Sermon: Leprosy and Mold: Understanding God’s Judgement

[Steven Britt] Today I’d like to start out
with a little story about young Steven Britt. Young Steven Britt grew up as a Baptist. My parents were Baptist when I was growing
up, and we’d go to church I’d say probably most weeks when I was a little kid. And as I started to get a little older, maybe
I was seven, eight, nine we just kind of tapered off, went less and less. Got to the point where it was only Christmas
and Easter, and then maybe by the time I was 10 or 11, not at all, not at all. One thing that we never did in our home as
a family and something I never really did individually up to a certain point, was just
sit and read the Bible. This wasn’t part of our family culture. However, one day a couple years after we’d
stopped attending church, young Steven Britt decided he was going to sit down and read
the Bible cover-to-cover. I don’t know, I had some just personal religious
revival, okay. I was going to read the Bible cover-to-cover. So I started in Genesis 1:1. Reading along and reading along and I really,
you know, parts of the story are a little fuzzy to me now, but I must have gone on for
a few days at this because I remember exactly where I stopped. I don’t remember all the stuff in between,
but I remember exactly where I stopped. You don’t need to turn there but the place
I ended up stopping was somewhere between Leviticus 13 and 14, the chapter is on leprosy,
mold and mildew, afflictions in the skin, and the cleansing process. And I remember at that time being a little
frustrated that I felt like these things just didn’t apply to me, and I lost the motivation
to keep going. The motivation to stick out that plan to read
the Bible. I said, “You know what? I guess I already know the stuff I need to
know.” Shut the book, probably didn’t open it again
on my own for another five or six years until I started coming into God’s Church. When I did come into the Church, one of the
foundational scriptures for me and something that really made the Bible come alive, and
help me to understand it as I never had before, 2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture
is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
instruction in righteousness.” So as I came to understand elements of the
law that were very clear, that I’d very clearly been leaving out, the Sabbath, the Holy Days,
clean and unclean meats. All these things started taking on a meaning
whereas before I can remember what it was like to read about those things and skip over
them, thinking, “Oh, well, it’s there but it doesn’t matter. Let me get to the next thing, get to the next
fun story” or whatever it was. So that was a foundational scripture for me. Another one and I’ll turn to this one is Romans
7:12-14, Romans 7 starting in verse 12. Here Paul after making a lot of statements,
they can be hard to understand at times. The thing about Paul is if you read him for
long enough if you keep reading. He eventually comes back around and makes
things clear like this, it says, “Therefore the law is holy, the commandment holy and
just and good.” And down in verse 14, “For we know that the
law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” I really latched on to that at that time period,
but eventually, as I started thinking back to my own personal history of interaction
with the Bible, it ran me up against the wall, right? Because I’m looking at these laws of leprosy
and mold. Well, how in the world is that holy just and
good? How are these things profitable for doctrine,
or instruction and righteousness? It still didn’t quite connect, and it took
quite a long time before I did the study that I’m going to present today in the sermon. So I’m sorry if you’re disappointed we are
talking about leprosy and mold today. But it took a while before I really came to
appreciate that section of Scripture, and kind of redeem myself from that failure of
commitment in my childhood. So, I have a couple of goals for this message. The first one is to help you hopefully come
to the same appreciation for these somewhat obscure scriptures as I did during that time,
understanding them as a spiritual component of the law of God. And in the course of doing that, the second
goal is that we will better understand the process of repentance and God’s judgment and
God’s mercy towards us because that’s what those scriptures are really about. And before we get into that let’s turn over
to Mark 1 if you would please. Mark 1:40-42, and take a minute to appreciate
what it meant to be unclean in that day. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Mark 1:40. One of the many accounts of Jesus Christ healing
someone miraculously, verse 40, “Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down
to Him and saying, ‘If You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched
out His hand and touched him, and said, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And as soon as He had spoken, immediately
the leprosy left him, and he was cleansed.” Did it ever occur to you that the leper didn’t
come and say, “You can heal me. You can give me relief. You can make me feel better.” No, no, he said, “If You are willing, You
can make me clean.” Why is it that that was his first thought
given his condition? Which probably was kind of unsightly and pretty
uncomfortable. Let’s take a look at what it meant to be unclean
in Leviticus 13, Leviticus 13 which if we’re going there now you might just want to put
a marker there, we’ll come in and out of that chapter throughout the message. Leviticus 13:45-46. So we’re going to delve into this process
