Contending for the faith | Making Disciples | Equipping the Saints for Ministry

        Every year I am surprised at how fast the Christmas season approaches. Perhaps it is coming up on us sooner because the media pushes to get people into the “Christmas spirit” the day after Halloween instead of the day after Thanksgiving. Hallmark is already showing their Christmas movies as a countdown to Christmas. Clearly, the promotion of Christmas is not always about celebrating something of importance; rather, it is about money.

          As most people know, Christmas is a controversial holiday. The TV shows have a combination of Santa Claus and the Christmas Story intertwined together to try to cover all bases. The more you watch the juggling act of each institution in America towards the subject of God, the more insane the world appears to be. It is obvious that the world systematically wants to take Christ out of the celebration, while the schools hide behind a generic terminology to stay away from any religious connotations (except for Humanism, New Age, and Islam). It is also obvious that an increasing number of city officials across the nation are giving in to the pressure of a few that always call “foul,” claiming that they are offended at the promotion of God in any arena, while continuing their push for separation of Church and state.

          Those who understand the real language of separation of church and state know that it cannot really be found in America’s Constitution, but instead in the Russian communistic constitution. What our Constitution implied is that no one religion can be preferred by the government and dictated to the people. It advocates that one must be allowed to worship according to conscience, but sadly in this environment of political correctness, a minority are crying foul because they cannot afford to have their small-minded, weak psyches challenged by those who will not compromise their faith and bow down to their insanity.

          If the battle over Christmas is not enough in the worldly arena, it also rages in the religious arena as well. There are those who state that Christmas is a pagan holiday and that Christ was not born on Christmas day. I tend to agree with this fact, but I also know that the eastern view is to celebrate the day of someone’s conception as their birthday and not their actual birth. If this is so, there is a great reason for celebrating Jesus’ birthday during the later part of December.

          It is believed, that according to Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 9:24-27 that Jesus was born in September. For example Daniel received the prophecy anywhere from 536 to 538 B.C. However, the actual clock as to the appearance of the Messiah would have not started on the 490 years prophesied in Daniel 9 until the decree was issued by Persia to rebuild Jerusalem. Although there were several decrees issued permitting Jewish delegations to return to Israel to rebuild the temple, the actual decree permitting the rebuilding of the walls and the city did not come until 445 B.C., which is explained in Nehemiah 4. The seven weeks in relationship to rebuilding the wall and streets represent 49 years, while the 62 weeks when the Messiah would be cut off (die) would represent 434 years. When you add 49 years to the 434 years, you have 483 years. Forward the calendar from 445 B.C. and it would bring you to the date of A.D. 38. Since the Jewish calendar differs from the Roman calendar, (lunar—28 day cycle not 30/31) you would have to deduct 2,525.75 days, or seven years and two months, bringing a person back to A.D. 30.)

          We know that Jesus began His ministry at age 30, and he ministered for three-a-half years before being cut off (crucified) which would be consistent with Daniel’s prophecy. If you take the date of His crucifixion and count backwards, Jesus would have had to be born at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in late September, which would mean His miraculous conception would have been around December 25th. (The above information was taken from God the Master Mathematician by Dr. Noah Hutchings, pages 138-142.)

          Personally, I get a bit tired of all the debates. My main reason for celebrating Christmas is not based on some technical correctness, but rather on the fact that the second Person of the Godhead, allowed Himself to be fashioned as a man, while being formed in the womb of a virgin, and born into this world as a baby in the midst of great darkness. He would grow into manhood, ever being prepared to be offered up as the Lamb of God on our behalf. The truth is there would have been no resurrection Sunday without Bethlehem. A celebration is about taking time out to remember what occurred, and in our busy world, it would behoove Christians to think about what they believe and know to be true about the incarnation of God in human form coming into this world with a mission.

          This time of the year should remind us that the Bread of Heaven and Life came by way of Bethlehem (the House of Bread) as a pure, holy Lamb of God to allow His body to be broken like bread and His blood spilled out like wine so that life could be imparted to each of us by His Spirit. His birth was a miracle and His life a living, walking testimony of God’s commitment of redeeming love. Although, His death and burial seemed as the greatest recorded tragedy, it was clearly overshadowed by His resurrection which remains the greatest miracle to ever take place.

          This brings us to the reason that God had to come in the flesh—it was because there was no one else who could satisfy the judgments of His holy, perfect Law. God could not even look on sin without judging it. It had to be addressed and there were none found among mankind who were righteous enough to satisfy the Law. The truth is all the best man could offer were filthy rags before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:10).

          Last month I talked about the distinguishing attributes of God that comprise the powerful light of His glory. First of all He is eternal, without beginning or end, and secondly, His majesty is beyond description. But, the other characteristic that walks hand in hand with His majesty is His holiness.

