The first time I read the book of Leviticus, I struggled. It made little sense to me but one statement struck me, “I am the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore, be holy because I am holy” [Leviticus 11:45 NIV]. This book was primarily written for the Levites. They were one of the 12 tribes of Israel and their primary duty was to minister on behalf of God’s people, first in the tent of meeting and subsequently in the temple. Interestingly, a vast majority of the book is God giving detailed instructions on worship. Having redeemed His people from Egypt, God had to teach them how to relate to Him (worship) and each other (laws). God set the standard for how His people should live (righteousness). They were to be a people set apart (holy) so that nations around them could see how God’s people live. They were to reflect God to others.
God does the same today, He redeems us first and then shows us how to live as a people set apart. Thankfully, He does not wait for you to live right before inviting you into His family. This is a message the church should heed. At first glance, Leviticus seems irrelevant to us today, but that would be wrong because while we are not under the law of Moses, the message is still applicable as Peter reminded the New Testament church (1 Peter 1:16). The message quite simply is: God’s people must be like God, living God’s way wherever they find themselves. Not living God’s way is rebellion and this is sin. Sin is the exact opposite of being like God. God absolutely hates sin, nothing with sin can have anything to do with God, He takes it very seriously [Hebrews 9:22, Galatians 5:19-21]. There is no compromise.
Very few people would deny the presence of evil in our world. Sin brings evil. The world is full of greed, murder, corruption, bigotry, prejudice injustice and so on. There is a pretty long list of the things human being do to each other that truly grieve God. The consequences are evident in strife, hunger, poverty, hatred, war and so on we all experience. Since we all sin [1 John 1:8], we all play a part in the evil around us. Few of us are strangers to pride, lust, immorality, deceitfulness, resentment, selfishness, jealousy, bad temper, gossip and so on. These sins affect how we relate with one another and contribute to the deprived state of the world.
Jesus’ sermon on the mount confirms God’s high standards [Matthew 5-7] and they haven’t changed. Be very wary of a gospel or a preacher that attempts to lower God’s standards on sin or righteousness. We may water down both and try to rationalize our actions, but God doesn’t. The Bible is replete with warnings from the prophets and apostles to turn away from sin to avoid the wrath of God’s judgement. While it might be uncomfortable for us to accept, God is not in the dock answering for the ills of this world, we are and we all stand guilty! We are all sinners, no exceptions [Romans 3:23]. God made this world and called it good (Genesis 1-2). Due to our sins, evil has now contaminated the world. God promises to recreate it but sin and evil will one day face the wrath of God. The Bible makes it clear that nothing is worse than facing the wrath of God [Hebrews 10:31].
On one hand, Paul tells us unequivocally that sin brings death [Romans 6:23]. On the other hand, Jesus puts forward God’s standard for living a sinless life which is so high that only He could attain it. So where does that leave us? Well, mercifully, God offers us the righteousness of Jesus as a substitute for ours [Romans 3:22]. It is the only righteousness He will accept because it is perfect, that is, without sin. To receive it, we only need to believe in Jesus and accept what He has already done for us. This is God’s grace and there is nothing we can do to earn it. This is why just being a “good person” isn’t sufficient. A “good person” still sins which means their righteousness is not good enough [Isaiah 64:6]. Therefore the “good person” is still doomed. Salvation is only available in and through Jesus, without Him, there is only doom [1 John 5:12].
Taking the grace of God for granted is becoming more prevalent. People say something like: “I believe in Jesus, I can carry on doing what I want because I have the righteousness of Jesus. I won’t be judged”. Others think doing religious things is sufficient and they carry on sinning. Paul makes it clear in Romans 6 that is wrong. James also tells us that we deceive ourselves if we hear God’s word and don’t do it [James 1:22]. We are also told that if we carry on deliberately sinning after we have received the truth, we are no longer covered by what Jesus did on the cross [Hebrews 10:26]. Simply put, those who belong to Jesus do what He says [John 18:37], they are known by their fruit [Matthew 7:21, Galatians 5:19-23]. They must make a daily decision to do what God’s says [Matthew 16:24-26]. There are no alternatives.
God knows that we are imperfect, we will sin. When we do, our only recourse is to repent and turn to Him for forgiveness. When we repent, He promises to forgive and forget our sins, every time. Assured forgiveness is not a licence to sin because God will not be mocked [Galatians 6:7-8] but it is an experience of God’s love and faithfulness. In this knowledge, do all in your power to avoid sin and be holy because our God is holy.