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Holy, set apart for the Lord, as is often said. The word holy is used so easily that it has become cheap and no one considers the price of holiness. I suppose that it is because holiness for us is a gift. As God has said, I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” It was the Father who made Israel holy when He chose them out of all the nations. In the same way, as no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws them, so likewise now, all who are drawn to Jesus are holy, made holy by the Father’s choice. Those whom Jesus has chosen as His disciples are also holy and set apart, as He said it was He who chose the disciples and not the disciples who chose Him. And when the Holy Spirit is baptised into believers, those whom Jesus chooses to be baptised with the Holy Spirit are made holy by the Holy Spirit. Likewise, those whom the Holy Spirit sets apart for His own work, as He did to Paul and Barnabas, have been made holy (set apart) by the Lord, the Holy Spirit. So indeed, holiness – being holy, set apart – is a sovereign choice and therefore a gift from God. And because it is a gift, it tends to be undervalued and that is exactly what the eleven tribes of Israel were in a habit of doing.

Even though the Lord said, “You are to be My holy people,” they were rarely holy to Him even from the first generation, that is those for whom slavery was fresh in their mind. They were eager to cast aside their holiness and gladly worshipped other gods as they did when they worshipped the calf. Even while God was speaking to Moses, the people were already prostituting themselves to a calf. Remember they were not set free from Egypt by a calf or by the gods of Egypt, but by God. How quickly they forgot. Why? Because they did not shed a single drop of their blood in getting out of Egypt. Their liberty, freedom and nationhood cost them nothing. And because it cost them nothing, they did not value it.

Likewise, it cost Saul and Solomon nothing to receive their kingship. Saul was anointed and crowned. Likewise, Solomon was chosen ahead of his brothers. Solomon never had to risk his life to acquire his kingdom and worse still, he never had to risk his life to defend it because it was a time of peace. Saul did not have to wait and risk his life to acquire his kingdom as well, though he lost his life defending it.

But David had to wait and then run for his life, so that by the time David took up his kingship, he had gone through hardship and even when he was living amongst the Philistines and raiding the Geshurites, Girzites and Amalekites, he was risking his life, not to mention the way he risked his life to fight Goliath. After he became king, he still had to fight in battle.

The kingdom of Israel cost David much and David had to risk much to receive his kingdom and to defend it. And even though he made his mistakes, he was a man who understood the value of something that costs. When he bought the land from Araunah, he said, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” This is not David’s principle as one preacher has taught. In truth, it is God’s principle for all principles come from God if they are worthwhile.

God paid full price for creation before creation came into existence, for Jesus is the Lamb sacrificed before/from the foundation of the world. So when God looks at every rock, every leaf and every life form – everything – every star and speck of dust, He knows what it costs Him. God knows what the Kingdom of God costs Him. No wonder He is not willing that anyone be lost, but all come to repentance.

Those who have not received their holiness at a price will not value it and will discard it like the Israelites, like Saul and Solomon. So even though you are called to be the elect of the Holy Spirit, the holiest of the holies, many already have cast if off and ran back to the rest of the flock, not valuing their holiness because it had cost them nothing to receive it. And since it cost them nothing to receive it, they are not prepared to risk anything to defend it – will not risk offending others, nor risk their reputation and sensitivities, and certainly will not risk being strange and unusual, neither will they risk being cast out, but rather, look for the first available excuse to return to the comfort of the camp.

No wonder David’s men who were gathered to him were the disaffected of Israel. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their leader. As they gathered to David, they became the outcasts of Israel and outlaws – they were set apart.

The first group of people in Israel who set themselves apart for the Lord came from the tribe of Levi. Now remember that they were already holy, for God made them holy. But now, the Levites reciprocated God’s holiness for them by setting themselves apart for God and thus, they received God’s gift of holiness and returned it back to Him by setting themselves apart. What did they do to set themselves apart for the Lord? When Moses saw what the Israelites had done with the calf Aaron made from gold, he said, “Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbour.” The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the LORD today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and He has blessed you this day.” The price that the Levites paid for their holiness was to turn against their own sons and brothers with the sword. They sacrificed unto the Lord something that cost them. Their work at the tabernacle cost them their very own sons and brothers.

Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. Just as the Levites had to turn on their own sons and brothers, likewise, it is as if to be a disciple, you have to turn on your own family and follow Jesus.

It is when you have paid that price – the price of holiness – the price of being set apart – that you might appreciate the gift of holiness. If you have paid the price of receiving your salvation and your discipleship, you might find that your election is worth keeping and you might want to pay that price as well. If not, like many who received their kingship without cost, their freedom without cost, their peace without cost, they would quickly compromise at the first opportunity – golden calves, even just the cattle and sheep of the Amalekites, and gods and women of other nations will be their down fall. In the ranks of the church, those who have received their salvation as an inheritance into a time of peace rarely are able to hold the line. The second generation of Israelites were disciplined by the 40 years of desert to become an obedient nation. Indeed, no generation before or after them were ever as obedient.

