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Some Things are Sacred

Scripture: Psalms 138:2, Nehemiah 8:5
Date: 02/16/2013 
There is a risk in our day and age that we can lose appreciation for those things that God calls sacred. If nothing is sacred then there is no such thing as sin and nobody needs a Savior.
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Happy Sabbath, friends! This last year I took a trip in Europe and was on a number of speaking appointments in Germany and Switzerland, and France briefly, Austria. One thing that I saw, beautiful country, but one sad thing that I saw was that there are a lot of churches that are closing or empty. Part of the reason is they’re having some financial problems, and that’s led to them selling off these churches. Attendance is very low, and other issues, and some of these churches that are being sold off now are being then converted into gymnasiums, private homes, restaurants, night clubs, and you think about it—as a matter of fact, I think I have a picture up here. By the way, the sermon today is called “Some Things Are Sacred.”

This one church is converted into a climbing wall. You could even see they took advantage of the old Flying Duchess architecture in there. That’s there in Germany. It’s happening en masse, churches being sold off and then dedicated to some secular use. Some are being destroyed and the land is being reused. I can understand that if nobody’s there, they have to do something with it, but doesn’t it make you sad when you think about the day that people gathered around that church and they first dedicated it to God’s glory and to God’s service, to a sacred purpose, and then for it to turn into a night club? Sort of sad.

There’s a risk in our day and age that we can lose the appreciation for those things that God calls sacred. What is the definition of sacred? Sacred is something regarded with reverence, devoted or dedicated or consecrated to a deity or some holy, religious purpose. That’s what sacred means. Sacrilege, on the other hand (you see it up there on your screen) is the violation of anything held sacred. There are a lot of sacrilegious things that are happening in our culture today. God tells us in His Word that some things are sacred. They are to be treated with reverence, to be recognized as holy.

Ezekiel says in chapter 44, verse 23 that part of the responsibility of a pastor, it says, “And they shall teach My people the difference between the holy and the unholy, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” Naturally, if we are not taught, we can drift away. You never drift towards holiness, did you know that? You’ll always drift towards the profane. Gravity will take over. Holiness, reverence, respect for those things that are sacred, needs to be inculcated; it needs to be taught, and the Lord blesses when we do that. Reverence is a sign of strength. Irreverence is a sure indication of weakness. “No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things.” Someone really important said that, and I don’t remember who they are because I left out the reference. “No man will rise high who jeers at sacred things.”

I first began to think about this years ago when I was in military school. Yes, boys and girls, I did wear a uniform. I started at five years old in a military school here in California, then again went to a military school for two years in Upstate New York, and I was in military school with Donald Trump. Of course, he was graduating about the time I was joining. Just want you to know he’s older than I am. In New York Military Academy (we called it “NYMA”), in the main administrative building—it’s still there today after all these years, they had an emblem, a seal. It was the seal of the school, NYMA, that was there in the middle of the big courtyard as you entered administrative building. It was a big lobby.

In the middle of the lobby, the most obvious place to travel, was this big seal, and when I first went in during freshman orientation, they told us, “Never step on the seal.” I’m very practical. I thought to myself, “Then why did you put it there?” It’s right where everyone walks! They said, “No, that’s sacred. Don’t step on the seal.” I was surprised that between classes when the bell rang, all these kids would come swarming out of their classes, and just like fish swimming around a rock, nobody stepped on the seal, and if someone stepped on the seal, there were consequences. I used to think to myself, “Why make such a dumb rule like that?” But do you know why? Because they’re teaching the soldiers, the cadets, the value of some things being sacred.

What are some things that the Bible tells us are sacred? If you read in Revelation chapter 14, a special message is to go to the world just before Jesus returns, and if you think Jesus is returning soon, that would mean that message should go out now. Part of that message is to fear God. Revelation 14:7, “Fear God and give glory to Him.” What does it mean to fear God? That word fear there comes from the Greek word that’s phobeō, and it’s where we get the word phobia, and yes, sometimes it means to be alarmed or to be frightened, but more than that, it means to be in awe of and to revere, to hold something as sacred. So a message of reverence, a message of recognizing what is holy, is a message that is to go to the world in the last days.

