I am flawed, so very flawed. When confronted with the holiness of God, all I can do is tremble and be struck by how stark we are in contrast. Even as a Christian who truly loves God, I still struggle with sin every so often. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I battle with pride each and every day. There is always a trigger: a compliment, a desire not to apologize, a need to show that I am right. It is something I constantly lay down before God, for I know full well that it is not innate in me to be humble. I continuously ask for His grace to transform me and make me Christ-like, because it is certainly something I cannot do on my own.
However, I have encountered far too many people who claim to be Christians but there is no sense of struggling with sin in their lives – only because they have become numb to it and consider it normal. I have heard so much the term “non-practicing Christians.” They consider themselves part of the church, they like the perks of salvation, but they refuse to submit to Lordship.
Now please, there is no judgment here, for I personally grew up part of a Christian family and yet it took me years until I actually understood the magnitude of salvation. I thank God that we are justified by faith – it is a biblical doctrine and it frees us from the snares of legalism. But I still think this is something all people who claim to be Christians need to ponder on.
I have noticed that a lot of times, people package Christ into something that caters to people’s needs and wants. A dangerous tendency we can do is lean our theology so much on God’s love that we fail to recognize that He is justice and jealous and righteous.
Don’t get me wrong; I drown so much in God’s grace. I think in today’s world, it is something we definitely need. But we have to be careful not to bank so much on it that we forget the other attributes of God. God is love, as He is mercy, as He is grace. He is equally justice and holy as well. These aren’t just traits He embodies; they are who He is. A theologian I look up to and whose works I study, A. W. Tozer explored in so many of his books and sermons that we have to recognize that there are many sides to God, all of which are so completely and equally Him, and we shouldn’t confine who He is to the box of who we want Him to be. We should continue exploring God for who He truly is – long after we have understood His love.
In one of his books, he explicitly stated, and I quote, “a lot of people have gone too far and have written books and poetry that gets everybody believing that God is so kind and loving and gentle. God is so kind that infinity won’t measure it. And God is so loving that He is immeasurably loving. But God is also holy and just.”
Now not diminishing how beautiful and unconditional God’s love is, we also must remember how much God weighs. I know too many people who use God’s grace and love as a license to sin, but that’s another discussion. At this time, I want all of us to be reminded of how holy, how burning bright He is, and how unworthy we are.
Because we truly are.
I cannot emphasize how essential holiness is to God. It’s actually pretty interesting to note that love is mentioned 311 times in the Bible while holy is mentioned 633 times (King James Version). God was never called loving, loving, loving or gracious, gracious, gracious. In the Bible, repetition means emphasis and the only adjective ever repeated to describe God that was repeated this way is holy.
Holy, holy, holy.
In Hebrew, the word holy is qadosh. It means set apart, cut off from the rest. Holiness then talks of how different God is from us. As Max Lucado said, it speaks of his “other-worldliness.” Next to Him, I am so dirty; I am so unworthy to enter His presence. Moses and Isaiah themselves could not look at God’s face as conveyed in the books of Exodus and Isaiah. In the same way, as stated in Habakkuk, God cannot lay His eyes upon that which is impure. Even as Christians, we have to constantly repent every time we fall and go back to the path of righteousness, for no hint of unholiness can be in the presence of what is holy.
I think that’s what causes a lot of us to still feel far away from God sometimes, even if we know that He is never too far. Our sin, our lukewarm-ness, our hardness puts up a cloud over the face of this sinless, zealous, loving God. In spite of this, however, I do not think our awareness of our sin should lead us away from God, making us feel ashamed. Instead, as we allow God to expose our sin and bring everything to light, so there shall be light in us for we are no longer hiding in darkness. Our awareness of how sinful we are should all the more drive us to understand how much we need God in our lives.
For in His mercy, He extends His patience and delayed His wrath upon us to give all of us the chance to become holy. He opens His arms wide, harboring no condemnation, and takes us back each and every time, as long as we truly repent and turn from our sins. He allows us still to live, and each day is truly a gift for I can only imagine how much restraint God has to exercise, considering how much evil there is in this world. Because He cannot contradict Himself and He is just, He chose to send down His Son to die for the mortal beings that He created to receive the death sentence from our sins and fallibility. In His grace, He chose to open the gates of heaven to us. And still after, He extends to us favor and blessings and love and promises far beyond the mind can fathom.
I do not think I can ever understand why God would extend love to us, but I don’t need to. I just have to accept it, and I have to accept it in its fullness; I have to recognize Him in His fullness.
How can we have watered down the gospel? How can we have diminished its truth and beauty, and in turn diminished the magnitude of God? In the Old Testament, only the High Priest can go inside the deepest parts of the tabernacle and go behind the veil to speak to this holiest, magnificent God – and even then, just once a year.
Now, God may have torn the veil, but His accessibility does not change His holiness and glory.
“I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done…”
-Isaiah 46:9-10, emphasis mine
Who He is goes beyond love and mercy and grace. He is perfection, He is omnipresent, He is infinity. In Isaiah 40:25, God personally illustrates how He is incomparable. Read Job 38 through 41 and you will see God clearly that He is mightiest and there is none above Him. He is not a trend, He is not the head of a social group your friends are in, but He is GOD – the Creator of the galaxies and the Painter of the skies; the One who designed the human body; the only being not bound by time for He is the Beginning and the End.
Proverbs 9:10 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. If we can see Him clearly, we can view Him highly. It’s about time we actually recognize the depth of who God is, the magnitude of what Christ has done, and we should allow this magnificent truth to fill our hearts. Because this knowledge of God should do more than just save us, it should regenerate us.
If we keep our eyes set on Him and revel in how beautiful and holy He is, then how can we simply go day to day the way we still do? How can we still have the nerve to judge people when we ourselves should be judged? How can our hearts not be filled with joy knowing that every day is a gift that we do not deserve? How can we not fall to our knees and lay our lives down in abandon before the Cross, fully recognizing how unworthy we are of this precious gift?
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness; tremble before him, all the earth!
Don’t worry, I forget sometimes too. But we must make an effort to remember. I guess that’s why Paul kept repeating in his letters that he would always do his best to remind believers of the truth of the gospel and a changed life.
Being a Christian is far more than being part of a religion or having a title, it is understanding that this privilege should reflect in our lifestyle.
But 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