Holiness to the Lord

J. Wilfred Johnson
Sabbath School Lesson Dec. 31, 1983

Transcribed  Feb. 4, 2014

Note: This meeting is actually a small Sabbath School lesson given by Mr. Johnson at the College Heights Church Alberta, Canada. There are other groups meeting in the sanctuary at the same time as well as individuals talking among themselves. All of this background noise makes it nearly impossible to hear individuals addressing Mr. Johnson with their comments or questions.

(Wilfred) We have now come to the end of another year. And today we are looking at the fourteenth lesson of this quarter. It doesn't happen too often that we have fourteen Sabbaths in a quarter but in this quarter we happen to have that. Next year 1984 marks the one hundred and fortieth year since the important episode in 1844 when Jesus moved from the holy apartment of the sanctuary to the most holy for the investigative judgment and the cleansing of the sanctuary. You may not have thought of it but that constitutes two spans of seventy years and seventy years in the Bible is considered to be a life span and in other terminology it is considered to be a generation. Now, there are various ways of counting generations but that is one way. So we have had two spans of seventy years since 1844 and we are now at 1984. I think there may be some significance in this; I think we may look forward to a very important year.

Do you remember the children were out there in the wilderness for how many generations? Yes, until the first generation had passed away and a new generation had come. The old generation has all passed away. Now we have gone through two spans do you think God is going to wait for other seventy years before He comes or do you think He is about to see that the end arise?

Well, our lesson today I believe has a bearing on this. It's entitled, "Holiness to the Lord". And I could not help but to wonder, as I looked at the title just what the author intended us to get from this title. It is obviously a quotation from at least three texts in the Old Testament where the very words are given, "Holiness to the Lord". You may recall that God gave instruction to Moses to sort out the craftsmen among the Israelites and to have them prepare the garments for Aaron and his sons as priests and particularly Aaron as the high priest. And among those objects of decoration and clothing was to be a golden plate that was to be engraved with the words, "Holiness to the Lord" and was to be fastened to the mitre that was to be worn by Aaron on his head so that it would ever be before God's people. I think perhaps I ought to read that just to make it clear.

It's found over in Exodus 28 and starting at verse 36 "And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. 37 And thou shalt put it on a blue lace that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. 38 And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord."

Now I don't know whether you gleaned very much from that, but to me it is saying that no matter what we do in the way of holiness the attempt to do the right things and to be the right kind of person and so on, no matter what we do it is tainted with sin but Aaron the high priest is to bear the iniquity of the holy things that the children of Israel shall hallow or make holy in all their holy gifts. And it shall be always upon his forehead that they may be accepted before the Lord.

Did you notice when you went through the lesson that the author is bringing to our attention certain things that God is asking us to do. There are certain behaviorisms, certain ritualistic performances that we are being asked to go through. Why? Well, let's note, let's just breeze through the key texts and see what the content of it is. The memory text says, "Serve the Lord with gladness." Now there is something we do, see? Serve the Lord. "Come before his presence with singing." Come, who does the coming? We do the coming. Who decides whether we are going to come or not? Well we decide whether we are going to come or not. We are responding to the invitation. We make the decision we offer our service before God but it is tainted with? With?

(A man in the group) Sin.

(Wilfred) Yes, it's not quite complete, it's not quite good enough. We don't make it quite the way it should be. And what was it that Aaron had to wear on his forehead to remind us that the high priest will stand good for any deficiencies that we may have, remember the golden plate? “Holiness to the Lord”. We ascribe holiness to God we acknowledge that God is holy. You can find it throughout the lesson. We look at God and we see his holiness. And God wants us to come and serve him and He says be ye holy because I am holy. So He is asking us to be holy. But how holy can we be? No matter what we do in the way of offering our service and our ritualistic worship to God we can't be like God is because we don't have what it takes to do it. But God has promised that He will sanctify us that He will make us holy and how does He do that? Well, if you have looked through your lesson carefully you will have discovered that God can sanctify even inanimate objects, a temple is dedicated and it is holy before the Lord, the furniture is dedicated and it is holy before the Lord. What is it that makes the temple holy? Why it is the presence of God. God is Holy and where God is there is holiness.