of determining whether somebody was unclean or not, but just look at what happens when
someone was declared unclean, verse 45. “Now the leper on whom the sore is, his clothes
shall be torn and his head bare; he shall cover his mustache, and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’” What’s that sound like? Tearing your clothes in the ancient world,
that was what you did when you were in mourning. It’s what you did when you were in mourning,
when something bad had happened when a relative had died. Your head had to be bare which at that time
was a sign of dishonor, and you had to cover your mouth when people approached you and
warn them, “I’m unclean. Don’t come near me. I’m unclean.” Verse 46, “He shall be unclean. All the days he has the sore he shall be unclean. He is unclean,” we get the picture, “and
he shall dwell alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.” It implied social alienation, it implied humiliation. To live with leprosy at that time was to be
cut off from the entire community and communal life. And included in that turn over to chapter
15 in verse 31 of Leviticus. Chapter 15 and verse 31. We’ll see there was even more than that, “Thus
you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die in their
uncleanness when they defile My tabernacle that is among them.” You cannot participate in the worship of God
which was centered at that time around the tabernacle and around the temple. You were not only socially isolated from the
community, you were spiritually isolated from God. It was a difficult life. Now today we still follow the physical cleanliness
laws for the most part, but far more important in the New Covenant are the laws of cleanliness
to be spiritually clean, and we’ll look at a couple more scriptures to really flesh out
this fact that being unclean whether physically in the flesh at that time or spiritually separates
us from God. Let’s turn to 2 Corinthians 6:16-17. 2 Corinthians 6:16. “What agreement has the temple of God with
idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and
walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My
people.'” But now notice in verse 17, if God’s going
to be there with us, “Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says
the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive
you.’” “Do not touch what is unclean and I will
receive you.” Being physically clean allowed you into the
physical presence of God under the Old Covenant when God’s dwelling was physically with man. Being spiritually clean today allows us to
enter the spiritual presence of God through the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, the work
that He’s done. I won’t turn there but you can write down
Isaiah 59:2, it’s a verse that we know, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.” Sin is what separates us from God, and the
laws of clean and unclean are all about what separates us from God. Let’s get some of the back-story because we’re
going to get into Leviticus chapters 13 and 14 and those laws specifically, but I want
to set the context of that so we’ll go to Leviticus 10 a little bit earlier. In fact, there’s a whole block of chapters
in Leviticus from about Leviticus 11 up to Leviticus 15 that are all about the clean
and the unclean, what makes a person unfit for the presence of God, and that statement
that we read chapter 15 verse 31 of Leviticus is the summary of all of it. He said, “All of this is to tell you what’s
not fit for My presence.” Why was all that given at that time? It starts with Nadab and Abihu, names that
we’ve probably heard. The sons of Aaron. They were some of the first priests to ever
serve in the tabernacle. Leviticus 10:1-3, “Nadab and Abihu, the sons
of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it, and put incense on it, and offered
a profane fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them.” So they were as they were ministering as priests,
they did something that wasn’t allowed, and we don’t know whether that was offering a
different kind of incense than they were supposed to because it was very specific how they were
supposed to do it, or whether they did it at the wrong time. Whatever reason it was not what God intended,
and they probably knew that it wasn’t what God intended. In verse 2, “So fire went out from the Lord
and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, ‘This is what the
Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before
all the people I must be glorified.'” Being holy is being set apart. God had to be treated different, His presence
had to be treated different. If we skip down to verses 10 and 11. All this happening God gives the coming instruction
in the next few chapters, “So that you may distinguish between holy and unholy, and between
unclean and clean, and that you may teach the children of Israel all the statues which
the Lord has spoken to them by the hand of Moses.” Distinguishing between holy and unholy clean
and unclean was important. This is why we have five whole chapters on
the clean and the unclean, and I guess consequently why as a 13-year-old, an eager 13-year-old
at that I stalled out because it’s kind of heavy, it’s kind of tedious, hard to work
through. Let’s go to Leviticus 20, a few more statements
just to really reinforce these concepts. Leviticus 20:7-8 says, “Consecrate yourselves
therefore and be holy, for I am the Lord your God.” So consecrate yourselves is something incumbent
on us. We have to prepare ourselves, get ourselves
