Feast: Deuteronomy and Holiness
John W. Ritenbaugh
Given 14-Oct-19; 74 minutes
I am learning, as I grow a little bit older here day by day that time has not slowed down one bit. And I am confident of that because God is on His throne, and the heavens are still moving at the same rate of speed as He set them to move. And even though I am very busy and time is consumed and it seems as though time is going faster, it is an illusion. It is not going any faster.
But in less than three weeks I will begin my 87th year of life, and I have found also that it is not getting any easier. In fact, largely because of Evelyn's illness issues, this has easily been the most stressful year of my life. In one sense, it is a whole new world, and the reason it is a whole new world for us is that God has blessed us with such good health. So it is because the nature of her illness demands a great deal of time and attention from me that it has been so stressful, and if I desire to take care of her and I do that, time and attention must not be avoided because of the nature of her illness. If she is on her own, she is about as helpless, I kid you not, as a two week old kitten.
She is already ready 87. (I married the old lady on the block, you might say, and I never have been able to catch up.) Inside of our home she knows where the various rooms are. She knows from her position within the home where she is standing and she knows where to go to do whatever it is, even though it is not very much more than that. Believe it or not, I was astounded and I could not fathom how that she could not paint a wall. Richard, witnessed this. I was painting our garage. And Evelyn was sitting on the step watching. I asked her if she wanted to paint. Oh, yeah, she said. I gave her a brush. I put some paint on it. She did not even know how to move it back and forth. It was beyond her comprehension at that point.
She loses track of things easily and will voluntarily change clothing several times a day. She does not know why, she just gets a bug in her mind to do it, and she does it. She has about as much attention orientation to her life as I would say, a preschool child. And as far as I can discern, she does not really plan to do anything more than a few minutes into the future.
But I told Diane less than a week ago that I asked her, "Do you know that the day of Atonement is coming?" And she said, "Yes, that's the day we fast." That just blew me away because it is one of the few things that she remembers. She does not know what day it is. She cannot tell time.
Now I am giving you this as kind of a background to help you to understand why this has been such a stressful year for me and how fast it has gone. And yet there remains so much more to do. I kid you not, she has lost virtually all sense of order in which things need to be done and the order that they need to be done in for accomplishment and the use of time in her life.
Well, God laid this on her and God laid this on me as well, and I have to handle it. I told her—I will take care of her. We will see what happens. And we are only part way through this trial. I think we still have some time to go. But I have definitely found out how self-centered I am. She gets a bug and she wants to follow through on it—one of which has to do with anything that she wants done. Oh, she is not demanding at all. But whatever it is, it comes into her mind and it has to be done immediately. And it is the way one of the ways that she has adjusted to her situation. I think that there is within her a bit of a fear that if she does not get done what it is that she wants right now, it will pass away and she will forget about it. She has this thing on her mind to get it done.
She forgets, from one day to the next, which cupboards in the kitchen have which eating utensils within it. Partly I am giving you this so that you are able to lift up your voice to God asking Him not to lay this on you because it is a tremendous plague, if I can put it that way, that is going on in the United States of America. I did see a compilation of statistics regarding it and the number of people who are coming down with dementia (we are pretty sure that Evelyn has just a broad dementia and not specifically Alzheimer's). But it is something that is blanking out the minds of the American people, and God is allowing it to occur, and it is occurring. The statistic was amazing how many people, mostly women, who are falling victim to this.
Now, in spite off this, Evelyn has a wonderful disposition and is not in any way aggravatingly demanding. She is aware of others who were around her. I know that she is not aware of the way that she is affecting them, but nonetheless, there is still some of that spirit in her that she wants to serve in whatever way she can and she can serve by at least being kindhearted, smiling, or whatever it is. It is one of the ways that she has adjusted to her condition, and though she is not really aware of this and is not demanding, the truth is that she requires a great deal of time and attention.
And in some ways she is a model for this sermon. To me, in some ways, she pictures the way things in the American culture is going at this time. So I am dealing with my sermon topics at this feast because of my age. I am 87 but I do not consider them as messages with the thought that this may very well be my last hurrah. I personally feel good, if I can put it that way. I mean, muscularly. Sometimes I have bad attitudes, and I just blame that on Evelyn. (laughter) And I am that way because she puts the test on me that keeps showing me how self-centered I still am. I have a long, long, long way to go now.
