Posts Tagged ‘sanctification’

1 Kings 9:1-9
The Lord’s Response to Solomon

I remember those days when I was a younger man but before I met Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord at age 39. I grew up in the church. I was a preacher’s kid. I knew right from wrong. I knew what immorality was. Those things are seared in our hearts by God himself. However, as I grew up, it seemed as though compromises began. There were those times that I would participate in sinful behaviors but I would rationalize them away as OK one time. Then as time progressed and those sinful behaviors became more frequent, I would rationalize them away as God overlooking those sins because “he and I had a deal that this particular one was OK” because, well, you know (1) I was overall and generally a good guy and (2) that this was OK because of all the things that I had been through. After a while, those rationalizations become more widespread and cover more and more sins. This one is OK too. Well, I am doing this sin so it might as well be OK for me to do this one. Pretty soon, you become a person that you never thought you would be.

It was not until the night of my salvation on December 23, 2001 that I was really confronted by the Holy Spirit with the person that I had become. At that moment, there were no more rationalizations. There was just me and the nakedness of knowing that God and I did not have any deals. He is God and I am a sinner. At that moment, there were no more rationalizations. I stood before the Judge of my eternity and I was found lacking. Just one sin no matter how you rationalize it condemns us to hell. Not to mention all those “deals we have with God”. You know the sins that we will quit doing later. You know the sins that you will make up for with good behavior later. All that stuff you rationalize in your mind as OK are just meaningless when you stand naked with no defense before the pure, sinless Creator God who demands holiness for anyone to be in His presence in eternity.

Have you ever been there? Have you ever began saying that this sin is OK because you and God have a deal on that particular sin? You will quit this and that sin soon enough and God will forget about your sins and everything will be OK. But one sin slides into another type of sin that is OK since the last kind was OK and soon you are far from that innocent child you once were? Are you still rationalizing away that this sin is OK and that sin is OK? None of it is. You are just deluding yourself.

Even when we have accepted Christ as our Savior, we still sin. We still disappoint God with our rationalizations and our pride. Our only hope is repentance and laying ourselves at the feet of the slain and resurrected Savior, Jesus Christ. The only difference between the lost and the saved is ever growing repentance and recognition of our sins through the Holy Spirit’s action in our lives. What was once rationalized away is now revolting to us progressively over our lives as the Holy Spirit gradually sanctifies us to be more and more like Jesus as we mature in Christ.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning as I read God’s response to Solomon. I am sure that at the time of his prayer, Solomon had full intentions of keeping God’s commands and doing his best to lived according to God’s Words. But one moral compromise led to another and then pretty soon Solomon was not the man that prayed the prayer in the previous passage. God warns him here of the cost of disobedience. It is the same with us. Let us read 1 Kings 9:1-9 now and learn what we can learn:

Chapter 9
1 So Solomon finished building the Temple of the Lord, as well as the royal palace. He completed everything he had planned to do. 2 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, as he had done before at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him,

“I have heard your prayer and your petition. I have set this Temple apart to be holy—this place you have built where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.

4 “As for you, if you will follow me with integrity and godliness, as David your father did, obeying all my commands, decrees, and regulations, 5 then I will establish the throne of your dynasty over Israel forever. For I made this promise to your father, David: ‘One of your descendants will always sit on the throne of Israel.’

6 “But if you or your descendants abandon me and disobey the commands and decrees I have given you, and if you serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will uproot Israel from this land that I have given them. I will reject this Temple that I have made holy to honor my name. I will make Israel an object of mockery and ridicule among the nations. 8 And though this Temple is impressive now, all who pass by will be appalled and will gasp in horror. They will ask, ‘Why did the Lord do such terrible things to this land and to this Temple?’

9 “And the answer will be, ‘Because his people abandoned the Lord their God, who brought their ancestors out of Egypt, and they worshiped other gods instead and bowed down to them. That is why the Lord has brought all these disasters on them.’”

In this passage, we see that At the time God spoke to Solomon, in this text, I have no doubt that Solomon had the best of intentions of following the Lord as closely as he possibly could. His first compromise seemed like a rational thing to do. You remember, Solomon has asked God for wisdom that he might know how to lead the people, and God granted him unsurpassed wisdom. Now, I used to think that God gave Solomon “across the board” wisdom, in other words, wisdom in every area of life, but in reality, God gave him the wisdom that he asked for. He gave him political wisdom for judgement and leadership.

