Years ago at a weekend conference in Orlando we heard this outstanding message on Holiness and its implications by Gary Ezzo, the founder of Growing Kids God’s Way. Never in 1000 years did we expect what we heard. Powerful, truthful, insightful, Spirit filled, and especially prophetic. One of the 10 top messages we dare say that we’ve ever heard.
Gary’s past actions have been brought into question by several of the church groups with which he has been affiliated. Nevertheless, this message stands on its own as excellent and one-of-a-kind kingdom resources.
May this change your heart and change your life as it has ours. You may hear the entire talk online or as a download. Listen now to the audio podcast, and download the pdf text transcription:
What follows below is the transcribed message.
What God told Israel in Exodus about separation..and Why
(In progress) – from the Word of God, starting in 1 Peter, chapter 1, beginning in verse 13; some interesting statements that Peter is making. He says, “Therefore, prepare your minds for action. Be self-controlled. Set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance, but just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all that you do. For it is written, “Be holy, because I am holy.”
And continuing in chapter 2, picking up with verse 9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. Once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
And then, again, just turning back to John 13, beginning in verse 34, a familiar verse to anyone who’s done “Growing Kids God’s Way.” Jesus, in the closing days of His ministry, presents His disciples a new commandment. In verse 34 He says, “This new commandment I give you, that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, so shall you love one another.”
Then in verse 35 He explains what this commandment is for when He says, “By this, by this new commandment, shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Now, before I move into the heart of my presentation, I want to make a couple of brief comments about some of my own studies and some of the events and discoveries that led me to sharing this viewpoint with you. Let me start out by first telling you a little bit about my own personal Bible study. I have been stuck, really stuck, for 18 months now in the Old Testament. I’m in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. I have fallen in love with these books because of what they represent and the tremendous truth that flows out of it.
I have focused my attention, though, specifically early on in the book of Exodus. I have been concentrating on the early days of Israel’s existence and God’s relationship with the children of Israel. And I have been most interested in the initial giving of the Law to the children of Israel.
After all, ladies and gentlemen, if you’re going to build a society, whether you’re going to try to refashion the one you live in or whether you’re going to build a brand new society, if you want to know what are the dynamics to do so, then the place I think we should start is look back to the book of Exodus and find out what did God say and do with the children of Israel as He was going to build them into a nation. It only makes sense that if you want to understand the great precepts of law, the great precepts that’s going to ultimately govern a people, that’s going to hold relationships together, that’s going to provide civil order, then what did flow out of the mind of God? What would He tell His people?
And so in this study I have been looking at the introduction of the initial giving of the Law, starting in Exodus 20. And it’s, of course, starting with the Ten Commandments. I came to Exodus 20 and read straight through to Exodus 23, where God begins to bring the initial giving of the Law to a close.
In Exodus 23, He then begins the process of sharing with the children of Israel His laws on justice and mercy and fairness and moral compassion in verses 1 through 9. He teaches them to remember the Sabbath day and the significance of setting that particular day apart in verses 10 through 13. He calls Israel to observe the three annual feast days to remind them of God’s deliverance and His benevolence, His sustaining provision, in verses 14 to 18.
And so now He’s coming to the close of the initial giving of the Law that started with the Ten Commandments. He has now summarized for Israel. He’s still on the fiery mount. And so you have to begin to wonder; here we are, coming to the close. What great profound truth, what dynamic, what principle would God now give to anchor into the minds of the children of Israel all that has preceded?
After all, what we have right now is some of the most profound moral declaration that has ever been given to humanity. And so how would God see fit to close up this portion of the initial giving of the Law? What great truth would He share with the children of Israel so that it would be cemented in their minds that everything now would make sense? What is the great conclusion?
Here are the words that God gave through Moses to bring closure to this portion of the great moral declaration given to the children of Israel. He says to them in the last sentence of verse 19: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
Think about that statement, ladies and gentlemen. I know some people think that the Bible was put together when some scribes threw verses up in the air and that, wherever they landed, they got put together, and somehow this verse, sort of out of context maybe, got thrown in here, because God really didn’t know where else to put this verse, so he figured, “Put it here, because no one’s going to understand or read it anyway.”
I mean, you have to think about this. Out of all of the possible moral conclusions that God could have presented, God decides to instruct the children of Israel in food preparation as a fitting conclusion to His profound moral declaration. If ever there was an obscure law to all of Judaism, at least to one from the outside looking in, I would think that this has got to be it: “Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Just when I thought I was gaining a comprehensive understanding of God’s Law, how He expects man to relate to his fellow man, how He expects man to relate to Himself, how we are to love God, I am confronted with this mysterious requirement.
Interestingly enough, and we cannot forget this, that comes out of the mind of God. He has just given us some of the most profound moral declarations in human history and He sees fit to close it off with simply telling the children of Israel, “And by the way, I don’t want you, as a command, cooking a young goat in its own mother’s milk.”
Because the Apostle Paul tells us, in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture – that means Old Testament and New Testament – is given by the inspiration of God – that is, it’s God-breathed – and it’s profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and instruction in righteousness, therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I must assume that God had a very deliberate idea when He attached some of the most profound moral truth in all of mankind’s history with one of the most obscure laws of the Old Testament. There must be an explanation.
And I am convinced, my friends, that by the very obscurity of this verse, God is telling us something very profound. Something deep inside of me is telling me there’s more here than simply a suggestion about the dietary methods of preparing food. Obviously this is one of those verses that, when you read it, you just shake your head and go on. I mean, we don’t want to spend a lot of time on “Don’t cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” It doesn’t fit the context of where we live. It has no meaning to us. You can go to all the commentaries and you’re probably going to struggle finding some kind of an explanation.
I sat on a plane with a professor from the University of Tel Aviv this summer. As we were chatting and I was bringing up Exodus 23:19 – he’s very knowledgeable; he was Orthodox. We even stopped in our conversation because he had to do his morning prayers. And I said to him, “Tell me, what is the meaning of this verse?” I had already had my conclusion, but I wanted to get another Jewish perspective.
His words to me were this: “It is not for us to know all that God has revealed. There are some mysteries that we are not yet to understand. This is one of them.” (Laughter.)
Surely, ladies and gentlemen, Exodus 23:19, the last portion, the last sentence, surely it’s a command of God. Understand that point. But it was not a civil law command. It was not a ceremonial law command. It is not a moral law command. But most importantly, what you need to understand, it is a holiness law – a holiness law command.
