Worshiping a Holy God|
What is God really like? Augustine, while puzzling over the doctrine of the Trinity, was walking along the beach one day when he observed a young boy with a bucket, running back and forth to pour water into a little hole. Augustine stopped and asked the young boy, "What are you doing?" The boy replied, "I'm trying to put the ocean into this hole."
That's when Augustine realized he'd been trying to put an infinite God into his finite mind.
And when you and I are allowed to look into God's book about Himself, we need to remember that's what we're trying to do - to put an immeasurable ocean into a tiny hole.
Last week, as we looked how we use the word holy (mostly, like slang term) and what the biblical concept of holiness means, we ended up looking at the lives of five Biblical characters that had been only briefly exposed to the holiness of God. And it's from them that we get a hold of some clues to help us move toward a better understanding of the holiness of God. From our five examples we found that people who've truly been exposed to the holiness of God had an immediate recognition of their own unworthiness - even when they're saved and serving God.
Moses had to be shielded in the crevice of a rock and shielded by God's hand and even then God wouldn't allow Moses to have a full on view because he couldn't have survived it
Job, who according to God's own words was a righteous man - unequalled among men - had to put his hand over his mouth when he was exposed to the holiness of God
Isaiah - the prince of all the prophets and preachers - saw and his own sinfulness first, was cleansed and forgiven by God and then rose up to serve Him
Paul fell to the ground and then dedicated his life to proclaiming the Gospel
John fell down as if he was dead and then he worshipped and served God.
After seeing these responses, I am more certain than ever that most of us have rarely experienced the holiness of God, much less comprehended it. All people - including those of us who know Christ as Lord and Savior - are a people whose lives are touched by sin. If we ever saw our holy God, we would know it like never before.
Let me ask again, what is God really like?
Most of us want to see God and think that He's similar to ourselves. We're familiar with that and it, frankly, makes most of us more comfortable.
Dr. E.V. Hill, famous black preacher, told a story about two guys, one white and the other one back, who were having a spiritual discussion one day as to the nature of God and what he would be in appearance as they reached heaven. Having both believed on Christ as Lord and Savior and having both died on the same day, both were on their way to heaven and had a little talk along the way.
The white guy argued, "Jesus was white and I think He will be a lot like me."
The black guy came back by saying, "No way man. Jesus identifies with folk like me. I think He's gonna be a bruttha."
And as they both reached the throne of God, Peter opened the curtain and God welcomed them into heaven with an energetic, "Buenos noches, senors!!!"
The point is not whether He is like us, but whether Whom He is, is changing who we are. Is who God is affecting who you are, what you think and how you act?
That's why we looked at those five characters that'd truly been exposed to the holiness of God. It totally affected their lives.
What should our response be to what we learn from these men's experiences with the holiness of God?
IV. How Should the Holy Nature of God Affect Us?
The more clearly we understand God's holiness, the more the following five things will be true of us.
A. We'll Get a Clearer Picture of Ourselves
One thing that was evident in each of the lives of those five Biblical characters was that when they saw God, the light of His Holy presence exposed the dark things in their lives - even the best of them. The more of God's holiness you and I see, the more we see of our "un-holiness." Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The more we understand God's holiness, the more we will agree that we have fallen short of it. As long as we fall short, we can never expect to have fellowship with God on the basis of our own lives. The best we can offer Him is the equivalent of what Isaiah referred to as "filthy rags." Look at Isaiah 64:6 (read). [At the end of 64:5 Isaiah asks, "How then can we be saved? All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags." Isaiah's confessing the absolute unworthiness of anyone to be in God's Holy presence. Paul said something very similar in Philippians 3:4-8 (read). [He said, "If anyone has reasons to out confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews in regard to the law, a Pharisee as for zeal, persecuting the church as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."] He had a real impressive list of religious accomplishments. But he said it was like pile of garbage or even a steaming pile of manure. That's not good news.
However, it's the bad news we have to understand before the good news of the Gospel makes sense. [Before my wife's grandmother was saved at about 98 or 99 years of age, she was one of these picture perfect, "nice," little old ladies. She went to Church, was baptized and became a member of the local church. There was only one problem when we talked to her - she never admitted she was a sinner in the first place. She wasn't saved and we knew it. Before she could get saved she had to be convinced that she was a sinner like everyone else. Otherwise she would have tragically trusted in her own righteousness to get her into heaven. Before she got saved we had to convince her she wasn't saved. We had to help her see her own unrighteousness before she could see her need for a Savior.] People have to see their own unrighteousness before they can see their need for a Savior too. God's holiness is the only standard for what is acceptable to Him, and we cannot achieve that standard on our own.
