The Highway of Holiness (Isaiah Sermon 38 of 80)
January 27, 2013 | Andy Davis
Two Journeys, The Pilgrim's Progress
Pastor Andy Davis preaches a verse-by-verse expository sermon on Isaiah 35:8-10. The main subject of the sermon is how God provides a rich way of purity for those who wish to take it.
- SERMON TRANSCRIPT -
In Isaiah 6, the prophet Isaiah had an extraordinary vision of God. “In the year that King Uzziah died, he saw the Lord, seated on a throne high and exalted; and the train of his robe filled the temple. And above him there were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings each one of them covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And at the sound of their voices, the doorpost shook and the temple was filled with smoke. And then Isaiah said, ‘Woe is me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the Lord the King, the Almighty.’” And in that vision, in that calling of Isaiah the prophet, we have the two grand themes of the Bible: the greatness and the holiness of God, as an exalted being worthy of all worship, and we have the wickedness, the sinfulness of our own hearts, as we feel ourselves to be unclean, that we ourselves, our lips, our whole selves are unclean. And not only us, but we live in a land of people who are similarly unclean and we must have a savior. And the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that the holy God who was seated on the throne, left that throne of glory. The Lord took on a human body and lived a sinless, holy, perfect life. Jesus Christ died an atoning death, and was raised from the dead on the third day that we might walk in newness of life, that we might be holy in his sight and blameless, and live forever, praising and honoring Him.
And friends, that's what's in front of us today as we look at the Highway of Holiness. In verses 8-10 of Isaiah 35, we have depicted for us this Highway of Holiness, this Way of Holiness. Look at the words again in Isaiah 35:8-10, “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed to the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”
This morning, we're gonna be talking about the internal journey of sanctification, of progressive holiness. We believe that along with the external journey of worldwide evangelization and missions, these are the two great works that God has laid before every individual Christian, that we would glorify God by making consistent progress in both. And I think here in Isaiah 35:8-10, we have pictured for us in poetical and visionary language that internal, infinite journey of holiness, the Highway of Holiness.
I. Context: The Transformation of the Universe (Isaiah 35)
Now, the context here in Isaiah 35, we looked at two weeks ago, the transformation of the entire universe, creation transformed from sterile desert to fruitful garden. Verses 1-2, look at that, it says, "The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; and they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God." The transformation of the physical universe, which presently is groaning in bondage to decay, but some day will be liberated from that bondage and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God, and we ourselves in our bodies, these bodies, the bodies of sin and death, we will be liberated from that as well, and we will be living forever in perfect bodies, resurrection bodies in a resurrected world.
So therefore, verses 3-7, talk about a people transformed, moving from cursed weakness to blessed strength. Look at verse 3 and following, it says, "Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knee, that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.’ Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground, bubbling springs. And in the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow." And so the centerpiece of God's transformation is the work that he does on human beings, we who have been cursed because of our sin, we who suffer and struggle with blindness and deafness and illness and ultimately death, are liberated by the work of Jesus Christ, in the transforming event in all of us, right here in verse 4, "Say to those with fearful hearts, ‘Be strong, do not fear; your God will come with vengeance; with divine retribution, he will come to save you.’" And Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of that prediction, that prophecy. Jesus Christ has come to save us and to rescue us, and to bring us into the glorious freedom that he has in mind. That's the transforming event.
II. The Journey of the Transformed: A Highway of Holiness (vs. 8-10)
Now, two weeks ago, I said there's just not enough time to go through verses 8-10 to speak of the journey of the transformed. We who have been redeemed, we who have been rescued by Christ, we have laying before us, this incredible Highway of Holiness, and it's described here beautifully. Now, I think the backdrop of this is the religious life of Israel. We're talking about this in the Bible for Life class, Old Covenant worship made provisions for a three times a year pilgrimage, where the Jews would go up from wherever they lived in the promised land, and they would move up three times a year to that one place that God had chosen for them to worship. Deuteronomy 16:16, "Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Tabernacles. No man should appear before the Lord empty-handed." And so three times a year, there would be a pilgrimage, a movement in the promised land, and the Jews would assemble and they'd start to move and they would go up. In history or redemptive history, eventually, it became identified as Jerusalem, the City of David, which came to be known as Zion, the place where God dwell together with his redeemed people. And so three times a year, the people of the Jewish nation would assemble and start to move up. As a matter of fact, many of the Psalms in the Psalter called songs of ascent, and these would be psalms that people would sing as they were ascending to Jerusalem and they would sing together. Psalm 84, for example, in verse 5, it says, "Blessed are those whose strength is in you, and who have their hearts set on pilgrimage." And so there is in the Old Covenant provision for a pilgrimage and they would be moving up to worship God at the temple.