          Man can perceive that he is good (moral) outside of God in light of a decadent world, but only someone who is truly deluded could advocate that there is some type of holiness present in his or her flesh. Religion may serve as a garb, but it only hides this great reality, that man apart from God has no source of holiness and no means by which he can be holy. Since God cannot look on sin without judging it, He had to provide the solution for it. He would first accept a covering (atonement) of the blood of innocent animals that simply pointed forward to His Son’s sacrifice on the cross that would actually take sin away.

          The extent God had to go to secure redemption gives us a glimpse into His attitude towards sin, and at the base of it all is the matter of His holiness. The question is what is holiness? The only way we can consider this subject is to realize only God is holy. His holiness means there is no deviance in His actions, no darkness in ways, and He has no self-serving agendas. In essence, God is pure in every way. Everything God does come from a state of purity and a premise of righteousness, which manifests itself in goodness. This goodness is complete moral uprightness, which is honorable in all it does.

          This brings us to the problem man is faced with. In Hebrews 12:14 we are told, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” It is clear that we cannot see God without holiness. Jesus put it this way Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

          The Apostle Peter made this statement in 1 Peter 1:15-16, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation: Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.” If man has no means within his flesh to be holy, how can he obey the above Scriptures?

          “Holy” means set apart. There are two different types of holiness described in the Bible. There is consecration which is an act of setting oneself apart from something. It is man’s responsibility to consecrate himself. In fact, the Apostle Paul gives us insight into this consecration in Romans 12:1, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

          The first and foremost action a man must take to consecrate himself is to offer all of himself to God. However, this also means he must deny himself of any right to live his life according to self, the world, or the devil. He must be serious about putting off the old by fleeing youthful lusts, separating himself from the influences of the world, mortifying the works of the flesh, and bringing bodily functions into subjection to the Spirit (1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Colossian 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 2:22).

          Consecration, a separation from the profane, must first occur before the second type of holiness can take place. Sanctification is the actual work of holiness. The best example I had of the work of sanctification comes from the Old Testament. God gave clear instructions as to how the tabernacle in the Old Testament was to be erected, along with the priests’ garments, the instruments, the anointing oil, and holy perfume. The problem is that once it was done the tabernacle sat silent. There was no sacrifice and service taking place. The question is why the silence? Exodus 29:43-45 gives us the answer, “And there I will meet with the children of Israel and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by my glory. And I will sanctify the tabernacle of the congregation and the altar; I will sanctify also both Aaron and his sons, to minister to me in the priest’s office. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will be their God.”

          It is clear that the only one who could and can do the work of sanctification is God. There are many Scriptures that declare that the Lord is the one who sanctifies. (See Exodus 31:13 and Leviticus 20:8.) Consecration points to a type of purging oneself from the profane as pointed out in 2 Timothy 2:19-22, but sanctification is a type of cleansing for the purpose of setting something apart for God’s use. Granted, we can outwardly cleanse something, but only God can cleanse the inside.

          The work of sanctification begins when God places us in Christ (born again upon salvation), who serves as our place of sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). This place in Christ positionally establishes us in a right standing before God. Now that we have been born again, the Holy Spirit begins to sanctify us by establishing the life of Christ in us (1 Peter 1:2). How much this new life is worked in us depends on how much of the old life (consecration) is being mortified daily and submitted to the sanctifying work of the Spirit.

          It is clear that when it comes to setting ourselves apart from that which would defile us, it means ensuring a correct state in order to be separated unto God for His use. God always comes from a state of purity to ensure the integrity of all He does. For our conversation (behavior) to be holy means all matters must come from a heart that is pure before God. It ensures that we will be honorable in all we do. The Apostle Paul put it in this way in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

          The challenge for most Christians in America is to maintain a pure state before the Lord. Today our understanding of God has been greatly muddied by reducing certain aspects of His attributes to a worldly perception, such as His love or His grace and mercy. In essence, it seems that many stop short of addressing His holiness. Perhaps there is fear to consider all matters from God’s holiness. The concept of facing God in dread might take on a whole new meaning if we have to consider that all matters of God are an extension of His holiness and that all matters will be judged in light of His holiness.

          In essence, maybe this is why most people avoid facing the holiness of God. They fear that it will completely undo them such as it did in the case of Jacob in Genesis 28:11-17; Job in Job 42:4-6; Isaiah in Isaiah 6, and the Apostle John in Revelation 1:10-17. There is no way that when you encounter the Lord in His holiness that you can escape not feeling undone by the penetrating light and the glory of its purity. The more you encounter the holiness of God, the more you are going to feel like a worm. Yet, there is wonderful cleansing and liberty that takes place at such times.

