belial. Now, if the apostle would not allow Christians to marry pagans in a heterosexual context, what on earth would possess someone to think Paul would tolerate homsexual marriage or even relationships? (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) No. There can be no fellowship, no Christian community, where this sort of activity is tolerated and promoted as something from God. There will be no ‘community of Christ’ consisting of the righteous and the unrighteous. And if it does happen: It will not be of God’s ordaining, nor will it have his blessing. It’s Christ’s church. Dare we challenge Him?


This is a matter Scripture and it’s sufficiency and interpretation. My issue here is not with the author of ‘out of context’ as a person, but with his attempt to use Scripture to justify a wholly unjustifiable position. This is not bashing, or abuse. This is the maintaining and protecting of the Church, the Word of God, and the sanctity of Marriage.