You know, holiness is not a word that we hear much about in our daily routine here in America these days. Our co-workers don't sit around at lunch and talk about holiness. Newspapers, primetime television, magazines never mention it.
It's never discussed on our college campuses or in our public school classrooms, except perhaps as an object of ridicule. And neighbors don't stand over the back fence together and talk about holiness. But as we look in the Bible, we find that this is perhaps the most fundamental fact about God that we find there. Namely, that God is holy and this is what we want to talk about today.
Now remember we're in a series entitled The Holy One of Israel. This is a series all about the attributes, the character, the essential nature of God. And last week in part one we talked about the fact that God is eternal.
If you missed that, I encourage you to get the tape or the CD or to podcast it and keep up with us. But we're going to move on today in part two and we're going to talk about the holiness of God, the fact that God is holy. Now what exactly does it mean to be holy? Well the word holy comes from the old English word hol with a W in the front that means to be complete or to be perfect. And therefore to be holy simply means to be utterly perfect in every way.
To be perfectly righteous, to be impeccably sinless, to be totally virtuous, and to be absolutely pure in all of our ways. And in the Bible this is exactly what God claims for himself. Leviticus 19 says, For I, the LORD your God, am holy. Over thirty times in the Old Testament God refers to himself as the Holy One of Israel. In fact God's holiness is so overwhelming and so compelling that every place where God is and everything that God touches becomes automatically holy just because God is there and God is touching it. Exodus chapter 3, you remember, God called to Moses from within the burning bush and said, Do not come any closer, take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy ground. Now the truth is Moses was just standing on regular dirt but that regular dirt had become holy ground because God, the presence of God was there and that took regular dirt and turned it into holy ground.
You remember Midas of course had the golden touch, whatever he touched turned to gold. Well God's got the holy touch, whatever he touches turns holy. And the Bible goes on to tell us that there is no being in the universe who is holy in the same way that Almighty God is. Exodus chapter 15 verse 11, Who is like you, O LORD, majestic in your holiness. 1 Samuel 2 verse 2, There is no one, the Bible says, who is holy like the LORD. But I think the most impressive passage in the entire Bible when it comes to this attribute of God has to be Isaiah chapter 6. Here's what it says, verse 1, In the year that King Uzziah died, I, Isaiah says, saw the LORD seated on a throne high and lifted up. And above him were seraphim, each with six wings, with two they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. Now seraph or seraphim in Hebrew literally means a burning one. These are some kind of angelic beings and it was a pretty amazing description that Isaiah gives of them.
But folks, really the important thing is not what these creatures looked like, but what they kept saying. Verse 3 says, And the seraphim were calling to one another and saying, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty, the whole earth is full of his glory. It reminds me of the creatures in Revelation chapter 4 where the Bible says day and night they do not stop saying, Holy, holy, holy is the LORD. Now can you imagine spending all of eternity flying around and day after day, night after night saying absolutely nothing, but Holy, holy, holy is the LORD over and over and over and over again? Well you can't.
Neither can I. But the reason for that is that we don't understand the awful holiness of God the way these creatures in heaven do. And you say, well Lon, yeah I understand, but you know one thing that intrigues me is how come every time you hear it they're always saying Holy, holy, holy three times?
Never twice or four times or one. How come they're always saying it three times? Well it seems to me the reason for that is probably because that's the way the hymn goes. You know, Holy, holy, holy.
I thought that was pretty funny, but not sure y'all did. Okay, well no, there is an answer to that question. The real answer is that the Hebrew language has no way to say the superlative holiest. The only way the Hebrew language can say that is by repeating the adjective over and over and over again. So when the Old Testament says Holy, holy, holy in reference to God, what the Bible is trying to emphasize to us is that God is holy to the superlative maximum.
And here's something really interesting. This is the only attribute of God that is ever repeated like this anywhere in the Bible. I mean nowhere in the Bible does it say that God is love, love, love. Or God is faithful, faithful, faithful. Or God is just, just, just. Or God is good, good, good. But it says over and over again in the Bible God is holy, holy, holy. The point is that of all the great attributes of God that we're told about in the Bible, the one that God wants to impress upon us the most is that He is holy. So here's Isaiah getting a naked glimpse of the holiness of God. And so the question is how did this affect him?
The question is how did he respond? Well, verse 5 says, woe am I. I am ruined, Isaiah says. I love the King James. It says I am undone. I am coming apart at the seams. I'm coming apart unhinged at the joints. I'm falling apart here.
Why? For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. And what made you so sensitive to that issue, Isaiah? Well, because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of God Almighty in all of His holiness.
Listen, Isaiah was probably one of the most godly men in all of Israel in his day. And yet when he gets a mere glimpse of the holiness of God, he is utterly overwhelmed. He is utterly blown away by his own sinfulness.