ready, “I’m Lord your God. And you shall keep My statutes and perform
them: I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” Okay, so you consecrate yourself and be holy,
“But I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” That word “sanctified” if we think about
it means to set you apart, to make you holy. So there’s work that we do on our own in this
process, and there’s work that God does. We can keep ourselves in a clean state, keep
ourselves away from the unclean, but only God can make us holy, only God can make us
holy. Same chapter, drop down to verse number 24,
“But I said to you, ‘You shall inherit their land, I’ll give it to you to possess, a land
flowing with milk and honey.’ I am the Lord your God, who has…” notice,
“separated you from the peoples.” “Separated you for the peoples. You shall, therefore distinguish between clean
animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves
abominable by beasts or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground,
which I have separated from you as unclean.” Again, it’s all about separation. Verse 26, “You shall be holy to Me, for I
the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.” So God was calling them to be different. Today He’s calling us to be different be different,
be different. And we know that Israel didn’t actually follow
this. Throughout their whole history, they mixed
in with things that God had told them not to mix in with. I won’t turn there but Ezekiel 22:26, Ezekiel
22:26 says that “Your priests have done violence to My law… they have not distinguished between
the holy and the unholy… the clean and the unclean.” Even the officials the leaders, the teachers,
the shepherds had led people into sin and into defiling themselves, consequently separating
them from God and making them unfit for His presence. All right, so with that let’s start talking
about leprosy and mold, that’s what I’m really excited to do. Just to make the chapters maybe not so onerous
and not so hard to filter through, I’d like to give you an outline… We’re actually, we’re going to talk about
leprosy and mold in three different contexts, because that’s how it appears. You’ve got leprosy that occurs on the skin
and various types of blemishes. Secondly, we’re going to look at garments,
if you get some patch of mold on your clothes or maybe on your tent, something like that. That has to be dealt with. Then also we can show up in your house as
many of us may, unfortunately, know about. But in each case, it follows a certain pattern
and structure of instruction. So I’d like to give you that before we begin
and start looking at the spiritual aspects of it even before we get started. So first… So by the way, all of these are things that
you would notice as blemish or decay, okay. This is something that you would see with
your eyes and you would realize that this is a bad thing that’s going on here. This is ruining either my body, or my garment,
or my house. So the first step is that you notice that
there is decay or blemish. You notice its presence. Secondly, it’s going to be brought forth to
the priest by the responsible party. All right, so I realize there’s a problem. What do I do? I take it to the priest. Third, there’s going to be a period of judgment
and assessment that the priest will conduct, and at the end of that period, the fourth
thing is going to be action. That action is bifurcated, there are two different
things that might be done. Either you or your garment or your house is
declared clean. And then there’s a cleansing process to follow,
or it’s declared unclean. And well, if it’s in your skin and you have
to cover the lip and “Unclean! Unclean!” and dwell alone and all these
awful things, so your garment it’s burned up, your house it gets knocked down. So this is serious, serious business in these
times. With that let’s turn over to Leviticus 13
and we’ll see how that structure plays out. Well, maybe don’t turn there just yet. I skipped over something because I don’t want
this material to seem so drying. I want us to really understand spiritually
what these things are reading about, because what I don’t find… Well, okay, so I find it somewhat interesting
to look historically at what these diseases were, or what this mold was and how this process
physically helped these people. That’s something that also realized, that
this process was just and good for the people of Israel, it helped them be free of disease
and free of mold and leprosy, and following God’s commandments in the physical sense was
good for them. But it means more for us, more for us. So just to backtrack a little bit, who is
the priest that’s going to be involved here? You can write down Hebrews 8:1-2, we know
that Jesus Christ is our High Priest. And that’s something that we say and that’s
a statement that we’re comfortable with. We’re going to see how it applies in this
case. Hebrews 8:1-2 is where we get that clear statement
that Jesus Christ is the High Priest. The period of judgment, 1 Peter 4:17, 1 Peter
4:17, that’s where it says that it is “time for judgment to begin at the household of
God.” And we in the Church understand they were
under a period of judgment by God in our lives when we’ve been called and we’ve responded
to the call, our time of judgment is now. Our time of judgment is now. Okay, so now we can go to Leviticus 13, get
into the good stuff. So I’ll start in verse 2 Leviticus 13, says,
“When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling, a scab, or a bright spot, and it
becomes on the skin of his body like a leprous sore, then he shall be brought to Aaron the
