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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

We Have a Problem

The Bible lists a lot of attributes for God. We revel in most of them. We love His love, embrace His grace, thrive on His mercy. We find enduring comfort in His omnipotence, His omniscience, His omnipresence. He is faithful and we are grateful. He is sovereign and it gives us peace. And so much more. In all of these, however, there is a singular thread, a common theme, a pinnacle point of an attribute: holiness.

We're good with His holiness. I mean, it's all good. But, deep down, there is a disconnect, even a discomfort. We recognize that He is holy, but that He is "holy, holy, holy" kind of eludes us. There seems to be a vague, underlying problem with us and a holy God. But just what is it?

Turns out, I believe, the problem is a clash with our sin nature. The problem is our standing in the presence of the Holy. When Scripture says He is "holy, holy, holy," it is extending that attribute to the maximum. In modern format we might say God is HOLY!!! And we ... we like to think that God is holy. He's pure. He's separate from sin. That's all good. He's even sacred. We approve of all that. But biblically He is OTHER!!! In that we have a disconnect. He is not us. He is not like us. His ways are not our ways.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts: nor your ways My ways," saith the Lord. "For as the heavens are exalted above the earth, so are My ways exalted above your ways, and My thoughts above your thoughts." (Isa 55:8-9)
Expressed here is a radical disconnect. The differences between us and God are not minor.

Have you heard of the term, "xenophobia"? Science fiction lovers know it as the fear of aliens. That's because it is, but it includes much more. It is the fear of anything alien, anything different, anything "other." Xenophobia is our primary reason for racism, sexism, nationalism, even economic and social discrimination. We know "we" and we are afraid of "they." Imagine, then, a Being who is OTHER!!! That is a problem.

God's level of holiness is a big problem for us. It makes demands. It sets standards. It requires a lot from us. "As He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" (1 Peter 1:15-16). So here we stand with sin natures that declare, "I will be like the Most High" actually encountering the Most High and coming up against OTHER!!! And we are told, "Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name; bring an offering and come before Him! Worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness" (1 Chr 16:29). Oh, no. That's not natural for us. So we deny it or we diminish it or we mitigate it. And when humans encounter it, we have reactions like Isaiah's total collapse (Isa 6:5) or Peter's dismay (Luke 5:8), because we can't handle holiness. We love God's love, but this holiness thing is too much.

Only when there is a change in us is there a change in that fact. Only when we are sanctified (literally "made holy") can we begin to grasp the measure of His holiness. Only when we die (Rom 6:3-7), can we begin to live in His holiness. And, frankly, only when we begin to embrace the magnitude of who He is as a holy God can we begin to give Him the praise and gratitude that He deserves. The problem, then, isn't His holiness; it is our resistance to it. Let's not think that "Sure, I know He is a holy God" is a sufficient embrace of God's holiness. It's not until we see Him as "holy, holy, holy" that we can begin to know Him as He is rather than the cheap knock-off we so often accept.


Bob said...

An incorrect view of God's Holiness leads to a presumption of familiarity.
And presumption of familiarity leads to contempt.
Consider those that presumed to know better. Arron's sons with the strange fire. Huzzah when laid hold of the Arc. Saul offering sacrifices, instead of waiting on the lord.

1 John 3:2, "Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is."

The good news as we become more like him, we need not concern ours selves with Presumption of familiarity, because we will be holy as He is Holy.

Craig said...

I think Bob is onto the reason why I've always been uncomfortable with people who talk about Jesus as their friend. I agree with the theoretical idea that Jesus can be and is a friend like we've never experienced, but I think that our concept of friendship blurs the lines around His holiness and our lack of holiness. Clearly Jesus was friends with His disciples, with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, to name a few. I think the problem lies in our concept and experience of friendship, rather that with Jesus.

Stan said...

I agree with Bob and you. That's our problem. If we can bring God down from that "utterly holy" status to a more "usable" level, we're okay. On the other hand, if we meet God where He is -- that supremely holy God -- it's a different relationship. He's bigger and better, we're smaller and weaker, our sin is much worse, His glory is much greater, and more. I don't think, if we went to church on a Sunday to worship that holy God, we could ever come away "bored," smug, or self-satisfied.