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Living a holy lifestyle
Scripture: Matthew 17:24-27; 22:15-22; 21:12-13; 26...
Track 4 of 12 in the Being with Him means Looking Like Him series
Running time: 30 minutes, 27 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

Sermon for Sunday, March 28, 2004
"Living a Holy Lifestyle"
"Being With Him Means Looking Like Him"
(Matthew, 1Peter, Romans )
Copyright 2004 G. Charles Sackett

The basic assumption is that if you spend time with Him, you'll begin to look more like Him.

Our overall vision for who we will become around here is really very simple. We want to become a people who look a lot like Jesus. We've been emphasizing that these last several weeks. We've talked about His worshipful heart and His submissive spirit. We've talked about His godly character and today we turn to the idea of His holy lifestyle. But you don't anymore use a word like holy and all of a sudden you have this whole range of images that begin to permeate your thinking. For some people being holy is more of a four letter word than it is a positive one. Their perspective is someone they may have known in their lifetime that they may have considered "holier than thou". For others it connotes somebody that lives in a kind of separate world, a different kind of existence.

I was on this little campus in Poland a couple of weeks ago and I saw, walking across the campus, a fella who was obviously a Jewish Rabbi. It wasn't hard to tell. The dress, the peculiar way he was attired, set him apart immediately.

It wasn't but a matter of a few hours later that I saw a Polish Roman Catholic Priest walk by. It was not hard to identify him as being a holy man, if you will. The attire, the dress identified him very quickly as being set apart, in being different.

Often that is where our mind turns when we think about this concept of holiness. We have this mental image of somebody who portrays a certain kind of either, behavior or dress in a certain way and you can pick them out of a crowd and say, okay, there goes a holy person, a holy woman, a holy man. It may, or may not, be something positive, only something pretty readily identified. And yet, when I look at the life of Jesus, I recognize that there are various ways in which to see this concept of being a holy person. And probably the most important is to understand that before it is a lifestyle, it is first a status. It is something that you are before it is ever something that you do. One of the things we need to recognize is that the word is really pretty simple. To be sanctified, to be holy, simply means to be set apart for some special purpose.

If you were to come to our house for dinner sometime, which you would be welcome to do, as long as you all didn't come at the same time, there would be two chairs that you would not be allowed to sit in. One is at the head of the table. It's the captain's chair, that's where I sit. The one just immediately to my right is the sacred chair. Now there's nothing particularly good about the chair. In fact, one of the reasons you can't sit in it is because it's a little wobbly and we don't want it to collapse on you. The other reason is, is because it's next to the kitchen door and that's where my wife sits because she's going to be getting up and going back-and-forth to the kitchen.

Now those chairs are no different than any other chair in the house except they've been set aside for a particular purpose.

In many ways the people in this room are no different than the people that you run into in the grocery store, except that they've been set aside for a different purpose.

Now I want to look at a text this morning in Matthew 12. Remember we're just taking some vignettes out of the gospel of Matthew to pay attention to, to see if we can begin to picture what Jesus is like and then, if we can see what he is like, maybe we can become more like Him. Matthew 12, we're gonna pick it up in the middle of the Chapter with verse 15.

He's had this encounter already with the Pharisees over the Sabbath Day and some ways in which He has violated their special day. They have just said in verse 14 that the Pharisees are going to plot how they can kill Jesus. Verse 15:

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: (and here's what Isaiah says.)

"Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,"

(At that point you are talking about something that has nothing to do with Jesus' behavior. It only has to do with what God has said about Him. This is my chosen One. He's been set aside to be mine. In that sense, He is holy. Has nothing to do with behavior. Has nothing to do with character. In fact, up to this point, it has nothing to do with anything he's done himself. This is merely God's statement; this one is mine. Then he goes on to say.)

"And he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope."

Now, there's his character. There's his behavior. There's that holy lifestyle that gets lived out of the status of having been identified as a holy person, having been set aside by God.

When we wrestle with this text and we wrestle with this concept of what it means to be a holy person, what we're really talking about is the result of being with Jesus, our behavior before men is going to match our status before God. It's another way of saying it this way:

Our walk matches his talk.

Now, it's not our walk matches our talk. That is also a true statement, but that's not what this is about. This is about the fact that our walk, the way we live, matches his talk, what he perceives in us. Or, actually, what he announces to us. Let me turn those around and take them in reverse order.