priest or to one of his sons the priests. And the priest shall examine the sore on the
skin of the body; if the hair of the sores turned white, and the sore appears to be deeper
than the skin of his body, it is a leprous sore. And the priest shall examine him, and pronounce
him unclean.” Let’s unpack that just a little bit. So we start with the person, right? The man who has this leprosy on his skin. That’s us and we noticed that we have a defect. We can see it with our eyes. We notice before God that there is something
wrong with something that we’re doing if we think about leprosy as this ugly spot on us,
if we think about it as this disease that has a tendency to spread. Sounds a lot like another analogy in the Bible,
a lot like leaven, right? How leaven represents sin, how it spreads,
how a little leaven leavens the whole lump and a little bit of evil can lead us to be
unclean. Well, the same thing applies here, same thing. So what do we do when we notice that we have
a problem like that? A problem with sin? We take it to God, it’s part of the process
that all of us do and know to do but that’s what’s being described here. We take it to God and the priest is the one
who examines it. And what is the priest looking for? Verse 3, “If the sore appears to be deeper
than the skin of his body,” deeper than the skin. So when we go to God if this is a sin that’s
not just a mistake that we made that we’re sorry for. If this is something that is not just on the
surface. If it’s something that penetrates down into
us, then we’re unclean, then we’re unclean. There are other cases. We can keep reading in verse 4, “But if the
bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and does not appear to be deeper than the
skin, and its hair hasn’t turned white, the priest shall isolate the one who has the sore
seven days.” So if it doesn’t look like it’s deeper than
the skin, it’s not an automatic condemnation, it’s not an automatic separation from God,
it’s a period of judgment, right? Seven days. Seven days for what? Verse 5, “The priest shall examine him on
the seventh day; and indeed if the sore appears to be as it was,” with no change, “the
sore has not spread on the skin, the priest shall isolate him another seven days.” Okay, we waited a period of time. This hasn’t gotten better but it hasn’t gotten
worse, we’ll give you more time, that’s what it’s saying. That was the process they followed. Verse 6, “The priest shall examine him again
on the seventh day; and indeed if the sore has faded, if the sore has not spread on the
skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it’s only a scab, and he shall wash
his clothes and be clean.” So if over a period of time we make improvements
during that judgment, then we can be declared clean from the sin. And there are a lot of other cases, I’ll summarize
some of them because there were apparently a lot of different kinds of skin diseases,
but all of them hold more lessons like this. So verses 9 through 16 just to summarize,
deal with cases where you have raw flesh. You have a spot like this that has raw flesh
in it. But you can think about that as in the spiritual
sense as an open spiritual wound. If you have an open exposed spiritual wound,
there was no period of judgment who’s declared automatically unclean automatically, automatically. Verse 18 deals with another interesting example,
“If the body develops a boil in the skin and it’s healed,” down to verses 22 and 23,
you find out that sometimes you will have had a problem and it’s gotten better, but
there’s still a spot there where it’s healed over. Sometimes sin leaves a scar. Sin can leave a scar on life. Sometimes the consequences of the sin can’t
be undone, even though we’re forgiven, even though we are cleansed. Verses 24-28 talks about a burn, if your skin
gets burned and then it gets infected, in verses 24-28 it’s talking about a wound, right? A spiritual wound. Not all these things just pop up out of nowhere
just randomly, sporadically. Sometimes we’re hurt by something, by someone. Do we let that get infected? Does it go on to become something sinful? To become something unclean in us? And if we keep going there’s more. There some cases where really dramatic action
is required. You have to shave your head, you have to shave
your beard, you got to shave your eyebrows and look like Mr. Clean, probably shave your
chest and your back and, you know, this really extreme thing where you would have to go through
all this extra process, you know, some problems really require that kind of action. There are some spots that didn’t require anything
at all because they weren’t actually uncleanness. Only the priest could look at it and tell
you whether it was unclean or not, and given how big the consequences were here physically
and spiritually for being unclean in that day, that was critically important that you
have a priest exercising sound judgment, not just saying, “Oh, yeah, that’s probably unclean. You just get outside the camp, and tear your
clothes, and mess up your hair, and do the whole deal, be isolated.” No, we have a High Priest who cares about
us, who wants us in the community, who judges us with righteous judgment. So let’s talk a little bit, let’s get back
into our New Covenant dispensation and look in the New Testament a little bit about what
the solution to these spiritual conditions are because it’s worth talking about. Let’s go to 1 John 1. 1 John 1:9, it’s a memory scripture, you might
have memorized this at some point. I don’t know… I know it took me a long time to even notice