And what I want to share with you this morning is God’s purpose for holiness in our lives and in our families. And certainly we, as a people who are leading a whole new generation, you as leaders, this is fundamental to all that we do and all that we believe at Growing Families, all that you represent.
Holiness and the culture wars
Holiness is very important to God, as it was to the children of Israel. What I want to do is I want to look at the purpose of holiness and how it’s lived out every day in our lives. And the place I want to start is with defining some terms, two of them, to really be exact, to understand this concept. We need to define the theological system of ethics, and I’ll explain why in a few minutes. And we need to define holiness.
Now, why these two terms? Because a person can be ethical without being holy. We see that every day. But you cannot be holy without being ethical. A person could be ethical and not holy, especially in our society. But for us, you cannot be holy without being ethical.
This is an important distinction for Christians to understand. Let me start out by defining ethics and holiness, starting out with the concept of ethics. What does it mean when we say a person is ethical or an action is unethical? What is the theological system of ethics?
Well, simply put, ethics deals with a system of moral codes which governs how we treat our fellow man. It governs how we relate to others in our personal and our business dealings. It governs, ladies and gentlemen, how honest we are towards other people, whether we hurt other people or deceive them or take advantage of other people.
Generally speaking, that is what ethics concerns itself with – how we treat other people. But there is a caution that I want to give you, that I want to offer, because of the simplicity of that definition, in a moral climate of our present culture, can be very, very misleading, because the present ethic of the day that concerns itself with how we treat our fellow man was born out of the moral revolution of the 1960s.
Now, some of you don’t remember, because either you weren’t born or you were very, very young children. There are a few of us in this room – David, good, and I – we do remember. And what I have to bring you under 35 up to speed with is the understanding of what came out of the ‘60s ethics.
The single most important ethic emerging out of that era that is still present with us today is this ideal: Any behavior is allowable and should be tolerated as long as it doesn’t hurt another person. Do some of you remember that ethic? That is the predominant ethic that came out of the moral revolution of the 1960s. It is the present primary ethic, predominant ethic, of the day today, that any behavior should be tolerated, should be allowable. And the basis is, as long as it doesn’t hurt another person, it’s okay.
For example, if a man or a woman wanted to embrace each other sexually outside of marriage, or if a group of men and women wanted to do so, or if members of the same gender wanted to do that, and no one was hurt, no one was victimized, no one was taken advantage of, no one was tricked – and, for our argument, we’ll say everyone was of legal age – the 1960s ethics stated that nothing could be wrong with that, no determination could be made on it, because no one’s being hurt.
Everyone is doing this volitionally. No one is being deceived. No one is considered being hurt. Then who are you to say that it’s morally wrong if, in fact, the ethic of the day bases right and wrong on whether or not someone is hurt? And, in fact, in a morally relativistic, secular society, there is, ladies and gentlemen, Christian, no counter-ethic to that, which means there is nothing wrong with that ethic, and subsequently all associated behaviors. Thus we are left with the notion that all behavior must be tolerated, and that is the present legacy of the 1960s ethic.
So when you hear and come up against that argument, whether it be in the media, the press or talk radio, whether you’re sitting in a philosophy class, that we need to learn to become more tolerant, that our values are relative, the basis of that notion is, in fact, the ‘60s belief that as long as it doesn’t hurt someone, that is the basis of right and wrong. Do you understand?
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the cultural wars we are all involved in, especially if you’re in this type of a parenting ministry, is the tension between the dominant ethic of our culture and Christianity now. Let me demonstrate this point by the showing of your hands, if we may. We’ll do a little test here.
Let me ask you, in the last year, over the last 12 months, how many of you in this room saw on television, heard on radio talk show, read in newsprint, whether it be newspaper or the media, some form of magazines, a negative statement, an assault, an attack, on the ethics derived from Hinduism? Would someone raise their hand? Has anyone, in the last year?
How many of you in this room saw on television, heard on radio, read in newsprint, got into conversations, on the ethics that’s derived from Buddhism? How about the ethics in the last year derived from New Age morality? None of you.
How about this, ladies and gentlemen? How many of you, over the last, let’s say, 30 days, just 30 days, how many of you in the last 30 days have read an assault on Christianity, have heard on radio talk shows the belittling of the Christian world view, have seen on TV news slanted reports, observed on sit-coms subtle and not-so-subtle put-downs of the Christian ethic and Christianity? How many of you, in just the last 30 days, have come across something like this?
Isn’t it amazing that almost all of you, if not all of you, raised your hand? Have you ever thought about why? Why you? Why not Hinduism? Why not Buddhism? Why not New Age morality? Obviously the issue, ladies and gentlemen, is not religion. Right? If it was religion, then we would have a problem with all of these. There seems to be a problem with the present ethic of the day and Christianity.
Why is that? Because specifically and nearly exclusively, Christianity and biblical values – it is Christianity and biblical values that will challenge – are you ready? – the notion that just because something doesn’t hurt someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it’s right, morally right.
You are the only religious force, apart from the conservative elements of Judaism, you are the only religious voice in America that will challenge the secular ethic and the predominant notion that just because something doesn’t hurt someone else does not mean it’s morally acceptable. You’re the only ones.
Now, why would you say that? What is the basis of that statement? Because Christianity brings into play a second dimension that supersedes the here and now, and it’s the eternal revealed will of a supreme God. And it brings into play the practice of holiness.
What is holiness?
Holiness is our reason for being, for doing, and for acting – our reason for being, for doing, and for acting. But it seems that the church today has forgotten this truth. In fact, in our churches today we are attempting – are you ready? – to teach ethics to our people and to our children and an ethical lifestyle without teaching holiness.
Now, to understand that concept, let me try to define holiness as I understand it, and I will be speaking from within historical Judaism and the New Testament Christianity. So let me give you a biblical definition from both the Old and the New Testament.
When we read Leviticus 11:44 – “I am the Lord your God; consecrate yourself and be holy, because I am holy” – the word “holy” in the Hebrew is a basic word, “kadosh.” “Kadosh” carries the primary meaning of separation, differentness, distinctiveness. That is the primary meaning of “kadosh.”