When we understand God's holiness, we'll get a clearer picture of ourselves.
B. We'll Understand the Cross
Once we see who we are compared to who God is, we'll better understand the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I'm not sure we truly understand the Cross as well as we should. God the father judged and put to death His own Son! What would possess Him to do such a thing? It all has to do with God's holiness. If we don't understand holiness, we won't understand the Cross.
Christ came into the world for the purpose of providing access for sinful people to a holy God. If Christ had not died for our "un-holiness," we would have remained in our sins and been barred forever from the presence of a holy God. We know our sins were actually upon Christ because God, in His holiness, could not even look upon His own Son on the cross who now carried upon Himself the sins of the world. When Jesus was on the cross He cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34 Matt. 27:46 cf. w/ Psa. 22:1). God forsook His own Son in order that we might me made holy in Christ. 1st Peter 2:24 says, "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live to righteousness by His wounds have you been healed." And 2nd Corinthians 5:21 Paul wrote, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God."
What Christ accomplished on the cross was to weave a new suit of clothes for you and me to wear that we might be clothed with His own holiness. So now, when God looks at you and me in Christ, He does not see our sin but the holiness of His Son in which we're clothed. That is the purpose of the Cross - to provide that which the holiness of God demanded. God took the life of His own Son instead of our lives, and gave us Christ's righteousness in exchange. Wow!!!!
Third, when we better understand the holiness of God…
C. We'll Worship Him
All over the Bible there is a definite connection between seeing God's holiness and worship (Psa. 89:1-7 99:5). I've mentioned before that worship is more a verb than a noun. What I mean by that is that worship is something we actively accomplish and participate in, not something we just passively observe. All the biblical characters I cited earlier in this message worshipped God when they saw His holiness. When we get a glimpse of God's holiness, we'll do more than participate in worship on Sunday. Our whole life progressively, more and more, becomes an act of worship. Our money, our jobs, our hobbies, our recreation - everything becomes an offering of worship to Him. In Romans 12:1 Paul wrote, "Therefore, I urge you brother, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - which is your spiritual worship." In 1st Corinthians 10:31 he wrote, "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
When we better grasp the holiness of God, we'll worship Him with our lives.
D. We'll Cultivate Habits of Holiness
When we see God's holiness, we are motivated to become holy ourselves. In 1st Peter, Peter says in several ways that because God is holy, we likewise ought to be holy. Look at 1st Peter 1:15-16 2:5, 9 (read). "But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do for it is written 'Be holy, because I am holy.'" 1st Peter 2:5 says that we're "being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." And we're also referred to in 1st Peter 2:9 as "a holy nation." We cannot be as holy as God, but we are to allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives in such a way so as to set us apart from this world as He is set apart as He is holy, we are to be holy. There used to be a doctrine in the Christian church in America called "separation", which emphasized the believer's separateness from the world. That can easily become a kind of legalism, and we see that danger all over the place. One group sees it as wearing a certain type of clothing and only associating with certain people. Another group sees holiness as conforming to a certain set of rules - their set, of course.
I like what Dr Warren Wiersbe wrote about holiness: "One of the essential differences between mere outward piety and true holiness is that piety makes you conform to a system, while true holiness conforms you to Christ and develops your own individuality." One is outward the other is inward.
The more we grasp the holiness of God, and the more we expose ourselves to meeting with God in prayer and worship and through the scriptures, the more the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out so that we become like Jesus Christ us to be, not like some person or denomination wants us to be.
Finally, the better we understand the holiness of God, the more…
E. We'll Be Like Him
When we see God's holiness, it makes us look forward to the day when we will be like Him. I don't know about you but I'm looking forward to the day when God completes this transaction of salvation and I get a glorified body. Even though you or I will never be as holy as Christ in this life, the day is coming when God is going to give us glorified bodies. Look at 1st John 2:28 - 3:3 (read). [28And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming. 29If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. 1How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.] John said, "We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" (3:2). Since someday you and I are going to be like him, there ought to be a desire in our hearts right now to be like Him. We will become as whole and beautiful as Christ Himself, that beauty being defined as the absence of sin and therefore, the full realization and experience of holiness. God says that we have an active part in that right now. And if anything happens, it's due only to the grace of God at work in our lives - nothing else.
I hope you're looking forward to the day when you will see Christ and be like Him. That all begins with seeing your need for His Cross, your need to swap your "un-holiness" for His holiness. If you've never done so, that's a step you can take today by putting your faith in Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.