September 29, 2013
Pastor Joe Wittwer
#2—A Holy Person


What do you think of when you hear “a holy person?”  What image pops into your mind?  I googled “holy person” and clicked on images, and here’s what I got.  These were the first two images that came up: a really sad lady, and a guy with a very goofy beard.  Then there a Hindu swami and St. Terese of Avila.   You’ll all recognize the next two: Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul.  That’s what most of us think of when we hear “holy person.”  And what’s do all of them have in common? They’re different.  They’re different from us.  Those are the images; we don’t think of this—there’s some saints!

Today we are going to talk about being holy people and what that means.

Introduction and offering:

What difference does Jesus make in your life? And what difference do you make in your family, your neighborhood, your community and your world?

Those are the questions we are considering in this 5-week series, “Difference.”

Here is my premise: Jesus changes us.  As we learned last week, if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation.  You are a brand new person, and we talked about what is new about you.  Jesus changes us.  You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are.  That’s pretty obvious.  

ILL: If I said, “Quick, follow Bob,” you would have to get up out of your seat and get moving.  You can’t stay where you are and follow him.  And it doesn’t work to say, “I’m following Bob in my heart.”  

You can’t follow Jesus and stay where you are.  Change is inevitable.  If you are following Jesus, you will change.  You will be different.  And you will be better.

So last week, you are a new creation.  This week, you are a holy person.

Here’s our text.

1 Peter 1:14–16 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

The first question is: What does “holy” mean?  Holy is not a word we use much any more, and when we do, it’s often either negative or meaningless.  

Negative example: “He is so ‘holier than thou.’”  He is self-righteous and judgmental.  

Meaningless example: “Holy Smokes Batman!”  Or holy cow, holy shmoly.  

So what does it mean to be holy?  The word and its derivatives are used over 1000 times in the Bible; the root means “to cut, or to separate.”  The word “holy” has a few layers of meaning.

First, it means “different, unique, one of a kind.”  God is holy: God is unique, utterly different from His creation and us.  He is one of a kind.  He is separate from all else.  He stands alone—Different, with a capital D.

Second, it means, “set apart for a purpose.”  Some examples from the Bible:

  • People were set apart.  In the Old Testament, Aaron and his descendants were set apart to be priests.   They were holy.

  • Days were set apart.  The seventh day was the Sabbath, set apart for rest and worship.  It was holy.

  • Places were set apart.  The Temple was set apart for the worship of God.  It was holy.

  • Things were set apart.  The utensils used in the Temple were set apart for the worship of God.  They were holy.  

ILL: We just read Daniel in our Bible reading plan.  In Daniel 5, it tells the famous story of the handwriting on the wall.  

King Belshazzar of Babylon threw a party; everyone was getting sauced.  The king ordered that the holy dishes from the Temple in Jerusalem be brought out and everyone drank from them while they praised the gods of gold and silver.  

Suddenly a hand appeared and wrote on the wall.  Everyone freaked out.  Only Daniel could interpret the writing.  It said, “King, you have been weighed and found wanting, and your kingdom is about to end.”  And it did; that very night, Belshazzar was killed.  

The lesson: don’t mess with God’s dishes!

To be holy is to be set apart for God’s purposes.  It can be true of people, places, days and things.  

Third, it means “to be perfectly good.”  There is a moral and ethical dimension to being holy.  When used of God, it refers to His moral perfection.  When used of us, it implies conduct befitting someone who belongs to God.  If you are set apart for God, you live differently.  You are consecrated.

The Big Idea: You are holy—set apart for God’s purposes.  So be holy in all you do!

Our text has these three ideas in it:

God is holy.

You are holy.

Be holy in all you do.

Let’s break it down.

1. God is holy.

1 Peter 1:15–16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

God is holy.  In fact, God is the ultimate in holy.  He is the definition of holy.  He is pure holy.

God is different, unique, one of a kind.  There is no one like Him.  He is utterly different from His creation.  

Exodus 15:11 (NIV) Who is like you—majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

Who is like You?  The answer: no one.  

1 Samuel 2:2 (NIV) There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.

This is part of Hannah’s prayer when she dedicated her son Samuel to the Lord.  She had no children and prayed, and God gave her a son.  In her prayer, she rejoices and thanks God, and she says this: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God.”  

God is unique.  God is one of a kind.  God is holy!

Revelation 15:4 (NIV) Who will not fear you, Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy.”

