daily Broadcast

The Holiness Of God, Part 1

From the series The Real God

God is holy, and He wants us to be holy, but how do we do that? What’s it really look like to be holy? Do we have to give up everything that's fun? Do we have to be serious 24/7 and keep a perfect, holy checklist? Join Chip for the surprising answer.

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Message Transcript

And I would like to take you back to Exodus 19, and imagine if you literally were filming and watching and think, I am always, I guess something about me is always drawn to when God does something the first time. It seems to me that it’s very instructive.

After four hundred years, people don’t have a clue of who God is. How does He introduce Himself? What does He want them to know about Him first?

Exodus 19 opens up and it says, “After two months,” so they have been in the wilderness for sixty days and God says to Moses, “I want to introduce Myself to My people that I have redeemed. These will be My people.”

And it’s that picture and if you can just imagine panning with your camera and seeing two million people, maybe you are up high so you have a great view. And two million people and this boundary. And then seeing this smoke billow and then fire and then it’s hard to keep a good picture because the ground is shaking, because there is an earthquake. And you watch people fall on their face before God and this thundering voice. I guess I would ask you, if you were doing a documentary, and someone said, “This God has just introduced Himself to His people. What is He like?” I’m guessing it would not be something like, “Oh, He’s the Man upstairs. He’s my Homeboy.”

We have embraced an evangelical Christianity in our desire to move away from dead ritual, in our desire to know that Jesus is our friend and God, though being transcendent is eminent. We have lost much in our tradition and I would say, even in our music, a sense of the holiness of God, the purity of God, the righteousness of God.

And when you see that He is holy, here’s what you get. You’re not. You’re not at all.

Your righteousness is like filthy rags and so is mine. Your motives, your thoughts, your best days, the word holy: set apart, distinct, different, separate. The word literally means a cut above. He is in a category. The word holy is He is other. There is not a category for Him. And when you come into the presence of a holy God, you are undone. And I don’t see many Christians or many churches very often undone in the presence of God.

I think some of the older traditions actually helped us grasp God’s holiness. Unfortunately, He became a distant, cold God who we would reach Him through significant rituals, which was never the intent.

But what you find out in Church history is the pendulum swings this way, then it swings this way. Here’s what I want to tell you: It needs to swing back this way. We need to know that Jesus is my friend and that He loves me and He accepts me just as I am and He is tenderhearted and quick of sympathy.

But the morality of the average Christian in the evangelical church would scream, “I don’t believe He is holy. I think I can do what I want, when I want, and God basically will give me a pass,” because in the name of love, which now has upped, no matter what Scripture says, “Oh, God is loving. So this kind of relationship must be okay. God is loving so this kind of morality is okay. God is loving so I get a pass on everything because a loving God just wants me to be happy.”

You know all the statistics. I am not going to go through all the areas of morality in America today that the average Christian and the average unbeliever look exactly the same.

And He said we are a kingdom of priests. He said, “Be separate.” He said, “Come out of the darkness.” Not weird separate. It doesn’t mean you dress funny. It doesn’t mean that you have just habits that make you look weird. It doesn’t mean that you are not involved in the culture. But separate from the inside out, that we are actually holy in, I remember praying, in thought, word, and deed against Thy Divine Majesty.

It was just memorized as I sat and knelt and stood as an altar boy. Unfortunately, the people who taught me to say that didn’t know the Lord personally, and I grew up in a very traditional church that didn’t teach the Bible and our priest, on a good Samaritan trip, went to Alaska to preach the social gospel and bring electricity to the Eskimos.

But some missionaries got there before he did and those Eskimos knew the Lord. And those Eskimos led our priest to Christ. Our priest came back and a movement of God inside our particular denomination that was contrary to a lot of the form was birthed and people were coming to know the Lord. I had gone off to college, had trusted Christ, and I came back.

And what I would dream one day is that we might grasp the greatness and the holiness of God in some of the richest traditions, but not lose the intimacy of what it means to have Jesus as our friend.

You’ll notice on the front of your notes, Tozer would write, “We know nothing like the divine holiness. It stands apart unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.” There’s a lot of “uns” in there.

“The natural man is blind to it. He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness He cannot even imagine.” The first time we see this concept of holiness is right after the Red Sea is parted and there’s a song that Moses sings and this song, we will learn later, is sung currently in heaven and notice the song is, “Who among the gods is like you, O Yahweh? Who is like You?” Answer, “No one. Majestic in,” – what’s the first word? “holiness.”

The word majestic is the idea of exponential multiplying in holiness. Awesome in glory, working wonders.

My best personal definition of holiness is it is both His majesty and moral purity. It’s the absolute absence of evil. It encompasses what is pure, holy, righteous. The English root word for holiness has the idea of wholeness or soundness. It encompasses the idea of health.

And so to be holy isn’t just candles and a black robe and singing special songs with a very low voice with low lights. It’s about the wholeness or the purity of the universe that brings life and brings health because as God is, He wants us to become.

And so not, obviously, in His essence, but in our character, that we would be holy like He is holy. How has God revealed His holiness?

In English, when we want to talk about degrees, we say someone is good and then we say, “Oh, well someone else is better,” and then we say, “Someone else is best.” Good, better, best.

In Hebrew, the way you talk about things is you repeat it. So in Hebrew, only one time God is called something: holy, holy, holy. You see it in Isaiah 6, you see it in Revelation 4, you see it in Revelation 5.