So your election as the elect of the Holy Spirit who will manifest the Kingdom of God, which you have received, if you are not prepared to pay the price, you will be in danger of sharing the fate of Saul or Solomon and run after golden calves, cattle, sheep, foreign gods and the men and women of other nations. If you want to set yourself apart for the Lord, then the Levites who strapped a sword to their side killing their brothers, friends and neighbours are your example.

So what is this sword you must be prepared to strap on? It is not a sword of metal, but the sword of the Spirit – the word of God. It is your dedicated practice of the word of God, your dedication to highlighting, reading, singing and writing of the word until your mind is washed, your heart is filled, your tongue is controlled and your hands are congealed to it that you have paid the price like David and the Levites did – full price. Not just the half price, but the full price… that is the principle of God that David expounded for us, which Jesus demanded of those who would be His disciples. If that is the case, what is the price to be set apart for the Holy Spirit?

If giving up your father, mother, brother, sister, children, houses and fields for Jesus gets you a hundred fold in this age and the age to come, eternal life, what would being set apart for the Holy Spirit gain you? Much, much more is the answer. If no eyes have seen, no ears have heard, and no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, what about what God has prepared for those He loves? If rich is the reward of those who serve and honour the Son, what is the reward for those who love and honour the Holy Spirit? That is for you to find out if you are willing to pay the price.

In the Parable of the Sower in Matthew, Mark and Luke, the seed sown by the farmer is the word. And through the parable, Jesus said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, the knowledge of the secrets of the Kingdom of God and the secret of the Kingdom of God have been given to you, yielding forth 100, 60, 30 fold a crop – 30, 60, 100 fold as much as what was sown – the word. Jesus said, “The words I have spoken to you are S/spirit and they are life.” The degree of Spirit each will have and the degree of life each will have depends on the quality and quantity of the seed sown and where it was sown, and it also depends on the fervency of the harvest. An abundant harvest is only in the barns, if good quality seeds are sown in abundance and harvested diligently before they become overripe. However, what is in the barn is not bread. It must still be milled and kneaded and baked before it becomes food.

That is the price demanded of you and many of you have paid it, some in full and some in part.

If the words of Jesus are spirit and life, then your life in the Holy Spirit must depend on the amount of Jesus’ words that you have in your heart. That is why you have been called to highlight the word, read the word, sing the word and write the word. The highlighting of the word is the selection of the seed. The reading of the word is the sowing of the seed. The singing of the word is the reaping of the seed. The writing of the word is the milling of the seed to flour to bread. That is the price to be paid for your election – a willingness to strap the sword of the Spirit, the word of God to your mind, heart, tongue and hands, making it so sharp that it would cut asunder any brother, friend, or neighbour who harbours any worship of golden calves. That is the price of being set apart by the Holy Spirit.

Paul was to have unleashed the sword of the Spirit against James the Younger who became the leader of the Jerusalem church without paying the price. He did not pay the price of faith for it is written: For even His own brothers did not believe in Him. He may have believed after the resurrection, but then, that is not faith. To believe after you have seen is not to believe before you have seen. As such, he did not pay the price of faith. Peter might have denied the Lord, but at least, he believed for a while. And after the church was founded, James did not pay the price of being a persecutor of the church as Paul did. Paul, like James, did not believe, but Paul stood by what he did not believe and was prepared to kill to defend what he believed. James did not believe in Jesus in John 7:5, yet he was not prepared to resist Jesus. Instead he joined his brothers and said, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that Your disciples may see the miracles You do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since You are doing these things, show Yourself to the world.” He did not believe in Jesus yet. He was giving advice to Jesus on how to enlarge His ministry. As such, James received his ministry with neither the cost of faith nor the cost of opposing the faith, as Peter and Paul did. Indeed, who paid the greater price? Was it not Paul who realised he had killed those who are truly his brothers, just as the Levites did, all for God?

There is a price to pay – the price is the courage to unleash the sword against your own brothers, friends and neighbours so that figuratively, they become like dead to you because you know that they are worshipping golden calves.

James the Younger, like Aaron, Saul and Solomon, were the people of God who went for the popular life. Aaron, by the way, did not pay for his selection by doing 40 years in the desert as Moses did. And if even the great Moses, the most humble of all men, can have these words said to him, “you did not trust in Me enough to honour Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites…” then what are we and who are we not to be in imperative unceasing repentance and constant submissive obedience – an obedience that is first by faith in the written word we have and the perseverance to practise and practise until He who commands us says, “Enough! Withdraw your hand.”

Amen.

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