Posts Tagged 'Sanctification'

Panic Podcast: Bible Doctrines, Part 5

Good morning!  The sun is sneaking back into his usual place this morning. In a few minutes the fog will lift and a glorious summer day will be under way.

Today’s podcast is all about separation and sanctification. God bless you as we study His word together.

 

Panic Podcast: Those Who Love Him, Part 5

Good morning!  It’s Friday and the weekend is almost here. In answer to one of the burning questions I was asked earlier in the week:  Yes. I hope to paint my deck over the weekend.

Meanwhile, God bless you as we study the Word together.

 

By The Numbers, 6

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LESSONS FROM A LEVITE

Numbers 8:1 -14

Who were the Levites? Simply put, the Levites were part of the tribe of Levi. Numbers 8 deals with the cleansing of the Levites. Just as Numbers 6, the Nazarite chapter, dealt with the Nazarite vow and how the Nazarite was to live in light of that vow, so this chapter will tell us all about the Levites and how they were to live in light of their calling.

According to Numbers 8:15, this is what the Levites were to be doing:

After you have sanctified them and presented them in this way, they shall go in and out of the Tabernacle to do their work. (Numbers 8:15 TLB)

What kind of work did the Levites do in the Tabernacle? What kind of service did they render to the Lord? Was it a cold, legalistic, formulaic, liturgical kind of service? No, not at all! To think that is to completely miss three important facts. First, the Levites did their work in a place where God dwelt. Stop and think about that. These special people worked in the presence of the One who had promised to bless His people; the One who was leading them and feeding them; the One who was going to lead them into a land He promised to give them. A God who treats His people with such care and compassion could never be treated in a distant, robotic fashion. Second, to think that the Levites were only concerned about laws and movements and words dictated by mere rote is to miss the significance of Numbers 7:89 —

When Moses went into the Tabernacle to speak with God, he heard the Voice speaking to him from above the place of mercy over the Ark, between the statues of the two Guardian Angels. (TLB)

We’ve never heard the audible Voice of God. I haven’t and I’m reasonably sure you haven’t either. Of course, He speaks to us everyday as we pray or read and meditate on His Word, but Numbers is talking about the audible Voice of God. How would you react if you actually heard God speaking to directly to you? Wouldn’t you be a little more reverent? Wouldn’t you stand still and pay attention? The Levites did their work in the very place God spoke to His people. And finally, the first four verses of Numbers 8 is all about light.

Tell Aaron that when he lights the seven lamps in the lampstand, he is to set them so that they will throw their light forward. (Numbers 8:2 TLB)

The Levites would do their work in the warm glow of God’s divine presence and voice, not in the darkness and shadows of a cold, hard room.

Not just anybody could serve the Lord like this, only the Levites could. What made them so special? Let’s find out.

Levi the misfit, Genesis 49:5 – 7

Simeon and Levi are two of a kind. They are men of violence and injustice. O my soul, stay away from them. May I never be a party to their wicked plans. For in their anger they murdered a man, and maimed oxen just for fun. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce and cruel. Therefore, I will scatter their descendants throughout Israel (TLB)

Levi was special. So special that his dying father, Jacob, called him and his brother “men of violence and injustice.” They were wicked, angry, scheming murders. Yet Levi’s descendants were given the singular blessing of acting as priests of God. In Levi and his descendants we see the grace of God. Yes, members of Levi’s family were scattered in Israel, but this was because they would, in time, be the priestly tribe. It was an act of God’s grace that took a social misfit and cruel person like Levi and made him the head of the priestly tribe!

But Levi is not the exception to the rule. In the New Testament, God’s grace is explained for us to understand:

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 NKJV)

Jesus didn’t die for the righteous, He died for the sinner! That’s who God calls and uses even today: the misfits, the troublemakers, the drunkards, the murderers.

But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen… (1 Corinthians 1:27, 28 NKJV)

God surprises us by using people we might just pass over. Remember this:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV)

God’s grace: How He works

God’s amazing grace sees a man, not as he is, but as he will be. Such was the case with Levi’s descendants, and such is the case with each one of us. God’s grace is always reaching out and calling the sinner to Himself. Consider again the Levites. They were:

Called, verse 6a

Take the Levites from among all the Israelites… (NIV)

The situation with the Levites was a little different than that of Nazarites. Remember, becoming a Nazarite was up to the individual Israelite. He or she would decide whether or not they wanted to become a Nazarite and for how long. But it was God who called the Levites to serve Him; it was God who decided who be His priests. The Levites prefigured the election of the Church; a body of “called out” believers – people called out and set apart from the rest of the world.