Now, when Peter quotes the Old Testament command from Leviticus 19:1 in his first epistle, he did not change the original meaning when he told the first century church to “Be ye holy, for God is holy.” He was not introducing a new definition of holiness. This is important that you understand. He was a Jew. He was speaking to Jews. When quoting Leviticus 19:1, he was working from the original Jewish meaning. He was speaking to a Hebrew audience knowledgeable of the Hebrew Scriptures. He was calling these new believers to a life of distinction, differentness, separateness, just as Moses called the children of Israel to do the very same thing.
Holiness means we are called distinctively from something and distinctively to something. So when God says, “Be ye holy because I am holy,” he was saying, “Be yet distinctively different because I am distinctively different.” It is the distinctive nature of holiness that needs to be understood, and that’s what I hope to present this morning to you with clarity.
What we’re going to do is we’re going to look at two different callings; in the one sense, two different covenants. We are going to look at what happened when God initially called the children of Israel and said, “Out of all of the nations of the world, I’m going to make you my people. I will be your God. You will be my people, my chosen people.”
And then I want to contrast that same scenario with the New Testament church, the calling out, what Peter is talking about, to understand this concept of New Testament holiness. I can tell you this. If I walked away from my study – that, in fact, I have walked away from my study of really the law of God, I have walked away with one incredible conviction, and it is this, that in the mind of God, holiness is supremely important; maybe more important than what we really understand and practice in our own day.
The distinctiveness of His people serves a profound purpose, and that’s what I want to help you understand. It serves a profound purpose in the expansion of God’s kingdom. And for the Jew, the holiness distinctions, as described by God, were as central to their lifestyle as were the Scriptures. And I want to suggest to we Christians today that we need to understand that holiness is as central to our lifestyle as the Scriptures are to our lifestyle.
What are the cultural distinctions warring against holiness?
Now, why is all of this important? Why do I want to bring up this concept of holiness to you as leaders? Why are distinctions important? Because just in case you haven’t noticed, ladies and gentlemen, we are in a culture that is warring against every God-given distinction; and not just against these distinctions, but every God-given distinction that is familiar to Christianity, that makes Christianity unique and peculiar.
Modern America is making war against God-given distinctions that make up our identity as human beings made in the image and likeness of God, as well as Christians in the context of who we are within the church and the body of Christ. And I believe if I could help you understand the battle being waged on God’s ordained distinctions within the society, then I will better be able to help you understand the original intent of holiness.
In one sense, let me give you all of the negatives so you can understand the primary positive purpose of what holiness is all about. What I want to do is I want to walk you through five major distinctions. I’m going to park on the fifth one. I want to walk you through five major distinctions so that you can see how the Christian message and what we represent is always going to be in contrast and, in fact, at war with the predominant ethic of the society, because once you begin to remove all of the distinctions that tie us back to God, then the society itself has removed the ambassadors of God, because the distinctions are gone, the things that represent who we are to the society.
Let me look at some of these distinctions that are coming under attack by our culture. They’re rather basic. They’re subtle because we don’t think about them because we are such firm believers in what we know to be true. But when you look at our Christian message and compare it against the society, you could see we may be losing the battle here because of our lack of awareness of the issues.
The first distinction to come under attack in our society is the God-man distinction. You can just write that in your outline, the God-man distinction. In the foundational chapters of “Preparation for Parenting” and in “Growing Kids God’s Way,” we present to you this very first radical distinction between God and man. We said that God is God, man is man, end of issue. That should be the end of issue.
The separation between the two is seen in our response to God. We are told to worship God. We are told to love God. We are told to praise God. We are told to obey God. We are told to honor God. We are told to submit to God, be faithful to God. But we are not God. God is God. Man is man.
Now, why is this distinction so important? Why was it historically important? Because you have to remember, when Israel was coming out of – (when) the budding nation was coming out of Egypt, they’re coming out of Egypt with much of the knowledge of the Egyptian society. Four hundred and thirty years they have been in Egypt, and they have not had any direct monotheistic training in 430 years.
What you need to understand is in the mind of the budding nation of Israel, Pharaoh, according to the Egyptians, was a man-god. He was god. He was god and he was man and he was together. It was all one. And so it makes sense that one of the first things that God wants the children of Israel to understand is, “Look, there is God and there is man, and there’s nothing in between. There is no god-man. Although you lived in the society and although you may have had the belief system and although it was part of the Egyptian society, there is no god-man. There’s a distinction between the two.”
In our society presently, the way that this distinction is being blurred – we could pick up, first of all, with the legacy of Shirley MacLaine and New Age thinking. Do you know what the essential belief in New Age thinking is? It is that we are all gods. You’re a god and I’m a god. However you define God and wherever you place God within you, you are a god.
It is interesting also to note that in the Fortune 500 companies that New Age recruiters are coming in and consultants are coming in to help middle and upper management get in touch with their god in order to increase production of the company. This is an amazing thing. This is where our society is, getting in touch with our own god. And, of course, that belief is antithetical to Christianity. We believe God is outside of time and space, and certainly outside of us.
Another idea that is encroaching on the God-man distinction is the belief that God and nature are one. That is also unacceptable to us, but that is a predominant view within our society. What we have done is we have deified nature. We have taken the small “n” and made it a capital “N.” We’ve all seen the bumper sticker – we saw this one up in Alaska this summer, more than we’ve seen in the lower 48 – it’s the bumper stick where there’s a shot of the earth from outer space and the richness of the blue and the white and just a very beautiful caption. And right next to it the words read “Love Your Mother.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I can certainly appreciate the earth because I know it was a gift from God. But Mother Earth is not my mother. Nature is not my mother. Nature is not the spark of life. God is the spark of life. But in our society, you represent the old school of thinking that there was a God who said he started it all and that He’s over creation; He is the author of creation. And we live in a society that is warring against this distinction, the God-man distinction, whether it be by making man God or by elevating nature to God. We live in a society that’s warring against this distinction, and each generation we’re slowly losing this distinctive concept.
A second distinction that we’re losing is the male-female distinction. This is borne out also out of the 1960s and the belief in hedrogeny. The belief behind hedrogeny is that men and women are identical except for the plumbing. Emotionally, socially, companion-wise, whatever, men and women are basically the same. What is in you, the essence and the nature of the woman, is the same as the essence and nature of man, and the only reason that you do female things is because our society has locked you into traditional roles. And the only reason that we do male things is because our society has locked us into these traditional roles. But if you just isolate us and put us in a vacuum, you would ultimately find out that we’re the same.
