Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 NIV
God is . . . Holy
The dictionary says the word holy means, to divide or to set apart from all else. Its the opposite of profane, common or ordinary. To be holy is to be different and unique. Those descriptions of the word seem very inadequate.
When applied to God, holiness is that quality that divides Him from everyone and everything else. It is the quality of the awesome mystery of Gods being and makeup. Not long after God parted the Red Sea Moses wrote a song to remind the people of Israel of the invisible God that had just delivered them from the Egyptians. They had followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night because God provided them as a guide for their journey. They saw the wall collapse and their enemies perish and Moses reviewed these things in his song. He ends the song with these words:
Who is like you among the gods, O Lord glorious in holiness, awesome in splendor? Exodus 15:11 NLT.
The answer is no one! But note his words: God is glorious in holiness and awesome in splendor. Gods holiness is beyond our comprehension. It is in a category all of its own. His holiness refers to His majesty and moral purity. Holiness in God is the absence of evil. It includes all that is pure, whole, righteous and healthy in the universe.
The holiness of God is that which divides Him from everyone and everything else. Think of that. Its not just that Hes pure. The holiness of God is that which divides Him or separates Him from everyone and everything else in the universe. It is the only word in all of the Old Testament, when describing God that is repeated three times. Holy, holy, holy, and in Hebrew, when you want to make emphasis, you don't say good, better, best or, It was very, very good. You repeat the word for emphasis.
The English words for holy, are whole, w-h-o-l-e, healthy, happy, sound, and later, it came to have a spiritual connotation to mean pure, sacred, untainted by evil, sinless, to have something that is deserving of respect, awe, and reverence.
It is His holiness that demands when anything impacts, or potentially impacts, the health of his universe, or that which He loves and esteems. He judges it. He comes against it. Its profane, and we need to get this concept that God is totally other. A.W. Tozer writes, I think very accurately, We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable. The natural man is blind to it. He may fear Gods power, and admire his wisdom, but his holiness, he cannot even imagine. One phrase that may help you think of God as totally other would be; He is beyond the scope of your imagination. He is not like the most pure person that you can ever think of, times 100 million or 100 billion. Its not like there's this category, and Hes at the top of that category. Holiness means there's a whole different category. We have no idea of who we face when we come before God, and that is why when you find men or women in scripture, who ever get a glimpse of God, you will find them flat on their face. They will be prostrate before God.
That is why God said if anyone would even get a glimpse of him, they would be consumed. This God that that created those 200 billion stars and this one little Milky Way galaxy, and has the knowledge and the infinite wisdom to name each one, and to keep the ecosystem in balance of the 200 billion other galaxies, has such power and such majesty, and you cannot comprehend who He is. He is holy. He is different. He is distinct. He is unique, and that's what the holiness of God is all about
We generally live in a whirlwind of activity that leaves us little time for the pursuit of understanding God and seeking His holiness. We often approach our days as though the whole world were in a marathon race. In his book, One Day Things Americans Do in One Day, Tom Parker details the whirlwind activism of contemporary people, who are almost overwhelmed by an avalanche of unfulfilling tasks. Each day Americans eat 815 billion calories of food 200 billion more than they need enough to feed 80 million people; spend $700 million for entertainment and recreation; drink 1.2 million gallons of hard liquor with a bar tab of $64 million, 1.5 million gallons of wine, 15.7 million gallons of beer and ale (28 million six packs); pay $40 million for prostitution; give $165 million to charity, pick up the $2.5 million tab for car washes; and plunk down $40 million for auto repairs. The incredible list continues every day we buy 190,000 wristwatches, 120,000 radios, 4 million books, 250,000 neckties, and 325 pounds of cocaine. We have 500 coronary bypass operations, and spend $125,000 on merchandise and tours associated with the memory of Elvis Presley.
Our rush to accomplish stuff and our insane pursuit of making sure our kids are in every sport known to man leave the average younger family in America breathless, lifeless and with no time for the pursuit of God. Oh you go to church but to be honest it is really just one more of your long list of checked off items that you need to accomplish. Perpetual motion does not drive the dread away or fill the empty soul.
I call us today to a pursuit of God and knowing who He is. This spiritual journey and pilgrimage will draw us into the important things of life.
What we want to do today is try to understand how Gods holiness, though incomprehensible, impacts our lives. That is a big assignment! Let me assure you that exploring Gods holiness is not just a nice way to learn more about God.
There are responsibilities that come from a deeper understanding of God
Our understanding and exposure to Gods holiness will lead to a clear reflection of it in our lives! Your life verse easily can become the words of the Apostle Peter:
So you must live as Gods obedient children. Don't slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn't know any better then. 15 But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. 16 For the Scriptures say, You must be holy because I am holy. 1 Peter 1:14-16 NLT
How does God reveal His Holiness?
