Set Apart For God

Personal holiness is living a holy life in our body, mind and spirit. Sanctification is making the ordinary things holy because we are doing them for God. Everything about us is set apart for God to use.

Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8, Colossians 3


Alright, thank you very much, and hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? It’s nice to be back with you. You know, one of the things I enjoy the most is going different places here and there and having someone recognize the voice and say, “Hey, you’re Brother Cook!” And I’ll say, “How did you know?” “I recognized the voice!” Nowadays, in business and industry, and in the military as well, they’ve developed a technique that they call “voice-prints.” No human voice is quite like any other human voice, and in the case of some of us, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? But they’ve got it so that you can speak to your door-lock, and it will unlock when you speak to it. Nobody else can quite make it because the machinery inside is calibrated so as to respond to the delicate wavelengths of your voice. Interesting, isn’t it?

Well, anyhow, here we are together and we’re looking at the Word of God. We’re in 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 4, and I gave you the outline, as I see it, of that first part of the chapter which goes down to about Verse 12. After that, he starts talking again about the return of our Lord Jesus. But in that first part of the chapter, he talks about pleasing God, and the way it works out is that you please God by living a holy life (Verses 1-8), by exhibiting brotherly love (Verses 9-10), and by exhibiting and living the values that we would call “Christian” values: a quiet life, minding your own business, working hard, being honest and successful. That brings us then through Verse 12. Well, let’s talk about this for awhile, shall we?

He said, “This is the will of God,” (and I’m reading now from Verse 3.) “This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication; every one of you should know how to possess his vessel,” (which is talking about your body) “in sanctification and honor. Not in the lust of concupiscence, as the Gentiles, which know not God. No man should go and defraud his brother in any matter. The Lord is the avenger of all such.” God has not called us to uncleanness, but into holiness. So if you despise God’s command, you’re despising the Holy Spirit of God. That’s what he says there. I am paraphrasing it as we go rapidly through it.

Now, he said, “This is the will of God, even your sanctification.” God wants you to be set aside in a very special way for Himself. This is the will of God, the sanctification of you. That is the Greek word hagiosmos, which if you were to say it literally, is “to make holy.” It’s the idea of setting aside something for the special use and honor and worship of God. Going back over into 2 Timothy, Paul says, “If a man therefore purge himself from these,” (that is, these old sins and faults), “he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified and made for the Master’s use.” That’s 2 Timothy 2:21.

This is God’s will, that you (that is to say, your body, because that’s the only way you have of expressing the person who lives inside it); you, your body, your mind, your attitudes, your relationships, your whole destiny, are set aside for God to use. Now, that doesn’t mean that everything you do in your life is going to be religious. That’s impossible for most of us to do that. People look at me with a sort of cynical air and say, “Well, Brother Cook, you know, some of us have to work for a living. We can’t be religious all the time. Well, of course. I work too.

You can’t go around singing “Holy, holy, holy,” at the top of your voice and still get any work done. That isn’t the point that God raises. He doesn’t ask us to always be religious or pious. I have a Cook-ism that I use sometimes in this connection. “ If you see a person who’s always pious, you have to watch him because he’s apt to lie about other things too.” That’s a pose that he or she has put on. So you cannot succeed at life by going around being always religious and pious and solemn, and always in a worshipful attitude.

I visited at the headquarters of the Navigators years ago. This would have been, I guess, back in the 1950’s, and they were telling me that they had a system of “breaking in,” to use the old expression, new recruits to the work, and there were two illustrations of that. As I came there, I saw a man digging in the hot sunshine. He was sweating profusely and had taken off his shirt and his t-shirt was stained with perspiration as he was working so hard, digging. I said, “What’s he doing?” “Oh, our sewer is stopped up. He has to find where it’s stopped up and clear it out.” “Oh,” I said, “is that one of the day laborers from around here?” “Oh no, he’s just mustered out of the Navy. He was a Lieutenant Commander.” Here he is cleaning out the sewer.