Early this past year or so, I think it was around last December or January, I chose to break off from speaking on the book of Ecclesiastes, even though one of its overall messages is that everything is important. That is, those things that occur in our life are important. They are truly vital in some way. And it is part of our responsibility before God to determine and make choices about what is happening in our lives, and what we are going to take care of, and what we are not going to take care of. We will just leave it for somebody else to do. But that is a theme that runs through the book of Ecclesiastes.
I figured, at that time, that I was not going to continue that any longer because of the things that are happening in the United States of America. They are moving toward a critical period of time that I think needs the attention of the members of the Church of the Great God. So I switched over to the book of Hebrews. This is actually the third time that I have gone through the book of Hebrews in my ministry, but I think that this one is far more serious. I am giving it to the congregations here in a much more detailed way than I did in the past, because I feel that there is no way that I can see that church members can live in this nation with its freewheeling immorality attitudes without being negatively affected by it. And we need the messages that were given to us by Jesus Christ, and whoever the author was after him. We need its messages on our relationship with our High Priest more than what I had going for me there in the book of Ecclesiastes.
I do not foresee God doing anything more than preserving this nation's continuing existence as a people, at least for the time being. This nation's greatness is gone! I do not think there are many who feel that it is going to be recaptured. We no longer have enough morality within us as a culture to any longer be called 'great' as a nation.
So as a culture we have instead grown overwhelmingly self-centered rather than Christ-centered. There are an awful lot of people out there proclaiming that we began as a Christian nation. We did not begin as a Christian nation. We had elements of it within what came through the founders' beliefs, but we never did live in a Christian nation. Things have grown so corrupt under the religious culture that we have, and is diminishing, that I have no hope that we will ever be unified again until God creates a spiritual revival that in turn creates a common bond, especially among the Israelitish people who are the literal descendants of those who originally settled this land that Almighty God set aside and preserved for us.
You can see what is happening with all this that is going on within the nation now. Somebody is out to destroy the Israelitish aspect of this nation and giving liberties to people to be in this nation that God had never determined, at first, to give, as He did to the Israelitish people. I believe that God intended the Israelitish people to be centered within this nation at the time of the end, and it is being taken from us and God is permitting it.
Now, I do not believe that God will do what I said just a few minutes ago, if He hopefully does do it, because Israelites are better than others. It is simply a possibility because there is a commonality, a family spirit that will help draw the Israelitish people within this nation together. Though they or their ancestors may have immigrated here from other nations, mostly European, they are living in the land that God assigned for them, even as other people were assigned land by God, according to the numbers of the children of Israel. That is interesting. First, He determined where He wanted His people and then He divided the rest of the area of the earth among the other nations.
I want you to turn with me to Deuteronomy the 32nd chapter.
Deuteronomy 32:7-9 Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father and he will show you; your elders and they will tell you: when the Most High divided their inheritance in the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel [the next verse is very important]. For the Lord's portion is His people.
Can you imagine that? It truly is God's nation and He decided where he wanted the Israelitish people to be at the end. It is part of His purpose. Like I said, let me remind you, it is not because we are better. It is only because there is a family commonality there stemming from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and so forth, so that there is a common bond, even of blood, that He intended that there be.
Okay, we are in it. But you and I together are experiencing that it is being taken away. The payment is to lose control of our own land to people who do not like us at all. They have different commonalities than the Israelitish people, and let me repeat it again—it has nothing to do with being better. They are different, and God has purposes for them. But we are seeing it done, especially because of verse nine of Deuteronomy 32: "For the Lord's portion is His people [of all the peoples on earth]; Jacob is the place of His inheritance."
My question for this sermon is this: Since God greatly desires that His church, the Israel of God, become a holy people despite what is going on all around us—the immoral corruption—we are still required by God to become a holy people, how can we do what becoming holy requires in the midst of all this corruption? That is our challenge. God has ordained that it be done in this way. He may not prefer that it be done in this way, but He has allowed things to develop and we are getting hit on every side with diversities that are coming from other nations. And they want what we have been blessed with.
So as we begin, I want to set a goal before us so we begin to grasp a foundation shown in Scripture in order to become holy. This is the issue. It is not that we save the nation. We will leave that to God and what He wants to do with it. But regardless, we are in the church of God. We are in the Israel of God and we have the same appointment that was given way back when—we are to become holy people regardless of circumstances. That is a challenge, considering what is going on.