After the exile of the Babylon, however, the temple was destroyed and the Jews were scattered, and there was a prediction, a prophecy, made in Isaiah and Jeremiah that the people would be restored back to the promised land, they would come back. And some scholars think that this Highway of Holiness, talks about the return of the redeemed, coming back from Babylon, back from the distant place where they were, coming back to Zion, where God would be worshiped. And so in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the temple was rebuilt and the wall was rebuilt and Jerusalem resettled. And 42,000 Jews would make this pilgrimage from Babylon and from the distant lands in exile, and they would make their way back to Jerusalem. But I think both of these pilgrimages are pictures of our salvation in Christ. They are pictures of the full salvation that God intends, a movement from the land of Babylon, the land of sin and the land of wickedness, that distant land where the Jews were told, "Come out from her…so that you will not share in her…plagues.” “Come out and be holy and come back to Zion, come back to the promised land. They're pictures of our salvation in Jesus Christ. And so Jesus said to the woman at the well, "Believe me…a time is comingwhen you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem….God is spirit and he is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and truth." So it's not just one location we have to go to, but it's a spiritual pilgrimage that we're on now. It's not a locational thing, it's not something you have to physically get up and go on, it's not somewhere you physically have to walk, but it's a spiritual journey.
So look at the words, it says, "A highway will be there;" verse 8, "it will be called the way of holiness." So picture a raised, a graded road, a highway built by the king for the economic unity of his empire, making it easy to travel within the Empire, enabling commerce, enabling him to dispatch soldiers to get wherever they needed to go, if there are hotspots, enabling communication from the throne out to the hinterlands of his empire. The Romans built a quarter of a million miles of roads by which their empire was united, and so picture that kind of a highway built by the king, but it's called here the Way of Holiness, this Highway of Holiness. But what do we mean by holiness? What does that mean? The word, I think, implies a separation, when the seraphim were crying, "Holy, holy, holy," they're talking about the infinite gap between God the creator, and they as created beings. There's an infinite gap between God and everything that he made. God is God, he is high and exalted above us. Even though the seraphim were not in any way wicked, they were not in any way to defiled, still God was high and exalted positionally above them. The word holy is used over 600 times in the Bible. If you add words like holiness or sanctify, or sanctification, we have over 700 uses of this word group, and so this is an incredibly important idea: the separation of God above us as a creator. And then for us also the separation that God has from all wickedness, separation from all evil. “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” And so the idea here is a movement away from uncleanness, a movement away from the unclean city or the unclean land, and going to be in the presence of a holy and pure God. It says, “Wicked fools and the unclean will not be permitted on it.” There is an exclusive nature of this highway, it says, “Only the redeemed and only the ransom to may travel on it,” and it says, “It's a picture of safety, no lion or ferocious beast will get up on it,” a picture of protection and security.
I think no Christian has ever had such a clear idea or vision of this Highway of Holiness as did John Bunyan, the Puritan writer in the 17th century who wrote Pilgrim's Progress, and he depicted the movement of an individual Christian from the City of Destruction across a highway, a road to the Celestial City. That's the Highway of Holiness, that journey that we travel, from death to life, from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. And at one point, as Christian, that's the main character in Pilgrim’s Progress, is traveling, he looks ahead and he sees a lion on the left-hand side and a lion also on the right-hand side of the road, on each side, and he is terrified. As a matter of fact, two other travelers have already run, have turned back, and they're terrified and they don't wanna make progress. But on the other side of these lions is a guide, a voice, a man saying, “Don't be afraid of the lions. They're chained though you can't see the chains, so if you stay on the road and don't get off it, left or right, you'll be safe. Walk right through.” I can imagine Christian feeling the hot breath of the lions on his face, and maybe hearing their claws as they swipe by, but they couldn't get at him, and so Isaiah says, "No lion will be on this road, no ferocious beast. It's a place of security and safety."