Well, we went on up toward the main building, and we’re walking on through. And I noticed a man sitting in the little cubicle there. It wasn’t a very big room, maybe 6 x 10 or something like that. He was seated at a table and he had in front of him all sorts of cards and packets. What he was doing was assembling what they called “K-rations”: the beginning set of Scriptures that are given to folk who have trusted Christ as Savior and Lord, and who are now being started on memorizing Scripture. He was assembling these. So I said, “He looks interesting, tell me about him.” “Oh,” they said, “He’s another new fellow; he’s just come out of the army. That’s Captain so-and-so.” And there they had him working on assembling materials. And you’d think if a person had been a Lieutenant Commander, or a Captain, that you’d give him some other kind of dignified work, other than digging up a sewer, eh? No, not really.

I asked about that, and they said, “Well, you see, if a person is willing to do anything, but do it for God, he’s more apt to be successful in other things as well.” And so, these people were successfully passing the initial test in that framework. The initial test of success was to be able to do the unglamorous, and in the case of the man who was digging, to be able to do the smelly kind of work that didn’t have any organ music or any ringing of church bells or singing of hymns, and all he had was to dig in that old stopped-up sewer, but he was doing it for the glory of God. Now that’s the point I’m trying to make. Sanctification is the making of ordinary things holy because you do them for God.

Let me tell you once again about my church member, whose name was Mary. This goes back into the 1940’s. She worked in a factory at an automatic machine which took in steel wire at one end and poured out millions of tiny little cap screws that were used in the assembly of watches (and because those were war years, bomb fuses) at the other. And her job was simply to sit there and make sure the machine didn’t jam, and to make sure there was enough wire at the beginning of the process, so as to keep the machine functioning. To me, it looked to be terribly boring, and so I said to her one day, “Mary, don’t you get bored?” And she flashed that beautiful Italian smile up at me and she said, “Why Pastor, no, I don’t get bored. Because I just look up and say, ‘Lord Jesus, I’m doing this for you!’” There’s the secret. “I’m doing this for you.” To make holy the non-religious activities of life because you’re doing them for Jesus.

And that, of course, then, takes us over to Colossians 3, where Paul says, “Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as for the Lord and not just for people, knowing that of the Lord, ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance, for ye serve the Lord Christ.” Whatever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord. The word heartily is our word “psyched-up.” Excited over it because you’re doing it for Him. Now that’s the essence of this idea of sanctification. It’s not that you start all of a sudden to look pious. We tend to think that somebody who looks religious is really so, and we always get disappointed, don’t we?

Human beings inevitably disappoint us. We disappoint each other. We fail. So that isn’t the secret. No, this idea of sanctifying means to be set aside for God’s special use. And if you’re a believer, of course, the Holy Spirit of God dwells within you. Paul gets around to talking about that in Verse 8. “God has given unto us His Holy Spirit.” So the secret of living a sanctified life is to yield to the control of the Sanctifier. The Holy Spirit of God dwells within you, believer, and He, when you yield to Him, will lead you to do all that you do to honor your blessed Lord. That’s a great truth, isn’t it?

Now, of course, he zeroes right in on the fact that the number one area which the Devil attacks, and you and I need to give our primary consideration, is your use of your body. “Every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honor.” See, the way you treat your body will determine how you treat other people. And so, because the Holy Spirit dwells within us, we’re not going to do and say things that are against the will of God, because that grieves the indwelling Spirit of God. Paul says in Ephesians, “Grieve not the Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” So, he says, the start of being set aside for God to use is to let the Holy Spirit control your use of your body. And that has to do with all of your relationships in life; not simply sexual, but every relationship in life…honoring God by the way we live.

Well, we’ll get at this some more the next time we get together.

Father God, in Jesus’ name, help us to live for Thee; body, soul, and Spirit. Amen.

Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!

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