Updated: Jan 31
Moses obeyed God when he told the “congregation of the people of Israel … You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
Paul told the Corinthians … a church of early Christians … “You are God’s temple” and “God’s temple is holy.”
Jesus told those Jews who followed him to the mount to hear him preach, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
David wrote the lyrics, “Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless,” and “Fulfill your promise to your servant.”
Paul warned, “Let no one boast about human leaders. For all things are yours – all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.”
Now this seems to be fairly clear directives to follow. A Christian is no different than a child of Israel, with each being a member of the “congregation of people” who believe in God.
God set laws for his people to follow, which sets the parameters from which holiness can be identified.
“See that boundary? Do NOT go beyond that boundary!” sayeth the Law.
Footprints to both sides because a line stops no one
It is an all or nothing line in the sand. You are either holy or unholy, based on how well you respect the laws.
Now, Paul said, “You are God’s temple.” Let’s examine that concept for a moment, incorporating the law with that.
The laws represent the walls of the temple. The Ten Commandments represent the “watch towers” along the wall, positioned at strategic points, so a view of that which is both beyond and within the walls can be seen.
That makes the temple appear like a fortress, a defensive structure that has to be guarded. We have to know what the laws are and we have to have imaginary sentries in our heads to warn us. Our inner voice is trained to shout out, “Stop! You are not allowed beyond this point!”
The reason we have to have sentries is we like to hang out along the wall and imagine what it is like “on the other side.”
When it has been said, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” that is the way an unholy act can seem to someone who hangs out along the wall of holiness.
You see others beyond the law doing everything you are not allowed, by law, to do. You do not do certain things simply because God told Moses those laws.
Still, you rarely see any sinners being struck by God’s lightning.
People murder and go free or don’t get caught.
People steal the life savings of others and get light sentences or government bailouts.
Divorce is commonplace. Marriage is confused. Sexual sterility has become the trend.
It has become fashionable to covet the unwanted children of other nations, both as adoptions and marriages.
The world goes 24/7, and while it does the Sabbath gets lost in the hustle-bustle.
A nation that once was 100% God-fearing now argues over whose sect is better, with more and more Americans not believing in God at all.
When we stand on the ramparts of the temple and look out and see someone we know – a loved one – beyond the boundaries of the wall of law, we become lost.
We don’t know what to do.
If we preach to those we deem sinners, we get laughed at. We put our tails between our legs when someone asks us questions about the law, which we do not know the answers to. We struggle with judging the sins of others because we know what guilt feels like. We want absolution for our own sins.
It is so easy to say, “It is beyond my control.”
It is so easy to say, “My church is what I count on. I give money and time to my church so it can fight for good over evil for me. I pray for my church to call upon God to right this nation, to heal this world.”
We think, “The Church is big enough to fight evil and those who are beyond its walls of defense,” but there are those who are trying to scale its walls and bash its gates in with battering rams.
Meanwhile, we leave these walls every Sunday and often go outside the boundaries of the laws – by driving long distances and going shopping on Sunday afternoon.
We are living among those attacking the Church; doing many of the things they are doing, trying to maintain low profiles.
Moses said, “If you are to be one of the congregation of God, then you must be holy.”
Paul said, “You are the temple of God, so you must be holy.”
Jesus said, “You must be perfect because God is perfect.”
None of that is a commandment to the whole world. It only applies to those who will be priests for the One God. You are not told, “You must be a holy priest.” You have a choice.
But, the choice is either all or nothing … holy or unholy … servant of God or servant of self.
Many are invited, but few are chosen.
Jesus actually tells us what to do if we are to make the choice to serve God, to be holy, to be perfect.
He said we have to go beyond the walls of the laws.
We must go beyond the walls of the laws without breaking the laws.
When Paul said we have to be the temple of God, which means God is in our hearts, with Christ in our minds.
Paul said, “You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.” That means, “Christ is always in your thoughts, and Christ’s thoughts are coming from God.”
You can only be holy … you can only be perfect … when you stop worrying about what you can and can’t do and just stand aside and let Christ lead your bag of flesh and bones around.
Christ makes you perfect. Not the other way around. You will never be perfect as you alone.
The walls of the laws were where the Pharisees lived. They manned the towers; and from that vantage point they could see where everyone went. They saw sinners as being the only ones who walked around outside the walls. They persecuted Jesus because they saw him there.
“Sinner!” they cried.
The Pharisees and their watchmen shouted warnings, which scared the congregation of people who were supposed to be holy … who were supposed to be individual temples of God … who were supposed to each be a priest for God.
They were scared because they felt guilt, without knowing how to make themselves stop sinning … without knowing how to not get caught. To stop living as a sinner among sinners is such a large responsibility to hold on one’s shoulders … so much stress to contend with … such an uphill climb that wears one down.
The congregation of the people of Israel always backslid and fell away from God. Like in a trance, they would wake up finding themselves mired outside the walls of the law, wallowing in sin. From guilt they would pray for forgiveness.
God would send them a judge, which would snap them back to their senses. They would rejoice for a time, then begin to pace along the walls, inside the temple of laws. Forty years later, they would repeat the same cycle of fall and rise, sin and be cleansed.
Then, the people asked Samuel to tell God they wanted a king to bear all the responsibility. They peered out beyond the temple sanctuary and saw other nations had kings. They longed for what those sinners had. They wanted a head for the Church to be the one to fight evil. They wanted an institution, like those the unholy had, to rule over them. Give us a human to be our shepherd of holiness.
David was a shepherd, if you recall, before he was anointed by Samuel to be the king the people sought.
They were given that, but after three kings – Saul, David and Solomon … that institution … that Church … split.
A house divided cannot stand … so both halves fell.
The problem comes from wise men are allowed to run the show. Human shepherds so often become pied pipers, offering irresponsible promises that people of herd mentality blindly follow. Human leaders can only lead everyone to ruin.
Paul warned the Corinthians, “Do not deceive yourselves.”
Do not put all your eggs in a basket that worships something less that God – like a leader, like a Church.
Paul wrote, “If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.”
You have to fail and admit, “Oh what a fool am I,” before you can see that nobody is going to lead you to heaven other than you.
You cannot lead yourself there without Christ in your mind and God in your heart.
You cannot get to heaven with sin between your toes and on the soles of your feet … even though you look pretty clean to the rest of us. God knows your heart. Christ knows your thoughts.
“Let no one boast about human leaders,” Job wrote. “He catches the wise in their craftiness.” “They are futile,” said Isaiah.
You will not be holy simply by following behind someone you think is holy. You will not be a temple to God simply by going into a church. You will not be perfect in your actions simply by learning the laws.
Nothing has changed since Moses first told the congregation of the people of Israel, “You are to be holy because God is holy.”
It has always been that … all or nothing.
It has been, ever since then, an exercise by the people to think of ways to change the “all or nothing” into a matter of degrees, through human cunning.
In this season of the Epiphany, with Lent rapidly approaching, it is time to have a “Come to Jesus meeting,” in the real sense of those words.
You need to realize it is all or nothing, because only with Christ leading your thoughts and God leading your heart can you walk outside the walls of this church and still be within the laws.
May God be with you.