What are some of the things that God tells us are sacred? For starters, His name is sacred. The Bible tells us we should be very careful with the name of God. That’s one of the commandments. “Do not take His name in vain.” Psalm 11:9 [KJV], “holy and reverend is His name.” The name of God is sacred. The name of God is holy. By the way, kids and some of you adults, we’re not to use God’s name in vain, but there are some other words that we sometimes say that are halfway using God’s name in vain. Maybe you’ve never thought about it, but when you say, “gee whiz,” do you know that’s a derivative of saying Jesus’ name when you’re upset about something? Or when people say “gosh,” that’s because they caught themselves halfway through saying God’s name in vain, and so they just sort of adjust it, and it’s sort of like a sanctified curse. So I think we ought to be careful with those expletives that we say and let your yea be yea and your nay be nay. God’s name is holy.

The Bible says there’s something even more holy than God’s name. That’s another thing He calls sacred. God’s Word is sacred. Psalm 138:2, “For You have magnified Your word above all Your name.” His Word is holy. It’s called the Holy Bible. Don’t your Bibles say “holy”? Mine says “Holy Bible.” That “holy” means sacred. These are the sacred Scriptures, set aside for a special religious purpose. They’re dedicated to God. Nehemiah 8:5. Have you ever wondered during our scripture reading—we just did it a minute ago, when we get ready to read the passage that is sort of setting the trend for the message, we all stand together? You don’t have to stand to open your Bible; why do we do that? Because everything we believe as a people is based on this book. This is not only the Holy Bible, it is our Holy Book. It is holy to us. Jesus was the Word who became flesh. He is embodied in the pages of this Book. This Book is a love letter from Jesus. It’s a Book that’s to be respected and revered. You want it to last as long as possible. I’ve had this one since I’ve been pastor here. It’s getting to show its miles, too.

I think it’s interesting, you hike around North America and New Zealand and Australia, other parts of the world, you can see these famous ancient writings of the Aboriginal people. They’re called petroglyphs. Have any of you ever seen petroglyphs out in nature? Do you know, the U.S. Government has a department, and their job is to protect and to guard and to preserve and heavily fine anybody that desecrates these ancient scribblings! Ninety percent of them we have no idea what they say. For all we know, a bunch of hunters were out there camping out and while one group was gone, the other group made graffiti cartoons of their friends, and they came back and laughed around the fire, and now we’re thinking, “Oh, let’s guard these writings!” It may have been that way, but if our government figures that this is the history of our peoples, we want to protect their writings, what about the writings of God, the Word of God? Should we care about and protect that? The Bible is sacred.

Number three. Worship and prayer are sacred. There’s something different about our time that we spend together on God’s Sabbath when we come into this place and we worship Him that is to be treated with a respect. It’s holy. There’s a reverence involved in it. Psalm 89:7 [KJV], “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints.” We’ve assembled in His name to formally worship and glorify Him. He is to be revered “of all them that are about him.” What do angels do in the presence of God? Have you read Isaiah chapter 6? They cover their feet, and they cover their faces, and they fly, and they say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” There’s a reverence in heaven when they gather to worship God. We should have that reverence, and it should be demonstrated in our posture and in our speech. Do we talk a little more carefully when we’re in church? That’s right. I realize you get tired sometimes in church, but let me give you a tip. If you get tired, there’s a way you can do it. You take this hand; you put it here. You take this hand; you put it here, and you go like this, and then at least you have dignity, and it looks like you’re being pensive, and you’re thinking deeply about something I said. But don’t lean on the person next to you. So there should be reverence. We’re laughing about it, but isn’t it true, if we’re coming into the presence of God and we’re listening to God, don’t we want to be respectful? So this is a holy place, and we’re to be reverent. We should respect prayer and worship as something holy.

Address God with reverence. I have to be careful what I say. God is your Friend. That’s very clear. But it’s possible for us to get so familiar and casual in our prayers that pretty soon we’re talking to God… I’ve heard pastors do it, and it just makes me cringe. It’s almost like, “Howdy, good buddy!” You don’t talk to God like that. He is a mighty King. He is your Father. He is your Friend. You can love Him and feel comfortable with Him, but don’t forget that He is sacred, His name is sacred, and prayer is a sacred rite that we have to talk to the King. It’s a very special appointment.

