THE WAY TO TRUE HOLINESS
by: Pastor Mark Stephens
Has the Lord recently been dealing with you about the sin that is in your life? He's not allowing you to sweep those sins under the rug any longer. He is directing you to take authority over them once and for all. If He has, you're not alone. The Holy Spirit is demanding that the entire Church clean up its act. He is issuing an ultimatum that God's temple be cleansed--we are that temple. The Lord cannot and will not manifest Himself in a temple that is not clean and pure.
Our prayers say, "God, send the glory! O God, let us see more glory!" If God were to turn up the volume of His glory in the condition most of us are in, we would all fall dead in our tracks. Why? We cannot stand with sin in the midst of the glory of God. That is why the priest in the Old Testament had to purify himself before he entered into the Holy of Holies.
Dealing with sin is part of the faith message that you don't hear much about. Yes, it is true that we are the righteousness of God and we have learned "in faith" to get rid of sin consciousness, that still does not give us the license to sin. Being God's righteousness does not permit us to keep playing with sin.
God is raising up a people who will refuse to compromise not only their faith, but their holiness as well. But to understand what that means, we first must have a clear picture of what holiness is all about. Holiness is not a bunch of "thou shalt nots." Holy people are not a crowd of long faced, dried up, half dead souls to be pitied.
Holiness is nothing more than the habit of being in one mind with God, loving what He loves and hating what He hates. Holy people are those who have the glory of the Lord upon them because they are in one mind with the Lord. God wants to lead the Church, His Church, that He is building (noticed it is His Church, and it's He that is doing the building) in this generation into a walk of holiness that will stagger the world.
Ephesians 4:8-12 declares, "Wherefore he saith, when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? he that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some apostles; and some prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ."
By this verse it is clear that God desires for the saints to be perfected. We've come a long way. Thank God we are not like we used to be, but thank God we're not yet what we're going to be. In these last days, God is going to accelerate the perfecting process, and we are going to reach a state nearer to perfection than the Church has ever known in its 2000+ year history.
For this to happen, we need all five of the ministry gifts, because no single one can fulfill the whole dimension of Jesus' ministry. We should not be so concerned with who the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher is, or try to point them out because they will be evident by their fruit. The Bible says that we will know the tree by the fruit it bears.
What we should be concerned about is being perfected. The next verse of Ephesians 4 says it is a process that will continue. "Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (verse 13.)
"What's that mean, pastor?" That simply means we're to grow up and be as big spiritually as Jesus!
The Lord is ready for the Church to grow up. In fact, read the next verse of Ephesians 4: "That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ."
Everything Paul wrote here under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is a goal that God has for the Church: maturity, growth, perfection, unity, and knowledge. In all these goals, Paul is talking about the Church growing up.
Why is God so interested in the saints become perfected? Ephesians 5:27 we find out what He's got in mind. "That He (Jesus) might present it to Himself a glorious church . . ." We've got to get the mentality that we will not be perfect until we get to heaven. Your Bible says that Jesus is coming for a glorious church, not an immature one.
What is a glorious church? That is not a church that is weak and under the thumb of the world. It is not a church that is barely making it. What kind of witness would it be if the world were at its worst and we are no better? What kind of testimony would it be if the world is falling apart, and we are worse off than the world? No wonder the world does not want anything to do with us Christians! They have seen us as a bunch of weaklings, and people that cannot make it in society.
I've come to tell you today that we are not in the minority, we are in the majority. We are not failures any more; we know who we are in Christ and we are determined to win! What is a glorious church? A glorious church is a church full of glory. The glory of God is the expression, the manifestation, the personification of the invisible God. When a church is full of glory, then that church has the ability to express and manifest and personify God. Scripture tells us that such a church will be exalted and that people will flow into it.
Jesus said of His church "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18). A glorious church is a powerful church. It's a church that is marching on, taking back what the devil has stolen from us. A glorious church is one without "spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing;....holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27).
Remember what Jesus said in John 15:1 "I AM the true vine, and My Father is the husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away."
It's unfortunate, but there will always be those who won't flow with God. Not everyone will listen to His prophets. Not everyone is willing to be cleansed. There are always some that will refuse to submit themselves to Him.
Jesus went on to say in John 15:2 "every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it."
We don't like to talk about being purged and pruned; it's not pleasant to anyone. But the truth is, the Lord is going to prune us. But He prunes and purges us so that we will bear more fruit. If we want to be more fruitful than we are already, we must submit ourselves to the pruning of God.
"How does the Lord prune us, preacher?" I'll answer that with scripture, Matthew 3:11 says, "I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire."
It's the baptism of fire that will burn up or prune us so that all that remains is pure--a glorious church! When God's people have been cleansed, the result will be a church full of glory. Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine; for thy light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon thee."
That glory, Isaiah says, shall be seen upon us, shining out in the world of darkness around us. If you think society is corrupt now with pornography, witchcraft, drugs and crime, just wait, it's going to get worse! Isaiah 60:2 promises it, "For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people..."
Yet in all this the church of the Living God will shine more brighter, so that the people in the world will have a light to look to. If we will only submit ourselves to the purging fire, we will become as Jesus said, "The light of the world." It's the light of God's glory which will bring people to the Lord.
The Bible tells us that God is love. God loves you. He loved you so much that He sent His Son to the cross to pay the price for every one of your sins. But His love did not stop there. He has also sent the Holy Spirit to be with and dwell among those who receive Jesus as their Lord. The Spirit of God is present in the earth today to reveal the Father to His children.
God has given His very best for you and me. Why don't we give our best back to Him?