Now, I believe that this Highway of Holiness is picturing the way of salvation that is ours in Jesus Christ. Salvation comes to us in stages, we don't get it all at once. Justification is the beginning of the Christian life, but inevitably, justification, the beginning whereby all of our sins are forgiven and the righteousness of Jesus Christ is imputed or credited to us, and we are adopted into the family of God and seemed to be perfectly righteous and holy in his sight, is merely the beginning of the salvation process. Inevitably after justification comes sanctification. Every individual who is justified immediately begins this Highway of Holiness. And this is a process. And some people struggle with this idea. The idea of salvation is a process, but it's taught very plainly in the Bible. Philippians 2:12-13 says, "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose." And so there it is, very plainly, we are told to work out our salvation. We have a journey to travel, and that's the way of holiness. Jesus taught this as well in John 14, the night before he was crucified, he told his disciples many things to prepare them for life, after he would ascend to heaven, after he would die, and then be raised again, and ascend to heaven. He said he was going to the Father, and he said, “‘You know the way to the place where I'm going.’ Then Thomas said, ‘Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way?" And Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." And so early in church history, Christianity itself was called the way. It was a sense of a lifestyle, a pattern of life, that followed after Jesus, our head, and we are following Christ in Christ is the way. He is the Highway of Holiness.
"And so early in church history, Christianity itself was called the way. It was a sense of a lifestyle, a pattern of life, that followed after Jesus, our head, and we are following Christ in Christ is the way. He is the Highway of Holiness."
Progress is made in this Highway of Holiness gradually. Romans 6 teaches us very plainly, the painful process of the mortification of the deeds of the flesh. Romans 6:19 says, "I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness, leading to holiness.” So there's a parallel being set up, just as you used to do habits, bad habits, and that led you to ever-increasing wickedness, so now present the parts of your body to God and yourself in service to righteousness leading to or ever-increasing holiness. So I think Romans 6:19 is the clearest verse in the Bible on progressive holiness or progressive sanctification. Friends, that is the Highway of Holiness that we're talking about today. And where will it all lead?
III. The Destination of the Transformed: Glorious Zion (vs. 10)
Well, look at verse 10, how beautiful is this? It ends up in glorious Zion. "They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." After we have finished this laborious warfaring journey on the Highway of Holiness, all of us appear before God in Zion. Not they might enter Zion was singing, they will enter Zion, all of them was singing and everlasting joy will crown their heads. They will celebrate forever the goodness, the greatness of God in their own salvation. They will realize it was not by their own righteousness, and it was not by their own works, but it was by Christ, by his work and his righteousness that they made it. “And sorrow and sighing will flee away.” They'll be happy forever. There'll be no more death. No more mourning, no more crying, and no more pain. And when it comes to this, no more struggle, we will not struggle with sin any longer, but will be free at last, and so at the end of our lives, we will be able to say with the apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to me—and not only to me, but also, all who have longed for his appearing.” And so that's Isaiah 35:8-10.