But the Bible is very clear we’re not the same. What is inside the woman is completely different than what is inside the man. There’s an essence of womanhood. When God said in Genesis 1:26 and 1:27 that He created man and He created the woman, male and female did He create them, there is something unique about it.
When God said in Genesis 2:18 that “It’s not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper and a companion and a completer,” that it’s not good for man to be alone, from the Hebrew, more than just physically alone; emotionally alone, socially alone, companion-wise. In other words, within man, he was incomplete.
Our society is attempting to do away with this concept of male and female differences. And, of course, the ridiculous argument to all of this is the belief that, well, women can do it as well as men. Of course they can. That’s not even an argument. I love pressing my own shirts, ladies. I can do it. Traditionally it’s a woman’s job. I do it. There’s something about getting the wrinkles out. I can do it. But my wife could put oil in our car. I want you to know that. She could put oil in the engine. Most of the oil goes in. (Laughter.) All right, but she can do it. She can do it.
The issue is not whether a woman can do it as well as a man, and a man can do it as well as a woman. God simply does not want men acting like women. He doesn’t want women acting like men. And the whole point – what I’m not saying is that men are not supposed to do the things women do and women are not supposed to do the things men do. Men are not supposed to leave their original calling of manhood, and women are not supposed to leave their original calling of womanhood. That’s the point.
There’s a reason for that distinction, and God wants us to maintain that. There’s a holiness (fiber?) in all of this. There’s a message here. Anyone who argues that men and women are essentially the same internally are arguing against intimacy. If that was the case, why get married? If that was the case, ladies and gentlemen, the fact is that then you could have a physical relationship, men with men, women with women, and everything’s okay, which is part of the predominant viewpoint which justifies the growing certainly gay and lesbian movement.
If everything is just simply biological, if it’s just a physical issue, then why intimacy? Intimacy speaks to the very fact that there is something that I don’t have that Anne Marie brings to me, which is the gift of God. And there’s something within the masculine gender that we bring. And you know what ends up happening when we’re together? Emotionally, physically, when we become soul mates, we then are in a position to show the world, show our children, a total picture of God, for all of the gentle and the feminine traits that we find in womanhood represent that portion of God’s character, and all of the dominant, war-like, protector traits that we find in our masculinity represent that portion of God’s character. And that’s why marriage is so elevated in our ministry, because when you put the two together, now we’re going to show our children what God looks like in character. Both are true.
A third distinction that’s under attack is the man-animal distinction. The universe was called into existence by the word of God. Man was brought into existence by the breath of God. This distinction is central to our very identity. What it means is, in fact, that man is different from the animals as much as he’s different from the plants. The very fact that God breathed life into man and he became a living being, as opposed to the rest of the universe was called into existence by his word, is a profound distinction.
In our society, though, certainly in ethics classes being taught on university campuses and even on high school campuses, the line now is being blurred. The very animal rights movement is a great example of this. The argument that is presented to the American high school classroom and the scenario that’s so commonly presented is the one of the two adults in the lifeboat – two men in a lifeboat and a dog.
Now, the question is put to the senior class on ethics, “If there was only enough food, someone’s got to die, who dies?” Ladies and gentlemen, amazingly, the generation that is about to emerge that will ultimately become dominant in legislation is a generation that says to that question, “I don’t know. It all depends. Who owns the dog? Who has the gun?” because the view is that the value of a dog is equal to the value of man. They’re all part of the evolutionary plan. They’re all part of the cosmic blessing. Who are we to claim superiority over the dog?
And as this continues to perpetuate within our society, what you have to understand is this has profound moral and ethical ramifications. And God says, “No, there is a difference between man and animal, and I gave you that difference back in Genesis 1. I demonstrated it by the way I brought you into existence.” It’s another distinction that we’re warring against because of the popular ethic.
Distinction number four is youth and age. I grow closer to this distinction every year. Youth and age. This is one of the more profound statements ever given to the budding children of Israel because of their background. Leviticus 19:32, “Rise up before the hoary head and honor age, thereby fear God.”
You have to imagine, ladies and gentlemen – see, you have this knowledge and you back into that verse and you take that verse and you try to back it into the context. As the children of Israel were still in the desert, they haven’t even gone into the Promised Land yet. They haven’t even sinned yet. Well, I guess they did just – they have sinned at this point. But they’re not in the Promised Land yet. This wasn’t just a nice verse, a nice idea that God had. In Egypt, when you couldn’t make bricks anymore, when you couldn’t gather straw anymore, you were no longer useful. You weren’t worth the food it took to keep you alive. We need that food for someone else. Four hundred and thirty years were they in Egypt. Four hundred and thirty years did they understand, were they absorbed into a lot of the thinking, a lot of the customs, a lot of the beliefs.
Now, God says to Israel, as He continues to give them His Law, as He continues to tell them how He wants them to represent Him to all the nations of the world – remember, that’s the purpose of calling Israel out; there wasn’t anything beautiful about Israel. There wasn’t anything beautiful about the children of Israel in Egypt. God was just faithful to His promise to Abraham and He says, “Now, I’m going to gather you. I’m going to have you represent me to the world.” He says, “Now, listen, this is one of the things I want you to do. Here’s one of the badges.” And it was profound, I believe, in their ears.
He said, “Remember” – and I’m adding to the text now – “Remember back in Egypt? Remember how old age was looked down upon, that you were no longer useful, that the value of age was based upon whether or not you could make bricks? Israel, I’m going to give you a whole new perspective that I want you to wear as a badge. When youth meets age, when youth is sitting down, I want youth to stand up before the older person when they come into their presence. And in so doing, you will be placing honor on age, and in so doing, you’ll be representing me.”
Ladies and gentlemen, this had to be a radical, radical notion to the children of Israel. They’ve never heard of anything like this. They’ve never known this, this concept of respecting age. You know it, so it’s not as radical. Your mothers and fathers taught you this. It’s not new for you. This isn’t the first time you’re hearing it. But for Israel, it was.
Now today we live in a society where, from the ‘60s, born out of the democratic parenting movement, we have virtually eliminated the very concept, the notion that there is a separation, there is a status of respect given to age, and that this is one of the marks that God gave the children of Israel, to show the whole world what he thinks about those who are growing old who are also growing in wisdom, who are also the ones who are to guide the younger ones along in the society.