You know, the truth is this is exactly what happened to every person who ever got a glimpse on this earth of the holiness of God. Moses at the burning bush, when he experienced God's holiness, the Bible says he hid his face in fear. Daniel, when he experienced God's holiness, Daniel chapter 10, there was no strength left in me. My face turned pale and I was helpless. When God got through with Job, Job was a wreck.
The prophet Habakkuk said, my belly trembled, my lips quivered, decay entered my bones and I shook from top to bottom. Peter said, depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man. I don't think Peter walked around talking like that every day.
Peter was a pretty arrogant guy. But when he came in contact with the holiness of God, even shielded in the body of the Lord Jesus Christ, he became so convinced of his unholiness, he said, Lord, you need to move away from me, I'm a sinful man. And of course Isaiah, woe is me, I'm undone, I'm coming apart at the seams. All these men got a small taste of the awesome holiness of God and they were immediately devastated with an acute awareness of their own unholiness, their own sinfulness, their own wretched condition in the sight of a thrice holy God. Now, in his great mercy, thankfully, God doesn't leave Isaiah in this terrible condition. Watch verse 6.
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs off the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, see, this has touched your lips, your guilt is taken away, and your sin is atoned for. Let's make sure we see here that Isaiah had no way to solve his sin problem by himself. I mean, at that moment, facing Almighty God in Isaiah 6, no amount of good works, no amount of religious activity was going to make him look a bit cleaner in the sight of an utterly holy God. And so wisely, Isaiah didn't even try to fix his sin problem himself. He just threw himself on the mercy of God and, friends, in response, God created a solution for Isaiah.
Do you see that? Now, let me stop here and say that this equation is the central theme of the Bible. And that is namely that in his sinfulness, man is utterly helpless in the presence of a holy God. But in his mercy, God does for man what man cannot do for himself. In his mercy, God makes a way for us to have our sin forgiven. In his mercy, God makes a way for us to be clean in his holy sight and to dwell safely and securely in his holy presence.
Now today, the coal that makes all this possible, that purges our sin, is not some coal off of an altar, but the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ shed on the cross. 1 John 1.7, the blood of Jesus, the Bible says, purifies us from all sin. The people in heaven, Revelation chapter 7, are described as those who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Now, normally, blood doesn't make clothes white, but the blood of Jesus is different. It takes clothes that are stained with sin and makes them white as snow. As I love to say, the blood of Christ is like the spray and wash of heaven.
You understand what I'm saying? Now, if you're here today and you've never trusted Jesus Christ in a real and personal way, what we've just talked about has enormous ramifications for you. What it means is, when you leave this world and you stand in front of this thrice holy God, that, friends, none of your religious activity is going to make a bit of difference.
None of your good works are going to matter. You've got to be covered and protected by the blood of Jesus Christ, or it is going to be a very unfortunate meeting between you and God. And if you've never trusted Christ, I don't mean just believing in your head that He existed or went to the cross.
I mean relying on what He did for you on the cross, depending on it, and making the blood of Christ your one and only remedy for sin, your one and only hope of facing a holy God and escaping from that unharmed. If you've never done that, then, friend, that's what you need to do. This is the way God made to fix the problem, but there's only one way to fix the problem. It's God's way. And I hope you'll think about that. And I hope you'll avail yourself of God's solution. So let's conclude by saying that, thank God, Isaiah 6 doesn't end with Isaiah screaming out, Woe is me!
It ends with Isaiah standing in the presence of this thrice holy God with His sin forgiven and His wretchedness removed and His alienation from God repaired all because of the undeserved mercy of God who in His dazzling holiness has no obligation to you, to me, to Isaiah or anybody else, but who in His compassion shows us mercy anyway. Now that's as far as we want to go in the theology of God is holy because now we want to ask our most important question and you know what that is. So everybody, here we go. Take a deep breath in. Here we go.
One, two, three. So what? Ah, yeah, you say, Lon, so what? Say, God bless you up there. Man, you're preaching your heart out. We love you for that. But what difference does any of this make? When I walk out of my door tomorrow morning to go to school, to go to work, what difference does this make to me?
Well, I'm going to try to help you with that. You know, in over 30 years of being in the ministry, I've learned something about the kind of God most people here in America want. Most people want a God who is nice and polite and tolerant and non-threatening. We want a kindly old grandfather.
We want a genie in the lamp who pops out and says, name it and claim it. We want the man upstairs who looks at everything we do and says, Oh, it's okay. I understand. You're just human. It's okay.