Now I am coming to my point very quickly today because I have the habit of delaying it too long and then I have to rush at the end trying to squeeze everything in. I'm trying to be good today and see if I can't close on time.

What is it that makes for holiness? The presence of God. And God has promised, and God is yearning to fulfill the promise to come to you and me and to dwell in you and me and not until that promise is fulfilled can we be holy. But before that promise is fulfilled God has asked us to do certain things. There are conditions for receiving that promise of God. All of God promises are conditional we are told and so God asks us to demonstrate our desire, our yearning, our longing for holiness by certain things that we are to do and those are the things in our lesson. And if we do those things then God will fulfill his promise and He will come to dwell with us. And it goes so deeply that God used the most powerful illustration that He could possible use that we might understand exactly how He feels about us. He talks about Christ being the husband and the church being the bride or the wife and that is the closest relationship that is possible for God to use to illustrate what He wants to have with us. The Bible speaks about it in terms of, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother and shall cleave unto his wife and they twain shall be one flesh." Then Paul recognizes that that is a little difficult to absorb and he says, "I know this is a hard saying but I'm speaking concerning Christ and his Church." And did you know that God's messenger to this remnant people explains in Early Writings that before the close of probation, and we are getting rather close to it now if we can interpret the signs correctly, there is to be a consummation of a marriage union between Christ and his saints. They are to become one flesh. In the service that was held last evening we got a little glimpse of that, we are to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of God. That is the closest communion between Christ and his saints which is possible and unless we absorb those things, unless we partake of Christ, unless He can come to us and become a part of us and dwell in us as He promised permanently in that marriage union which will never be broken, unless that can happen my dear Brothers and Sisters there is no Holiness for us. All of the rituals that we can perform will not make us holy. But that does not negate God's request that we perform these behaviorisms if I may call them that. Why are you sitting here today? Well I think there are two levels, we may be sitting here today because we recognize that it is our duty to honor God's request. And we have been taught to perform our duty and so we come, we may not necessarily always feel like coming but because we know we are supposed to do it we do it anyway. I'm not downgrading that, I'm not. You parents know that you would much rather have your children obey your requests and commandments whether they feel like doing it or not then not to do it at all. Don't you know that? Well God gave you those little people to teach you that so you would understand better how to relate to him. And don't think just because you don't feel like obeying God and keeping his commandments and his requests, and his ordinances, don't think just because you don't feel like doing it that there is no merit in doing it. Brothers and Sisters that is the condition upon which God will fulfill his promise to come to you in a permanent marriage union. And only those who fulfill the conditions will receive the benefits of the promise. That is in the books.

Now shall we just breeze through to see what God asked us to do? I read you the memory verse, I don't think I quite completed it did I? "Come into his courts with praise and be thankful unto him and bless his name."

And then with part number 1 over the page. "I will come into your house," says the psalmist, "In reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple. How lovely is your dwelling place O Lord Almighty. Praise God in his sanctuary." Now these are all things that we do.

Part two, The proper attitude in prayer, "O come let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker." This is the attitude in prayer that we are to adopt. Now look, you may not feel like kneeling down and some of us may not be able to do it, which is another indication of our imperfections on account of sin. But God asks us to show reverence in prayer. He also asks us to pray, why do we need to pray anyway? God knows before we ever even think about it what we need. And He has already made the provision for our needs, so why does He ask us to pray? Did you ever think of that? The reason God asks us to do these things goes back to the purpose of the creation of this world in the first place. Reverence for the God of the universe originally was perfect and complete until in the mind and the heart of the highest intelligence that God had created there arose a doubt, a question mark, concerning the integrity of God. Is God really what He says He is? And you know the story; I won't take time to develop that. So God created this world in which He could set aside, it appears like, seven thousand years in order to demonstrate before the universe the consequences of disregarding and disrespecting his integrity. It isn't that God wants to make himself some big one; it isn't that He is trying to satisfy his ego by having people bow down and worship before him, even though it sounds like it. The reason is given in the message that God has committed to this people to deliver to the world found in Revelation chapter 14. Under the token of Three Angels, you remember the message. The Three Angel's Messages and what does it say? Fear God and give glory to him, see? Acknowledge him, worship him, and reverence him, why? For the hour of His judgment has come. You see, He is on trial, he has been challenged and He is asking you and me to verify our confidence in him and show the universe that when we do that He provides the wherewithal for us to be holy as He is holy. So that He can negate the charges of Lucifer and say look, you said that they could not keep my law, that my law was not fair, that I am not a just God, look at these people, He says here are they that keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus. It is possible you see to obey God, don't doubt it, God's going to do it. If I had the time I could give you a whole series of quotations and texts that would verify this.