IV. Ten Truths Concerning the Highway of Holiness
Now, what I wanna do, is I wanna give you biblically 10 teachings concerning the Highway of Holiness, and we wanna talk about each one of these aspects so that you have a fuller, more complete and more biblical understanding of the doctrine of sanctification. The problem is, I just can't count very well, and I didn't know what letter corresponded to what number and they turn out to actually be 11 of them. So I said Tom, “I don't know what we're gonna do.” So we just put the 10 in quotations. Alright, so you get 10 plus one for free. And as I looked at the 11, I couldn't decide which one to get rid of, so you're gonna get them all, and there's probably some others we could do besides, but here's your 10 insights concerning the Highway of Holiness. And we won't have time to do all of them thoroughly, but I wanna give you just a sampling of what the New Testament teaches on the issue of sanctification
First, coming right from the text, only the redeemed may travel on this Highway of Holiness. Justification must precede this journey, it must. Passage itself makes it plain. It says, "The unclean will not journey on this road; it will be only for those who walk in this Way. Wicked fools will not go about on it." Again, verse 9-10, "Only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed to the Lord will return." So it's very, very plain. The redeemed are those that have been bought with a price. The price is the blood of Jesus. Only by the blood of Jesus can we be redeemed from slavery to sin, or ransomed from our captivity in sin, and only those who have been so redeemed may travel on this journey. The beginning of the Highway of Holiness is what Jesus calls the narrow gate. He says in Matthew 7, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many travel through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Friends, Matthew 7:14 is the Highway of Holiness, that narrow road that leads to life is the Highway of Holiness. But you begin by entering through the narrow gate, and Jesus is the gate for the sheep, he is the way by which we enter.
And we must enter humble, and lowly and broken and say, "I'm a sinner, I have no other hope, I have no other Savior, but Jesus died in my place. He shed his blood that I might be forgiven all of my sins, past, present, and future, laid on my sin bearer, laid on the Lamb of God, and he died for me, and I am forgiven." If you don't do that first, then you'll be seeking to earn your own salvation by acts of holiness, and that is no different than any other religion in the world. We preach a religion of grace, sovereign grace by the goodness of God through Christ. It is so important. The last thing I want is for any of you to walk out today feeling burdened or crushed by the Highway of Holiness. I want you to be elated by what you get to do, rather than burdened as though you have to do it to pay for your sins. Legalism, when it comes to justification, legalism is the idea that my present or future obedience to the law will pay for my past disobedience to the law. I'm going to trade present obedience or future obedience for my sins and God will accept me based on my present or future obedience, that's legalism, and it's a lie from hell. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. And you need to know as you're making progress in this highway to holiness that already I am redeemed, I'm already ransomed, I'm already clean. It's very, very important that you keep that in mind.
So, point two, there's an already, but not yet aspect to our progress on the Highway of Holiness. In effect, the New Testament says to us, "You are holy, so be holy. You’re already holy, so be holy." Justification gives us perfect holiness, positionally in God's sight. Probably the best passages that teach this, Romans 4:3, 5. Romans 4:3 says, "What does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." So you believe in Christ, you believe in the gospel, and a trillion dollars of righteousness is credited to your bank account, and it's more than enough, and it's a gift, a free gift. And again, Romans 4:5 says, and this is just shocking, if you don't understand justification by faith apart from words, these words just make no sense to you. Romans 4:5, "However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited to him as righteousness." That's a solid rock under your feet while you make progress. I'm already holy, I can't be any holier in God's sight than I am. And so therefore, the Highway of Holiness is a call for us to live up to what we already are. Ephesians 4:1 says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." You need to understand that you will not improve your standing in God's sight one inch by putting sin to death or by doing any good deeds. You're already perfectly righteous in Christ because Christ's perfect righteousness cannot be added to at all, and it's been given to you as a gift.
So the Highway of Holiness is for only the clean. Do you see that? The unclean can't go on it. Isn't that marvelous? It says, “Unclean can't go on it.” If you're not clean, you can't go on it. John 15 teaches us in the exact same language. In John 15, Jesus says, "I am the vine and you're the branches. My father is the gardener,” or a vine dresser. And John 15:2-3, it says, concerning the Father, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." Now, the word prunes is the exact same Greek word usually translated clean. So they just went with prune because it's more of a horticultural image, but it really literally is saying, "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, he cleans so that it will be even more fruitful." Next verse, "You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you." Isn't that marvelous? The Father cleans those who are already clean, that's the Highway of Holiness, that's what it is. He is making progressively more and more clean those who are already clean because God's word has been spoken to them.