His personal wisdom for ordering his own life, on the other hand, came up terribly lacking. The reason for this is that he had to walk by faith, just as we all do. So, Solomon’s initial compromise was to marry some women for political advantage. Soon, he began to marry one king’s daughter after another, and in so doing, locking in a peace for his kingdom that he would enjoy for most of his life. The problem was, that many of these women were of nations with which God had expressly forbidden His people to intermarry.

Look at 1 Kings 11:4-8 and see how full blown it became in the end. Do you think Solomon ever dreamed this would happen, back in his younger days? He knew, in his head, that God had miraculously been with his father, David, and he had seen the blessings of God, as Israel had risen to be the greatest nation in the world. God had appeared to him twice, first in Gibeon in a dream, as recorded in 1 Kings 3:5-14, then the second time in our text. 1 Kings 3:3 says, “And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father, David…” But, then the verse goes on to say, “Except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.” Now look at 1 Kings 11:26-35. Solomon had become so deceived by his compromise, that he somehow thought he could worship other gods and continue in the blessing of Almighty God. David had been a man who would inquire of God before major decisions, and he would humble himself before God when he was wrong. Consequently, God said that David was a man after His own heart. Solomon, on the other hand, set out to rationalize his way through life. He forgot his own proverb, that God had given him, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding, but in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

So, as you can see, it happened to Solomon and it brought trouble to his life. It was so bad that within a generation of his death, the kingdom was split into and was weaker for it and made it susceptible to the coming defeats and exiles at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Sin and disobedience to the Lord always leads us to trouble. We may whine and complain about how hard we have had it, as I did in my younger days, but often the troubles that we suffer in life are a direct result of the sins in our lives. They always have consequences. Actions cause reactions. Causes always have effects. Sin and disobedience is no different. Sure, there are instances where the sins of others have effects on our lives where we have done nothing wrong but that is the world we live in – a fallen one. However, most of the rough patches that we go through in our lives are of our own making.

Here in this passage, the Lord tells Solomon and the Israelites (and is saying the same thing to us as the readers of the Bible in the 21st century) that there are choices that we can make. We can obey the Lord and receive His blessing or we can disobey Him and He will withdraw his blessing and let come what may to us in this fallen world.

Father, help us to not compromise our faith as if certain sins are OK temporarily because we have a deal with you. Help us not to rationalize our sins away. Help us to see our sins for what they are. Help us to repent and turn away from them and beg forgiveness from you through our Savior Jesus Christ. Help us to desire to obey you. Help us to understand from our own experience and the experience of others just how destructive unrepentant sin can be in our lives. Help us to desire what you desire. Help us to want to be more and more like Jesus Christ every day. Help us not to resist the changing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Amen and Amen.

Ruth 3:1-18 (Part 3 of 3)
Ruth Follows Naomi’s Plan

Sometimes in our lives when we look back on the person that we were before we came to know Jesus Christ as our Savior, we go “wow, how could I have been that kind of person!” How could I have been that kind of person and think that it was OK to be that kind of person. I grew up in the church. I heard the gospel. I knew the Bible stories, in general. My dad was a preacher. So, it wasn’t like I was a person who did not grow up knowing right from wrong, moral from immoral, and so on. But growing up in a parsonage does not guarantee that you will be immediately a follower of Jesus Christ. Don’t get me wrong, I was not necessarily a bad kid or bad seed. I was just a regular kid. I did well in school. Rarely got in trouble. I was just one of those kids that was a good student but wasn’t a nerd. I was a kid who danced on the edge of getting in trouble with parents and teachers on occasion. My trouble in life was always feeling less than. My trouble was always feeling like an outsider. My trouble was always feeling like the guy who got to the party but just went the party was about over. Never felt like I was in the know.

