Holy Life: Earth, Wind, and Fire
What does it mean to live a holy life? Is it being all clean-cut and brushing three times daily, while cutting down in in-between meal snacks? What does holy mean? Literally, it means set apart. Separated. The concept of a holy God is that God is separate. Who is like unto God? God is separate from all other gods; He is separate from the world, from the earth. Other religions have a pantheistic idea that God is of the earth, or even of heaven, but the God of the Bible is neither of these things. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. There is Creator, and that which is created. So God is separate from everything that is not God.
Okay, that’s God. But we’re not God; how are we supposed to be holy? Jesus answers this in Luke 9:
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, [that] someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air [have] nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay [His] head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go [and] bid farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:57-62, NKJV)
In this passage, holiness is a purposeful, intentional detachment from this world. It is an active, radical commitment to be separate, to be distinct from the things of earth.
Jesus told Nicodemus this:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Okay, so most of us understand the level that we’re not supposed to live according to the flesh. Then Jesus makes this statement:
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from or where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
What in the world does that mean? In the Greek, Spirit and wind are the same word: pneuma, where we get pneumatic, pneumonia, and so on. In the Old Testament Hebrew, breath and soul are interchangeable –same concept. Jesus is telling us, that to live according to the Spirit is to be intentionally detached from this world, like the wind. The wind is not part of the world. It goes where God sends it. Foxes have holes, birds have nests; we are spirit. We are unattached. Hebrews 11 shows us how to apply this concept.
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; 10 for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldees, which we know today as Iraq. Ur of the Chaldees was a very sophisticated city. His dad was an idol-maker. They were a wealthy and respectable family. They were city folks. Then God calls Abram when he’s 75 years old and says, “Leave your family, leave your city, leave it all behind, and come out to a land I will show you.” And for the next hundred years, Abraham lives in tents. He never settles down anywhere. A city-slicker becomes a permanent sojourner, a nomad, a gypsy.
Now, his nephew Lot comes with him from the land of Ur. What does Lot do? Lot pitches his tents toward Sodom and Gomorrah, on the plain of Jordan. Keep in mind: these folks are born and bred in the city. Lot had gone down to Egypt with Abraham. Lot likes cities; he’s not real hip on the whole tent thing. Pretty soon, Lot has a house in the city. Now, the Bible says that Lot is a righteous man, so maybe Lot thinks that he’s going to be a missionary. Genesis tells us that Lot sat in the gate of Sodom. Historians will tell you that in ancient culture, the people who sat in the city gates were the civic leaders. That’s where military strategy was done, and that’s where civic plans were drawn up.
Lot was evidently one of the leaders in Sodom. Perhaps he’s thinking that if he’s in leadership, he can influence them. You’ve got to be in the world to reach the world, right? Lot thinks he can influence the people of Sodom by being cozy with them, by rubbing shoulders, mingling. The problem is that he has absolutely no idea that he has no influence among them. In fact, he has no influence in his own family; he has at least two sons who have left the house and become Sodomites, and he has at least two daughters who have married Sodomites. Only the two youngest daughters are still at home. The sad thing is that, to the people of Sodom, Lot is a joke. A believer with one foot in the world and one foot in the kingdom of God is always going to be a joke to the world. Abraham never “arrived.” He can pick up and move anytime he wants to, but Lot is wrapped up in city life. He’s put down a foundation and a house instead of putting down tent pegs.
How many people did Lot reach? He didn’t even save his whole family. His two youngest daughters and his wife are literally dragged out of the city by the two angels, and they’re told not to look back. Don’t look back. Want to guess what the wife does? She looks back. Now, maybe she’s looking back because she can’t shop at Bloomingdale’s anymore, but I think she’s looking back because her sons and daughters are in the city as fire and brimstone are raining down. She’s got family ties that are distracting her from salvation. It destroys her.
“No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” “He who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me.” (Matthew 10:37)
When Jesus said, “Let the dead bury the dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God,” He was serious. Lot and his wife made choices to compromise, to put down roots in the world, and their kids made choices to belong to Sodom.