So third, the Highway of Holiness is Christ-centered. Union with Christ leads to imitation of Christ, union with Christ spiritually leads to imitation of Christ in every way. Jesus is the Highway of Holiness. He doesn't merely teach the Highway of Holiness or display the Highway of Holiness, or encourage us to follow the Highway of Holiness—he is the Highway of Holiness. "I am the way and the truth and the life." And so therefore, through spiritual union with Christ alone, do we make progress in this Highway of Holiness. It's completely Christ-centered. Christ is the highway. Now, Romans 6:1-5 teaches the mystery of our spiritual union with Christ by faith. Paul says in Romans 6:1 and following, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? May it never be! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don't you know that all of us who are baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may walk in newness of life." Now, here it is, Romans 6:5 teaches the union, "If we have been united with him [with Christ] like this in His death, we will certainly be united with him also in his resurrection." Do you see that? We died in Christ by faith, by baptism union, we died, we're dead to sin forever. And now we also were raised with Christ spiritually to walk in newness of life. And so the rest of it, friends, when it comes to this union with Christ, it's a matter of a battle for the mind. You gotta think rightly. So Romans 6-11 says, "We should consider [reckon] consider yourselves.” Think this way. “Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus." Just think that way.
Fourth, this Highway of Holiness is Spirit-empowered. We make progress on this journey by the power of the Holy Spirit alone. Moment by moment, the power of the Spirit pushes us on in the Highway of Holiness. The Spirit enters our life at justification. At the moment that we had faith in Christ, at that moment, the Spirit entered and he will never leave us. He will never forsake us, he'll be with us forever. We were sealed with the Spirit, adopted as sons and daughters, and that will never change. And the Spirit has entered our lives now, and he gives us energy, power, drive to grow in holiness. He gives you a holy ambition. He makes you hunger and thirst for righteousness. Amen. Don't you yearn to be holy? I do. Isn't your own sin the greatest grief in your life? It's not other people's sins, it's your sin, mine. And so you have now through the Holy Spirit, a holy, pulsating ambition, an ambition to be holy, you just want to be holy, you want to please Christ. And along with that comes some new insights, the Holy Spirit teaches you from God's word what that holy life is to look like. He uses gifted people, he uses other people to teach you, or he just teaches you yourself as you read the Bible, but he is in you and illuminating the Scripture, and he's instructing you, and he's guiding you into all truth. And is it said in Isaiah 30:21-22, you have this sense of the spirit, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left,” off the way of holiness, right? “Whether you turn to the right or the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” That's the Holy Spirit, he’s saying, "Here's the way of holiness; walk in it." "Then you will defile," this is Isaiah 30-21-22. "Then you will defile your idols overlaid with silver and your images covered with gold; you'll throw them away like an unclean cloth and say to them, 'Away with you!'" You're gonna purify yourself of wickedness because of the power of the Spirit in you. And so the Holy Spirit is with you, he's inside you. At key moments, he gives you strength to fight, when the alluring world with its siren call of destruction is beckoning on you to sin, when Satan flashes a fiery arrow to shoot right at your heart, the Holy Spirit gives you the power at that moment to rise up and put that sin to death. And though you may not see it, in Romans 8:13-14 is described again, this same Highway of Holiness. You just have to look for it, it's there, but Romans 8:13-14, it says, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live." Listen, "Because those who are led, [led, led] by the Spirit of God are the children of God." Led where? Well, what does Isaiah 35 tell you? It's called the Highway of Holiness. He's leading you to put sin to death.
"He uses gifted people, he uses other people to teach you, or he just teaches you yourself as you read the Bible, but he is in you and illuminating the Scripture, and he's instructing you, and he's guiding you into all truth. "
Fifth, this Highway of Holiness is bounded by God's laws, left and right. It's completely described by the law of God. There's nothing lacking. You're never gonna get to a foggy place where you're gonna say, "I don't know what to do, I don't know where to go." That's never gonna happen. The Highway of Holiness is completely described by the laws of God, bounded left and right. Now, we have to be so careful here. We are not justified by the law, we are not justified by keeping precepts of the law, we are not. Some people reduce holiness to mere rule-keeping. If you get the right five or 10 rules, you can be really holy today, perfectly holy today, if you choose them correctly, things you're good at, you know? And you can be really holy by keeping that small list, but the heart goes unchanged, it's not transformed. You've not had an encounter with God, that's counterfeit holiness.