Today we have lost that. Children are born, and what they’re supposed to be is friends and pals and buddies with their parents, to be their equals. They all have one vote. But the fact is they don’t have one vote. The fact is, children come into this world and they desperately need their mothers and fathers to be mothers and fathers first, not friends.
Remember in “Growing Kids”? Friendship with your child is the relational goal. That’s what you want to move toward. You want to get there. I will make a correction right here for you leaders. We have adjusted our thinking on this. When we went through the four phases of parenting to maturity – discipline, training, coaching, friendship – we said friendship is going to show itself between 18 and 19. I’ve got good news for you. Now that we have all of these young “Growing Kids” people who have now moved into their middle and late teens, and some are out of their teens, it is consistent. The friendship phase is being realized by 15 and 16, not 19 and 20.
Even we are taken aback by how close, how morally mature, the sons and daughters have become that parents have absolutely moved into the friendship phase much earlier than we anticipated, as it would have been with our own family. But age is important, and respect for age is another distinction that is being lost. We’re warring against this.
Finally, number five – and this is really the heart of what I want to share with you – distinction number five is found throughout the Old Testament Law. For the western, modern Christian, sometimes these distinctions are not easily identified. Let me share it with you. It is a profound distinction that God wanted to plant within the mind and heart of the children of Israel between life and death – life and death distinction.
Let me set the historical Jewish scene for you. Again, the descendants of Jacob are now living in Egypt. They know the Egyptian customs as well as the Egyptians know them themselves. They’ve been there for over 400 years. In time, instead of being a blessing to Egypt, they have become the servants and slaves to the Egyptians.
It was out of Egypt they came with many of the Egyptians’ views of life and death. And that makes sense. Of course. Why not? There was no revelation given in the sense that was written. Moses was the one who God gave the revelation of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. And so naturally they’re going to absorb, just like we absorb, the predominant customs and views of our society. And out of Egypt they came with the Egyptian views of life and death.
They knew all about the Egyptian religious book, the primary religious book, which, by the way, is called the Book of the Dead. That is the Egyptians’ primary religious book. They knew all about pyramids. Ladies and gentlemen, what’s a pyramid? Tombs. It’s where you place dead people. Egyptians spent a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of human resources, on building tombs. There was such a view that life could not be understood but the journey after life was great.
Do you think maybe that the Egyptians had a preoccupation with death? They did. And it’s out of Egypt that the Israelites came with these views of life and death. Now, why such a preoccupation with death? Why did Egypt have this? Because their view of life and death was very circular.
The circular view of life and history means this. One is born, one lives, one dies. One is born, one lives, one dies. The next generation is a repeat of the very same. In essence, because it’s a circle, time is going nowhere.
But what did God introduce into humanity by the way of the Israelites? Amazingly, ladies and gentlemen, something that we take for granted. And I would dare say, there’s a real probability that many of you in this room today will hear this for the very first time, because you have taken it for granted.
What God introduced into humanity through the nation of Israel is the concept of linear time and linear history – linear time and linear history. For us, life is not circular, where each generation has repeated the last. Rather, life and time is linear.
Linear history and life view means that time is moving forward with purpose. And what spurs on the judaistic ideal of linear time was the coming of the Messiah. Every generation that was born, that lived and died moved the nation of Israel one generation closer to the coming of the Messiah.
For the Christian, what spurs on our linear view? The second coming of Christ. I can tell you, as one of the ruffian eight-year-old boys sitting in a Sunday School class, we had an older gentleman. And, of course, for an eight-year-old, anything over 25 was old. But we had a really old, old fellow who was our teacher. And back in those days – I don’t know if they still do it – they separated the boys and the girls.
And I’ll never forget that morning, almost in tears, with the burden, in one sense, of his own heart, but the joy for us, he said to us, “You boys, you boys, you will be the generation that will see the second coming of the Lord. My generation is almost done now, but it’s your generation.” He believed that with his whole heart, and it still may happen, certainly. But in his whole heart, he believed it.
The whole point was, every generation brings us one generation closer to the second coming of the Lord. Now we look at our grandchildren and we think, “Surely in your generation, maybe you will be the generation if we’re not.” We’re always moving, linear history, moving forward with purpose. That’s what God introduced.
And so now, out of Egypt they come with a circular view of life and death. And God wants Israel to understand, as He’s calling them out to be His people, something different. This whole view of life and death is important, that you get the right perspective. Therefore, God wanted Israel to adopt a new view of life and death.
This is the point. From the pagan nation they just came from, one that will be different from the pagan nations that’s going to surround them when they get to the Promised Land, therefore, according to the Law, it was incumbent upon a Jew to separate life from death in all that they would do, in every matter of daily life.
This was so profoundly important that God required – had certain requirements to the children of Israel that they were to perform on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that would ever keep before them this new view of life and death. And that is why, according to God again, anything that symbolizes death is to be separated from anything that symbolizes life.
Separation is distinction
This is a holiness issue. It is an issue of distinction. It is something that marks His people as different from the world, although they lived in the world. It was to help them understand, to live this great truth, to be reminded of who God was. He didn’t want them to forget, so He gave them these certain holiness distinctions that were tied to life and death.
Let me give you some examples, five of them, to tie it together. Do you know that a Jew, even to this day, cannot have an egg if there is a blood spot in the egg? Now, why not? Because blood itself represents death. The egg represents life. The two must be kept separate. That’s why.
You may come back and say, “Wait a minute, now. What about Leviticus 17:11, ‘For the life of any creature is in the blood’?” I will come back and say to you, “ What about Leviticus 17:12, which says, ‘Do not eat any blood?” Have you ever wondered, what does this mean? The reason why we’re called not to eat any blood is not a health issue. It never was a health issue. That wasn’t the purpose. The reason we’re not to eat any blood is because blood represents death.
In this case, the egg represents life. There is life in the blood when the animal or person is alive, but blood outside the body signifies death. Therefore, for the Christian, it brings greater meaning to the shedding of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. When He poured out His blood, He poured out His life. Leviticus 19:26 forbids a Jew from eating meat with blood in it for the very same reason. Blood represents death.
Here’s another example for you ladies – the purification law that required that after a woman completed her menses, she was to go and immerse herself into a body of water, and then she’s allowed to be intimate with her husband. Now, the purpose of this procedure was not to serve as a bath for cleanliness. That’s a common western misnomer. This was not the case. The purpose, ladies and gentlemen, is to separate her time of menses from her first physical encounter with her husband in which she would receive a living seed from him.