It was these feelings of being an outsider, a step behind, late to the party, catching a trend just when everyone has moved on to the next trend that kind of defined my pre-salvation days. I was always trying to fit in. I was an approval seeker. I wanted validation that I belong and that I matter to other people. It is still something I struggle with even after salvation but not like in my pre-salvation days. In those pre-salvation days, I would do whatever it took to win approval of others to the point of committing sins that grieve my own soul now. My moral compass fell off the table and broke into pieces over the years. And my word became worthless as I shucked and jived so as to keep all the people happy in my life from who I desired approval. My finances were a shambles from all of that too. So my word meant nothing when it came to financial matters and certainly my creditors probably felt my word meant nothing. My self-image of myself as a decent, moral person was far different from my daily practices of situational ethics. Then, there comes a day when you look at yourself in the mirror and say who have you become. There was a time when people thought you were a good kid and respected you for being a young man of your word. Now, look at you. You would lie to save your ass in a minute. You would lie to get out of trouble. You would lie to make yourself seem more important than you are. Looking in the mirror, who is this man? I don’t know him anymore. He acts as though there is no judgment because he lives according to his own gospel which is not the canonical Gospel of Mark. The ends justified the means for this guy looking in the mirror.

When I look back at the man I had become in the months and weeks before I accepted Christ as my Savior, I didn’t think of myself as a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. I thought I had become something that I didn’t wanna be but I thought I was still good enough to get in heaven if God made a few exceptions for me. I thought I was good enough to get in if God look at my good deeds vs. my bad ones. I figured that being a martyr in my divorce, trying to keep two families happy (my exwife and my daughters on one hand, and my second wife and her boys on the other) and feeling like a martyr in that, working hard, etc. All that would make up for my moral failures and my situational ethics. It was not until that play that night at Abundant Life Church in December 2001 where my life was lived out in a play right before my eyes on the stage at church. The central character thought the same kind of mindset. It wasn’t until he spent 30 minutes in hell during that one hour play that he realized that his sins no matter how small are enough to sentence him to eternity there. No matter the good deeds we do to make up for our bad ones, our sins prevent us from living with our Father in heaven in eternity. That was the final mirror in my face. The Holy Spirit broke my soul that night. Since then, it has been a long and winding road and a difficult job for the Holy Spirit to sanctify me and He still has a ton of work to do.

However, one thing that is important to me now is my word. I want to keep my word even if costs me something. I want to do what the Bible says is right no matter if it costs me something or not. I desire to please God in this way. I want to be a person who honors his commitments. I want to be a person who is known to tell the truth. I want to be a person that is known to have integrity. I want to a person that will give the cashier at the Wal-Mart the money back when she mistakenly gives me too much change. I want to be a person who does not try to return goods that I broke and pass it off as defective goods. I want to be a person of honor. In many ways, I am getting better at that each day because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my soul. I look back at the man I was before salvation and I am disgusted at him. In the process of being sanctified by the Holy Spirit, when I look back even in the years after salvation, I am disgusted by the man I was a the day of my salvation. I am disgusted by the man I was 10 years ago and even 5 years ago. I know too that as I progress deeper in my walk with Christ that the man that I am right now will disgust me in 10 years. As we grow in Christ, the Holy Spirit wins battles with the sins and habits and thoughts that we think are OK right now. Over time, though, the Holy Spirit shines the light of God on those things in our lives that are not holy. It takes a lifetime for the Holy Spirit to do this and He does not have his final victory over our ego-driven selfishness until we arrive in heaven and join our Savior there. As a Christ follower, sometimes we really do need to sit down and think about the person we used to be compared to now and marvel at the work, the tireless work, of the Holy Spirit in our lives? Are you not disgusted by the person you used to be before Christ, about the person you were just after salvation, and the person you were just a few short years ago? It’s funny how we think we are at the apex of our spiritual maturity until the Holy Spirit shines the light on something that we thought was acceptable all along til then.

Let us always remember who we used to be before Jesus Christ. Let us remember who we are now and where we will be in just a few short years down the right. We are a work in progress under the construction of the master remodeler, the Holy Spirit.