Kevin DeYoung in his book, The Hole in Our Holiness, which he argues that Evangelical Christians are greatly underestimating the importance of holiness, having been justified by faith. He does a great job with it. But he's talking about the law, and he says, "Jesus didn't say, ‘If you love me, you'll give up on rules and religions and do whatever makes you happy.’" No, he didn't say that. “He said, ‘If you love me, you'll obey what I command you.’" So God's holy laws completely describe or bound this Highway of Holiness left and right. Deuteronomy 5:32-33 says, "So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in all the way that the Lord your God has commanded you." So basically, I look at it this way: left and right, these things are bounded by the word of God. 1 John 2:3 says, "We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commandments." 1 John 5:3 says, "This is love for God: to obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome." You know what's burdensome—sin, sin is burdensome. God's commandments are not burdensome. They're delightful. And so the psalmist in Psalm 119:32 said, "I run in the path of your commandments, for you have set my heart free." Could that be the Highway of Holiness? I think it is. "I run in the Highway of Holiness because you have set my heart free."
Now, the internal heart attitude that is essential to holiness is completely described by the law of God. Remember how the religious expert, the lawyer came to Jesus and said, "Which is the greatest commandment in the law?" And Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Now, you must know that freedom from the law doesn't mean you don't need to do those two things. Could it even be, "Oh, thank God, I'm saved and delivered by the blood of Jesus—I don't need to love God now"? It doesn't make any sense. "Thank God, now I don't need to love my neighbor at all." No, not at all. So the internal life is completely described by love for God and love for neighbor, but the external life also completely bounded by the laws of God, lots of them. We know the Old Covenant ceremonial laws have been fulfilled in Christ, we don't do them anymore. Circumcision, the thrice annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem, we don't do those things. You know, we don't do the animal sacrifice, those things are fulfilled. But there's a lot in the old testament that we know is still binding us, just like that one, “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart,” still binding.
And then in the apostolic writings, you have all kinds of commandments coming from the apostles, and so there are commandments about money, commandments about our time, commandments about our speech patterns, commandments about marriage, parenting, commandments about church involvement, about spiritual gifts. Your life is covered thick with commandments from God. As a matter of fact, I would say there's not a single good deed you could ever do that God didn't first command you to do. He just wants you to obey him. And so the key text on this is Romans 8:4. Romans 8:1 says, "There's no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, those who live not by the flesh, but by the Spirit…in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” The Spirit enables you to walk in God's righteous law.
Sixth, negative, holiness is purity from all evil. There is a negative side to holiness. You know how Isaiah is a bunch of do’s and don'ts. Friends, there are do’s and don'ts in the Christian life. There are in fact, do’s and don'ts in the Christian life. So let's talk about the don'ts. There are things we must not do as holy children of God. I'm talking now about issues of purity, that we will be pure from all evil. 2 Corinthians 7:1, "Since then, we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” Get rid of all contamination that make you impure.
When I was doing some thinking on this, I came up with four key areas of purity, I'm just gonna mention them quickly, alright? Sexual purity, speech purity, relationship purity, and purity in lawful pleasures, these are the four key areas of purity. First, sexual purity, there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality among God's holy people, Ephesians 5. So that's fornication, adultery, lust. "If you even look at a woman lustfully," Jesus said, "you've committed adultery in your heart." Lust is the root of these things, nor should there be the actions that flow from that lust. Sexual purity. Speech purity, God wants you to put a filter over your mouth. Amen? He wants you to let no “unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” So purify your mouth of slander and gossip and complaining. Purify your mouth of false doctrine and discouraging words and attacks. Purify your mouth of these things. Conversely, you let your mouth be filled with praise and thanks to God. And relationship purity, what I mean by that? Get rid of all bitterness and rage and anger and all unforgiveness, get rid of those things that defile relationships. And what do I mean by purity in lawful pleasures? I mean that God's given us a rich world filled with good things to enjoy: food and drinks and entertainments and gifts of his grace, and we get addicted to them and become glutinous with them. And we must live a life of self-control and lawful pleasures, not eating too much, not drinking too much, not being enslaved by anything that God's given us freely of his bounty. Those are four areas of purity.