Because the blood represents death, there had to be a veil that separates, because life and death can’t be together. Therefore, the veil was the water so that now there was something that separated the blood so that she could now receive the living seed from man. Life and death must be separated. It was brought to the people, the children of Israel, in everyday circumstances, because in the mind of God, life and death is very important. “This new view of understanding, what is this?”
Example three: Jews were not allowed to eat animals of prey. Eagles and hawks were forbidden, because they killed and ate dead animals. They would kill and they would shred their prey, and then they would eat their prey. Therefore, the Jew was not allowed to eat any animals of prey. They weren’t allowed to eat bottom-feeder fish; the same thing. They were allowed to eat scaled fish that preyed on other living fish, but they’re not allowed to eat bottom-feeder fish, because what do bottom-feeder fish feed on? Dead bacteria, dead fish. Life and death. You cannot participate in life and death. They must be separate.
By the way, the best-known example of separating life and death in modern Israel was realized by Anne Marie and I not too long ago when we were having dinner in a Jerusalem restaurant. You would experience this if you come with us. At dinner one night, a man in our party asked the waitress for cream for his coffee. And the waitress informed him very politely that that would not be possible, because on the menu that day, that evening, was meat, was beef.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, where does beef come from?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: A cow.
MR. EZZO: What kind of a cow? A dead cow. Where does milk come from, cream come from? A live cow. Life and death, meat and milk, they must be kept separate. They’re not to be eaten together at the very same meal.
Now, perhaps you may understand the profound truth behind Exodus 23:19. Here is God, Jehovah, pouring out moral decrees to humanity, to the children of Israel, and He seals it with, all of a sudden, a holiness command that seems so obscure, so out of context, so out of place, and, in fact, it’s one of the most beautiful commandments given in all the Old Testament when He says, “And, by the way, because of everything I have just given you, because of all the moral implications, because of the ethics that are derived from my words, what you’ve got to understand is it needs to have a context, and the context, ladies and gentlemen, is the context of life and death. And therefore Israel, to remind you of it, do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.”
And that is the meaning, that you have to continue to keep before you the separation. It is to remind Israel of life-and-death separation. The milk represents life. The meat represents death. The two are to be kept separate as a reminder of God’s view of life and death. It was a holiness command. It was a command that kept the life-death distinction ever before the children of Israel. It was because he did not want Israel simply to have some good ethics if those good ethics were not tied back to the real meaning of who He is and what He’s about to give us.
What good is all the ethics, what good are all those values, if they do not have a divine context? If they’re not all tied back to God, your ethics are empty. And that’s the whole point. Meat represents death. Milk represents life. They are not to be eaten together.
Example five: Why was pork forbidden to a Jew? Ladies and gentlemen, this too went far beyond the notion that pork spoils faster than beef, as some have suggested, and as a result, Israel would have gotten trigonosis and never know why they’re dying. If they lost a couple of people, they would have figured it out right away, believe me. That has nothing to do with why pork was not allowed. Pigs, by nature, are scavengers. Yes, they will eat grain, but they will eat any dead animal, consuming every part, if given opportunity.
So now you may recall Peter’s vision on the rooftop in Acts 10. When the unclean animals were presented, do you remember that, by God to Peter? And Peter, in protest, said, “I have never eaten anything unclean.” And God responded and said, “Peter, what I have made clean, you eat.” Perhaps we have in this passage the fullness of Christ’s redemption. Because He conquered death, even the unclean animals that eat dead things, are now permissible to man.
Listen, for the symbol that separates life and death that was found in the Old Testament economy has now been replaced by the reality of Christ’s victorious death on the cross once and for all. We no longer need all of the holiness symbols to remind you of this supremely important command, because we now have the reality of Christ to remind us of what life and death is all about and what this life is all about. It’s all there.
There are other distinctions found in Judaism. Leviticus 19 says it was forbidden for a Jew to sow mixed seeds in the same plot of land. They were not to mate different kinds of animals. They were forbidden to wear garments made out of linen and wool. Well, why linen and wool? Some of you have garments right now on made out of linen and wool. Where does linen come from? Plants. Where does wool come from? Animals. A distinction of creation. Even this God wanted separate so that His people would communicate to the world His identity.
Why did God call His people to certain distinctions, this separation?
Now we come to two big questions for this morning: Why did God call His people to these distinctions? Why were they important to God? And second, what does it mean for us today?
Let me take up the first question, reaching back to historical Judaism. Why did God command such distinctions for Israel? The first reason is personal, for the personal Jew. It’s because God knew that it would be very difficult to live in any society surrounded by paganism and still walk around with a sense of God. That’s the major reason. Thus the command to be holy, kadosh, the call to maintain a distinctiveness, the call to be a peculiar, separate people, aided their belief in God. And their actions served as a reminder of the ever-presence of God and all that He did for them.
Ladies and gentlemen, we do not want to see just the tree. We want to see the God behind the tree. For the tree is not God, but the tree points us to God. And so did His holiness laws do for the children of Israel. That is why God called His people to holiness distinctions. They were to be the mark and the reminder that behind it all was God. The obvious error and mistake the Jews make and that legalism in Christianity makes is that what we do is we end up elevating the letter of the law above the very person, the deity behind it. And that’s what the Jews did. The Law itself became God, and they lost the sense of what holiness was all about.
Reason number two is corporate. The holiness distinctives of the nation of Israel helped define God to the world. This is so critical, that this concept, you understand it, is an Old Testament truth and it will be a New Testament truth. The holiness distinctions that were placed upon the children of Israel helped define God to the world. And number two, the holiness distinctions of the nation of Israel helped the world find God. That’s what it’s all about.
Have you ever thought about why Nineveh ultimately repented with ashes and sackcloth? Who brought the message? Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, well-known, great track record. That’s why, if you want to find out why he was troubled in the end, it was because he had such a great track record. He was such a great prophet. He was going to prophesy doom on Nineveh. But he knew God would repent. He knew this is the character of God.
What was more amazing, the second side of the story is, in fact, that Nineveh was not a God-fearing nation. But you know what they knew? Somehow they knew the Hebrew God that lived in Jerusalem was the true living God, so much so that their actions demonstrated their faith in the Hebrew God. Now, how did they know that? That was all part of the holiness distinctions, that God through His people will demonstrate to all the nations of the world who He is. Do you understand? That was part.