Something else that’s sacred: our bodies. The Bible says (Psalm 139:14), “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Your bodies are incredibly miraculous machines designed by God, and we should treat them as something that has been designed by God. I had to have my car repaired the other day, so I was at the dealership. I have an Audi station wagon, some of you know. It went in, had to get brakes done, and I was waiting around there to take delivery, and I couldn’t resist looking at some of the new cars. They had this one. It is, I guess, one of the most expensive Audi cars that can be bought. I don’t even remember what the name of it was, but it is a very fast car. I do remember the price tag was $146,000. I didn’t touch it, because I thought, “That is one very sophisticated machine, and I’m not touching it. If I do touch it, a salesman will come over and think that I can afford it.” It was in a room all by itself. They had their showroom floor, but they had this one room kind of off like the holy of holies. The only thing in this room was this car. After I saw the price tag, I thought, “I don’t belong in this room,” and I walked out. But what’s more valuable, a Lamborghini, a Bugatti, or your body? Your body is a very sophisticated precision machine. It is holy. I didn’t want to scratch that car, and you should want to take care of your bodies, too.

The Bible tells us (Leviticus 19:28), “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” Mechanics that work on some of those cars wear white gloves. I’m serious. They’re not allowed to wear a belt lest they lean over against that car and scuff it. What’s worth more, your body or a car? Some people go to tattoo parlors, and they put graffiti on their bodies that belong to God. If you have a tattoo, God can forgive you. But if you know better, don’t do that in ahead of time. Your body is the temple of God. Amen? What would you think if you saw someone outside the Jewish temple with a spray can putting gang marks on there? It’s called vandalism. Don’t vandalize your body temple. It’s holy, it’s sacred. 1 Corinthians 3:16, 17, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

The Bible tells us some money is sacred. There is money that is called sacred money. I heard that they found a shipwreck that had these originally minted U.S. gold coins during the Civil War. There were millions of dollars in this ship that went down that were recovered, and even though the value of the gold in those coins might be half an ounce, or whatever it is, you might think, “Well, how much is gold an ounce?” Oh, no. Those coins are worth more than their weight value. There is a historic value. They are worth more than their money value because it is a precious coin. Right? Tithe is money that’s called holy money. You can read that in Leviticus 27:30. “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord.” That means it’s sacred. Sometimes we’re tempted to say, “Lord, I’d just like to make a loan of my tithe money this month, and I’ll get it back to You.” It’s to be the firstfruits. It’s to be holy. You know why? He will bless you when you respect what is holy. You can have 10% cursed or 90% blessed. When you keep the tithe, you’re keeping cursed money. You want to get that out of your hands, don’t you? You want to keep the blessed money. So there is some money that is sacred.

There are buildings that are sacred. I’ve already sort of alluded to this with what’s happening in Europe with all the churches that are sort of being re-allocated to other purposes—“repurposed,” as they say. Sacred buildings. Leviticus 19:30, “You shall keep My Sabbaths and reverence My sanctuary: I am the Lord.” Is our behavior and our conduct a little different in this building because it is dedicated to a sacred purpose? That’s right. We’re supposed to remember that. Periodically you’ll hear Pastor Doug or one of the deacons, and they’ll be talking to the young people that you sit in church (and I know how it is—I wasn’t always old), you sit there for three hours, and then after you get out on a beautiful day like this and there’s a potluck, and you get together with your friends, you’re so happy to see them, and you have all this pent up energy, you just start to quiver, and the next thing you know you’re playing a game of tag in the courtyard. Right?

Or pulling the little strange berries off those bushes and having a war. You’ve heard Pastor Doug say, “Please don’t throw the berries in the church. Don’t play tag in the courtyard. This is the house of God.” I know that takes a little extra self control, but if it’s a holy place, then it’s a holy place and God will bless you for respecting what He says is sacred. Ecclesiastes 5:1, “Walk prudently when you go to the house of God; and draw near to hear rather than to give the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they do evil.” If we are not walking prudently in the house of God, or if we’re jibber jabbering and chattering about things that just are totally secular, then God says, “You don’t realize that this is a place where I have agreed to meet with you in a special way. You’ve dedicated this space to My glory. Respect it.” He will honor us and bless us for doing that.

Exodus 16:23—is there a time that’s sacred? “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Tomorrow is a Sabbath rest, a holy Sabbath to the Lord. Bake what you will bake today, and boil what you will boil; and lay up for yourselves all that remains, to be kept until morning.’” We are to prepare to preserve this time. Not only is there a portion of your means that are to be treated as especially holy—that would be the tithes and the offerings, but there’s a portion of your time that God says should be treated as sacred. Every seventh day He said that is sacred time, holy time. Get everything done, out of the way, all of that secular business and work and shopping.