There is such an angry attitude in this nation. Everybody seems to hate everybody else and people can hardly talk sanely to one another. And there is so much fear riding on the crest of this anger. Where is this leading? Where is it going to hurt me? If it is going to hurt me, I am going to protect myself. Phooey on being holy! We can take that attitude.
To see this foundation on how to become holy in black and white, we are going to begin in the New Testament and then go back to the Old. What I hope to do is to show you a simple, universal law. What I am going to show you is not complex in the least. Simply stated it is, if anyone desires to produce a certain crop (we will think of this as a farmer might), you must plant the very seeds that produce that crop. That is the principle. That is not complex, is it?
You want wheat? You plant wheat berries. You want holiness? You must give holiness and plant holiness in others. Not by converting them necessarily, not at all. But you have to be holy before them and treat them as a holy person should treat them. That is what is going to cause you to become holy because you are going around like Johnny Appleseed planting the plants all over the place. Do you get the principle? This is not hard. It is a simple principle. But brethren, as I am finding out with Evelyn, I am so self-centered. It is hard to do that! Because we always want to take care of number one first. Do you get it?
Turn with me back to the book of Romans, chapter 12, verses 1-2. These are becoming some of my favorite verses in the Bible. What I am going to do is read this to you from the Amplified Version. Listen to the strength of these words. The apostle Paul wrote this, and he said,
Romans 12:1-2 (AMP) I appeal to you, therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable [That is interesting. That is not always reasonable when you are self-centered] (rational, intelligent) spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external superficial customs], . . .
That is why I said earlier about how difficult it is to live in this nation because were impacted by its attitudes and its actions, its conduct all the time. Everywhere we look, it is impacting on us.
Romans 12:2 (AMP) . . . but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].
Those are two powerful commands to us on how to become holy. Now very bluntly stated, the apostle has said that we must literally devote ourselves, our lives to sacrificing them for the benefit of those we love, beginning with the Father and Son. That is where it starts—our relationship with Them. And we start doing more vigorously, more ambitiously, more kindly, taking care of giving love back to Them. "If you love Me, keep My commandments." That is how we do it.
That same principle has to be put into practice with the next door neighbor, with the neighbor who works at the grocery store, where you buy your gas, and where you work, and on and on and on it goes. We do not have to convert them with some clever argument. They appreciate the kind acts and the gentleness and the goodness and so forth that you give to them. That is how holiness is planted, by the example.
Now this goal of giving ourselves as a living sacrifice is so important, it is impossible to overrate its value. I am going to begin by laying a legal foundation shown in Scripture so that we can understand that what God is requiring of us is not unreasonable. Nor is it impossible, though it will not be easy because self-centeredness is so easy. It will not be easy, because it may seem as though we are giving up our liberties and rights constantly. Did you hear what I said? It will not be easy because we will find ourselves catching ourselves getting angry because somebody's taking advantage of us. It will seem as though, at least to our human nature, that we are being taken advantage of constantly. But brethren, that is the price we must pay if we truly desire to be holy in order to please God. Why? Because, brethren, we must learn the cost of love. That is the reason God is pushing us to learn the cost of love. Love is not cheap.
There are many clues regarding its legality and how it comes about that are found primarily in the book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy was written after 40 years in the wilderness during the month before Israel entered the Promise Land to possess it, and though Moses wrote it, it is nonetheless God's Word. Moses wrote it, laying the groundwork for success within the Promised Land and becoming holy is one of them. And I will show you some ways to draw upon what God is very willing to create in us because holiness is what glorifies Him. It reflects what He is. It is that simple. God is holy.
Now holiness has two aspects to it. The first is that being holy simply requires to be set apart. That is the dictionary definition—to be set apart. It can also be described as singled out, distinguished from others for God's purposes. In Deuteronomy the seventh chapter and verse six, God makes this declaration through Moses.
Deuteronomy 7:6-9 "For you are a holy people to the Lord God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. [And he means that we are a special people only because of God's association with us.] The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than on any other people, for you are the least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed from you the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments."
Let us jump way ahead for just a second to the Father. What was the cost of loving you? It was the life of His Son. Love is not cheap. Love is the most costly thing we can achieve on earth! If we are going to become holy, we are going to become holy because we have become like God. And He set the example of how costly love is by giving His Son to show us that He loves us. Can we do the same thing within our families? Can we do the same thing sort of thing? Not to that degree, but in principle, do the same things in our neighborhood, the people we deal with at the local grocery store, or whatever, to our own children?