what it was talking about here, it says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just
to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” And we see the process there, don’t we? We see the confession, right? We notice we have a problem, we confess to
God we have a problem, we take it to the Priest and He is faithful, He is just, He administers
judgment with justice. We’re not only forgiven of our sins, we are
cleansed from all unrighteousness. And we’re going to notice a lot of this language
of cleansing, and purification and sanctification in the New Testament to reinforce this. So what’s the solution to these spiritual
conditions? Number one is to bring your spots and blemishes
to the Priest, confess, bring it to God, and then and only then we can be clean. Along with that though, second point is to
stay away from what causes it to begin with. Not to defile ourselves with the unclean neither
physically nor spiritually. Come with me to 2 Corinthians 7, in fact,
we were right next to this verse talking about “touch no unclean thing” that was in chapter
6 verse 16. And the discussion on the clean, unclean continues
right into chapter 7 verse 1, “Therefore, having these promises,” what promises? We read it a minute ago. The promise of coming into the presence of
God, “having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of
the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Stay away from the filthiness in the flesh. Stay away from the filthiness of the spirit. Let’s go back to Leviticus 13 and get into
garments. Leviticus 13 and we’ll start in verse 34,
immediately after it talks about them, I don’t want to say punishment, but the status I guess
that we read if someone who was unclean of that time having to shout, “Unclean! Unclean!” It gets into what to do if you have a “leprous
plague in a garment” as the New King James puts it. I think back when I was 13 and reading my
N.I.V. it says mold or mildew or one of those terms, so your translation may vary. New King James “leprous plagues in a garment.” Let’s read through verses 47-49 and we’ll
see that same process playing out, and we’ll give some thought to what this means. Verse 47, “Also, if a garment has a leprous
plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it’s the warp
or woof of linen or wool,” I really don’t understand what the warp and woof are. Probably could have looked that up in preparation
for this message, but what it’s taken for granted now. If it’s in the garment verse 49, “If the plague
is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the
woof, or anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest.” Verse 51, “He shall examine the plague on
the seventh day.” So they shut it up again the same process. “If the plague has spread in the garment,
either in the warp or in the woof, or in the leather anything made of leather, the plague
is an active leprosy. It is unclean.” Verse 52, “He shall therefore burn that garment
in which is the plague, whether in the warp of the woof… the garment shall be burned
in fire.” So a little bit different outcome, right? This is something that can’t be saved at this
point if you have this spreading disease in this garment. That is if it does spread after that period
of examination. Now, what do we do if it stays the same? Let’s look in verse 56 and just keep reading
a little bit more here, “If the priest examines it, and indeed the plague has faded after
washing it, then he shall tear it out of the garment,” “tear it out.” So you tear out the patch that was unclean,
it can’t stay there, can’t really tear… I mean I guess you could tear out a chunk
of your flesh, but God didn’t require that. You had to tear out this chunk of the garment
that had this plague in it. Even after you washed it and it started getting
better. Verse 58, “And if you wash the garment…
if the plague has disappeared from it, then you can wash it a second time, and it’ll be
clean.” If it comes back at all in that garment. If it comes back at all after you’ve gone
through this process, had to be burned that was the rule. So if leprosy taught us about sin and the
skin. I was happy with myself when I came up that,
sin and the skin. What do the clean garments, clean and unclean,
mold and these diseases and garments teach us about? Let’s go to Isaiah 59 which I reference from
earlier but didn’t read from. Remember that was that portion in Isaiah 59
and verse 2 says that “Your iniquities have separated you from God.” But we’re going to look down a little further
verse 6, and try to understand what the Bible compares garments to. Chapter 59, and you know what? I’m going to start in verse 1 just because
I like these words, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it can’t save;
nor His ear heavy, that it can’t hear. But your iniquities have separated you from
your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” Going down to verse 5, it’s talking about
these people who are just so fixated on doing evil. Verse 5, “They hatch vipers’ eggs and they
weave spider’s web;” Vipers and spiders, snakes and spiders are both unclean animals
by the way notice that, “He who eats of their eggs dies, and from that which is crushed
a viper breaks out.” Verse 6, “Their webs…” the spider’s webs
“will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works
are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.” So these unclean actions, these unclean works
are compared to wrapping yourself up in a nice thick spider’s web, which seems really
gross and I’m kind of happy actually that God made spiders unclean, it gives me a good