That’s the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through this passage for the second of three times that we will write about it – how Boaz and Naomi had reputations as being trustworthy and upright people to the point that people took them at their word (when they said something you could trust it like gold in the bank). Let’s read the passage together for the last time this morning, Ruth 3:1-18, before we move on:
3 One day Naomi said to Ruth, “My daughter, it’s time that I found a permanent home for you, so that you will be provided for. 2 Boaz is a close relative of ours, and he’s been very kind by letting you gather grain with his young women. Tonight he will be winnowing barley at the threshing floor. 3 Now do as I tell you—take a bath and put on perfume and dress in your nicest clothes. Then go to the threshing floor, but don’t let Boaz see you until he has finished eating and drinking. 4 Be sure to notice where he lies down; then go and uncover his feet and lie down there. He will tell you what to do.”

5 “I will do everything you say,” Ruth replied. 6 So she went down to the threshing floor that night and followed the instructions of her mother-in-law.

7 After Boaz had finished eating and drinking and was in good spirits, he lay down at the far end of the pile of grain and went to sleep. Then Ruth came quietly, uncovered his feet, and lay down. 8 Around midnight Boaz suddenly woke up and turned over. He was surprised to find a woman lying at his feet! 9 “Who are you?” he asked.

“I am your servant Ruth,” she replied. “Spread the corner of your covering over me, for you are my family redeemer.”

10 “The Lord bless you, my daughter!” Boaz exclaimed. “You are showing even more family loyalty now than you did before, for you have not gone after a younger man, whether rich or poor. 11 Now don’t worry about a thing, my daughter. I will do what is necessary, for everyone in town knows you are a virtuous woman. 12 But while it’s true that I am one of your family redeemers, there is another man who is more closely related to you than I am. 13 Stay here tonight, and in the morning I will talk to him. If he is willing to redeem you, very well. Let him marry you. But if he is not willing, then as surely as the Lord lives, I will redeem you myself! Now lie down here until morning.”

14 So Ruth lay at Boaz’s feet until the morning, but she got up before it was light enough for people to recognize each other. For Boaz had said, “No one must know that a woman was here at the threshing floor.” 15 Then Boaz said to her, “Bring your cloak and spread it out.” He measured six scoops[a] of barley into the cloak and placed it on her back. Then he[b] returned to the town.

16 When Ruth went back to her mother-in-law, Naomi asked, “What happened, my daughter?”

Ruth told Naomi everything Boaz had done for her, 17 and she added, “He gave me these six scoops of barley and said, ‘Don’t go back to your mother-in-law empty-handed.’”

18 Then Naomi said to her, “Just be patient, my daughter, until we hear what happens. The man won’t rest until he has settled things today.”

In this passage, we see that, as a foreigner, Ruth may have thought that Naomi’s advice was odd. However, Ruth followed the advice because she knew Naomi was kind, trustworthy, and filled with integrity. Each of us knows a parent, an older friend, or relative who is always looking out for our best interests. Be willing to listen to the advice of a person who is older and wiser than you are. The experience and knowledge of such a person can be invaluable. And then there was Boaz. Naomi knew that Boaz would follow through on his promise at once. He obviously had a reputation for keeping his word and would not rest until his task was completed. Such reliable people stand out in any age and/or culture. Do others regard you as one who will do what you say? Keeping your word and following through on assignments should be high on anyone’s priority list. Building a reputation of trustworthiness takes many years but losing your reputation can take just minutes.

I want to be like Naomi and Boaz. I want people to be able to trust what I say. I want to be a person who says what he means and means what he says. If I make a promise to you, you should be able to bank on that promise. I want to be that guy who is seen as one who has integrity. I want most of all to be an honorable representative of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. I want the person that I am on Sunday morning to be the same person who, when given the opportunity to do something unethical, will do what is right even if it costs my success or advancement according to earthly treasures. I want to be a guy like Boaz where it is known that I will not rest until I have kept my promise. I want to be a person like Naomi where, even if you think my advice is strange or odd, you will follow it anyway because you consider me a completely trustworthy source. I want to continually look back at my life and see growth in Christlikeness. I want to be a big kid Christian someday. I want to be like Christ. I also want to remember what that man in the mirror looked like in the months before salvation back in 2001. I never want to be that man again. I want to be God’s man. Again, as I said just a second ago, it is my desire more than anything else to be an honorable, trustworthy, reputable, representative ambassador of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I don’t ever, never, never, never, never, ever want to go back to being the man that stared in the mirror in 2001 and had that meltdown moment of horror at the person that I had become. Thank God for my salvation. Thank God for the joy that I have found there. Thank God for the Holy Spirit and His kicking my butt around these last 16 years. Thank God!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 9:1-14 (Part 1)

The Second Passover

As we move on from our nine part review of Numbers 8:5-26, we move into the one of the final preparations before the Israelites leave Mt. Sinai and head for the Promised Land. God asked them to remember the night before they left Egypt and hold a second Passover feast. It reminds me of what we do when we share our testimony.