What does this mean for the church today?
What does it mean for us in the church today? Today, ladies and gentlemen, we are no longer under the Law, the ceremonial holiness laws. Yet we know holiness is called for. Peter told us that. But what does it look like for the church? I mean, if the word of God is God-breathed, if Peter, through the inspiration of God, called us to holiness as the children of Israel were called to holiness, but we know we’re no longer under the holiness laws – we know that the old covenant is closed, the new covenant began, so what does holiness look like for us, you and me, every day in our families, in our churches, in our society?
Follow this, please. Since we are no longer under the ceremonial requirements given through Moses, since we are no longer called to milk-and-meat prohibitions, since women are no longer to go through rituals of purification at the birth of a child or any other time, since we’re no longer forbidden to wear garments made of linen and wool, since we are no longer called to ceremonial holiness, none of these prohibitions apply to us today.
And why don’t they? Because they have all been replaced by one all-encompassing holiness command, one holiness command that separates us from the world, as Israel was separated from the world, one holiness command that marks us different from the world, as Israel was marked different from the world, one holiness command that reflects the presence of God, just as Israel was to reflect the presence of God, one holiness command that fulfills all the requirements of the Law, as Israel tried to fulfill the requirements of the Law.
And that one new commandment that gives us our distinctive mark as God’s people and sets us apart from the world is this, in the words of Jesus: It is love. Love is the distinctive mark. Romans 13:10 says that love is the fulfillment of the Law.
Now, maybe you will better understand the words of Jesus when He issued forth the all-encompassing holiness command to the church given through His disciples. “This new commandment I give you.” This is new because love has never been used before as a mark and distinction to separate a people out. “This new commandment I give you, that you love one another. Even as I have loved you, so shall you love one another. And by this” – by what? By this all-encompassing command – “the whole world will know that you are my disciples.”
Loving one another, ladies and gentlemen, is our call to holiness. It is our distinctive mark setting us apart from the world. It is what God has asked that we would do in order for the world to see His presence. Where does it start? It starts fundamentally in the family. It starts in the marriage. It starts biblically loving your children, the very argument that we present because we think that Paul is presenting it when he told Titus to teach the younger women to learn how to love their husbands and love their children.
What could be more natural than a mother loving her children? And that’s what Paul is saying. The natural love that would flow out of you must be relearned. That’s why he is saying there’s something with the natural fleshly love that we’ve got to fix, because we’ve got to get it in line with God’s love. The natural love is already corrupted by the thing called depravity.
You see, the whole world longs for God’s presence and members of this world are looking for someone to tell them where God is. That’s why everyone is joining cults. They join everything. Everyone’s looking for God. Love and holiness begins with the presence of God residing in us. We cannot love without the presence of God. The presence of God empowers us to love and do right. This is why we believe that ethics without holiness is incomplete morality, for without holiness, your ethics are without meaning, without purpose, without direction.
Ladies and gentlemen, our ethics must point back to God. Now, listen, you “Growing Kids” people, before I get into those – well, the three of you are exempt from this, so you’re okay. The rest of you, this is good. This is good. We’ve got most of you right now, you’ve done well with your children. You’re passing on this ethical message. You’ve got a child that’s coming to you with a “Yes, Mommy.” You’ve got the interrupt rule down. It’s very beautiful. I have most of you, most of you, taking your shopping carts back. That’s good. (Laughter.) Some of you are still dealing with guilt, not out of the love and joy of virtue. (Laughter.)
But I want you to know, this is the whole point for you leaders especially. I can’t give you another – I couldn’t give you another message that would represent our hearts, that all of the good things that you are training your kids in, all of the virtues, all of the values, all of the ethics, all the wonderful things you’re training your children in, are so temporary and so fleshly if you do not have that ethic tied back and connected back to God. If it’s not tied back – the purpose that we are doing this is not so you could have just good kids, because I can’t tolerate bad kids. That’s not the reason. (Laughter.)
The whole purpose is a divine holiness calling, that what we are to do as the people of God is to show the world that is forever searching for Him that God lives. That’s what it’s all about. Your ethics have to connect back to God. For your ethics itself, your ethics cannot be an end to itself but a means to an end. And the means to an end is to show forth the glory of God. That’s what this is all about. That’s what you’re all about.
The role of true holiness
True holiness is what draws the world to the presence of God. And that is why an ethical lifestyle is incomplete without holiness. Where the society says you can be ethical without being holy, Christianity clearly says you cannot – if you’re going to be holy, you have to be ethical, and that they go hand in hand.
Here’s what’s happened. God desires to be made known to the world. Listen, this is what He did. He did this in the Old Testament. He did this and He shared it again with Peter in the New Testament. He has chosen a people on earth to represent Him. 1 Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” Can it be any clearer? When you reach back into historical Judaism, can it be any clearer? He’s saying to the church, “Now, I have called you. You are the holy nation. You are the people.”
Now, what’s the purpose? The verse continues – “that you may declare the praise of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.” This means He wants our behavior to be a reflection of His character, which is, in fact, a means by which we declare His praises, and in so doing, declare His presence.
What is this called? This is called holiness. Holiness is the means by which we communicate the presence of God. That was the purpose of holiness. It wasn’t just a stiff sense of righteousness that we are to be. It was to be an active pursuit of doing the things that represent the very character of Christ. This is called holiness.
What is the character of holiness? The character of holiness is love. Love is the abiding quality that gives ethics its meaning and its purpose. What does love do? It communicates the presence of God. That is why Paul said, “Whether you eat or drink, you do it all to the glory of God” in 1 Corinthians 10:31. “Eat and drink” is a reference to the mundane things of life that everyone will do throughout their life. He’s saying, “Look, even eating and drinking, I want you to do it all to the glory of God.”
Now, the key here obviously is the word “glory,” a very simple word. In the Greek it means one thing. It means “make bigger.” We have billboards on the side of our highways, don’t we? Why do we have billboards? Why not just a little sign? We have a billboard to make our message bigger so more people can see it.
When it talks about “By your good works,” when Jesus said, “By your good works you shall glorify your Father in heaven,” Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, what he was saying is, “Look, by the ethical lifestyle that you are living, what, in fact, you are doing is you are making God bigger, bigger for the purpose of showing the world, so people can identify. That’s the purpose.”