excuse to not want to touch them. So let’s go to another reference on this point. So we’re seeing garments being compared to
our works. In Revelation 19, you might be a step ahead
of me in your thinking. Revelation 19:7-8 are really familiar verses
that tell us a little bit about this. Revelation 19:7. Speaking of the return of Jesus Christ, “Let
us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and
His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in
fine linen, clean… clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the
saints.” The fine linens, what we want to be clothed
with as the Bride of Christ is not a spider’s web, not some unclean garment but a clean
one. A clean, fine, bright, white beautiful garment,
beautiful garment. 1 Corinthians 3, so I think that establishes
pretty well, at least it did for me in my mind that the garments that are being talked
about, that are being judged in that process, you know, not only was a good thing for them
physically at that time, because you really don’t want mold growing all in your clothes,
because it spreads and that’s kind of the whole point and its gross and it doesn’t look
very nice. I don’t think a lot of ladies would like to
have a wedding dress with a big old mold patch growing in it. But it teaches us about how God looks at the
works that we do. 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, and we’re going to
mix metaphors just a little bit here, because Paul is talking about building on the foundation,
about the spiritual building the temple of God and the Church, but notice in verse 13,
“each one’s work” you know, of those who work in building up this temple, in preaching
the gospel, in supporting people and edifying the church, “each one’s work will become
clear; for the Day” that is the Day of the Lord “will declare it, because it will be
revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it
endures, he will receive a reward. But if anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer
loss.” If your garment had mold in it and had to
be burned up, that was a big deal because clothes were expensive. This is an even bigger deal than that, even
bigger deal. You know, we hear about people make these
comments about how they used to store wealth in garments. If you had 10 changes of clothes back then,
that was a big deal. Verses today I’ve probably got 35 dress shirts
in my closet. So the analogy is a strong one that if our
garments, our works are burned up. What does that mean? What is maybe a more relevant analogy for
us? How many good works today do we see tainted
and brought to nothing, less than nothing as a result of sin? How many people? How many charitable organizations? I remember there was this big scandal a couple
of years ago. Disaster relief organizations who are pocketing
the money for themselves, where only 2% or 3% of what is donated actually gets to people
in need. That’s a work that’s going to be burnt up
because of the greed and corruption involved. Children’s programs where people do unspeakable
things and yeah, on the surface and on the face it does a lot of good for the community,
but for those that it does evil to it harms them in a way that is completely and wholly
unacceptable to God, unacceptable to God. Those kinds of works will be burned up. In the works that we do we need to be careful,
very careful that they are pure, clean, and bright. And if they’re not we have to go through this
process to be purified, so that our works aren’t burned up and brought to nothing. Let’s move on to clean and unclean houses
in Leviticus 13, the third segment here. Leviticus 14, it’s the same chapter where
we find the cleansing process for a person who had leprosy. They had to go through all kinds of sacrifices
and sprinkling this, and guilt offering that. Not to downplay any of that because it’s incredibly
important. And I encourage you to kind of look at this
with fresh eyes on your own at some point at that process if this interests you at all. Verses 34-36 is where we’ll start, and we’ll
see again that same process for a house or a building, a structure. Verse 34, “When you have come into the land
of Canaan, which I give you as possession, and I put the leprous plague in a house in
the land of your possession, and he who owns the house comes and tells the priest, saying,
‘It seems to me that there is some plague in the house.'” So again we have to have someone taking responsibility,
taking ownership, confessing to the priest saying, “There’s a problem, there’s a plague
in this house. I’ve got big mold spots on my walls. What do I do about this?” Verse 36, “The priests shall command that
they empty the house, before the priest goes in to examine the plague, that all that is
in the house may not be made unclean; and afterward, the priest shall go in to examine
the house.” Let’s skip down to verse 39, “The priests
shall come again on the seventh day” so again, they take everything out of it. They’ve shut it up and they want to look and
see if this thing spreading, “indeed if the plague has spread on the walls of the house,
the priests shall command that they take away the stones in which is the plague, they shall
cast them into an unclean place outside the city. And he shall cause the house to be scraped
inside, all around, and the dust that they scrape off shall… they shall pour out in
an unclean place outside the city.” So what we see is if you have this mold in
a house and it’s spreading. What do you do? You get your sledgehammer ready and you knock