He reveals His Holiness through people
Moses: I would encourage you to study the life and story of Moses and his encounters with God. God spoke to him through a burning bush; A bush that wasn't consumed but burnt with the presence and the voice of God. He spoke to Moses through the 10 plagues that came upon the people of Egypt. Everyone of them had to do with some false god that they worshipped. God is sovereign and He is holy beyond our comprehension. (Exodus)
Isaiah: One of my favorite all time stories of God revealing Himself is found in Isaiah 6. It is the story of a prophet grieving the death of the king and in his grief and prayer he encounters God. This man who had so much to say as a prophet, had little to say when he encounters Gods holiness. He sees and hears the angelic being flying around the presence of God and they are saying Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. Isaiah throws himself to the ground and worships. He cries out, Woe is me, for I am undone. He confesses his lack of holiness. He humbles himself and responds to Gods call to go with these words, Here am I, send me.
He is not Santa Claus. He is not a genie in a bottle. He is not the one to work out every relationship and make your life work out. He is Other. He is Holy. He is Creator. He is Powerful. It is His world, and His agenda, and when you see Him for who He is, high and lifted up, you will always see things in yourself that you've never seen. You will see impurities in your motives and you will have a woe is me experience. This progression of seeing God for who He is in his holiness will cause us to see ourselves for who we really are, not in light of what other Christians think, not in light of what we think, but in light of what God thinks.
We will see this incredible distance that causes us to turn in absolute dependency and brokenness to Him, and in that brokenness and dependency, He longs to forgive, and so, you get a high view of God, an accurate view of yourself and an amazing thing happens. You get a renewed commitment to his agenda, instead of yours, and whether its Nehemiah or whether its Isaiah or whether its John on the Isle of Patmos, every time you find men and women who see God in His holiness, they will first experience overwhelming personal ruin that will cause a new evaluation of who they really are, versus who they think they are, and you will see a realignment of their agenda aligning with Gods agenda.
I would suggest in our day, a genuine honoring of the holiness of God in the Church of Jesus Christ in America, is almost completely absent. No one tells God what to do. No one manipulates the God of the universe, and He will not be used, and a lot of us are very angry with God, down deep, and very resentful toward God, because our lives aren't working out the way we want them to, because we've bought in, very subconsciously to a concept. That if we do certain things, God is obligated to do certain things for us and make our life work out, and when it doesn't, I'm not fulfilled. I'm not happy. Why am I suffering?
Our suffering isn't like were going through the tsunami or that we haven't eaten in three weeks, and its not like all of our relatives have died. Its, Work is kind of boring, and this relationship its really not what I was looking for, and its kind of going south. With the amount of education that I have, I don't know why these other people are making this much, and I should be making this much, and God, if we were going to get real personal here, You said, Be specific. Ive been on this diet plan for three whole weeks, and Ive only lost three pounds. I prayed for those parking spots. You're just not coming through for me. It was raining. Its the mall. I'm shopping. Whats the deal? That's not the God that Isaiah was worshipping.
He reveals His Holiness though places
Mt. Sinai: Read that story and feel the power and holiness of God in Exodus 19.
The church gathered in Acts 4: After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 NLT
God described in heaven in Revelation 4: There are only 11 verses in this chapter and I would encourage you to read them. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty the one who was, who is and who is still to come. Revelation 4:8c NLT
He reveals His Holiness through His priorities (the Law)
The laws in the Old Testament that God gave people were given so that we would know how best to live on this planet. It was Gods idea to show us the way to live through His word and priorities. Its been mans idea that we know better than God so we live however we want to. The first four of the Ten Commandments deal with Gods holiness.
All too often I meet people that attend church and think of themselves as Christians who say something like this, I just don't do that one. What do you mean you don't do that one? I ask. Well, I, uh. . .you know, I believe the Bible, I asked Christ into my life but like that sexuality one, I think that's kind of Victorian. I just don't obey that one. Do you realize what that reveals about our relationship with God? Have we now arrived at a day when men and women can pick and choose which commands well obey because were somehow superior and were so unique and different and wise that we know whats best for us?
He reveals His Holiness though the prophets
God not only revealed His Holiness to the prophets but He revealed it through them. They had one job and that was to get the message from God about His holiness and truth and to share it in a loving and forceful way. The prophets primary message Stop chasing after other gods!
Its the age old problem of the majority. Its a salad bar mentality that says we will talk what we want of God and leave the rest to someone else. Nothing could be a more damnable heresy. IF that's the way you live your life instead of basing it on Gods word you are fooling yourself and wasting Gods time.
He reveals His Holiness through His punishment
The story of Achan in the book of Joshua. I'm going to preach on this sometime this spring. Some of you need to read the story of Achan and you can find it in Joshua 7 and you will find that God doesn't really think disobedience is all that funny.