 

Every so often in the small group that my wife and I lead, particularly when a new couple comes into our group, I ask the whole group to publicly share their personal journey to salvation and what their lives have been like since coming to know Jesus Christ as their Savior. It is a way for us to make connections with each other. Sometimes when new people enter a church small group, they may think that nobody in the group has a past of which they are not particularly proud, or that they do not have problems in their lives right now. Sharing our stories is a way to level the playing field between those of us who have been in our small group for a couple of years and those who have just entered.

 

The sharing of our stories helps us in two ways. First, it allows the new members of our group to get to know the people in our life group. They get to see that we all have warts and imperfections. It is a way to make them feel at home. There is nothing worse than a group of church people being together acting as if they have perfect lives and that nothing is wrong. The new folks get to see we are just as screwed up as they are. There’s no better icebreaker than that! To find out that people you are going to potentially hangout with for the next few years are just like you – Christ followers who are just trying to make sense of their world and follow Christ as we are doing it. Second, it allows us, those who have had to share our stories within our group several times, to continue to mature our stories. Each time we share our stories, it allows us to see again what God has done in our lives. Each time, God allows us to remember more details about our story of our run-up to the cross and our life since. Each time we share, we flesh out more details that are important to our story. Each time we share, we may bring out or emphasize different things than the last time so that our story becomes more complete. Each time we share, we learn more about our own walk with Jesus Christ and how it truly has changed us from the person we used to be. Each time we share, the Holy Spirit will inevitably make us realize something new about what God has done for us. Each time we share our story, the picture becomes more complete. Each time we share our story, it makes it easier for us to recount our story. Each time we share our story, it helps us remember and solidify the history of what God has done. We can never let ourselves forget what our life was like before the cross, what was happening in our life right around our moment of salvation, and what our life has been like since our salvation. It is important to know and remember our salvation history. It is important to remember what God has done.

 

Passover was the celebration at which God had prescribed for the Jews to celebrate their liberation from slavery in Egypt at the hand of God. There is no other way for them to have escaped Egypt except by the power of God Himself. Passover is the way they remembered these momentous events. God is saying here in Numbers 9:1-14 that they must remember. They must recount and celebrate and imitate the night before their freedom from Egypt. The second Passover was the beginning of this annual remembrance so that Israel would never forget what God had done for them.

 

Let’s read through the passage, Numbers 9:1-14, for the first time this morning and for this morning, let’s concentrate on vv. 1-5:

 

 

9 The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, 2 “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. 3 Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

 

4 So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, 5 and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

 

8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

 

9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

 

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’”

 

The Passover celebration was to celebrate what God had done. It was to help God’s people to give God glory. It was to remind them (because we humans have short memories when it comes to what God has done for us) that it was not by their own power but the miracles of God that they escaped Egypt. It was to remind them of where they had been and where they were going. It was to keep the story of God’s deliverance fresh in their mind. It is remembrance. It is history. It is glory to God. Sometimes, we need to sit back and remember what God has done.

 