It’s an interesting trait of the Bible: many things in the New Testament are foreshadowed in the Old. In both the case of Levites and Nazarites, we see how God works with people. He calls and we respond.

Cleansed, verse 6b

…make them ceremonially clean. (NIV)

Those whom God calls, He prepares. The Levites had to be made clean, which implies they were not. The Levites had to be made both spiritually and personally prepared to do the work to which they were called. Only a holy people could engage in a holy work. Of special note is that this washing or cleansing was done for them; they didn’t do it themselves.

And the sinner doesn’t clean himself up, either.

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13, 14 NKJV)

This cleansing of the spirit is what God does for us. This act of God on our behalf is a practical reality, however, for it gives us a position and standing before God. In other words, while the Levitical priests were washed so that they could serve in the tabernacle, the sinner is washed by the blood of Christ so that he can stand in God’s presence completely justified. This is a profound change that took place at the moment of conversion. In addition, each and every born again believer now has a Divine power whereby he is enabled “to serve the living God.” What that means is this: not a single believer is able to serve God in his own strength any more than a single sinner is able to save himself.

Sanctified, verse 7

Do this by sprinkling water of purification upon them, then having them shave their entire bodies and wash their clothing and themselves. (TLB)

The Blood of Christ cleanses us. He purifies us because this is something nobody can do for themselves. This is God’s grace at work. But that doesn’t let us off the hook any more than the Levitical priests were absolved of any responsibility for cleaning themselves. Just as they had to wash themselves, so we have to work at staying clean as we walk through our lives. There’s sin all around us and we must be on our guard against letting it taint us. We have to take care to “shave off” any habit that might endanger our relationship with Christ. That’s our part of the sanctifying process.

Atoned For, verse 12

Next, the Levite leaders shall lay their hands upon the heads of the young bulls and offer them before the Lord; one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. (TLB)

Here’s something else no human being can do for themselves: make atonement for their sins. In very graphic fashion, the Levites learned that forgiveness of sins was made possible only through the process of substitution. Those offerings were given in place of the Levite.

It is only through substitution – Christ’s substitution for us – that we may be forgiven our sins and made ready to receive God’s grace. Jesus Christ was our “sin offering.” He was our substitute on the Cross. He was punished so we could be spared punishment.

But it was the Lord’s good plan to bruise him and fill him with grief. However, when his soul has been made an offering for sin, then he shall have a multitude of children, many heirs. He shall live again, and God’s program shall prosper in his hands. (Isaiah 53:10 TLB)

Consecrated, verse 13

Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. (TLB)

This is an interesting verse. Once an offering had been given to God for the Levite, the Levite himself had to be given to God. It’s no different for the Christian. Having been redeemed by the Blood of Christ, it’s up to us to yield ourselves to God.

Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2 NET)

Like or not, we belong to God. We were bought with the Son’s Blood. This may rub some of the more independent-minded believers the wrong way, but it is true, nonetheless.

You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 6:19b – 20 GNB)

That last phrase, “use your bodies for God’s glory,” perfectly describes what real consecration is.

Onwed by God, verse 14

In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine. (NIV)

The Levites were God’s property by His choice. They were His by grace. They were His by blood. Choice, grace, and blood. A three-fold cord cannot be easily broken.

A rope made of three cords is hard to break. (Ecclesiastes 4:12b GNB)

All these verses teach us the truth that God’s servants, be they Levitical priests or born again believers, must be pure in heart and sacrificial in spirit. God initiates the work in His people, but it’s up to us to keep it going. In the end, though, God demands undivided loyalty. The Levites were handpicked by God from among the population of Israel to serve Him. Christians have been handpicked by God out of the whole world to serve Him, too. And we belong to Him. Chosen by God. Saved by grace. Bought by the Blood of Jesus. Yes, the rope of three cords is not easily broken.

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. (Romans 8:33 NIV)

By the Numbers, 4

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ARE YOU A NAZARITE?