Seventh, positively, the way of holiness is energetic. actions of love, every step of the way. It's not just a bunch of don'ts, but it's also a bunch of do’s. You've heard the two great commandments are to love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. One guy trying to justify himself said, "And who is my neighbor?” “I wanna know the loop holes, so I don't have to love.” Do you remember what Jesus said in reply? “Well, there was a man going down from Jericho and he was beaten up by some highway robbers and he was left for dead by the side of the road, and eventually along came a man, a Samaritan, who saw him and took pity on him, and cared for his wounds pouring on oil and wine and put him on his donkey and carried him to an inn and said to the inn keeper, ‘Please take care of him,’ and he cared for him all night and then in the morning he said, ‘Take care of him, and look after him, and if he incurs any more debts, I'll pay it when I get back.’” That's what it means to love your neighbor as yourself, it's a life of active energetic service to others, that includes evangelism, missions, relief of the poor and needy, everything that God would call us to do, a life of self-sacrificial service to others.
Eighth, this Highway of Holiness is bitter warfare. Every step of the way. Do not expect an easy ride, do not expect an easy ride, and you already don't. You know what I'm talking about. The world, the flesh and the devil will oppose you every step of the way. Now you say, "Now wait a minute, didn't it say that no lions would be up there and that no wicked fool and safe." "Yeah, it's safe. It's a safe war zone." "What does that mean? A safe war zone?" Well, this is kind of how it works in sanctification. Sin can't kill you, and you can't kill it, you can put individual temptations to death, but you need to be vigilant against sin patterns the rest of your life, you'll never be able to say, "Well, thanks be to God, I know I'll never slander again. Thanks be to God, I know I'll never lust again. I've been delivered from that." No, if any man thinks he stands, he better take heed lest he fall. But individual firey arts of temptations, you can put those out, but it's gonna be a fighting journey that we're on here, it's gonna be hard. So expect the world, the flesh and the devil, and what that means is you have to make exertion, you have to make an effort in sanctification. You can't coast, it's going to be hard work. Your deeds, your works are essential to your progress, not in justification, there's no progress in justification, you are, you aren't, but if you have been justified, you make progress by Spirit-empowered efforts on your part. You are to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Ninth, the upward call of God, every moment in Christ Jesus is this, "Be perfect…as your heavenly Father is perfect." The Spirit is never going to cut you a break. You know what I'm saying? Never, he's never gonna say, "Look, I know you've had a really hard time. It's been a hard week. I'll tell you what, I'm gonna just say, don't worry about these three areas, we're working on that. I want you to just work on these two areas today." He's never gonna say that, and why is that? Because sin is poison and hurts you, and he doesn't want you to drink any of those six or seven or eight vials that are laid out in front of you, don't drink any of them. And if at any point you yield and you sin, then you confess your sin under the power of the Holy Spiri,t and the blood of Christ will minister to afresh to your conscience, and you will know that you are forgiven. But the spirit is going to constantly say this, "Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Be totally conformed to Christ in every area."
Tenth, it's a community journey, friends. We travel in a group. We're not alone on this Highway of Holiness, therefore, we should care about one another and “Watch over,” as our church covenant says, "Watch over one another in brotherly love.” We are to strengthen the feeble knees and the arms that are ready to give way. Hebrews 12 says, we're to look out for each other and watch over each other as we make progress in this journey, and pray for each other, and hold each other accountable, we will give and receive correction. We will give and receive encouragement, we will give and receive accountability and instruction and advice in prayer on this way for one another.