In the busy-ness of our lives where we get all wrapped up in ourselves and our little universes and our little first world problems, we need reminding. When the internet is down or the power goes off for a couple of hours, we need reminding. When we have to juggle work schedules and our kids’ dance recitals or football games or cheer competitions, we need reminding. When we have a fight over what show we are going to watch or what restaurant we are going to, we need reminding. When we stress over our first world luxuries as if they are necessities, we need reminding. When we obsess over our investments, we need reminding. When we see the choice between Hillary and Donald as the worst possible thing ever, we need reminding. When we blast people on Facebook for not living according to our own standards, we need reminding. When we are tempted to sin, we need reminding. When we think we have arrived, we need reminding. When church leadership becomes more about checking off things on a to-do list of assignments than it is about giving God glory and reaching people for Christ, we need reminding. When we get so wrapped up in our own problems and our own abilities to solve them, we need reminding. Even for us who know Christ as our Savior for many years, we need to be reminded of just what Christ has done in our lives. We need to be reminded of the disaster that was our lives before we met Him. We need to be reminded of how we cast all pride in ourselves aside and got down on our knees and asked Jesus Christ to come into our lives and take it over (we need to remember that feeling of terror followed by complete release). We need to be reminded how God is continually transforming our lives since that point. We need to be reminded how He has truly changed us. In some areas and then in some areas where His change in us has been swift and painful. In some areas it has been slow and painful. In some areas, His change in us has been welcome relief. We need to remember that at the moment of salvation we are not the person we are now thanks to God! We mature in Christ. We are honed and chiseled by God into more Christ-likeness with each passing day. By sharing our story, we can see how He is maturing us. How the unholy things that we might have accepted as OK and justifiable in our early Christian walk now are things that we are revolted by now. We need reminding of where we were and where we are now. God’s miracles in our lives are so evident when we think about it. That’s why we remember. That’s why we need reminding.

 

Passover was to be the same thing to the Israelites. It was to remind them of God’s power in their lives. It was to remind of God’s deliverance from the dark days in Egypt. As we know from the grumblings of the Israelite people, they surely needed reminding. We smugly read how the Israelites seemingly quickly forgot the great things that the Lord had done for them and think “those ungrateful little #%&*’s” But, are we not the same way. We get all wrapped in how things are not. We get all wrapped up in our stuff that seems so important. We get wrapped up in things that don’t really matter. We whine at God for why we are in the position we are in. We need reminding. Let us recount our salvation stories often. That exercise puts things into perspective. Instead of being ungrateful little #%&*’s, we will see the glory of God in a changed life. We will see thanksgiving for what He has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We will be gracious because of the grace shown us through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit that makes us more like Christ each day. We will give glory to the God of all things that is responsible for it all. That’s why we remember. Because we need reminding!

 

Amen and Amen.

Numbers 5:1-10 (Part 1)

Purity in Israel’s Camp

Being a preacher’s kid ain’t easy. You are expected to behave at a higher standard than kids who dad is not a minister. It was especially true when I was growing up as a small child in the 1960’s and as a tweener and a teenager in the 1970’s when Southern culture was more centered around church life than it is now, particularly in small towns. Back when I was growing up in the parsonages in which we lived, we were typically living in a small, rural Southern town. Many were farming communities. Others were mill villages. Church was a big deal in those times and in those places. In all those places and in each of those times, being a preacher’s kid was a unique job. You were supposed to be like the others kids but not like them. You were supposed to be one of the boys but not.

 

There seemed to be an expectation that we were little ministers. We were to be miniature versions of our dad. We were never supposed to misbehave. We, I guess, were supposed to never have normal feelings of childhood. However, we were kids. We wanted to play football. We wanted to ride bikes all over town on Saturdays. To us, the church building and the Sunday school building was a playground that we got to play in every day. To play cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians in the church sanctuary was a normal day for us. Shooting my imaginary guns or toy guns at my brother from behind the pulpit was just the order of afternoon play after school or all-day play during the summer. Jumping out of a dark classroom to scare my brother in a hallway was just part of the deal of being a preacher’s kid. We were just normal kids using whatever was available in our environment for play. To us the church buildings were a treasure trove of props for our imagination. We were just kids. However, so many adults did not see us as regular kids and held us to a higher standard than other kids. We were supposed to monks, or friars or something. I always rebelled against that attitude. All preacher’s kids back in those days were measured by this standard. Old sayings like “preacher’s kids are the worst!” or “you better watch out for those preacher’s kids!” or “if you hang around with those preacher’s kids, you’ll get in trouble”. I don’t think that preacher’s kids were any worse than anybody else’s kids. It was just that we were held to a higher standard of behavior because we were the kids of the pastor. There were above-normal expectations of our behavior and when we turned out just to be normal kids, there was a larger gap between expectations and reality.

