by Pastor Mike Stine
Two thousand years ago, a man traveled into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey. It was the beginning of the end. He would be crucified on a cross at the end of the week. Those in the crowd did not understand this. They could not understand that Jesus was going to die. His closest disciples did not understand that Jesus had come to Jerusalem because he knew that time had come for him to be nailed to a cross and die for the sins of the world.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day, people lay their cloaks and palm branches on the road as he passed. The people that were gathered there that day began to joyfully praise God for the miracles they had seen.
We know that later in the week, that same crowd would cry out “Crucify him! Crucify him!” The Pharisees did all they could to encourage the people’s cries for the death penalty.
But on this day, on the day that Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people praised God. The people praised God and the religious leaders of the day tried to make them stop.
Luke 19:37-40, “When he came near the place where the road goes down to the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Peace in heaven and glory to the highest!’ Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’ ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’”
The religious leaders of the day did not want people to praise God. They told Jesus to put an end to this but he would not. If Jesus stopped people from praising God and bearing witness to his name, the stones themselves would cry out.
This is more than simply idle words. In Romans 1:20, we learn that all of creation does bear witness to God. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
All of creation points to God. Man cannot look at nature in all of its beauty and complexity and deny that there is a creator who caused all of this. To do this is to lie to ourselves, to go against all mathematical probability, and ignore what is clearly written in scripture. All of creation points to a creator. Even the rocks themselves point to a creator.
If everyone was to remain silent, men would still be without excuse for rejecting God. However, we are not to remain silent. Jesus did not tell the crowds around him to be silent and simply let creation bear witness to God. Jesus commissioned his disciples to go and make more disciples. Jesus instructed his disciples to go into all of the world and spread the gospel.
I’ve spoken a lot about evangelism recently, but this isn’t another call to get out the message into the world. Instead, this is a call for holy living. Just as all of creation bears witness to God just by being what it is, creation, so we ought to bear witness to God by being what we are. Our lives should be a reflection of God. We are made in the image of God and we are called to be holy. When people look at us, they should see God because they should see holiness. As we celebrate holy week, our hearts and our thoughts should be on living holy lives.
To be holy is to be set apart. God is holy. He is set apart from everything else because he is perfect. Holy week is also set apart. God knew exactly what was going to happen from the beginning and had set apart this time for Jesus to die.
From the moment sin entered the world, God had the solution. In Genesis 3:15 we have the protoevangelium, or the first gospel. In Genesis 3:15 we hear the first good news, the first time we are told that Jesus would be coming to save us from sin. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”
God had plans to bring Jesus into the world to crush the head of Satan and it was this week that had been set aside.
In Psalm 22 David describes in detail the crucifixion, centuries before the form of death had been created. God had in mind to bring Jesus into the world when crucifixions were the form of punishment.
Daniel prophesied seventy ‘sevens’ for the people of Israel. It is this week, this very day that the prophetic calendar came up and it was time for the Anointed One to be cut off. This week was set aside, and it was made holy because God was going to bring salvation to the world.
Just as this week is holy to God, so we are holy to God. The process of being made holy is called sanctification. It is from this word that we get the word saint. There are actually three types of sanctification in the Bible. Upon our salvation, we are made holy in the eyes of God. This process of sanctification is done by the Holy Spirit. In 2 Thess 2:13 we are told, “But we ought to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in truth.”
While the Holy Spirit does the work of sanctification, it is only made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:10 tells us, “… we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
We also look forward to one day when we will be completely sanctified. This moment will come only at death or rapture. At this moment we will be sanctified “through and through” according to I Thess 5:23. One day, according to Ephesians 4:13, we will “reach unity in the faith and in the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”. We will also “be blameless and holy in the presence of Our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones” (I Thes 3:13). But while we have been made holy upon salvation and await perfect sanctification, we are constantly struggled to be holy.
Peter implored his readers to live holy lives. He wasn’t asking for his readers to give their lives to Christ because he was writing to those who were already believers. Instead, he wanted them to grow mature in Christ and admonished them to be holy just as God is holy.
1 Peter 1:13-16 says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
If we are to be obedient children, we need to do as our Heavenly Father asks. As Peter calls us to be holy, he also gives us a few thoughts on how to do this and what this entails.
We are not to conform to the evil desires we had when we lived in ignorance. What is this? This is simply another way of calling us to be holy. As I said, to be holy is to be set apart. What is the Christian set apart from? It is the sinful world that we are to be set apart from.
A Christian should stand out in a crowd because we are different. A Christian should be able to be spotted from a mile away. Sometimes we mistake this for placing Christian bumper stickers on our cars and wearing Christian apparel. But I’m not talking about outward appearances.
A Christian should speak differently than other people, and not because they are always talking about God, but rather their topics of conversation avoid spreading rumors and demeaning people.
Christians should be set apart from everyone else because we should be the most joyful people in the world. Christians have a hope that the rest of the world does not have. We have a God who answers our prayers and never abandons us. We will have bad days but our hope in a home in heaven will never change.
When a person is saved, there is often a dramatic change in their life. It is because they have stopped doing the sinful things that they once did. They are now filled with the love of Christ and a desire to do what is right.
We know what is right and what is wrong. Our conscience tells us the difference between what is good and bad. God gave us ten rules to follow. Jesus later summed them up into two. Love the Lord your God with all your heart soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.
We don’t sin for a lack of knowledge of what God wants us to do. We sin and fail to be holy because we simply do not live every moment for God and take up our cross daily. While we strive to live a holy life, we encounter a paradox. As Christians, we have the aid of the Holy Spirit in our lives to direct us and instruct us in what we should do. And yet we still sin. We try to live holy lives and we still sin. Each and every time we sin, we made a choice to sin. We could have chose not to do so. In theory, with the help of the Holy Spirit, each and every time we are given the option to sin or not, we could choose not to sin. But this doesn’t happen. We still struggle against the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Unfortunately, until the time when we are made perfect, we are still going to sin and holiness is going to be a battle for us.
Does this mean we should simply accept that we are going to sin and forget about holiness? Certainly not! Rather, we keep striving for holiness and we present ourselves to God as a sacrifice. In Romans 12:1-2 Paul says, “Therefore I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We need to constantly be going to our Bibles, listening to the Word being taught, and participating in discussions if we are to renew our minds. The more we read God’s Word, the more we understand it. The more we hear it, the better we remember it. The better we remember it, the better we can apply it and live it out in our lives. When we know God’s word, then we can go further in our quest for holiness.
Most of you know what the Bible says. You may or may not have read it all the way through, but you know the message. But it is the repetition that renews your mind.
There are a couple of movies that I’ve seen like a thousand times now. The first time I watched it, I understood the plot. I didn’t have to watch it again to gain any new information. But because I repeatedly watched these movies, I can quote them. My brother and I can joke about a number of the lines in the movie. Because I have seen this so many times, it has become a part of me. When we transform our minds, God’s word becomes a part of us as well and helps us to live holy lives.
There’s a lot more that can be said on just this passage from Romans but time will not allow for it now. This is the time for us to concentrate on living holy lives though. What better time can there be than to renew our commitment to living our lives for Christ?
A holy life is a testimony to God. A holy life cries out to everybody just as much as the crowds did when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the back of a colt. Then they shouted Hosanna, Hosanna. Today, our lives should shout that we serve Jesus our Lord and that we have hope in his death and resurrection.
We don’t need for the rocks to cry. What we need is for our lives to be holy and for them to cry out and bear testimony.