You alone are holy.  God alone is truly holy; all others have a derivative holiness.  In other words, you are holy because God is holy and He makes you holy.  Your holiness derives from God’s.  He alone is truly holy, completely unique, Different—with a capital D.

There is a moral dimension to holiness, and when we say God is holy, it also refers to His moral perfection.  He is perfect goodness, perfect love, perfect justice.  Isaiah’s vision of God is a great example of this:

Isaiah 6:1–5 (NIV) In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him were seraphim, 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.”

Isaiah has a vision of the holy God “high and exalted.”  God is so great that just the train of His robe fills the temple—that would be like seeing someone sitting on our roof and his shirttail filled the building—Huge!  Angelic beings are flying around him crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty.”  Notice Isaiah’s response.  “Woe to me!  I am ruined!”  Or said another way, “I’m toast!  I’m a sinner in the presence of a holy God.”  

Next to God’s absolute holiness, moral perfection and purity, Isaiah saw how unclean he was.  We all tend to overestimate our goodness, and underestimate God’s holiness.  We think of God as a little better version of us.  But He is holy, He is different, He is perfect and pure.

ILL: I wear white t-shirts.  After lots of washings, they get a little discolored, but I don’t notice.  They still look white to me, until what…?  Until I buy a new pack of white t-shirts.  Then, next to the pure white ones, I see how dingy they’ve become.  

You might think you look pretty good…until you get a good look at the Holy God!  

Whatever you think of God, He is much more.  He is more powerful, more loving, more gracious, more wise, more good than you could ever imagine.  He is the creator of all things.  He sustains all things, and He will redeem all things.  He is right in all He does, perfectly just even in His anger, and loving towards all He has made.  He is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  

In the Bible, when people have a vision of God, the universal response is to fall down in humility and repentance.  Woe is me!  I realize how dingy I am next to Him, how different He is from me—indeed, how different he is from what I thought of Him.  Whatever you think of God, He is much more.  He is holy.

This holy God calls people to follow, and makes them holy.  He sets them apart for His purposes and makes them different.

2. You are holy.

1 Peter 1:15–16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

You are holy because God makes you holy.  He calls you His own—He says, “You belong to Me now.  I have set you apart for myself.  You are mine so you are a holy person.”  

Did you know that saint and holy are the same Greek word?  Over 60 times in the New Testament, Christians are called “saints”—holy people.  All of them.  The good ones, the bad ones, the new ones, the old ones—they are all saints.

You are a saint!  “I’m Saint Joe.”  Has a nice ring to it; I have a river named after me.  Introduce yourself to the person next to you: “I’m Saint Joe,” only use your name (but if you like mine better, you’re welcome to borrow it).

We don’t think of ourselves as saints.  Why?  That word has been reserved for the very best—for Mother Teresa, or Billy Graham—for people who are exceptionally spiritual or devoted.  Only a tiny handful are saints.

But not in the Bible, where every Christian is called a saint.  You are a saint.  You are a holy person.  As you’ll see, the NIV avoids the word “saint” because of all the cultural baggage, and uses “holy people” or “God’s people”.  But the ESV retains the word “saint”.  Here are a few examples.

Romans 1:7 (NIV) To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:

Romans 1:7 (ESV) To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:

Notice that Paul includes all the church, all who love God—all of them are called to be saints, holy people.

1 Corinthians 1:2 (NIV) To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:

1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Here, it’s not just the Christians at Corinth who are called to be saints, but all those everywhere who call on Jesus.  Paul begins most of his letters with a greeting like this to all the saints, God’s holy people.  Another example.

Ephesians 3:18 (NIV) (I pray that you) may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,

Ephesians 3:18 (ESV) (I pray that you) may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth (of Christ’s love),

I love this verse.  How do we comprehend or grasp the full dimensions of Christ’s love?  We do it together with all the saints.  I know some saints who are—well, they are a piece of work!  When I am with them, I may think, “God loves this one too? God’s love is huge!”  Of course, they are thinking the same thing about me!  We only know the fullness of His love together with all the saints.

Ephesians 4:11–12 (NIV) So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

Ephesians 4:11–12 (ESV) And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Another great verse!  God gave leaders to the church, not to do the work of ministry, but to equip who?  The saints.  God’s holy people.  Every one of you.  A pastor’s job is to equip you to do the work of ministry.  It’s done by all the saints, not just a few professional Christians.