Now, when is this done? Remembering everything must connect back to God, so let’s start with number one. The first example is a church service. You come into this church; an amazing testimony before us. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:24, the unbeliever is to come into the church service, with the praise, with the worship, with the proclamation of the Word, with prayer, and the unbeliever should be able to recognize and exclaim that “God is really among you.” That is profound. I mean, that is this whole argument. I don’t want any confusion, because when the unbeliever walks in here, I want to make sure that the unbeliever can, in their own heart, attest to the fact that God is really among you.
Now, when you assemble yourselves together in church, that’s pretty easy. You guys could probably do it for two hours. We could put on our holiness hats and we’re okay. Let me ask you, ladies and gentlemen, what are you doing with the rest of the week? What do you think God’s plan was? It’s one thing to be in a corporate church service and be caught up in eternity present, in the praise and proclamation, in the glory of God. What about the rest of the week?
The institution in which God was going to deliver his kingdom message was not the church. It was the family. It has always been the family. It will always be the family. What is the church? It’s a family of families. It is a household of households. We are all the church. So, ladies, you’re in a restaurant. Husbands, you’re in a restaurant. You made some people nervous when you came in with your three or four kids to sit there. (Laughter.) They didn’t know. But you know what ended up happening? The testimony before the world was so powerful, there was something so beautiful with your children, that the waitresses and some of the people who, in fact, were sitting – I mean, you didn’t know where they were coming from, but they started coming up and just saying, “You know, when you first came in, I was a little bit nervous. But I want to tell you what a joy it has been to share a meal with your children. They are such well-behaved children. It was an honor to eat with you.”
Do you know what you just did? Do you know what that’s all about? You know all of that training, all of those ethics, all of that self-control, all of the folding of the hands, all of the kindness, all the politeness? You know what that is? A tie back to God. Your ethics had meaning. Your ethics had purpose. And you have just shown the world where God lives.
You see, in a day and an age – you see, back when I was a boy, we never went to restaurants, so that was good for my parents. Maybe it was because of us we never went. (Laughter.) But many of us can relate. Back in our day, the non-Christian and the Christian were morally the same. The non-Christian had their Bible out on the coffee table just like the Christian family. They had pictures of Jesus on the wall. The only thing that separated the non-Christian and Christian is that the non-Christian hadn’t yet accepted Jesus, and they were playing a type of life Russian roulette with whether or not they’re going to die before they confess Christ.
Today it is totally different. And therefore, what ends up happening is this little light of mine shines a whole lot brighter. You are training a generation of families to turn up the light now. But it’s not just turn up the light for their own light, but turn up the light of the world, Jesus Christ, because the rest of the week is outside of church, and you’re in restaurants and you’re going to the park and you’re visiting relatives and neighbors and your kids are playing and people are over at your house and you’re doing your shopping. And you know what? We’re in the world, and we’re supposed to be. And you’re bringing this little light of mine. And when you do, in fact, you are showing forth the presence of God. That is what our ethics is all about. Ethics without holiness is incomplete morality. If it doesn’t connect back to God, it’s incomplete morality.
The church is called to holiness
Why is the church called to holiness? Personal reason number one, the same reason that was given to Judaism, because God knows today it’s no different than yesteryear. He knows that it’s very difficult for us to live in a society surrounded by paganism and still walk around with a sense of God. Turn on the television news. Where are you going to get your sense of God? I mean, our kids can’t even watch television; don’t even dare because the commercials for the upcoming latest news story that’s going to break sure doesn’t have the sense of God.
In Los Angeles, we can’t even go to a bus stop with our kids because of what is plastered on the bus and what is plastered at the bus stop. It’s hard to walk around with a sense of God, isn’t it? And that’s why understanding the virtues and values that we put on that represent the very person of Christ is absolutely necessary, because without it, it’s difficult to walk around with a sense of God.
The second reason, though, is when we, the church, lose our sense of God, the world loses its direction back to God. We are here to help define God to the world and help the world find God. That’s what it’s all about. This isn’t just a fun thing because you’re really frustrated because you’ve been in the children’s department and kids are running out of control and you’re saying, “Well, we’ll fix them. We’ll bring ‘Growing Kids’ in here.” Use someone else’s program. Don’t use ours, because that’s not the purpose.
The purpose is to present a type of biblical ethic, the moral law of God, instill it into the hearts of mothers and fathers and children so that, by their beauty, the world, that knows no beauty, will look upon that light and will be able to proclaim “God is really among you. What you have, I want.”
And that’s what we’re all about, leaders. Every time you hold a class, you’ve got to make sure they understand this message. As I will share this weekend, this conference, it’s not just to help you have better kids. You will have better kids. It’s not to help you have more joy in your parenting. It will give you more joy. But that’s not the reason. That’s not the purpose. The big picture is to show forth the excellencies of Christ. Contra Mundum – yes, we are parenting against the world to save the world. That’s the purpose.
When you read the Gospel records, ladies and gentlemen, let me suggest, if you understand the concept of holiness, you understand the purpose of this distinction, that when God called the children of Israel out, He said, “You will be my people. I will be your God. You will represent me to all the nations,” what He was saying is “By your behavior, by what you will do, by what I’ve asked you to do, you’re going to show forth in who I am to the world.”
Now you’re a good Jew, and there’s rumor that the Messiah is really here, and you’re going to go hear Him for the first time. You’re going to go witness a miracle. “Life and death has been part of my ritual ever since I can remember as a child.” This is the thinking context now that that Jew walked into the scene in which Jesus was present.
Maybe you will better understand the references of Christ as He identified Himself with life, when He said in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life.” Now it has meaning to the Jew that it does not have to us. In John 4:10 He identifies Himself as the living water. In John 10:9, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” In John 1:4, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of man.” John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Philippians 2:16, Jesus is called “the word of life.”
Why do you think that the word “life” was used so much in communicating to a Jewish population? Because it naturally would fit into their life-death understanding. And now, all of a sudden, as the Jews are hearing this for the very first time, the concept of life, it had to be radical to hear the living words of God as in the back of their mind, “My whole life, all of our traditions, hundreds, thousands of years of history have come to this appointed time. The Messiah is present.”
And our job in this day and age is to show the world the presence of the Messiah. That’s what it’s about. That’s what we want you to be about.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.