You can laugh at the question, but it is a valid one. Are you a Nazarite? You probably don’t know how to answer that question, so let me help you out a little. In the Bible, a Nazarite is somebody who comes from a town called Nazareth. But the word “nazarite” means “separated” or “sanctified.” So, now can you answer the question, Are you a Nazarite?

Before you answer that question, you should know that not everybody thinks being a Nazarite is a good thing.

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? (John 1:46 NIV)

After reading that question and knowing what “nazareth” really means, the question asked by Nathanael is kind of shocking. Notwithstanding his opinion, who wouldn’t be impressed with meeting a “sanctified” or “consecrated” or “separeated” person? Surely such a person would be the salt of the earth; a person completely devoted to God. So maybe the real question ought to be, not Are you a Nazarite? but What’s the point in being a Nazarite?

Indeed. In the 21st century, is there anything to be gained from being a sold-out Christian? Can a modern Christian be sanctified, devoted, consecrated to Jesus Christ? Is such a relationship possible these days?

Of course, there aren’t really any Nazarites around these days, but there are Christians, and all Christians should aspire to be like the Nazarites who lived so long ago. Unfortunately, most Christians are not at all like the ancient Nazarites. Most Christians are not all that devoted, sanctified, or consecrated to Jesus Christ. Most Christians, instead of separating themselves from the world, find creative way to keep one foot in Heaven and the other in the world. Which explains why there are so many disappointed Christians these days. Their prayers go unanswered. Others get blessed by they don’t. God seems to be a million miles away from Christians who live a million miles away from Him. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s see what we can learn from the Nazarite vow. It was –

Voluntary

When either a man or a woman takes the special vow of a Nazirite, consecrating himself to the Lord in a special way… (Numbers 6:2 TLB)

The “Nazarite vow” was one of the truly unique provisions God made for His people. It wasn’t just for residents of Nazareth; any Israelite, man or woman, from any tribe could take this vow. The person who took this vow could do so for a certain period of time or for a lifetime. It was a means by which the average Israelite could get closer to God; to have a deeper, more meaningful walk with Him.

The thing about this vow was that it was far stricter than even the vows taken by priests. Among the more famous Israelites that took this special vow were Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

In this vow we see the stage being set for the New Testament Gospel; the fact that the possibility of living a life utterly and completely devoted to Jesus Christ was for anybody. Anybody can enter into a close, personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

This is not insignificant. So many people, even some Christians, think of God as the One who is always out to get them; He’s always looking for a way to judge them and punish them. But, in fact, God is always on the lookout for somebody – anybody – who wants to do His will and live for Him. That’s who He’s looking for!

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9 NKJV)

And entering into that kind of relationship is completely voluntary. God never forced anybody to take the old Nazarite vow and He doesn’t force anybody to devote themselves to Jesus Christ. If you want God to “show Himself strong” on your behalf, you must show yourself devoted, consecrated, and separated on His behalf. It’s not rocket science. If you call yourself a Christian yet seem distant from God, you’re the problem, not Him.

Complete

Devotion, separation, and consecration to God must be complete. You can’t be partly devoted. You can’t be partly consecrated. And you can’t be partly separated to God. It’s an all or nothing proposition. In the case of the Nazarite vow, its separation included:

[No] strong drink or wine or even fresh wine, grape juice, grapes, or raisins! He may eat nothing that comes from grapevines, not even the seeds or skins! (Numbers 6:3, 4 TLB)

The one who took the vow couldn’t get close to anything produced by a vine. What was the big deal about grapes, raisins, or wine? Actually, it all has to do with the principle of “separation.” This included:

…he must never cut his hair, for he is holy and consecrated to the Lord; that is why he must let his hair grow. (Numbers 6:5 TLB)

And it included this:

And he may not go near any dead body during the entire period of his vow, even if it is the body of his father, mother, brother, or sister… (Numbers 6:6, 7 TLB)

None of these were bad; not grapes or wine or hair or dead bodies. The principle of separation had nothing to do with avoiding bad or sinful things. It had little to do with principles of right and wrong. The principle of separation as far as the Nazarite was concerned had to do with an attitude; with something on the inside of the person, not on the outside. And it’s the same with a Christian. Christians are supposed to live separated from the world. We can see that in the way Quakers live, for example. But it’s what’s on the inside that matters to God – it’s your attitude toward the things of the world that counts. That Quaker, for example, who abstains from AM radio yet finds joy in hand-rolled cigarettes, has accomplished nothing for God. In other words, if you are a Christian, you need to consider where your joy comes from. It’s not, “alcohol is bad,” but rather, “why do you drink it?” It’s not, “that certain friendship is bad,” it’s “does that relationship mean more to you than God does?” The principle of separation has to do with keeping your priorities straight. If something in the world gives you more joy than God does, you need to separate yourself from it.