He says, first of all, you are holy. That's just a statement of fact. That we are holy people. You may not think you are. You may not look in the mirror and say, now that looks like a holy person. You may be even thinking about something that happened on the way to church this morning as we came to gather as a body and you think that wasn't a particularly holy thing to do. But that has nothing to do with your status. Your status is that you are a holy person. If you're a Christian, if you belong to God through Christ, you have been declared a holy person.

Let me just walk through some text. If you want to follow, turn quickly.

1Peter 2, this great text where Peter reminds us of our identity. He says in 1Peter 2:9, . . . . .you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him. . . . . Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

That's a statement of fact. This is who you are. You are a holy nation. We are sons and heirs.

Romans 8. As Paul writes this great chapter on the presence of the holy Spirit in the life of the believers and he talks about how significant our relationship with God is, he says down here in verse 14; because those who are led (he's talking about living out this life of ours) because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of son ship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. It's who we are. We are identified as his children. We belong to him. We are his sons and daughters. We are the heirs of his family. We've been declared to be saints. Virtually every letter in the New Testament is introduced with that idea that we are saints. It's. . . .for example, Ephesians 1, Paul to the saints in Ephesus. Or, to that church which shares probably more bad character than any other church in the New Testament, 1Corinthians. He write to the saints that are in Corinth because it has to do with who we are, not what we do. It's a status issue.

If you read the first major paragraph of Ephesians 1, he will talk through all of these things that we are. We are his children. We are his heirs. We have been sealed by his Spirit. We have been justified. There are so many things that he says that we are. And they have nothing to do with what we have done. They're merely God's act of grace in our experience. He has identified us as being his, set apart, sanctified and therefore, holy. That's his talk for us.

My good friend, Mike Kilgallon with who I used to team teach before he moved to another location in ministry, used to send his two boys out to the bus every morning and as they left the front door to go to the bus stop, here were the words that he said to them on the way out the door. "Remember who's you are!" They belonged to God. They were His! That was their status. And it was his way of saying, let your walk match his talk. We are holy, therefore, we act holy. We behave in a holy way. This is not, by the way, A C T, as in act, as in dramatics, theater. This is ACT as in this is your behavior, your character, your every day experience. It's what you do as a part of your lifestyle.

I recognize that this is one of the places where we begin to run into the stereotype of what it means to be a holy person.

Gail and I served a summer internship back in 1971, which seems like a lifetime ago. I guess that's because it was. My preacher, the one with whom I worked, was one of these very conservative people who had very clear definitions of what it meant to be a holy person. Mostly it was what you didn't do. You didn't drink. You didn't chew. You didn't go with girls that do. You know that mentality. It was also some things and it was funny that it was almost always oriented toward the way the women behaved. I think that was a male issue on his part. There was a certain hair style you didn't wear. There was to be no jewelry worn and you weren't to dress in fancy clothes. That was his definition of what it meant to be holy. And so every time I heard somebody talk about holy living, I had this strange, stereotypical category into which everybody had to be put. These are the things that holy people do and don't do.

Unfortunately, there's an awful lot of people out there in the world who have that same basic stereotype of Christians and it makes it difficult for us.

See, the world does have an expectation of what Christian behavior is like. My father was not a Christian. He had very clear expectations of Christian behavior. It's not fair. I'm not defending my father. I'm just telling you that from a non-Christian man's perspective, there were expectations that he had, that quite honestly, people were expected to live up to.

My Aunt Wilda, along with most of the members of my family, was a fairly heavy drinker of alcohol, and at some point in her life, when I was still a young man, she became a Roman Catholic. I thought this might be an opportunity to talk to my father about his faith issues and so I said, well, what do you think about Aunt Wilda making this transition to the church? He said, oh it won't make any difference, she'll still get drunk on Saturday and she'll go to confession on Sunday.

Hear the stereotype? See, he'd already preconditioned this is what a Christian is like and she's not going to live up to it.

Our neighbor was a very godly woman. She was the local postmistress who happened to be dying of cancer later in my life – after I had moved from home. She was in need of care. My mother took care of her every two hours. She'd go over. Make sure she had water or whatever she needed. My father wrote this cryptic note to me that said, not going to the high school reunion – your mother's taking care of Agnes. She was a good church member, but nobody from the church comes. And here's his closing line. I guess if you're in need of help, ask a sinner.