down those bricks the problem is in. You take ’em outside and you don’t stop there. You get yourself a nice scraper, and you go
in there and you scrape. It sounds like kind of a violent process,
right? This scraping out of the house, and then you
don’t just leave it with big holes there. Verse 42, “They shall take other stones and
put them in the place of those stones, and you shall take other mortar and plaster the
house.” Jumping down to verse 45, if it comes back
again after that, “He shall break down the house,” it becomes utterly useless, “its
stones, its timber, all the plaster of the house, and you shall carry them outside the
city to an unclean place.” So what’s just talking about? So possibly what I propose, let’s go back
to 1 Corinthians 3. 1 Corinthians 3, like I said there’s a mix
of metaphors there. The 1 Corinthians 3 if we look at verses 16-17. Verse 16, “Do you not know that you are the
temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will
destroy him.” Take a spiritual sledgehammer and just knock
you right out. The spiritual scraper and scrape you out. “For the temple of God is holy, which temple
you are.” And that reminder that the temple of God is
holy. This whole idea going back to a separation
that these unclean things cannot be in the presence of God. We even read that in 2 Corinthians 6:16-17. I won’t read that again, but you are that
temple of God, it re-emphasizes that throughout the New Testament. Let’s turn to 1 Peter 2. 1 Peter 2:4-5, 1 Peter 2:4, “Coming to Him
as a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also,
as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer
up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” Remember it’s God that makes us holy and makes
us acceptable, makes us fit to be a building block in His temple, His temple of the Holy
Spirit that He’s building today. Turn over to 2 Peter 2:12-14. 2 Peter 2:12, it’s talking about the other
people. The ones that are having spots and blemishes. These bricks in the temple of God what happens
to them? “These, like natural brute beasts” in verse
12, “made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand,
and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness,
as those who count it a pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes,” they are
these unclean spots in God’s house. “They have a heart trained in covetous practices,
and are accursed children.” They’ve forsaken the right way and gone astray. There are people like that in the Church of
God sometimes, and God deals with them. That’s for God to deal with and judge and
only He can judge that. We know that for many other places. We have to be sure that we are not part of
that attitude and that spirit, those unclean spots that are going to be pulled out and
not allowed to stand in the house of God. Let’s talk just for a moment about the cleansing
process, and like I said I won’t go back to Leviticus 14 for that but I’d like a few New
Testament references, since we’re in the Peters back in 1 Peter 3:18. Because remember these cleansing processes
required a few different things. It required a washing, right? There was this concept of washing and it always
required a sin offering along with that. So just like we read in 1 John 1:9, there’s
forgiveness along with cleanliness almost never separated. 1 Peter 3:18, “For Christ also suffered once
for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God,” that is bringing
us away being separated from God “to God, being put to death in the flesh and made alive
by the Spirit.” Verse 21, “There’s also an antitype which
now saves us — baptism (which is not the removal of the filth from the flesh,” the
filth, the uncleanness, the dirt, the spots, the blemishes “but the answer of a good
conscience towards God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” so we do have a washing
in the New Covenant, don’t we? We have baptism as part of our process of
spiritual cleansing, and it’s an integral part. It’s the part where we enter the Covenant,
right? If we want that forgiveness from Jesus Christ,
if we want to be cleansed from all unrighteousness. We have to go through a washing, a baptism. Ephesians 5:25-27, it’s a few books back. Ephesians 5:25 says, “Husbands, love your
wives just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,” remember we saw
in Revelation 19, that Bride of Christ that He’s preparing. Verse 26, “that He might sanctify and cleanse
her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious
church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and
without blemish.” “Holy and without blemish.” Jesus Christ is cleansing the Church of God. He’s cleansing us as individuals. Hopefully, He’s cleansing our actions, the
things that we do, the things that we do. Just a circle back around to kind of the beginning
thoughts that I had about the Scriptures as a whole. This idea that and I hope you’ve come to appreciate
that the entire Word of God is relevant for our lives. I want to look at another foundational principle
found in Matthew 5. Matthew 5:17-20, and again, when I came into
the Church this was just one of the key concepts to my understanding. It’s one that I hear us talk about in the
Church of God many times. So we’re going to hear it again since that’s
our tradition. It’s what we hold on to. It’s how we understand the relationship between
the law of God and the covenant of God. Matthew 5, and the Sermon on the Mount Jesus
most famous discourses, He’s most famous teaching in all the Bible. He says… He sets the stage with this statement, “Do