The Nazarite vow is very illustrative of how Christians should be living. We should be wholly devoted to Jesus Christ, so that if anything or anybody causes a rift to develop in our relationship with Him, then it has to go.

To the Lord

…and he is consecrated to the Lord throughout the entire period. (Numbers 16:8 TLB)

So you see, it’s not a matter of “giving this up” or “giving that up.” It’s a matter of devoting yourself to the Lord. Giving something up for the sake of giving something up is useless. Giving something up because you think it makes God happy is not what this is about. The Nazarite person was a separated person – separated from certain activities of the world so that they could take more time in serving God. It’s not that God derives some kind of strange joy in wanting to keep certain things away from certain people. It’s that He wants to spend more time with His people. He wants His people to get to know Him in a more profound way. Our Lord described it this way:

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. (Mark 8:34 NIV)

Did you see that? It’s not just “denying,” it’s “following.” But you shouldn’t think that Jehovah or Jesus thinks that devotion to Him is all about legalistic works apart from the right attitude of the heart. Remember, the vow was completely voluntary; it was a matter of the heart. How long it lasted was up to the individual. Serving the Lord is up to you. And that’s how God wants it to be. He wants you to want to serve Him. He coerces no one.

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. (2 Corinthians 7:1 NIV)

God wants all of His children to be Nazarites in their heart and in spirit.

Public

The nature of the Nazarite vow was that it was completely out in the open, for all to see. You could spot a Nazarite a mile away. He was the guy with messy, unkempt hair. His hair, so to speak, was a public testimony to his character. You couldn’t hide the fact that you were a Nazarite. The consecrated, dedicated, and separated life of the believer cannot be hidden, either.

Don’t hide your light! Let it shine for all; let your good deeds glow for all to see, so that they will praise your heavenly Father. (Matthew 5:15, 16 TLB)

You shouldn’t brag about your relationship with Jesus Christ, but you shouldn’t hide it either. You shouldn’t keep your faith from anybody, for any reason.

For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26 NKJV)

A special benediction

May the Lord bless and protect you; may the Lord’s face radiate with joy because of you; may he be gracious to you, show you his favor, and give you his peace. (Numbers 6:24 – 26 TLB)

Following all the verses concerning the Nazarite law of separation, we read about the grace of God. The so-called Aaronic blessing (verses 22-27) was given to all Israelites, but it was especially relevant to the Nazarites. If God promised to bless the average Israelite, how much more would He bless the ones completely devoted to Him?

In this benediction, we see the attitude of God. We’ve looked at what the attitude of His people should be toward Him and what He wants, and now we see His attitude. And what is God’s attitude toward His people? He blesses them. God isn’t “out to get them.” He blesses them. Or more accurately, He wants to bless them.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:17 NKJV)

If we take this verse literally, and we should, God blesses His people and that’s all He does. “There is no variation of shadow of turning.” God won’t change His mind regarding the people He loves and blesses.

But there’s more to this blessing:

…the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you (Numbers 6:25 NIV)

What a beautiful statement. There’s nothing for you to fear in God’s presence. He’s not scowling at you. He’s not making a mean face when He looks at you. If you are His child, His face is beaming.

Lastly, we come to this:

…the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:26 NIV)

The Lord will never turn His back on the ones He loves. Isn’t that a wonderful thought? And not only that, God gives His people peace. Peace of mind. Peace of heart. Peace with Him.

The Bible is a divine Book. It’s divinely authored and ordered. There’s a reason why this benediction follows details concerning the Nazarite vow. God wants us to make the connection between complete consecration, dedication, and separation and God’s blessing. God’s very best is for those who love Him the most.


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