When Lot was preaching the night before, his sons-in-law thought he was joking. When we’re not separate, we become a joke. When salt is no longer salty, when you can’t tell salt as being distinct from what it’s with, then it’s useless. It’s not preserving anything. Lot was in a house, when he should have been in a tent. We are to be separate. We get tangled up in the world when we put down roots in the world. We forget what 1 John 2:15-17 says:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world –the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life –is not of the Father but of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
We are to have roots in heaven. We belong to the Spirit, to the wind.
The wind doesn’t have stuff. It’s not weighed down by stuff. Americans have a lot of stuff. Ur of the Chaldees had a lot of stuff. Egypt had a lot of stuff. Sodom had a lot of stuff. Guess what Lot discovered? Stuff…is flammable. Stuff burns. What’s Hebrews 12 say?
“…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us…”
Let me challenge you: how ensnared are you? How much of a sojourner are you? If God told you to pull up stakes and move somewhere that He will show you, but right now you don’t know where that is, how much trouble is it for you? Are you able to get your affairs in order quickly, or are you ensnared? I’ll be honest; my wife and I have 2 dogs, 3 cats, and a mortgage. Moving at the drop of a hat is not going to be easy for us. We have some snares to get rid of. How about you? I have friends who have intentionally designed their lives so that if the Lord tells them to move out of the country, they can be ready in one day. They live in the tabernacle style, not the city style.
Now, I’m not saying to sell your house and live in a motor home. The question is, how tangled up are you in the affairs of life? Do you own the house or does the house own you? Do you work the job, or does your job work you? Maybe you’re not materialistic, but there are material tangles, and then there are other kinds of tangles. The church is not exempt from this, let’s be honest. It makes me sad, but a good deal of the talk out there on Christian radio is about the Constitution and fighting for our religious freedoms. Is that what Jesus is teaching? I have friends who are fighting nobly, and desperately, to save the Bill of Rights because all their hope is wrapped up in the American way of life. They are becoming crushed and demoralized because they’re watching our Constitution crumble right before their eyes, and make no mistake: it is crumbling.
Now, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are good things. They are the law of the land, and as Christians we are to obey the law of the land. But where is our kingdom? Is our kingdom about freedom of speech, freedom of religion? We get tangled up with political parties and coalitions and activism and what have we done with all this freedom? Every statistic out there shows that the church’s own children are bailing out of the faith. All over the world they have religious persecution, not religious freedom, and the church is growing, where in America we have pretty much all the freedom in the world and our own youth are leaving the church in droves.
That’s because most Christians in this country are working for the wrong kingdom. A large part of the church in America thinks that this is a Christian nation. The concept of a Christian nation is not a biblical concept. Too often, we’re trying to rehabilitate the world, exert influence over the world instead of being outside the world providing a light to this present darkness. We can’t put hope in America, in the Constitution, in political parties. We are of the Spirit, not of the flesh. You don’t rehabilitate flesh; you crucify the flesh. Are we going to be like Lot inside the gate with no influence or are we going to be like Abraham? Remember, Genesis 19 is when Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, but it was Genesis 14 when Abraham and 300 servants rescued Sodom and Gomorrah from five kings. He was just a man, but he had influence because he was outside and he walked with God.
I’m not saying that it’s wrong to get involved. I’m saying don’t put your hope there, because that’s of the world, and the world is going to burn. This country is going down. It’s going to burn.
So, if we’ve got our hand to the plow, and we’re not supposed to look back, what is it that we’re working toward? Is it here on earth, or is it in heaven? We do work here to build up treasures in heaven, where rust and moth do not destroy. The wind goes over the world; it is not part of it. Don’t make a nest in it; it’s about to burn. Preach to the dead in this world; don’t join the dead. And don’t look back. Remember what Jesus said about the last days: remember Lot’s wife. And let’s remember Abraham, searching for the city with real foundations, spiritual foundations, whose builder and Maker is God.