Reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7) can be intimidating. Who can live up to the standards Jesus set in that teaching?
“For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven… But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment… But I say to you, whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
You have got to be kidding!
Is that even possible in a culture where there is more cleavage shown than is covered, men wear tight jeans, marijuana is legal, partial nudity is revealed in most television shows and even in “family friendly” movies?
Refuge is not found in church meetings either. Scoop-neck tops, tight fitting jeans and skin-tight pants are commonly worn, even on the platform. Wine and alcohol are consumed at dinner gatherings and beer is served at Super Bowl parties.
It is exactly to such a culture Jesus of which was speaking, “Therefore, you shall be perfect just as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” The Apostle Peter gave the same teaching in his first epistle, “[A]s obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16 NKJV).
The Apostle was writing to the believers scattered throughout the eastern portion of the Roman Empire. His message calls for them to live a life of holiness in an anti-Christian culture steeped in immorality and perversion.
What is the standard to which the Apostle Peter and our Lord Jesus Christ calls the believer?
Jesus said, “As your Heavenly Father is perfect…” The Apostle Peter declared, “[As] He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct…” They were only repeating what Heavenly Father, Himself, said, “Be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44).
The God whom the angels declare is “holy, holy, holy” calls for His children to live holy. It is not a holiness determined by what they see other believers doing. Neither is it holiness based upon a standard set by contemporary theologians and clergy who are well trained in tolerance, or the post-modern, politically correct church. God, Himself, who is thrice-holy, is the standard by which we are to measure our holiness. How is that even possible?
It is impossible for the natural man or the unregenerate person to live the holy life demanded by the God who sits upon a throne surrounded by angelic creatures who cry day and night, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
Make no mistake. This is not optional equipment for the believer who truly wants to make the Kingdom of God their eternal home. The writer of Hebrews wrote, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (12:14).
True repentance of sin brings the “washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit”, making the sinner a new creation. Old things have passed away and behold all things are become new” (Titus 3:5; 2 Corinthians 4:17). Whereby, God makes a divine fiat declaring the born again person is justified and made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.
Judicially that person is just as if they had never sinned and they are holy as God is holy.
The Holy Spirit, who now lives within them, will encourage the person to cooperate with His sanctifying work that will set them apart from their old attitudes, their old behavior patterns, their old life style, and the fads, fashions, and standards of the culture around them. The cleansing power of the Word of God will challenge them daily to transform their thoughts patterns, reasoning, opinions, and philosophy from the world view of the culture around them into a Christ-like world view.
This is the work of God within the heart of an ordinary human being that makes it possible for them to live holy as their Heavenly Father is holy.
It is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and the living Word of God that enables a person who once lived like the devil to “be imitators of God, as dear children.” Their attitude, speech, integrity, dress, moral standards, business dealings, and entertainment will reflect the transformation going on inside.
It will impact their marriage relationship, parenting skills, friendships, co-workers, neighbors and family members.
The power of alcohol, pornography, narcotics, and dishonesty in words and business cannot stand in the presence of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God in the heart of a child of God whose will is surrendered.
Their power is broken and their influence is removed; the very desire for them is purged from the mind, emotions, and the flesh.
It is holiness from the inside out that makes this righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribe and the Pharisees.
It is not keeping a list of religious rules or an ecclesiastical standard.
It is the transformation of the spirit and soul that impacts the desires of the flesh and changes the behavior of the individual.
It is the only power that enables a child of God to live a holy life in a post-Christian culture.
It is the missing ingredient in most Christian ministries in post-modern America today.