I have confessed to you how I am learning from Evelyn's problem how self-centered I am. It is disgusting to realize I failed again. I lost my temper. I lost my cool. I was exasperated in the wrong way rather than just patiently taking care of it, whatever it has to be. She has wonderful way to ask me to do things at the wrong time. (laughter) But brethren, it is always going to be the wrong time! That is the catch, so that it makes us feel we are being taken advantage off. We are always giving and never receiving. That is the way human nature works. God was pretty clever when he put that in us as a tool that we must overcome. That is our job.
God does what He does there, that is in the calling of us, to carry His creativity further on toward perfection. And I know I think of these things in regard to Evelyn that He is perfecting me. I will just say, "Ding it." I want to say something else. But at least I have got the ding. You get the point.
This is not something that is overcome in a minute. We have to think these things through and realize that God has a purpose and what He is teaching us, brethren, I have put in a simple phrase for you and that is, He is teaching us the cost of love. And when we go into the Kingdom of God, how much is that going to be really emphasized when we come to meet these people who come up out of their graves and I will tell you, we see the worst of mankind.
So because God carries through with His intention, we became a special treasure He desires to have. He desires to have us in His image, of course. Additionally therefore, also a special treasure above all peoples on the face of the earth who have not been invited to undergo more of God's creative genius at this time. And He is teaching us that our calling is very definitely for our good.
Turn with me to Acts chapter 9. I think I will read these verses so that I can at least use this to help prove to you again and again and again that God did not call us because we are great or good or had such skills or whatever it is. God called us because of His purposes. I know you are familiar with this, but nonetheless as we read through this, remember that the apostle Paul was the enemy of God. He was the enemy of the church. And yet He called this man for whatever reason, I do not know, but in God's mind, he was the one He wanted to do a specific job.
Acts 9:10-16 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias, and to him the Lord said in a vision, "Ananias." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." So the Lord said to him, "Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so he might receive his sight." And then Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem [and he was the one God called!]. And here he has authority from the chief priest to bind all who call on Your name." But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name's sake."
Mark that well in your mind. A person who is being taught how much love costs is going to suffer. It is guaranteed. Do you know why? Love is costly regardless of who the person you are trying to love is.
Acts 9:17-19 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized. So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples in Damascus.
So here we have a man, an out and out enemy of Jesus Christ and the church. And even after his conversion, he had to bear with the fears of his brethren in the church, as well as the hatred of the Jews, who saw him as an out and out traitor. What did Paul have to learn about love? He had to learn to love his enemy. He even had to learn to love his brethren. And there are some irritating people in the church. You laugh because you know! I will tell you again. Love is the most expensive quality for sale, if I can put it that way, in the world. Look how many divorces there are in the United States of America? Look how many children, young men and young women, who are fighting, battling within their own families, father and mother, and hate their guts because they do not like the way they are put together.
So we must realize that our calling places a very serious responsibility on our shoulders that others in the world do not have. Because God has called us, He has put this burden on us and we have to pay the price of learning the cost of love. And the world does not have that yet. Now we can get, we will say, all the resources that we need from our Father in heaven. But we have to face up to it that we need it and that is where we go to get it. And then we have to carry through with the works that back up what God the Father has given to us to use. What level of quality of this characteristic are we going to have to measure up to meet the demands of the responsibility that God has laid on our shoulders, on our minds?
Well, a bit of an explanation begins by taking a penetrating look at God's sovereignty. This may be a little bit difficult for me to explain it in a way that is really clear. But this is where the principle begins that we need to have in learning the cost of love. The term 'sovereignty' defines God's right to rule in matters of government. In this case, it is His right because He is the Creator. We are going to go back to do Deuteronomy 32 once again.
Deuteronomy 32:7 "Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father and he will show you; your elders and they will tell you: when the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations."
The context is showing God's sovereignty over all nations in this particular context. And so God, as Creator, apportioned out land to nations other than Israel as well. In fact, it gives the implication that He apportioned it to all nations. To Israel He gave the Promised Land. Each nation, including Israel, has an inherent, this is an important word, right to the land God gave it. What did God require of the Israelites because He gave them the Promised Land? He gave it to others as well. And that is the responsibility of taking care of it. That is an important part of this. Now drop to verse nine. Another step in this rule here.
Deuteronomy 32:9-11 "For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreading its wings, taking them up, carrying them on his wings."
Verses six through 11 are following this sovereignty principle. God had the right of ownership of them and in turn makes very clear to the Israelites that He loved them.
