Hot Stoves and Other Things We Should Not Touch
by Rev. Randy Brown
“Don’t touch that!” How many times have you heard that? When did you first hear it? I first heard it when I was a young boy, about that high, and I was toddling up to the stove that mamma had on. I started to put my hand up there, and she said, “Don’t touch that!” How many of you parents have do that for your children, and grand children? You know what I’m talking about. “Don’t touch that!” If you live on a farm, it may be an electric fence and you’re afraid somebody’s going to come along, and not know that the juice is on, and touch that fence. So, you put a sign up there, that says, “Don’t touch.” Maybe you’ve been in a doctor’s office, and they have an aquarium. People get too close, and there’s danger there. Down at the very bottom corner, “Don’t touch this.” Maybe you’re out somewhere, and you’re going into a new place, and they’ve just finished painting. The paint is still wet. There’s a sign there that says, “Don’t touch.”
Maybe it’s in a Mexican restaurant, like it was for us the other night. I don’t know how long those peoples arms are, but they’re long. It’s like they got an extender on it. They’ll say, “Don’t touch, plate hot. Hot plate. Hot plate.” We’ve all been there, we’ve all been told, “Don’t touch.”
I want to ask you a question this morning, and the question is this; why would folks, some of who know you and love you, some of who have never seen you before, why would they go to such extreme measures, to make sure that you’re okay? To make sure that you don’t get burned. To make sure to let you know that things sometimes are fragile. Why would they do that? Well, there’s either one of two answers. The first answer is, they want to invade your rights, they want to make you miserable. They want to deprive you of your pleasures. That’s one reason. Or, they want to protect you from disaster, and danger, and brokenness, and pain, and getting burned.
Is it number one reason, or number two reason? Two. Listen close what I’m getting ready to tell you. I agree, it is number two. It’s the second reason. Here’s what I want to tell us this morning. If adults and strangers go to such extreme measures to warn us and to protect us, so that we don’t get burned, so that we don’t get hurt, damaged, destroyed, How much more does the loving, heavenly Father, go to such an extreme to tell us, “Don’t touch that! Don’t touch that!” In the scripture that Freddy read a few moments ago says “Do not touch the unclean things. Don’t touch them.” We need to listen to the voice of God, as it tells us things to touch, and things not to touch.
Today puts us in part four of a series called, “The Power of Touch.” You know that a couple of weeks ago, we looked at the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, and was made whole. The week following that, we looked at one of the disciples who took out his sword, and chopped off the ear of the servant of the chief priest, and how Jesus had to put that back in place. Last week, we talked about “Who touched me?” This week we’re going to look at it a little differently. Don’t touch that! Don’t touch that! I want to share with you a bias of mine. If it get’s an Amen, fine. If it doesn’t, that’s fine too, but in my opinion, we live in the most selfish, self-centered society that’s ever been. We’re right there in the smack middle of it. We talk about me, me, me, my rights, my this, my that, my the other. We’re right in the middle of that ‘me’ mentality.
I know this word goes way back, and I don’t limit it to what it use to mean, in our society. We need to realize that sometimes the prohibitions of things are not for our punishment, they are for our protection. God says, “Do not touch the unclean things.” I remember, years ago, when cars didn’t come with seat belts. You had to put seat belts in, it wasn’t standard to them. I don’t know what you all wrote tickets for then, Yogi? But, ya know? But, I remember people saying, “Ain’t gonna no one tell me to wear a seat belt.” I won’t ask for a show of hands. When God tells us, “do not do this,” He’s not trying to cramp our style. He’s not trying to give the preacher something else to load on you. The church is not trying to cramp your style. It’s because He loves you. He wants what is best for you, and He does not want you to get burned by that hot stove. That’s why God loves us enough, to tell us, “Don’t touch. Don’t touch.”
“Do not touch the unclean things, and I will receive you.” Perhaps He tells us this, because on our own, we don’t know any better. Eeew, kind of hurts, doesn’t it? “Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” Being a child of God, separates you. It calls you out, it sets you apart. It makes you different from other people. Once you’ve accepted him, once you’ve received Him, you are not your own. Did you hear me? You are not your own. You belong to Him. If you belong to Him, then you do what He says. It’s just like, if I came to your house, and I wanted to remodel it. That’s not up to me. That’s up to you. What gives you the right to do something, with something that doesn’t belong to you. We do not belong to ourselves, we are no longer ours, but His.
He’s the land-lord, He’s the one in charge. Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ. No longer I live, but Christ that lives within me.” Our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, it doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to Him. We belong to Him. Ours is to do what He says. Now, He talks about this separation-to come away from, to be set apart. We need to be careful with that. I’m not saying that we ought to all go out, and join the monastery or the convent, that’s not what I’m saying, okay? But, the separation comes not from an outward act; the separation comes from an inward act. That we allow Him in, and we allow Him to control inwardly. That we are to be ‘in the world’, but not ‘of the world’. That’s the separation. It’s not an outward act, it’s an inward attitude. To be in the world, but not of the world.