No, don't worry about it. Well, folks, I'm here to tell you this is not the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible, Hebrews 12 29 says, is a consuming fire who is awesome in His holiness, who is frightening in His purity, which is why Hebrews 10 31 says it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Now, I submit to you that large segments of the Christian church here in America today have utterly lost sight of who God really is. Majestic, awesome, fearful and awful in His holiness. I submit to you that if I walked into the average church in America today and preached on a verse like Hebrews 10 31, it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Or if I preached on Hebrews 12 29, our God is a consuming fire, those people would look at me like I was speaking Martian. And I believe that it is this diminishing of God's holiness, listen now, this diminishing of God's holiness in the church today that lies at the heart of our coldness, our compromise, our arrogance, our disobedience, our lukewarmness about evangelism, all of which pervades and saturates the church in America today. What the church in America today needs most is not new programs, not new methods, not new strategies, but what we need is a fresh glimpse of the awesome holiness of God. This is what I need the most in my life.
This is what you need the most in your life. And this is what McLean Bible Church needs more than anything else because, don't miss this now, because it is this and this alone that will shock us out of our arrogance, that will terrify us out of our disobedience, and that will devastate us out of our spiritual lukewarmness and our hypocrisy and our backsliding and our superficiality in our walks with Jesus Christ. Anybody agree? Say amen. Now, many of us know the name Jonathan Edwards, great Puritan preacher. He preached for over 30 years, and yet the only sermon everybody's ever heard of that he ever preached is a sermon called Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He actually was a very jolly fellow. He actually was not a negative, you know, Bible-banging sort of guy, but it doesn't change the truthfulness of what he said in this sermon.
Let me read you part of it, and I quote. He said, And in His holiness God looks upon us as worthy of nothing else but to be thrown into the fire of hell. His holy eyes are too pure to even have us in His sight. We have offended Him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince.
He goes on to say, It is to be ascribed to nothing else but His hand that we did not go to hell last night, that we were allowed to wake up again in this world after we went to sleep last night, and there is no other reason to be given why we have not dropped into hell since we arose this morning, except that God's hand has held us up. End of quote. You get the idea.
There's more, but you got the idea. Now, I realize most Americans don't see themselves this way. I understand that, and I don't expect them to. But as followers of Jesus Christ, I believe that we have a hard time really seeing ourselves like this as hell-deserving sinners who have nothing in our flesh to commend us to God, nothing in our flesh to incline Him to want us in heaven, nothing in our flesh to entice Him to show us mercy or clemency in any way, and yet this is how the Bible says it really is with us, friends. You say, but Lon, as a follower of Jesus who's covered by the blood of Christ, I'm in a completely different relationship with Almighty God, aren't I? I mean, things are different for me in my relationship with God, right? Absolutely, my friend.
They certainly are. As a follower of Christ, the blood of Jesus covers and protects you and me from God's holiness. As followers of Christ, the blood of Jesus shields us from God's wrath against our sin. But, but, look here, but as followers of Jesus Christ, we must never forget who we are uncovered by the blood of Jesus. We must never forget who we are outside of Jesus Christ, friends, uncovered by the blood of Christ and outside of Christ.
We are everything Jonathan Edwards said about us and worse. Now these saints of old understood this. Moses, Daniel and Habakkuk and Isaiah and Peter.
They were undone by the realization of their own sinfulness and they were overwhelmed by God's utterly undeserved mercy to them and it was this understanding that shaped their lives into lives of godliness and obedience and passion for Christ and the bottom line is we in the modern church desperately need a touch from these people's flame. We do. You know, the problem is that it's hard to appreciate the beauty of the prescription until we appreciate the awfulness of a disease. Now some of you aren't old enough to remember polio before the Salk vaccine.
I am. I remember little kids coming to school in wheelchairs, little kids coming to school on canes and crutches. I remember in the hospital kids in iron lungs because they couldn't breathe on their own all because of the polio virus and parents, when I was a little child, lived in mortal fear that one day they were going to walk in their child's room and the child was going to be in bed unable to move, struck down by polio. I remember that and I remember standing in line at an elementary school when I was about six or seven years old and receiving the first Salk vaccine on a little sugar cube and I remember parents standing in line with tears rolling down their face weeping about this vaccine in joy over this vaccine that it was going to free their children from the scourge of polio. Now I don't think most people today, when they go take their children to the pediatrician to get their polio vaccine, I don't think most parents today sit in the waiting room and weep like babies and go, oh, the polio vaccine. You know why? Because polio has been virtually wiped out in our world and we really don't understand anymore the devastation of that disease because we've never seen it.
So we don't appreciate the prescription enough. Now I maintain that if we really want to appreciate the cross and if we really want to appreciate what Jesus did for us, we have got to understand the disease we've got and the terribleness of it and the devastation of it because until we understand who we really are in light of the holiness of God, until we are undone by our sinfulness like Isaiah was, we will never appreciate the mercy of Christ like we should. Now, all right, you say, but Lon, I thought God is a God of love. I thought God is a God of mercy and a God of grace. Friends, God is a God of love and mercy and grace. If He weren't, the awesome holiness of God would have incinerated every one of us this morning like little drops of water on a red-hot burner.