If you prefer the New Testament read in Acts 5 the story of a man and wife that decided to rob God and the church and you will find that God hasn't changed as much as some people would like to think from the O.T. to the N.T. ! Run from God and ignore His will for you life especially if you are pretending to be a follower and He will put you in a vice. Hell target your emotions, your job, and even your family. Hell do whatever it takes to get your attention so that you hear His words,Be holy, for I am holy.
God hates sin. Don't ever underestimate the power and destruction of sin. Run from it and run to the holiness of God.
He reveals His Holiness through His provision (His Son)
The only unholy part of Jesus life was when He hung on the cross and even then His unholiness was our unholiness. We see His holiness through the unblemished life of Christ on this earth.
He reveals His Holiness through the Priesthood of Believers (His Body: the church)
We are taught in the scripture that the Holy Spirit lives in us. We are the temple that He dwells in. In 1Corinthians 3:17 we read these words, If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of Go is holy, and that is what you are. NASB
Those who destroy the church with their actions will be held accountable but the good news is that we have been given the opportunity to have as much of God as we want. There is no limit to His accessibility. The question is how much to you hunger for Him? Really! How much do you desire Christ to be in your life?
In what ways does your life reflect the holiness of God? Does your heart beat passionately for Jesus Christ and His ways?
How should we respond and interact with Gods Holiness?
Consecration: Consecration is the act of surrendering everything to God. Consecration is not something we ask God to do for us. WE consecrate and God sanctifies our action. How do we do that?
Its a commitment we make Being holy is not about keeping a set of rules. The command to be holy found in the bible is one of an all-encompassing nature. 1 Peter 1:14-16: But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. . .
You cant be selectively holy. You don't get to choose holiness in one area of your life and filth or evil in another. This lack of commitment from Christians in our country is stunning. The problem in our world is not Hollywood, terrible people, gangs, or the educational system. Its not even the government. IF Christians lived like Christians this world would be remarkably different. If all the forty million Americans who claim the name of Jesus took Gods holiness seriously, the entire country would be transformed in a few years. We know the enemy and it is mostly us.
Its a cross we pick up Holiness is an unpopular attitude in a time of tolerance, extreme individuality and rampant immorality. Our interactions with the world will affect our spiritual well-being. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. That will produce tension in someone that is trying to follow Christ but doesn't understand what this means. Listen to the Corinthian writer: Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. 2 Corinthians 7:1
Picking up your cross means that you live to promote Gods holiness through your own life. Hate evil and pursue God with all your heart.
Its a command we obey You don't slide into a holy life. Holiness doesn't fit on a list of optional spiritual features in our lives as Christ followers. In Hebrews we read, Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14)
God says it in both the Old and New Testaments: Be holy, for I am holy. Its not optional.
Its a conviction we develop Simply put we just learn to put God first in our lives. That's impossible on our own. Shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain in the late 80s, Dr. Adrian Rogers met with Pastor Joseph Tson. Pastor Tson was a Romanian pastor, author, and president of the Romanian Missionary Society who survived years of persecution and exile under cruel Communist rule. Rogers asked Dr. Tson for his perception of American Christianity.
After some hesitation, he replied, Well, Adrian, since you have asked me, Ill tell you. The key word in American Christianity is commitment. Dr. Rogers was shocked. It sounded much more positive than he would have characterized the American church. Rather than being a positive thing, Tson saw it as an inadequate replacement of an older Christian teaching: surrender.
Tson described the difference, When you make a commitment, you are still in control, no matter how noble the thing you commit to. One can commit to pray, to study the Bible, to give his money, or to commit to automobile payments, or to lose weight. Whatever he chooses to do, he commits to it. But surrender is different. If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don't tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told. . . . Americans love commitment because they are still in control. But the key word is surrender. We are to be slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ.
My commitments seek to gain the blessings of God without giving up autonomy. My commitments may be righteous or noble but are merely promises about what I will do and depend entirely on me. I am retaining control to some degree, as if I could negotiate with Gods sovereignty.
Surrender concedes that in the battle of wills, God has already won. Surrender begins with the understanding that I am not God's partner not even a junior partner. He is my creator and absolute Lord. I am ruined and worthless without Him.
In Absolute Surrender,Andrew Murray wrote, We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for Gods blessing while we live in our own will. Making commitments can be our subtle attempts to get Gods blessings while holding on to our own authority and lifestyle. Many fear that surrender will cost too much or make them miserable.
The surprise of surrender is that by giving control of everything we have and are to God we gain the blessings we desire. That is counter intuitive to our human nature, but Jesus promised, Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).
Giving control of my life to God means I am not in control . . . and what a relief that is! It is the secret source of peace. Failure, frustration, and disappointment are the legacy of commitment, because it is always about me and depends entirely on me to achieve some outcome. Surrender takes me out of the equation. As I heard a person once say, When I began to follow Christ, I resigned as General Manager of the Universe.
When I acknowledge that Jesus is my sovereign and not my peer, He begins to transform me. C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, The more we get what we now call ourselves out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. When we deny ourselves, we find ourselves.