Tuesday, May 17, 2011

God's Holiness

     We have all had the experience of learning of some horrific violence against children or equally helpless adults and hearing or even uttering ourselves "Is nothing sacred?" We live in a time when depravity and senseless violence so dominate the news that it is no stretch to believe that there is an element of the world's population for whom quite literally, 'nothing is sacred'. They have no fear of  answering for their actions, be it to man or to God and it is an indication of the extent of their 'lostness' or separation from God and everything that is pure, good, right, and holy. We can and should pray for the lost and we should be broken over their separation. I want to set that aside for now though and consider the implications when believers are soft or unclear in their reverence for God's holiness. What does it mean to serve a Holy God whose name is sacred,
whose essence is truth, whose core is righteousness? What can we do to insure that our perception and respect for God's holiness is as he intends?
     While most of us have little problem acknowledging our sinfulness and the struggle to be 'good ',
we really are unequipped to comprehend or process the holiness of God. The primary meaning of holy is separate or apart from. Being the source of light, truth, purity and love, God is outside of our ability to comprehend or perceive. We know that He is good and we are not but that is not really an adequate understanding of what it means that our God is a holy God. If we search the Old Testament we can find abundant evidence that indicates that respecting God's Holiness is crucially important to our understanding of
who God is and what He desires from us. Individuals, cities, and entire cultures were extinguished by God as justice for their refusal to acknowledge right living or 'righteousness', for being unaware of the consequences of their living in defiance of God's Holiness. The book of Jonah is an exemplary account of a people who knew that they were living 'out of bounds' relative to God's standards and showed contrition and repentence
when the prophet appears and declares the coming judgement.
      As believers, we are challenged daily to keep perspective and focus on our response to the call our God has placed upon our hearts. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is to misunderstand or in some way diminish or subjugate God's holiness and the crucial role it plays in the makeup of His character. The
Lutheran theologian Dieterich Bonhoeffer sounded the alarm on this hazard in the term "cheap grace";
we cheapen 'grace' when we take sin lightly, when we give ourselves a pass on obedience, when we pretend
The Word is not saying what it says. Our enemy works tirelessly to convince us we are 'good', we are acceptable, we have arrived, when in reality nothing could be further from God's truth. If we are honest we acknowledge everyday our unworthiness before God without the atonement for our wretchedness that was purchased through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot approach God in His holiness without being shielded with the intercession that His Son died for; His truth, His justice, His righteousness would
incinerate us. We must continually remind ourselves that God is separate and apart from us. He loves us and He died for us, but His holiness cannot tolerate us until we have been clensed and sanctified by His Son.
As part of the creation, we are broken and defiled and waiting for restoration. As we attempt to grasp the fullness of God's love and surrender to His redemptive healing, we must remain diligent in defending His holilness: from a culture that declares Him to be irrelevant and from our own hearts which are deceptive, weak, and willing to compromise with sin without considering the consequences. It is no small task and we are charged with being faithful and obedient in revering and upholding it, to each other and to the world as well.