          What most people fail to realize about God is that that all of His attributes prove to be trustworthy because they come from purity, from His state of holiness. If it was not for holiness, His love would prove to be temperamental, His grace fickle, and His mercy limited. If it was not for His holiness, His faithfulness would be questionable and His honorable intentions uncertain.

          The other aspect about God’s holiness is that He faithfully brings us to degrees or stages of sanctification as far as establishing us in a state of holiness. We could not handle the complete work of sanctification if we had to somehow have this state up front. Praise the Lord that Jesus is our place of sanctification as the Holy Spirit establishes us in the state of holiness.

          I know for me it has been a process. When I first became aware that I was separated from a holy God, it was because I had a bad attitude. There was hate in my heart and I wished evil to fall upon my nemesis. I knew my heart attitude was wrong, but I did not know how to get rid of the darkness that was resting on my soul. Then I was introduced to Jesus. My, how He took the darkness off my heart as His salvation began to bathe my soul with His forgiveness!

          However, I did not understand how fallen my inner man was. Jesus took care of my initial iniquity, but I failed to realize that I had not by any means arrived. The next revelation about those areas that had not been completely turned over to God came by way of actions.

          If you try to clothe certain aspects of the “old man” with religious garb you can ignore wrong attitudes. In my initial Christian walk I clothed some of the moral deviance that was lurking in my character with religious activities. Eventually, they manifested in wrong actions, but instead of repenting and calling out to the Lord for His forgiveness and help, I tried to reform myself through different disciplines, but the wrong attitudes were still there.

          Some of you might be relating to what I am saying. We are bent towards trying to right the wrongs in our life. However, the more we try in our own strength to make such wrongs right, the more we become entangled with the deviant ways of the old man. The Apostle Paul said it best in Romans 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not; but the evil which would not, that I do.”

          I found myself being sucked down into a whirlpool that was taking me further away from the reality of God. It was then that I had to face that at the core of my wrong ways was the inner disposition of the first Adam. It was not always sitting on the throne of my heart, but it would raise its head when I least expected it to claim master over the situation.

          It had to be daily crucified, while neglecting to listen to its rights to have life on its terms (pride) and claims that there is some good in it and that it could actually be salvaged through reformation. It was at that point in my life that the harsh reality of my plight in light of God’s holiness completely broke me into many pieces. I was far from the mark and only the Lord could close the gap, only He could put me back together.

          It is from a state of brokenness (humility) that God can meet us in our plight. It is then that He can revolutionize our life. In fact, the Lord will always meet us at the point of seeking forgiveness from a place of repentance. He will be able to restore us when we receive the pardon, and He will transform us as we look up in gratitude for what He has done for us. It is from this premise that He will lead a person into sweet communion to receive greater healing.

          As you can see, it is a process to come into deeper places with the Lord. We tend to look around or within to be established in a state of holiness, to walk in righteousness, and display godly conduct, but it is a work of the Spirit of God. We must submit to the work of the Spirit, while obeying what we know is right and correct before the Lord. The more we walk in righteousness by faith, the more we know that the inner bent of our old disposition will line up with the new disposition in righteousness. Each time we obey what we know is right, the Holy Spirit establishes the character of Christ in us and the Word cleanses us from impurities and hindrances, changing our attitudes towards God and the situation.

          Most Christians mistakenly make the work of sanctification their responsibility. It puts too great of a burden on them and many have given up. Some continue trying to keep up the façade of having it all together, while others have walked away from the Christian faith in despair.

          It is important to note that God does not ask us to do something we have no power to do and He will always empower us to do what He asks us to do, but we must first submit to the leading of His Spirit. Positionally in Christ we stand pure, and saints of the Most High God, but the Holy Spirit must do the work of sanctification that establishes us in a state of holiness. Meanwhile, we must separate from the profane, pursue what is right, and choose the ways of righteousness to ensure that our conversation (life) is holy.

          As we consider this Christmas season, remember that Jesus not only came into this world pure (holy) as a baby, but He maintained that purity throughout His life. It is because He was pure that He was able to become the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.

          The next time you want to consider the greatness of God in a matter, remember you can trust every aspect of His attributes, not because He is love, grace, mercy, and etc., but because He is holy. And, just how great is His holiness? We know it is consuming, but there is no way of describing it. We have this insight in Isaiah 6:2-3 when the prophet saw the Lord high and lifted up on His throne, “Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings with twain he covered his face and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” If the seraphims cover their eyes in the presence of a Holy God, what should be our attitude concerning the Lord?

          May you have a blessed Christmas!