But God is also a God of terrifying holiness with whom we dare not trifle, even as His children in Jesus Christ. You know, when I was facing death this summer, looking right in the eyeballs, even as a blood-covered follower of Christ, I need to tell you, being honest with you, that I was terrified by the idea of going into eternity and facing an infinitely holy God. Now, I wasn't afraid of dying. I wasn't afraid that I was going to miss heaven.
I mean, I know the Word of God. I knew I was going to heaven. But friends, I was afraid because I knew that there was too much superficiality in my Christian life. And I knew that there was too much sloppiness in my obedience to God.
And I knew that there was too much lukewarmness in my passion for Christ. And I knew that I had allowed myself to forget a little bit about who God really is in His holiness and who I really am in my sinfulness. Now, I wasn't doing anything awful. I wasn't committing adultery. I wasn't stealing money.
I wasn't ordering pornography over the Internet. But I wasn't really ready to face an infinitely holy God. I knew God would forgive these things, but I didn't want to face Him like that.
I was terrified at the thought of facing the exalted, transcendent, all-consuming, holy, living God in the condition that I was in. So I asked God for some extra time. And I said, Lord, if you'll give me some extra time here on this earth, yeah, I want to be with my family, that's true, but Lord, I want to tell you something. I believe with the help of the Holy Spirit I can do better. I can do better, Lord. I believe that I can do a better job of obeying Christ fully in my life. And I can do a better job of serving Christ faithfully in my life. And I can do a better job of loving Christ more passionately in my life. And Lord, if you'll just give me some extra time, I will dedicate myself to that with the help of the Holy Spirit in a new way, a fresh way, so that when I'm ready to face you next time, I'll be in better shape. Knowing His mercy, God gave me some extra time.
And I want you to know that I have dedicated myself to this very purpose. But I want to ask you a question, and that is, if you were looking death in the eyeballs tomorrow morning, are you really ready to face an infinitely holy God and give an account of how you've lived your life as a follower of Jesus here on this earth? I wonder if you are really ready to face the awesomely holy God of the universe. I wonder if you need to tighten some things up in your Christian life a little bit.
To start every day utterly humbled by the pervading sinfulness that's in your life and utterly overwhelmed by God's undeserved mercy and on that basis to go out every day and live a life full of obedience to God and personal holiness before God and integrity and passion for Christ. Now, you say, but Lon, we can't ever get it 100% right. You know, we're all human. I mean, we can never get it all right.
Well, that's correct. I've got to tell you, sitting in the hospital this summer, I knew that I could do better with the help of the Holy Spirit. I knew I could. And I aspired to do better. And now that the Lord has granted me some extra time, as I said a moment ago, I'm dedicated to doing better. And I want to challenge you to follow my example. I want to challenge you to examine your life and say, Lord, Lord, enough with tiptoeing through the tulips here. I mean, if I'm going to stand in front of a God so awesome and so holy that even people covered by the blood of Christ can't stand up, even people covered by the blood of Christ lose all their strength and collapse to the ground.
If I'm going to stand in front of a being like that, is my life ready? Something to think about. Well, I can't answer that question for you. I can only answer it for me. And I've told you my answer.
And I expect that there are a lot of us here who if we really answered that question honestly, it would be a terrifying thing for us to stand in front of him right now. So, friends, what are you going to do about it? It's your call.
What are you going to do about it? Well, I hope you'll do what I've decided to do and say with the help of God's Spirit in my life, to commit myself afresh to living passionately for Jesus Christ because I understand it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. And when that happens in eternity, I want to have done the best I possibly could.
I'm tired of playing games and being superficial. I want it to be the best I can do. I hope you do, too. Let's pray together. Lord Jesus, David prayed, forgive me for presumptuous sins. And, Father, I suppose if there were any one group of sins that characterized us today more than any other, as followers of Christ here in America, it would be presumptuous sins, presuming on your love, presuming on your forgiveness, presuming on your mercy and your compassion.
And that presumption forms the basis of us becoming sloppy and lukewarm and compromising in our disobedience, in our passion for Christ. Father, we need a fresh glimpse of the holiness of God, which is not to be trifled with even as followers of Jesus. So use your word today to grip our hearts. Use your word today to convict our hearts. Use your word today to motivate us to a new commitment to passion and obedience and integrity for Christ in our lives, that we might truly be the kind of followers of Christ that can make a difference in our world. Father, change our heart and our lives because we were here today. Change the very way we behave. And we pray these things in Jesus' name. And God's people said, Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-26 12:45:45 / 2023-02-26 12:56:30 / 11