See, my father's expectation was that there was a behavior that came with being a Christian and these people, frankly, weren't living up to that expectation. I have to confess to you that I have that same expectation. I think Christians live like Christians. I think you can see them. I think you can spot it. Sometimes you have to get a little close to be able to see, but it ought to be evident what it is that's different about us, that sets us apart from the rest of the world.

And so, I look at this context in Matthew Chapter 12 and I ask myself, what was there about Jesus that set him aside, that made him look different that wasn't disappointing?

A fella by the name of Dennis, was late one week getting packed to go on a trip. He remembered seeing a sign on the other side of town that said "One Hour Dry Cleaning" and he had stuff he needed for the trip so he drove all the way across town. He walked in. He laid his stuff up on the counter. He said, I'll need this in an hour. She said, we'll have it ready for you on Thursday. He said, what about the one hour thing? She said, that's the name of our store.

You've never been like that, right? Where you wore a name but when people got close, it really wasn't what it was.

What's Jesus like? Well, among other things, he's not particularly concerned about entering into this conflict that is going on in this text. You notice the first part of Chapter 12, there's all this talk about healing on the Sabbath and the controversy of what you can do on the Sabbath and what you can't.

See, the Pharisees had made out of a day, their entire religion. And he was encountering that day-after-day-after-day.

My great fear is that in the 21st century, the church will somehow land in the same place where we make everything about a day. I was in the right place on the first day of the week, Sunday. And it may not impact any other part of our lives. That's why we're spending so much time this spring talking about what it means to be genuine disciples. Genuine disciples are not worried about whether or not you do the right thing on Sunday. They're concerned about the rest of the week, and whether Sunday is a catalyst in to that week.

What we're doing this morning ought to do two things: it ought to reflect what we have done all week and it ought to prepare for what we're going to do all week. We should have worshiped all week long. We should have served all week long. We should have prayed all week long. We should have given all week long. We should have encouraged all week long. We should have had fellowship all week long. And now we come only as a collected body to remind ourselves of the value of what it means to be together and to do that in this place so that we're ready to go out another week and do it Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday and on through the week.

In the character of Jesus, you notice he doesn't get into the argument. He does not enter the fray. That's one of the things that happens in this text. He will not. . . . . . . . . .he did the Pharisees and he will become sensitive. He will not be one of those insensitive people who does not understand where people are. He does not crush the nearly broken reed nor the almost gone out wick.

Well, there are some snapshots of Jesus' life that I just want to walk through very quickly that I think inform us of what it means to be a holy person.

For example, you have two different places in the New Testament, over here in Matthew, over here in Chapter 17 for example, you have this rather strange little encounter. It's not all that big a deal. You look at Chapter 17, verse 24.

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax came to peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?"

"Yes, he does," he replied.

When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?"

"From others," Peter answered.

"Then the sons are exempt," Jesus said to him "But so that we may not offend them, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours."

It's tax time and what does he do? He pays his taxes. You're going to see that encounter again in another place. He just simply engages the world like a real human being.

One of the things that ought to be characteristic of Christian people is that we are fairly normal folk. That we're kinda just like everybody else. That we interact in the world and engage it like real people. We live in this world and we engage this world just like we were real human beings. We don't expect special treatment just because we're Christian.

We had a golf course near where I preached, the very first church I was in. I'm no golfer, but I'd like to be. And they offered preachers free golf. It was a perk for the local clergy. And I remember the first time I went in, thinking to myself, now how do you go about saying, I'm a preacher. I want this free. Ya know, I tried it once or twice and decided it was easier to just pay for the golf than it was to identify myself as something different from everybody else in the room.

I have a good friend who ran a radiator repair shop down in the steel industry area of St. Louis. During one particular event there was a deep lull in the economy and, frankly, he could hardly keep his door open. It was costing him money just to unlock it in the morning and stay there. And a particular preacher in town came in, brought him his car, wanted his radiator fixed. When he came to pick it up, he had the bill and it was the whole bill. And he said, Don't you understand that I'm Reverend so and so and I know that you're a Christian and I just assumed that you'd give me a discount. To which Tom said, I do know that you're a Christian and don't you know that I am a Christian and have you seen the economy lately? I'm barely able to keep my doors open and I would have thought as a Christian brother you would have offered me 10% more than I was charging.

We just simply engage the world like real people. We don't expect to be treated differently because we're Christians. We just live in the world and we do our thing the way people do their thing and we do it in a way that is godly and holy and we let our actions speak for us.