 

Expectations of holiness was a heavy burden for a child to bear when just by the sheer nature of being a child, you are going to do things that require discipline as you learn the boundaries of life growing up. We were expected to be born holy. There was an expectation that we were to be a cut above everyone. We were expected to understand high moral standards at a young age. We were expected to be little grown-ups, extensions of our preacher fathers. Preacher’s kids may rebel against it. We may think it unfair (and it may well be). We may say why couldn’t we have been born to someone who was not a preacher. At some point, you have realized that these are the cards that were dealt. You live in a preacher’s home and you have to deal with the expectations that come with it. Some preacher’s kids learn it early while still living at home, some later while still living at home, and still others never learn it and live their whole lives rebelling against being born a preacher’s kid.

 

It was that idea of different sets of expectations that I thought of this morning when I read our new passage for today, Numbers 5:1-10. We will review this passage in three parts this weekend. First, today, we will look at this expectations thing. Second, we will look Numbers 5:1-4 about the issue of segregating the sick and diseased from the camp. Finally, on the third blog on this passage, we will look at Numbers 5:5-10 about restitution for crimes/sins committed. But for today, let’s focus on expectations, when we read Numbers 5:1-10:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease[a] or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. 3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” 4 The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

 

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way[b] and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty 7 and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. 8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer. 9 All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Sacred things belong to their owners, but what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’”

 

The one thing that rattled through my brain as I read this passage as a whole this morning was that the closer that you operate to God the more holy that you need to be. God is a holy God. He is perfect. He is Perfection. Holiness and purity make up perfection and God is holy and pure. In this passage, the expectations of holiness by God of his people were greater and greater as you approached the Tabernacle to the point that only a certain few could come in the presence of God. There were rituals that the priests had to go through just to go into the Holy of Holies. Only Moses was granted the ability to talk with God. And according to the Bible, Moses was one of, if not, the holiest of men not named Jesus. The closer we operate to God, the holier we must be. What an interesting concept that is.

 

Before we meet Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are comparable to the diseased persons who are outside the camp. We are diseased by our sin in a figurative sense. Our souls are leperous. We have scales of sin all over our souls. These scales prevent us from being able to hear God in our souls. We are disfigured by our sin. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are admitted into the camp. We are a member of God’s people proper as a result of our decision to accept Christ as our Savior and Lord. We are still scarred and imperfect though and must exist on the edge of camp. We are safely members of the tribe of God through our membership achieved through Jesus. We are made clean by Jesus and are acceptable as a member of God’s chosen family. We are safe and secure. When we accept Christ as our Savior, no one can undo our membership in His family. Our eternity as a member of the clan of God’s chosen ones is secure. However, as baby Christians, we are still on the edge of the camp. It is only through the action of the Holy Spirit over time that we grow closer and more intimate with God. As we grow in Christ, we become more and more holy. It sometimes a painful experience as the scales of sin are lopped off our souls through the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Think of the person you are as a Christ follower now compared to the one that accepted Christ six months ago, six years ago, sixty years ago. You are certainly more holy now than you were then. It is through the Holy Spirit that we are more holy day by day. Day by day we edge closer to the Tabernacle. Day by day we grow more holy and can operate with more and more intimacy with a holy God. It is only when we die that we are perfected and most holy and can exist in the presence of God in heaven. Then we can enter the Holy of Holies. This is not about earning salvation. This about sanctification. Once we are members of the camp, we can never be expelled from it. Through Jesus we are made perfect in God’s sight. However, once we become Christians, we begin the lifetime process of becoming more holy and edging closer and closer to the Tabernacle. Like I said earlier, a sixty year Christ follower is more mature in Christ, hopefully, than a six month Christ follower. Through the pruning of the Holy Spirit, we are made more holy each day and we grow closer and closer to God.

 

As a preacher’s kid, there were unrealistic expectations of my behavior simply because I existed in the preacher’s house. However, there is a certain truth to the fact that as we mature in Christ, we can operate closer to God. We can know Him more deeply. Through the Holy Spirit, we understand God more deeply and know Him more intimately. We can rebel against the action of the Holy Spirit that prunes our souls and makes us more and more holy. When we rebel against this action and want to keep our pet sins, we will remain spiritual babies on the outer edges of camp. In camp but on the outer edges. Through submitting to the Holy Spirit’s actions in our souls, we become more holy as we progress in our walk with Jesus. We can come closer and closer to the Tabernacle. We can know God more intimately.

 

Amen and Amen.