Meanwhile, let us continue with the lesson. God has a good reason for asking for our response to his kindnesses. It is important to him to be cleared in the eyes of the universe that his name be cleared that it be shown that God is in deed holy and to do that He needs witnesses to testify to his innocence and He needs witnesses who are willing to demonstrate in their own lives that what Lucifer said was impossible is indeed possible. Does that make sense? Does that show that the hour of His judgment has come and how He is going to be exonerated from these charges. It says worship him who made heaven and earth and the seas and the fountains of waters. And He made a symbol, a token of that particular power of his, the creative power in terms of the Sabbath. He designed the flag that He wishes to have those who are supporting him fly to show to the universe that their allegiance lies with the King of heaven. So He says come let us worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord. When we recognize these things we will not be doing these ritualistic behaviorisms because of a sense of duty only. That will not be the main cause of our doing those things that's just a starting point. That's why your children do things for you as a starting point, there are times they don't want to do them but you make it clear to them that it's their obligation and duty to do it. Now listen, why do you do that to your children? To bolster your own ego, is that why you do it? Oh you want them to respect you and obey you and listen to you. Why do you want them to do that, just because you want to be big in their eyes, oh come on, you know good and well that those youngsters are not competent to make decisions at all times that are in their best interest. Right? And so does God. So He tells us what to do, until we discover that God is right, then what will be our motive for doing it? A response of love and recognition of his genuineness that He is in deed a true God. And it's the same with your children, aren't you parents happy when your children reach a point where they finally recognize that what you said was right and they are willing to listen to you because they realize that you have a little wisdom. How do you suppose God feels when we finally come to recognize that He was right? And we say, Oh Lord I'm so sorry I was so bullheaded, I'm so sorry I want to serve you Lord. So there are two levels, you see, the sense of duty and the response of love and God is looking for the response of love.

The next one is, "Give unto the Lord the glory that is due unto his name. Bring an offering and come into his courts." So does it hurt you to give that offering to the Lord? Do you think that this is something that you just have to do to keep your name on the church books or to keep in good graces with God? Oh no, let's get our perspective right. God is endeavoring to show us how the science of salvation functions.

Part number 5, "Holy and reverend is his name. Let them praise thy great and terrible name for it is holy. Blessed be the name of Yahweh."

Part number 6, "Praise ye the Lord for it is good to sing praises unto our God for it is pleasant. Praise is comely."

Now as I have already pointed out the implications of these things go much deeper than appears just on the surface. We may ask ourselves; what then does it mean to worship God? What is true worship? And if you've been alert then I think you've already spotted it but in case you haven't I'm going to read an explanation of it from the writings of God's servant to this church found in the Great Controversy page 436. "By the first angel, men are called upon to "fear God, and give glory to Him" and to worship Him as the Creator of the heavens and the earth. Now in order to do this, they must obey His law. Says the wise man: "Fear God, and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." That's where we start see, that's where we start so far as we're concerned. Now we wouldn't even want to perform our duty if God hadn't already done something for us. He is the one who starts it all. His Spirit has already had an influence on our hearts or we wouldn't even have an idea that we want to perform our duty toward God, that wouldn't even come into our heads. God's Spirit is the one who saves a man from sin but God does nothing for us, she says, without our cooperation and that's the important point that I think many of us are prone to miss. "Without obedience," She says, "to his commandments no worship can be pleasing to God." Is that plain? All the worship you can render to God without obedience is not pleasing to God. "This is the love of God that we keep his commandments." She quotes. "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination." Proverbs 28:9