I want to you to go now to the book of Psalms. God did not give this land to any nation and did not put any burden on them. Yes, He put a burden on them. They all have to take care of them. Now at the point of the process that we finished there in verse 11, through Israel's government, after God gave the Promised Land to Israel, the land was then apportioned (you can follow this through the book of Joshua), to the family tribes, and the tribes in turn then apportioned it to families. And some of these divisions are shown in Scripture. You are seeing God's earth being apportioned off all the way down to families. He does this for us through Israel, so that we can see the process that may have been gone through by others as well.
Now, at this point in this process, the ownership (this begins to become important), of private landed property became a basic right of its Israelite owner. God owned it; He gave it to Israel. The Israeli government then apportioned it to other families and, as they apportioned it to other families, then they became owners of that land and responsible, right to God, for having to take care of it. In other words, it ultimately was given to them by God Himself, by means of God's sovereignty. So we know that. But the nation of Israel itself was declared by God in verse 9 to become His personal property. As far as we know, He did this to no other people on earth. Israel became God's personal property.
Remember, I said a little bit earlier, though the land came to the Israelitish people, they were responsible for taking care of it. That is an important part of this process. Are you not responsible for taking care of your relationships that God may very well had a part in bringing you together with this other person? How about it, fellas? The gal that you married? And how about it, gals? The guy that you married? Is God involved with your life when you are married? Think about that. Someday we will find out how involved God was with all these things—where we lived, the kind of work that we did. And yet we feel like we are free. That is the kind of love you want. And He has it!
Following the same sovereignty principle God says His portion, His inheritance is Israel, and He therefore has the inherent right of ownership of them. Just as the Israeli citizen had ownership of the land, God claimed all of Israel for Himself. I kid you not. This is the Word of God. Israel is God's nation. God's nation is primarily centered in the United States and Britain right now. God wanted them there, at the end. And both of them are being chopped into pieces from within. Now, even as Israel had a basic right of ownership of land, God had the right of ownership of them. And He in turn makes very clear He loved them. God told the Israelitish people that He owned them, but He also loved them.
I would like to turn back to Psalm 16 because there is one little principle there that is fairly important. I just want a couple verses here.
Psalm 16:5-6 Oh, Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance.
The mention of lines in verse six implies boundary lines of property. David is the author here. What this is, really, is it is the opposite side, the opposite hand of Deuteronomy 32:9 which David is writing about here. These two verses have interesting ramifications because they, taken together, point to the right of ownership of each other. This really gets interesting, and this is one of the steps, when we begin to realize it, that makes love, or holiness, able to grow.
Here is my question: How can two in a relationship, in this case it is David and God, come to the place where one owns the other and the other owns the one? You are familiar with the most common version of this, most of you, because that is what David is talking about. He said the lines fell just in the right places for this relationship that I have with God. Now let us go to Psalm 100. I said to you when I began, this is a little bit complex. Once you begin to see it flesh out I think you will agree that I am on the right track here.
Psalm 100:3 Know that the Lord, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
On God's part there is an inherent and absolute right of ownership because He is Creator. But I gave you the process by which individual Israelites became landowners of the Promise Land. You see, something is being drawn together here. In light of that, because God owns Israel, we are undoubtedly His property. You might have to think that through but in one way we are His property in two ways. By being in the Family and also by being Israelites. In many cases, everybody is God's property because He is the Creator of all that is.
Now, the sort of ownership that we are talking here, it does not fit into Deuteronomy 32 and Psalm 16. I am going to go on a little bit of a digression, but it is important that we catch the picture here. For example, a despotic tyrant or a slave owner may have absolute right of property over his subject or his slave. God has absolute right over us. Why can we trust Him? Because of what He is, because of His character, because of His mind, because we know that He is a loving God. Now, we are talking about a situation in which one loves the other. For example, a despotic tyrant or a slave owner may have absolute right of property over his subject or slave, he may have as his right the entire disposal of his slave's skill and labor, even have the power of life and death. God has that over us. Now not every person has that kind of character, but does it seem to you that that kind of authority fits what we know of the God of the Bible's attitude?
In what sense (here comes a really wild one), did Nero own Paul when he put Paul in prison and then killed him? There was no loving ownership there at all, even though he had power over Paul that enabled him to do this because Nero was a tyrant. But think about this one step further now. Paul belonged to another, did not he? He did, because after Paul was converted, he now belonged to God in a way that nobody else, maybe, that Nero had ever faced was. Now there is only one way where two actually come to possess each other. And that is when they give themselves to each other in love.