There are lots of other verses on your outline and they are just a sampling.  The NT is clear—you are a saint.  Every follower of Jesus is a holy person.  

It means that you belong to God.  He has called you, chosen you and set you apart for His purposes.  You are different now.  You are not living for yourself; you are living for Him.  You are holy—set apart—different.

ILL: We have a special red plate at home.  How many of you have one of these?  We don’t use it every day—only for special occasions: a birthday, graduation, or celebrating something.  It says, “You are special today.”  This is a holy plate.  It’s set apart for a purpose—it’s not common, not everyday.  It’s holy.

ILL: This is a Rubbermaid 5 gallon trash basket.  There are dozens of them in this building.  We have several at home too, and they all do the same thing: collect trash.  All of them except for one.  This one is holy.  I make my homemade root beer in it.  We bought it new, and have only used it for root beer.  It’s never had trash in it—doesn’t that make you feel better about my root beer?  It’s a holy trash can!  Set apart for a special purpose.

We all do this.  We take common things and we make them holy—we set them apart for a special purpose.  We do it with days—vacation days.  We do it with time—we set aside time to do something.  We do it with things, as I just showed.  We do it with money—we save it for a purpose or give it for a purpose.  

God does it with people.  He chose you and said, “This one is going to be different.  This one I’m setting apart for my purposes.  This one is holy.”

So what does it mean practically?

Colossians 3:12 (NIV) Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, do this.  Act like this.  Being holy means we live holy.  Being different, set apart for God, means that we live a life for God.  We are to be holy in all we do.

3. Be holy in all you do.

1 Peter 1:15–16 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”

Be holy because God is holy.  God, the Holy One, has called you His own and set you apart and made you holy—different.  Now live it out.  Be like God. Be holy—become what you are.

Here’s an interesting thing.  You are holy and you are becoming holy.  It is a fact (you are holy) and it is a process (you are becoming holy).

Hebrews 10:10 (NIV) And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.  

Notice: past tense—we have been made holy.  It’s done.  You are a saint, you are a holy person.  

Hebrews 10:14 (NIV) For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.

Notice: present tense—we are being made holy.  It’s a process.  You are holy, so be holy in all you do.  Become what you are.

ILL: Imagine that you are naturalized citizens of the US (some of you are).  You came from other nations, and you became citizens here.  Now, you are a US citizen.  So, be a citizen in all you do.  What does a citizen do?  I went to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services website, where they listed the responsibilities of a citizens.

  • Support and defend the constitution.

  • Vote: participate in the democratic process.  

  • Pay taxes.

  • Respect and obey the law.

  • Respect the rights and beliefs of others.

  • Stay informed and participate in your local community.

  • Serve on a jury when summoned.

  • Defend the country when needed.

That’s what a citizen does.  You are a citizen.  Be a citizen in all you do.

Do you see how it’s a fact (you are a citizen) and it’s a process (be a citizen in all you do).

The same is true of being God’s holy person, a saint.  It’s a fact.  When you became a Christian, you became a saint—a holy person—new and different, set apart for God.  So now, be holy in all you do. God has made us holy; now we grow into what is already true of us.  We live a new life that is different, holy, set apart for God.  

But what does that difference look like?

ILL: When I was in high school, I thought it looked like Miss Stanborough.  She taught bonehead English, and was the faculty advisor for the Bible Club.  She was a really sweet old lady, and she was really…different.  Odd.  Like many people in her generation, she thought that holiness was outward.  So her clothes and hairdo were 30 years out of style.  Her manner was very old-fashioned.  She was, in a word, weird.

I used to think that holy people were weird, odd, strange.  Now I know that they are…but in a good way.  We’re different in a really right way.  We march to a different drummer, we have different values, and so we act differently.

Romans 12:1–2 (The Message)

1 So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Be holy in all you do.  Take your everyday life and offer it to God.  Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold; let God transform you from the inside out.  Real holiness is being different from the inside out.  God renews our minds and we begin to think and act like Him.  We love our enemies.  We serve those who dislike us.  We forgive those who harm us.  We give grace to those who fail.  

Simply put, we do what Jesus would do.  

We are shaped more by the influence of Jesus than the influence of our culture.

So here is my challenge for you this week, saints.  (Let’s see the hand of all the saints.)  Be holy in all you do.  You are holy—set apart for God.  Now live like it in your everyday life.