And finally, and here's the good news, we're gonna make it, we're gonna get there, we're gonna get to Zion, verse 10, every single one of us. No one's gonna drop out, not one. “How do you know that, pastor?” Well, a lot of ways, but Romans 8:29-30 is probably the best way. "For those whom God foreknew he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son," that's sanctification. "He predestined us to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined." Or let me say, “everyone he predestined,” "he also called; those whom he called, he also justified; those whom he justified, he also glorified." Now, what is glorification? Glorification is the end of sanctification. After years and years of making slow, painful progress, what's gonna happen is you're gonna go suddenly into warp drive on that. God by his power at your death or at the second coming of Christ, when at last you see Jesus face to face, you'll be instantaneously transformed and made like him, for you will see him as he is, 1 John 3:2-3. You're gonna purify yourself as he is pure, but someday you're gonna instantaneously be rescued from the body of sin and death, and it won't trouble you anymore. And then if it isn't the second coming, it's not the end of all things, you will be a disembodied spirit mentioned in Hebrews 12, the spirits of righteous men made perfect. "What are they doing up there?" "They're praising God and waiting, waiting, waiting." "What are they waiting for?" "For you—finish your race. And for all of the elect chosen before the foundation of the world to finish their race, and when they are all finished, then the end will come, and we will be raised from the dead.” We're gonna make it friends, we're gonna make it. So don't be discouraged. I know it's hard, but keep making progress.
V. Applicatoins: Walking the Highway of Holiness
Now, I wanna finish with just a couple of words of application. First and foremost, I fear that there may be some listening to me today who are on the outside of this Highway of Holiness, they haven't begun it because they're lost. And God brought you here today to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hear it now, and hear it simply. If you trust in Christ, his blood shed on the cross, you put your trust entirely on him, he will forgive you of all of your sins, and he's going to raise you up from the dead spiritually and set you on this Highway of Holiness. Don't leave this place unregenerate. I fear what will happen to you if you do, don't leave this place unregenerate, just right now, you don't need to physically move anywhere, I already said that, there's no geographical change needed, trust in him.
But secondly, understand that in every case, justification is followed by sanctification, every case. So just look at your life. Are you on the Highway of Holiness? Are you making progress in the Highway of Holiness? Is there a pattern of growing holiness in your life? Are you more like Christ than you were a year ago? Is your thought life pure? Is your heart growing in love for God with all of your heart and the love for neighbor? Is your conscience accusing or defending you? Are there areas of sin that are troubling you, besetting you? Look at those four areas of purity. How is it going for you sexually? Are you sexually pure? Or is your conscience smiting you right now, the Spirit convicting you? Look at your speech language. Are you arguing? Are you complaining? Are you gossiping, slandering? Are you lying? Is any filthy language coming from your lips, any off-color jokes? Look at your relationships. Is there any bitterness, any rage, any unforgiveness, any judgmentalism, any attitudes of superiority or pride toward others? Are there any broken relationships horizontally between you and other church members here at this church? And what about lawful pleasures? Are you tasting and seeing the honey of the Lord and sampling it at the appropriate amount? Like the proverb says, "Taste honey, oh my son, for it is good. Honey from the comb is sweet." Yeah, but he also says, yeah, "Don't eat too much or you'll vomit." I feel like American Christians are drowning in a swimming pool of honey, and it's in our nostrils and our ear canals and going down our throats. We need self-control in lawful pleasures. So just look, are you over indulging in food or in drink, or in entertainment or hobbies or material things.
And look at the positive areas of your life, are you living a life of cheerful, self-sacrifice to benefit the body of Christ internally here, and then as we reach out others who haven't come to faith in Christ? Are you involved in evangelism? Are you involved in mission? Are you involved in relief for the poor and needy? Are you involved in various patterns of ministry? Now, if in your assessment, you come up short, good, good, you're seeing yourself rightly. The standard is absolute perfection, but in those areas where there's a gap between what you know God wants you to be and what you are, confess it as sin, don't paper over and say, "I know I've not been like Christ, the way I wanna be. Lord, would you now fill me with your Spirit and give me strength by the power of the Spirit to make progress in this Highway of Holiness, to run this race with endurance until at last you take me to heaven." Close with me in prayer.
Father, we thank you for Isaiah 35:8-10, we thank you for this Way of Holiness, I pray that we would not turn to the right or to the left, but that we would make the progress you want us to make. I pray that we would know that we are forgiven, we can't make any progress in our position in your sight because of the imputed righteousness of Christ, but I pray that we would put sin to death and grow and become more like Jesus as we travel, in Jesus name, amen.