I look at this snapshot of Jesus when I watch him over in Matthew 21. I've been so intrigued by this whole concept that I, for the life of me, have no idea how to actually live it or explain it. I just know that I am fascinated by it.

Matthew 21:12 Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, "‘My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.'"

And we see this righteous indignation, this anger that wells up within him over the way certain things ought to happen. I find myself asking, repeatedly, why is it that I get angry at the wrong stuff? And I don't get angry at the things that Jesus gets angry at.

I got up yesterday morning, and I don't know if you understand at all the dynamics of not living here in town during the main part of the week, but I rely every day on email back and forth to the office to make sure that we can stay in touch and as Sunday gets closer, email becomes even more important than it was on Monday or Tuesday. For the last two weekends in a row the college server has been down and I haven't been able to get access to anything coming in or going out and I find myself putting my running shoes on and going out cause that's how I relieve my anxiety and my tension and my frustration and I run really fast and I just -----------------just aggravated over the fact that. . . . . I can't send an email.

And then I pick up the paper and I read that at one of Kerry's rally's, one pro-life democrat, (there really are such things) brought a pro-life sign in support of Kerry and 30 seconds after he saw it, one of his aides had ripped it into shreds and escorted the woman out of the rally. And I wonder why I don't get angry at that.

Why do I get angry at not being able to dial in to a server, but I don't get angry about 1.5 million babies being aborted in America? Why do I get angry at the wrong things?

What I see in Jesus is the ability to know what ought to stir us, and what we ought to just forget and not get riled about. I see in him this quiet resolution.

Over in Chapter 26 of Matthew, the Garden of Gethsemane scene. Jesus is there, in the garden, waiting. He knows what's going to happen. Judas shows up with this crowd of people and in verse 50 he comes and brings greetings and Jesus says to him.

"Friend, do what you came for."

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?"

At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.

But you see this quiet resolve, just to do the will of God, no matter what. He could have you know, called legions of angels. He did not have to be arrested. He did that because he had resolved in his heart that he would do the will of God no matter what it cost him. That's being a holy person. It's recognizing that you have this status before God, that you belong to him, that you are his. Now, do what it is that he desires from you, no matter what that costs you. And even though you may have the ability to get out of it, don't get out of it. Just do what he calls you to do.

I look at Matthew 9 and I recognize in Jesus, something that I don't find in myself and I wish I did. In Chapter 9 of Matthew you read in verse 36. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

You read that statement in the gospels about Jesus regularly. He saw the crowds and he was moved with compassion and he met their needs.

When I look in verse 35 I recognize that sometimes meeting those needs is not necessarily just physically healing them or meeting their spirit, their physical need. It may, in fact, be to disciple them or to preach to them or to share with them in some way, but he understood how to respond to people and to meet them where they were and to address their need with compassion.

Well, by-in-large what we're really talking about is simply allowing our walk, our way of life to match his talk about us. He calls us holy and he calls for us simply to live like holy people. Not weird, not disengaged, but, in fact, engaged in life every day and just living it out like a Christian person.

Loretta shared with me this quotation from Oswald Chamber's Daily Devotional Guide. I was just captured by what he said. Chambers says, Goodness and purity should never be traits that draw attention to themselves, but should simply be magnets that draw people to Jesus Christ. If my holiness is not drawing others to Him, it is not the right kind of holiness. It is only an influence which awakens undue emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction. A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ, himself. Others will be left with the thought, what a fine person that man is. That's not being a true friend of the bridegroom.

I am increasing but he is not. The challenge of being a holy person is not to call attention to you. The challenge of being a holy person is to call attention to Him, so that his attractive nature can accomplish its purpose. You'll notice in verse 18 and 21 of our text what that purpose is. The nations will come. People will see Jesus and all men will be drawn to Him. We live out his concern for us because it attracts people to Him.

The call is just simply to be who you are. We're not asking you to try to stir up, within yourself, some kind of something that you don't have inherent within you. He has pronounced you holy. He has made you who you should be. Now, all he's doing is saying, LIVE LIKE THAT. Submit yourself to that. Spend enough time with Jesus so that you know what he looks like and then simply imitate who HE is. Let Him be your humble King and you just follow in His footsteps. And people will be drawn to Him.. It's a pretty simple call, really. Just be who you are. A disciple of the King.

I'm going to ask you just to remain seated while we sing through this chorus. Let it reflect your desire to walk in his footsteps. To submit to Him as the King.