I’ve got to confess something else to you this morning. I’m not much on bumper stickers. There’s one that I really struggle with, and if you’ve got it on the back of your car, I’m not telling you to take it off, but I’m just telling you, that I struggle with it. It’s the bumper sticker that simply reads, “Coexist.” I got some real problems with that. Because it has the cross on it, it has symbols of other ideologies and things, religions and doctrines; it’s almost as though they’re all on equal footing. And, I would suggest to you, that that’s not true. If that’s true, what it’s really saying is; that Christianity, which centers around a man giving his life for you, and to give his life as a ransom for many, is just another ideology. On par with all the rest of them. And, I’ve got issues with that.
Hear me clearly, I don’t support violence against anybody. I don’t support bullying, and hate crimes against anybody. We can agree to disagree, and still be friends. John Wesley said it like this, “If your heart beats in love and loyalty to Jesus Christ, then give me your hand.” We can disagree on the small things, but Wesley called them; we have to agree on the essential things. That’s what we’re talking about. I don’t have to promote everything that you agree with, just so we can be friends. And, you don’t have to do that for me either. If I’m to be tolerant, then I expect tolerance in return. We must realize what the scripture says here in verse fourteen, especially fourteen B. For it says, “How can we have a partnership of wrong and right, of light and darkness.” Jesus said it like this, “You can’t serve two masters.”
You talk about being separate. Why is that necessary? Paul found it necessary. If he was going to be a creature, he had to leave the old. Not just physically, but mentally. If the prodigal was going to come back home, the prodigal had to leave swine land. Are you with me? He separated himself from that which held him back, and he came to the home of the Father. He ate at a different table. He slept at a different place. He hung out with different people. The old had passed away, the new had come. Can you imagine? Somebody who was a prisoner of war, and was released. We’ve seen that in the last little bit. Even the pastor that was released recently, after being held in captivity. Can you imagine them going back voluntarily, to where they were being held captive? I can’t.
But, sometimes that what we do. We pray, “God, deliver me from this situation. God, get me out of this fix, and I’ll never do it again.” Things go well for a while, and we go back to it. That’s no different from when we were in school, “God, if you’ll help me pass this test, I’ll study next time.” I find out I wasn’t the only one that did that. We are to be separated, by habit and lifestyle. To stand our ground. To let people notice that we are different. That there’s something different about us. Amos asked the question in the Old Testament, “Can two walk together, if they are not agreed?” Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” Now, we don’t know if those were the material things that were there, or if He was talking about the other disciples. But, whichever way you take that, Jesus knew that Peter had to love Him more. Peter had to separate himself from the old things that use to hold him back. To a new relationship with God. Separation comes by yielding our wills to God’s will.
We’re not only separated from, but we are separated to: not just from old habits, desires, you name it, but separated to what God calls us to do. From selfish desires, to right motives. From false teaching, to truth. You know, there are some things that just don’t go together. Paul mentions that, unrighteousness and righteousness. Darkness and light. Read that chapter this afternoon. But, there are some things that don’t go together. Have you ever been driving by on a farm, and see a field being plowed? Half the animals were horses, and the other half were mules. They don’t go together. Have you ever watched a western, and seen a stage coach running? Half the animals that were pulling that stage coach were horses, and the other half were zebras? They don’t go together. And, there’s some things in our life that we try to match. God says, “They were never intended to be that way.”
Doesn’t work, some things are incompatible. Just like belief and non-belief. Darkness and light. Wickedness and righteousness. God and idols. Those things don’t match up. Now to be set apart – a set apart people, we’re set apart from and set apart to. But here in verse seventeen, verse seventeen says, “Touch not. Come away from.” That means not just physically, but more than that, it means mentally. I want to put it in the language that some of our younger folks can understand. You can’t soar with the eagles, if you’re running with the turkeys. You can’t do it. Come apart. Come apart.
Why? Why should we do this? Why does God want us to do this? God wants us to do it, because that’s what He established the church to do. There’s an old ritual that we used when I started out, back in nineteen none of your business. It says, “The churches of God, and shall be preserved to the end of time, for the due conduct of worship. For the edification of believers, and for the salvation of the world.” That’s what the church is about. The church demands that we be this. Sometimes though, I think in our society, the church tries to justify, or even sanctify, sin. That’s dangerous. We make excuses for it, instead of confessing it. A sinning church, a sinning religion, will never meet the desire that God has for us. For we need to be, at the end of our life, to hear the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
The gospel requires. God says, “Be holy, as I am holy.” He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Temptations are going to be a part of life, and we’re going to fail from time to time, but we don’t have to do it intentionally. You know, temptation comes our way; we struggle with it. When we pray the prayer that we prayed this morning, “Lead me not into temptation,” we’re asking God to help us, but another part of that is that we’ve got to stay out of those situations, where we know we’re tempted.
Let me close. Pretty much, so far, we’ve talked about some negative things. I want to lift up the positive in closing. There’s a lot more “do’s” in the scripture, than there are “don’ts”. There are rewards for separation. One of the rewards for separation is that our life will bear much fruit. Another reward for separation is that He will live with us. He will be our God, and we will be His children. He will receive us. Now, there’s either one of two things that we can do. We can either touch or not touch. Let me tell you about the difference. One person out there is trying to lure us - to lure us. And, the scripture says, “He wants to kill, steal, and destroy.” The other person, the enemy of that first, says, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.” One is luring us - the other is loving us, and boy there’s a difference.
“Don’t touch that!” Why? Because I love you. God says, “I don’t want you to get burned.” That’s what the book says, and the book never lies.