I have come to conclusion here that is not always easy to process. I said that every one of us will grasp the principle that I am heading for here. It is the kind of principle that God wants to be established in our mind regarding Him and His relationship with us. And this process will enable us, if done rightly, and if God wills, it can be done with others as well.
Well, I gave you a major answer here. There is only one way where two actually become possessed of each other. And that is when they give themselves to each other in love as in marriage. Do you get the picture? When two do that certain rights accrue to the person that you marry. For example, here in I Corinthians 7.
I Corinthians 7:2-3 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have our own husband. [Remember, marriage is involved here.] Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her [It belongs to her. It is her right.], and likewise also the wife to her husband.
What are we talking about the principle here in marriage? The husband belongs to the wife and the wife belongs to the husband. This is the kind of relationship that God is heading toward with us. But before we can be in that kind of a relationship, we have to understand how dear, how costly love is! He is not going to let people into His Family who do not love one another, and therefore they do not really belong to the other and the other does not belong to them. As I said to you before, I am going to say it again. The only human relationship this is possible to have this kind of a union, this kind of love, I will put it that way, is in marriage.
What are we heading toward with God? We are doing the same thing with God. We are heading toward a marriage with Him. He owns us. We own Him! That is how close the relationship has got to be and this is why love is so expensive! We actually have to give ourselves to the other person and that human nature does not want to do. It always wants to hold back to keep some for the self or we are going to be taken advantage of. Tell me something, did God hold back when He sent Jesus Christ? Did Jesus Christ hold back something for Himself?
Are you beginning to get the picture of how expensive love is and why it is so hard to accomplish?Because we do not want to give up any part of us. So we hold back. I am talking in basic terms. I am not talking about individual situations. I am talking about the most fundamental of all loving situations that exists. And so holiness, brethren, which is what God is seeking, is so expensive because it costs us love. The first thing we have to do is learn to love God completely, totally, giving ourselves to Him. No holding back! That is not easy. He has put the greatest challenge into our life that we could possibly have, and that is to spend ourselves in love, in serving, kindness, goodness, and in helpfulness. That is what He is after, to convince us that it is going to be worth it.
That is what human nature does, you know, it always looks at the cost. So if I know what the cost is, then I can set this aside and I will not have to worry about that. But Jesus set the example in what He did—He did not hold back.
So what is it that produces holiness? It is giving ourselves in love to the brethren, to God Himself.
You know, when Herbert Armstrong taught that marriage is a God-plane relationship, he knew what he was talking about because humanly this sort of ownership can only take place through the highest lawful degree in marriage. I am going to make it real plain. And that is this: These verses that I went through are not easy to process because it is taken from the way God dealt with the Israelitish people, and then suddenly we have transferred it, not just from that legal tangle of dividing the land there in the Promised Land, to suddenly it is our personal relationships with other people. It comes down that far.
So what these verses that I gave to you are saying is this: I am God's and God is mine. Think about that. Is that not what we say about a marriage? This is my husband. This is my wife. It is one marriage, one union. God is working toward bringing us to the place where we are one with Him. This is not easily accomplished, but it is in our relationships we have with one another that a major portion of this is accomplished. It is not just on our knees, to the Father and to the Son. Those are very important parts of it. But it reaches out in our love for the brethren first, and then it reaches out in every direction with our neighbors as well. It could be said this way again. I possess him, and and am, in turn, possessed by him. But this is true to its rightful place only if we have given ourselves in love to each other.
Now understand this aspect of these verses. Let us go back to the book of John and we will conclude in this in this section. John 3:16, probably the most famous Scripture of all in the Bible.
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
But that everlasting life came at the cost of Jesus' death. These are aspects of this giving ourselves to God. In Galatians 2, the apostle writes this:
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me [He is mine and I am His. That is how close the relationship Paul felt with Christ.]; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Let us go to Titus 2.
Titus 2:11-15 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.
So what did the Father and Son do? Well, because They love us, They gave Themselves to us. That is the issue. Christ is the most obvious example of one who actually gave Himself in love to others.
Now there is a wonderful pattern there, but it is very difficult to put into practice and to do it effectively. Not only effectively but also correctly. But it is the trail that God has put us on and He wants us to be holy, and the way to be holy, or to get holy, if I can put it that way, is to be holy in all your actions and thoughts. That is hard.