not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” And if we’ve heard this teaching a few times. You know that fulfill doesn’t mean that He
came and did it so we don’t have to. It means that He brought the fullness of the
meaning of the law. That He brought completion to the Word of
God, through the way that He lived His life and the things that He taught through His
words. Verse 18, “Assuredly, I say to you, till
heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law
till all is fulfilled.” And again if people try to say that, “Well,
all is fulfilled. Jesus Christ fulfilled it all.” Oh, well, no. At the beginning of the verse, it even says,
“Until the heavens and earth pass away.” The law does not pass away. Along with this, I won’t turn there but Isaiah
42:21. Where we get this statement and this idea,
we often say it. I wanted to give you Isaiah 42:21 that’s where
it says that Jesus… Well, it’s talking about the Messiah in that
whole chapter and says, that He will “exalt the law” or He will magnify the law to “make
it honorable.” And in this Sermon on the Mount, that’s exactly
what Jesus does, and we know that if we’ve read it. He goes on to talk about the Ten Commandments. I guess He had you know more important Commandments
to get to before He talked about leprosy and mold. We don’t have recordings of those, but He
goes through and He magnifies those laws. He teaches us that it’s more than just the
idea that you can’t do something physically, but there’s spiritual intent and power behind
the law, confirming the words of Paul that “the law is holy, and just, and good.” “Holy and just and good.” So as we start to conclude, I want to give
you a few takeaways because I like takeaways. In review of this whole process. First is that we need to recognize sin in
our lives and bring it to our High Priest, and I’ll reference again, I can’t say it enough,
1 John 1:9, “Confess your sins. He is just and faithful to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Second takeaway is to get clean. Get clean to make sure we go through that
process of cleansing. For this let’s turn to Numbers 19. Numbers 19 is another place where we find
instruction about cleansing in general, all the different processes of cleansing for every
different situation, but there’s a very important statement near the end of it in verse 20 of
Numbers 19. So after it talks about the physical fleshly
washings, about the physical sacrifices which we have types of and understand that. But in verse 20 says something that just really
struck me, “The man who is unclean and does not purify himself,” so someone who knows
did they have this uncleanness but doesn’t go through the process to purify himself,
“that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary
of the Lord. The water purification has not been sprinkled
on him; and he is unclean.” Knowing is not enough. We have to take action. We have to go through the process that God
has established to get clean and to take care that we do that. And once we’re clean third take away, is to
stay clean. To stay clean, to avoid that which causes
uncleanness. James 1, turn to James 1:26-27. Another memory scripture. And one that also has this idea of purity
of cleanness built into it whereas we might not have recognized it before. James 1:26, “If anyone among you thinks he
is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion
is a useless.” But verse 27, “Pure and undefiled religion
before God and the Father is this: to visit the orphans and widows in their trouble, and
to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” Avoiding those spiritual blemishes that creep
into our lives, because we live in a world where it’s all around us. We have to make sure that we are unspotted
from those things, that they don’t become sin in our lives and lead us astray. We should recognize that at some point in
our lives, we have all been the leper they came to Jesus Christ and said, “If you are
willing, you can make me clean.” And His response when we come with that right
attitude is “I am willing. Be cleansed.” We’re not only forgiven our sins but we’re
made spiritually clean, we’re made holy, we’re made acceptable to God, we’re made fit to
come into the presence of God. And we can’t take that special status for
granted, and it takes effort and it takes foresight on our part to stay in that clean
status, in that holy status. So we should remember that God is patient. He does give us that period of judgment. He is longsuffering, He is merciful. For the final scripture come with me to Revelation
22:1. He is patient with us but the period of judgment
has an endpoint. And at that point, a decision is rendered. Revelation 22:11, there’s coming a time when
it says, “He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy
still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; and he who is holy, let him be holy
still.” Will we be found clean and holy or filthy
and unrighteous? It’s our choice. Will our works be burned up? Will they be unclean garments? Or will it be part of the tapestry of the
fine linens of the Bride of Christ clean and pure? As a church, as the Church of God will we
be stones that are pulled out, that are broken down, that are scraped from the inside? Or will we be like those pure living stones
that God places? Let’s take encouragement to make our calling
and election sure. To keep ourselves spiritually clean and fit
for the presence of God, both in our lives today through the Holy Spirit of God in us
and in the Kingdom of God forever.

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