And in Great Controversy page 560, "Just before us is "the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. All whose faith is not firmly established upon the Word of God will be deceived and overcome." Now that's very plain. "Satan "works with all deceivableness of unrighteousness" to gain control of the children of men, and his deceptions will continually increase. But he can gain his object only as men voluntarily yield to his temptations. Those who are earnestly seeking a knowledge of the truth and are striving to purify their souls through obedience," Did you get that, did that sink in? "Those who are earnestly seeking a knowledge of the truth" But it doesn't stop there. You're seeking a knowledge of the truth, that's why you're here today. It doesn't stop there. "And are striving to purify their souls" Now how do you strive to purify your soul? Well, it tells you right there. "Through obedience," And the Bible says we are sanctified by obedience to the truth. "Thus doing what they can to prepare for the conflict, will find, in the God of truth, a sure defense." He would sooner send every angel out of heaven to protect His people than leave one soul that trusts in Him to be overcome by Satan." Is victory assured if we really want it? Absolutely.

Messages to Young People page 99. "Christ has given to us no assurance that to attain perfection of character is an easy matter. A noble all-around character is not inherited it does not come to us by accident. A noble character is earned" You didn't know we had to buy something did you? He says come buy of Me gold tired in the fire. What do you have to pay for it? What do you have to pay? "It does not come to us by accident. A noble all-around character is not inherited. A noble character is earned by individual effort through the merits and grace of Christ. God gives the talents, the powers of the mind; we form the character. It is formed by hard stern battles with self. Conflict after conflict must be waged against hereditary tendencies. We shall have to criticize ourselves closely, and allow not one unfavorable trait to remain uncorrected." Well there are many more things in that lesson many passages I would have liked to have brought to you. But it seems I take so much time to do it. I taught young people for so many years that I have learned that you can't go too fast or it goes over their heads, so we go slowly.

But I hope we have said something that will stimulate us to move in and study further what God says about these things and I see that it's time for me to close. Let me just say this; I have abundant evidence right here on this desk today that I could read to show that holiness is not something that comes automatically. Holiness is obtained when Christ through the agency of his Holy Spirit comes suddenly to his new temple and that old temple was a symbol of this, that's why it was sanctified and holy. He comes to his new temple of saints to dwell in them permanently that they may be holy throughout eternity but that is not something that comes automatically. Unless we have prepared ourselves for that final outpouring of God's Spirit which will bring this harvest to perfection unless we have done our preparation which evolves a good degree of effort and striving in which we can only use our own willpower to make the decisions and God will not force that. Unless we do that there will be no Holy Spirit coming suddenly to his temple to purify and cleanse the heart and only the Holy Spirit can transform that nature and recreate the sinless nature of Adam before his transgression in everyone of God's people who are going to stand after probation closes without an intercessor. I don't think you can stand after probation closes without an intercessor excepting that you reflect the holiness of God. But it is not your holiness, it's God's holiness, all you do is fulfill the conditions and those conditions, some of them, are in that lesson today. And if you perform those functions that are urged upon you in that lesson for today and worship God through your response to his requests and pour out your heart in gratitude to him He will fulfill his promise and He will provide that abundant power which will come suddenly upon his temple and change their hearts and no longer will they have to worship God and bow in prayer and all the rest of it from the standpoint of duty, they will love it. Their hearts will overflow, they will recoil at sin as Jesus did. And they will honor and praise God by word of mouth and by life and a last message to a dying world will be a full revelation of the true character of God which has been so badly misunderstood and that revelation will be given through his people.

Do you want to be one of them? Surrender your will to God. That's what it says there. What God says, that do and God will do the rest.

May God help us to understand.

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