A Personal Checklist for All of Us Before Leaving Earth, Pt. 2
Study Guide, January 17, 2021
Pastor Clay Olsen
Last week we began work on compiling a witnessing tool that we have entitled: ‘A Personal Checklist for All of Us Before Leaving Earth’. This is not meant to scare anybody, like we have some inside information about their leaving…but rather, since the whole world has had a wake up reminder on just how fragile and temporary life is on Planet Earth, we believe this is an opportune time to give Biblical assurances to others about how they can know that they have a saved relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as to best be prepared for whatever lies before them…as in either many years still ahead on this Earth or a shorter time…since, as we pointed out last time, no one knows what tomorrow holds. But if you have been Born Again into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, well then, you know ‘Who’ holds your tomorrow and ‘Who’ holds your whole forever after! So let’s expand on what we began.
We pointed out that our first point on the checklist was for everyone to make sure that they have been Born Again through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ…meaning, turning the control of their life over to God and trusting in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Then we pointed out the need to live on Earth today like they are leaving Earth tomorrow. We still haven’t decided where that will be on the checklist, but we’ll figure that out as we go along.
So now, here is another point we ought to include in the Checklist. And it, too, goes along with one of the recommendations from that checklist to go over before leaving on a vacation. So, another recommendation that many people like to practice before they are gone from their home for any length of time is to do a sort of overall clean-up of their place before they leave. I don’t remember putting that recommendation into practice when I was a single guy…that is kind of a learned skill that many guys acquire in marriage, I would suspect. Marriage tends to civilize most guys. A common practice for single guys is to wash the dishes when there are no longer any clean ones in the cupboard, and then to wash the clothes when there are no longer any clean ones in their closets.
But it really is a really good practice to do things like; empty the trash cans, and use up or remove things that can spoil while you’re gone, and wash up what needs washing before you go, and just do what you can to make it a whole lot easier on you when you do return home.
Okay then, it just makes good sense, not to mention that it is also commanded of us, that we make sure that before we leave Earth that we do as thorough a cleansing of our personal lives as we can as well. And here are the precise instructions about that: 2 Cor 7:1- “Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.” NLT What the Apostle Paul is instructing us to do, as in, all of us followers of Christ, is that we are expected to really step up our game on what is called ‘holiness’. And no, holiness is not a game, but we could say that ‘Holiness’ is the theme of the Christian playbook! And holiness is not just for some Christians who seem to be into that sort of thing. No, the Apostle Peter pretty much clarified that for us all when he said: 1 Peter 1:13-16- “So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” NLT
One thing that is clearly missing in that passage is any notion that holiness is optional for Christians. Actually, whenever you find those words ‘must be’ in the Bible, that means ‘the discussion is over’! Like, ‘You must be Born Again’… and ‘You must be prepared’ for the Lord to return or for you to leave Earth, like we talked about last week… and here… ‘You must be holy!’ So again, holiness is not optional for followers of Christ. Rather, holiness is central to life for followers of Christ, because in order to become more and more like Christ we have to become more and more holy in our lives, because our God is holy. And once again, God made that as clear as can be – that you and I ‘must be holy’.
Think about it: When the third Person of the Trinity’s first name is ‘Holy’…as in ‘Holy Spirit’, that pretty much clears up what God is looking for in His reborn children. Or, we could ask: “So, what do you think the Holy Spirit is trying to do in us…just make us more spiritual?” No, that’s incomplete…the Holy Spirit in us is seeking to make us more ‘spiritually holy’, for God is holy and we must be holy like our God!
However, as we have previously pointed out, we find ourselves living in a culture that is moving 180 degrees in the opposite direction of holiness. Of the many things on our culture’s list of things they are in pursuit of, holiness is definitely not one of them. However, for Christians, not only is holiness to be on our list of things that we are in pursuit of; holiness is to be at the TOP of the list. In fact, holiness is to be one of the things that catches the attention of unbelievers as they observe how distinctly different we are living out our lives. ‘Holiness’ is that ‘peculiar thing’ that the verses about being ‘peculiar’ is all about. Look at Titus 2:11-14- “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” KJV
And we also find that phrase again in 1 Peter 2:9- “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” KJV
Do you see how adamant God is about His children pursuing and striving to be more and more holy in their personal and public lives? Christians have often gotten ‘doing’ and ‘being’ turned around, and because of this misplaced focus and emphasis they have often just broken down the Christian life to the ‘doing’ part and have neglected the ‘being’ part. And of course, God wants His people to be actively ‘doing’ good works for the glory of God and the blessings of others…as is ‘zealous of good works.’ But what God is emphasizing is this necessity of His children to focus on ‘being’…on being ‘peculiar people’… on being ‘holy people’, just like their God is holy, so that when the world sees our good works, these works will not just be like every other religious group that does good works…rather they will be peculiarly different because those doing them are peculiar people…people who are seeking to be more and more like their Holy God, for Whose sake they are doing these good works!
