Our first chapter today, Chapter 7, began with the word “Therefore”. In studying the Bible, it’s a good practice to, whenever you see that word, ask yourself, “What’s the therefore there for?”
Let’s look again at the first sentence of the chapter. Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends…”
What promises? We have to look back at the end of the previous chapter. Listen to the closing verses from chapter six: “For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: (These are the promises Paul referred to at the beginning of chapter seven…)
“I will live with them
and walk among them,
and I will be their God,
and they will be my people.”
“Come out from them
and be separate,
says the Lord.
Touch no unclean thing,
and I will receive you.”
“I will be a Father to you,
and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Wow. Those are amazing promises, don’t you think? But look closely. They’re contingent on separating ourselves from unclean things. And that’s why Paul said at the beginning of chapter seven, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
There is an attitude in some circles of the church today that God’s grace is free and easy, and He doesn’t care how we live. We are, after all, under grace. It’s a sort of opposite side of the spectrum from the attitude of God is an angry old man who sits up in Heaven just waiting to catch us doing something wrong so He can smash us the first time we blow it.
Neither attitude is correct. Yes, God loves us and it is His will that none should perish, and His love for us is so lavish that He sacrificed His only Son so that our sins would be laid on His account, not ours. But at the same time, God is a Holy God. And as we saw in the contingency clause of those promises we heard a moment ago, He requires that we actually make a change in our behavior. We must consciously make an effort to live apart from sin.
Now listen closely. God accepts us just as we are when we first come to Him. We don’t have to be without sin in order for Him to accept us into His family. That’s the whole point of coming to Him and saying, “Jesus, save me. I am a sinner. I can’t save myself. I need you.”
But once we are saved, we become new creations. We often bring old habits and baggage along with us, but now God begins the work of molding us into the people he wants us to be. But we must cooperate with Him. We must decide to separate from those things that keep us from living holy lives.
What does “holy” mean? It means set apart for God. We can’t be set apart for God and wallow in sin. These are mutually exclusive. So Paul says, “Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness… (Why?)… out of reverence for God.”
We don’t do it because we are afraid of the angry old man in Heaven, but out of reverence for the God who loves us and has done so much for us. We honor Him. We love Him. We revere Him for who and what He is.
And as we do that, He will live with us, He will walk among us, and He will be our God and we will be His people. And He will be a Father to us, and we will be his sons and daughters.
That sounds like a killer deal to me.