Pastoral Perspectives

Pursuit of Holiness

We are midway in our pulpit series and today we will be wrapping up Kings with 2 Kings 17. This is not the last chapter of 2 Kings but there is an appropriate break in that the chapter tells us how Israel fell to the Assyrians and that happened in 722 B.C. Recall that Israel was the northern kingdom, the kingdom which made up of 10 tribes. Their first king, King Jeroboam had led them to idolatry right from the start when he built two golden calves, one he placed at Bethel and the other at Dan, and he encouraged his people to worship them. The northern kingdom had 19 kings coming from different dynasties but every one of them did evil in the eyes of the Lord. No wonder Yahweh, in the fullness of time, used the Assyrians to judge Israel.  How sad! Israel broke the covenant which God had made with her. They pursued un-holiness. As such, the curses of disobedience came upon them just as they had been warned before they entered the Promised Land.

Before we begin our preaching series on the Gospel of Matthew, the New Testament book for the second half of the year, for the next few Sundays, we will be covering some topical sermons that will help us build our biblical convictions concerning three aspects of our lives. My prayer is that when the Word of God is preached, it will begin to renew our minds and change the way we think about these matters and the Spirit of God will convict our hearts that this is the right way to live. The end goal is holiness because God who is holy has also called us to be holy. If we grow in holiness, we will grow to become more and more like him. Holiness also has a missional impact in that through our holy living, we can point people to God who himself is holy. To be holy means to be set apart. When we are set apart from the world in the way we live our lives, we serve as spotlights to direct people to Jesus. Notice that spotlights never draw attention to themselves. They draw attention to the spot where their light shines on! That spot is Jesus and in so doing we bring glory to him.

The motivation for us to live holy lives will have to be the Gospel. The key to holiness is to understand God’s grace as seen in Christ’s sacrifice. If we understand what Christ did for us on the cross, we will not take advantage of his sacrificial love by sinning more. Rather, as we think about God’s amazing grace extended to wretched people like us who rightfully deserved His wrath, it should make us hate sin and strive to live lives which are pleasing to our Saviour. In short, remembering what Christ did for us on the cross should motivate us to cut sin out of our lives and grow in holiness. We are not on our own in this whole transforming endeavour. The promise is this: ‘He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things [that are necessary for us to become more like his Son]?’ (Romans 8.32)

There are many aspects of our lives which we can grow in holiness. In this series of sermons, we want to focus on three aspects. The first aspect is holiness in speech – speak no evil. The tongue is a very powerful organ. It can be used to build someone up or it can be used to tear someone down. ‘There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.’ (Proverbs 12.18) You would have experienced what it feels like to be at the receiving end of someone’s thrusting swords or healing balm. As Christians who use our tongues to sing songs of praise whenever we gather for worship, how is it possible that we also use the same organ to curse the motorists who get into our way as we drive off after church? We who use our tongues to pray to God, how is it appropriate that we also use the same organ to tell dirty jokes to one another?

The second aspect is holiness in what our eyes feast on – see no evil. Pornography is easily accessible because of the Internet. It constitutes 25% of all search engine requests and it is the 4th most common reason people give for going to the Internet. However, it has destroyed many people and marriages. It victimises women, children, society, and those who use it. The rate of sex-related crime rises wherever porn is widespread. Christians are not immune to porn, young and old, single and married, men and women – we are all susceptible to the lust of the eye. Do you feel frustrated, guilty or even defeated because it is something which you know it’s wrong but you don’t seem to be able to fight it off?

The third aspect has to do with guarding our sexual purity – do no evil. The addiction to pornography can often lead to sexual immorality among both singles and marrieds. The world doesn’t think it is a big deal. The world will pressurise us to think that we are very conservative, like ‘dinosaurs’, if we still hold on to the conviction that sex is a gift to be enjoyed only within the boundary of marriage. Young people lose their virginity and they no longer bait an eyelid. They may even talk openly about it. Infidelity even on the part of married women is on the rise. As God’s children, how should we respond? Do we go with the flow or do we go against the grain?  

An extension of the third aspect is that of homosexuality. This is even more controversial. It doesn’t help when even within the Universal Church, we also cannot come to an agreement whether homosexuality is something that is permissible by God or not. It is confusing because we look at the same bible yet the interpretations differ. In some parts of the world, we can find ordained ministers who are in a same sex relationship and they are also empowered to solemnise gay marriages. Worse still, Christians in these parts of the world who maintain their conviction that a homosexual lifestyle is not permitted by God are being persecuted. It is interesting to note that while the gay activists demand that society respects their choices, they are very intolerant of other people’s choices. As God’s children what are our choices, our biblical convictions, concerning homosexuality?

So come and hear the preaching of God’s Word on these four topics. The DGs are also doing their bible studies on these same topics which will give them more opportunity to dialogue and share and to keep each other accountable. My prayer is that as we hear and study the Word of God, we will be transformed more and more into Christ-likeness even as we heed the call to pursue holiness just as our heavenly Father is holy!

Rev Lee Kien Seng

June 11, 2017