Plus, mark this down friends: Holiness is also the virtue that ignites and initiates all the growth in all the spiritual fruit in the Christian life. Which totally makes sense, since the fruit of the Spirit is grown by what…or rather by ‘Who’? The Holy Spirit! So ‘holiness’ is like the ‘miracle grow’ of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives; things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (Gal. 5:22, 23 NASU) And God wants to grow His fruit in your life for you to personally enjoy, but He also wants to grow it in you for you to then publicly employ in your service for Him. But God the Holy Spirit will not grow spiritual fruit in you apart from your commitment to holy living for Him. Or, without the fertilizer of holiness, we cannot grow spiritual fruit.
And if we have not been experiencing the presence nor the growth of this fruit of the Holy Spirit like love and joy and peace and kindness and self-control and such, it is right here that we need to make sure that we recommit to generously applying this fertilizer of ‘holiness’ to our lives first. Because once again, our God is all about ‘holiness’, as in “Holy Spirit”, and therefore, you and I also are to be all about ‘holiness’ in our pursuit of life. In other words, in our pursuit of life, holiness is to be our main pursuit. That’s another way that 2 Cor. 7:1 puts it: “Therefore, my dear friends, since we have these promises, let us purify ourselves from everything that can defile either body or spirit, and strive to be completely holy, (pursue holiness) out of reverence for God.” CJB
In a book by Jerry Bridges entitled “The Pursuit of Holiness” he calls for us all to get real about it. He put it this way: “Too often, we say we are defeated by this or that sin. No, we are not defeated. We are simply disobedient. It might be good if we stop using the terms victory and defeat to describe our progress in holiness. Rather, we should use the terms obedience and disobedience. When I say I am defeated by some sin, I am unconsciously slipping out from under my responsibility. I am saying something outside of me has defeated me. But when I say I am disobedient, that places the responsibility for my sin squarely on me. We may in fact be defeated, but the reason we are defeated is because we have chosen to disobey.” And then he went on to say: “We need to brace ourselves up and to realize that we are responsible for thoughts, attitudes, and actions. We need to reckon on the fact that we died to sin’s reign, that it no longer has any dominion over us, that God has united us with the risen Christ in all His power and has given us the Holy Spirit to work in us. Only as we accept our responsibility and appropriate God’s provisions will we make any progress in our pursuit of holiness.”
But also now catch this; because this is also really fascinating in how holiness then plays out in our relationships with the world. We are very familiar with what the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 3:15-17- “…Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong.” NASU
So here’s the thing: Have you ever wondered about that part where Peter says that others would be asking Christians about that ‘hope they see in them’? What’s up with that? Or, what causes people to find you and me to be so hopeful, so ‘happy’ we could say, that they would be so curious about it…or even ask about it? How often do you see unbelievers going around asking Christians about this hope that is in them? Not that often, right? And why is that? Could it be that the reason that they are not asking about this hope is because they aren’t seeing it? Or that the kind of hope they are seeing doesn’t look that much different from the ordinary kind of hope they see in the world?
Of all the things that people long for, genuine hope is one of them. And of all the things that Christians are to specialize in…we are to specialize in having and in showing and in explaining…genuine hope! So why is this genuine hope among those who call themselves followers of Christ not shining in such a way as to get the attention of others in such a way that they are compelled to ask Christians about this unusual kind of hope that they see in them? In order to compel others to ask about this kind of hope, you and I have to be constrained by this kind of hope in our lives. And this kind of hope only results from a habit of setting Christ apart as Lord of our life and seeking to be holy like our God is holy. For it is ‘holiness’ that gives rise to ‘hopefulness’ which then gives rise to ‘happiness’. ‘Holiness gives rise to hopefulness and hopefulness gives rise to happiness.’ And so, when others see us pursuing holiness and thus experiencing hopefulness and therefore enjoying happiness, oh yeah, that gets the attention of a weary and heavy-laden world around us.
That would be a good question to ask: So what is the key to happiness? Holiness has always been the key to happiness. Again, trying to grow happiness is like trying to grow fruits or vegetables in your garden without watering or fertilizing them. And if they do grow somewhat, they will be withered an unsatisfying…just like the kind of withered and unsatisfying sort of happiness people are chewing on today. No, holiness is what produces happiness. The Bible commentator Matthew Henry said; “Those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy.” He even went on to say: “goodness and holiness are not only the way to happiness but happiness itself.” And the Puritans knew that well. They said that the soul’s true happiness is no incidental byproduct of holiness. True happiness is true holiness.
And how like our God, who only wants what is best for His children. And what is best is for His children is to become more and more like Him, truly holy…truly happy. As our benevolent Father, God offers us happiness. But remember, as our sovereign God, He commands our holiness…remember the ‘must be’ part? You and I must be holy as our God is holy. So let’s get on with that as we get ready to go to Heaven, and as we check our checklist before leaving Earth.