Shouldn’t be doing buying and selling on the Sabbath. Nehemiah 13:15. Here the prophet says, “In those days I saw people in Judah treading wine presses on the Sabbath, and bringing in sheaves, and loading donkeys with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, which they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And I warned them about the day on which they were selling provisions.” We’re to have all that done on other days. This is a holy time. It takes effort to be holy and to keep things holy and to recognize what’s holy. That’s right, and it is a well-deserved effort. God has good reasons for it, too, because God is not greater when you treat Him as holy; you become greater because you do. When you recognize things are sacred, when you believe that some things are sacred, it elevates you. It helps you have an appreciation that some things are special. Yes, time is sacred.

Life is sacred. A few years ago, a person, pastor, might not even need to include that point in a sermon, but we’re coming to the place where people are not understanding the sacredness of human life. We’re getting to where we think that the life of a critter, some kangaroo rat that might be rare, is just as important as a human life. People will die to save a whale, but they don’t have a problem with ending the life of a fully-developed human baby because it’s an inconvenience. I know that’s a volatile subject, but it’s a sign of the times we’re in. Life is sacred—people made in the image of God.

I just saw this last November, question number two on the Massachusetts ballot was asking voters to endorse physician-assisted suicide. It sounds to me like a paradox that you would have a physician assist in suicide. I thought they took an oath to try and keep you alive. I know some people suffer, and there are some difficult moral challenges with these questions. I know that. I know what a lot of them are, but as soon as we cross that line and cease to understand that human life is extremely sacred, it needs to be protected and preserved, we will come to the place, as some other cultures have, where we’ll begin to choose among ourselves who deserves to live and who doesn’t.

All of us have days where we wonder whether it’s worth living. Thank God He hasn’t taken me at my word every time I prayed like Elijah, “Lord, take my life. It’s no good that I live anymore.” Or Job. Didn’t Job feel that way? He felt like, “Oh Lord, end it all now.” But the latter end of Job was better than the beginning, and he didn’t know it. If Elijah had died out there under that broom tree in the wilderness, he never would have gone to heaven in a fiery chariot. So we are not to play God and cease to recognize that human life is sacred. Ecclesiastes 11:5 [KJV], “As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all.”

You might think this is strange, but even death is sacred. Should kids play hopscotch on the tombs in the cemetery? No. Why do we show respect and reverence for people who have died? Because man is made in the image of God. The Bible says, “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” By the way, a lot of those people that are buried, they’re going to be raised someday with glorified bodies. So when they died, their lives were sacred, made in the image of God, and someday they’ll rise again, glorified in the image of God. I think that we should even show respect in death for people. You’ve all heard stories about people that just take bodies and pile them up and cover them over with a bulldozer, and you just say, “That is called sacrilegious.” There’s something about not showing respect for the creatures made in the image of God. The reason I say that is Mary, who believed that Jesus was the Messiah, she stood outside the tomb and guarded the place where she last saw Him, and even after everybody left, she stayed there. When Jesus showed up and she thought He was the gardener, and He said, “Woman, why are you weeping?” she said, “Sir, if you’ve taken Him away, show me where the body is, and I’ll take care of it.” She was caring about what was left of Jesus. The women whom He first revealed Himself to, who were at the tomb, they were there to embalm His body. So there’s something even sacred about that.

Why does this all matter? If we come to the place where we cease to teach and recognize that some things are holy and sacred, if nothing is sacred, then there’s no such thing as sin. If nothing is sacred, then nobody needs a Savior. Because things are sacred, every time we sin, in some way we’re violating what is sacred. Did you ever think about that? God’s law is sacred. Every time we sin, we are violating something that is sacred. So not recognizing what is sacred is ceasing to understand the importance of why Jesus came. Jesus came to save us from our blasphemy and sacrilege, from our being unholy, and He’s calling us to be holy, and remember that everything that God says “be,” He is able to accomplish. When He says, “Let there be light,” there was light, and if God says, “Be ye holy,” He can speak through His word and our faith that holiness into our lives. Would God ever ask us to do something and be something we couldn’t be? Of course not! So when God, both in the New and the Old Testaments says, “Be ye holy…” Jesus once said to that leper, “Be ye clean,” and what happened? Because he came to Jesus believing, he was cleansed. So if He says to us, “Be ye holy,” we can, by faith through His sacrifice, be holy.

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