The outstanding character of God is His otherness, His complete purity, His unapproachable light. He is holy, holy, holy.

When angelic beings that have never sinned are in His presence, they cover their eyes, they cover their feet, and they fly and they perpetually say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come.”

And so I just want you to get this majestic picture and then I am going to just highlight how it shows up in Scripture. And I have given you the passages for your study.

First, through supernatural encounters. Moses meets God, John meets God, Daniel meets God, Isaiah meets God. And here’s all I want to say. Whenever you see someone meet God in Scripture, they are undone. Bam! They are on their face. They are undone.

And so the question I have to ask myself and you is: When was the last time you were in the presence of God and just you were undone of the distance between what you know He is like and how you begin to see yourself?

Second, He reveals His holiness through places. What you need to know is wherever God is, it instantly becomes holy. It can be a bush; it’s holy. It can be just a tent and you call it a tabernacle and His presence comes; it’s holy. It can be a temple that people build; it’s holy. Wherever God’s presence is, it becomes holy.

The third way He reveals His holiness is through the law.

The first four commands are all about the distinctiveness, the holiness of God. Have no other gods because there aren’t any. And then, “No graven images.” Don’t reduce Me, don’t make a picture of Me, don’t have an idol. Don’t, in any way, try and reduce Me in some form. My name is Holy because it’s My character. Don’t misuse My name. Don’t make vows in My name.

The Sabbath, There’s this gift I have given to man that supernaturally, when I got done, I stopped to pause and for twenty-four hours I want you to know I am giving you a gift so that you will be separate, you will be distinct, you will be different. You will accomplish in six days what takes other people seven. And you will rest and pause so that you will know the last six days were My hand upon you and you will pause to remember: This is God. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.

And then the next six commands, on the second tablet, are about health and holiness in relationships. In other words, the path of holiness, Isaiah would talk about the highway of holiness. There’s a path of holiness that you walk on, but the result is health and wholeness for you and for relationships.

So if you want healthy, whole relationships, honor your mom and dad, don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, and don’t covet. Those are the parameters around holy relationships with one another for the health of God’s universe and His people.

The prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah – I just put a few down. A prophet’s job was pretty simple. “Stop worshipping idols.” Name your prophet. Here’s the message: “Stop worshipping idols.” Because we all do.

But God is holy, He is distinct. And so the prophet’s job was simple: to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. They were always intervening, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait. You don’t understand. God is available. It’s your sin, it’s what has happened, it’s where you are. He wants to help.” That’s what the prophets kept saying. And to the people who acted like they didn’t need Him, they had some pretty harsh stuff.

Through wrath and judgment. This may sound odd, but the holiness of God demands that just like a great surgeon would see cancer that needs to be operated on, I am telling you, these doctors, they are heartless. They really are.

My wife had cancer. That guy didn’t feel bad. He took a little sharp knife: Zip! She’s got a huge scar. Pulled out that, pulled out a bunch of lymph glands. He didn’t feel bad about it at all. Why? Because it was killing her. God, when He sees that which is killing you, killing a nation, destroying what He has made, He brings His righteous wrath and judgment.

Acts chapter 5. Think about it, the very first sin in the Church was what? Remember?  It was hiding money. But the heart of it was hypocrisy. It was their money. They didn’t have to do anything with it. But remember? The goal was Barnabas had given a generous gift from the heart and a lot of people were going, “Isn’t Barnabas wonderful?” And I think Ananias and Sapphira said, “We want our cake and eat it too. We want people to think this about us, but we don’t want to be that generous. And so what we are going to do is we are going to make up a story that we sold it for x amount and we gave it all. And the fact of the matter is, we put the other in a CD over here,” relatively speaking.

Now think of this. It’s the very first sin recorded in the New Testament. “Why did Satan cause you to lie to the Holy Spirit? Satan has filled your heart.” What were the consequences? They died!

You think that sent a message through the early Church? Or I’m thinking about becoming a Christian. You want to be coming into that group? I don’t know! I’ll tell you what, authenticity was a pretty high value in the early Church. You don’t have to have it together but you had better not fake it.

See, but, what would you see? It’s just God declares His holiness. See, we are living in a day where we actually think that the commands of God are like an optional vending machine or salad bar. Ten Commandments? I’m good with one, two, four, seven, and nine. Could I get that to go? Really.

It’s like we have got a whole generation in evangelical churches with one of those little knives that, well, this one about sexual purity. That’s pretty Victorian. On this one about greed, no, we are not…

And so once it happens, where enough people, we look at one another and since we are all sort of “fudging,” and people that we respect, Well, I really respect so-and-so and he or they do this or they do that or…

And then pretty soon it’s like a little cancer and disease. And then the culture of God’s people, we are no longer distinct. And what I can tell you is part of what God will do is He will bring that velvet vise. 1 Corinthians 11 – this isn’t new. Some in the early Church, the wealthy would come and they would eat and they would marginalize the poor and they were disgracing the Lord’s table.

And 1 Corinthians 11 says, “For this reason, some of you are sick,” judgment, “and some of you are asleep,” it’s a technical term in the New Testament for a believer who has died. I’ll tell you what, if you were in a church where some people died because of their greed and lack of concern for other believers with the Lord’s Supper, I’ll tell you what, my behavior would change.

So where is that God today? I don’t think He has changed. I would suggest that we, as Christians, often blame the media, education, some political party. When the salt gets unsalty and when the light gets dim, the culture just follows.

But the shift in the culture is not going to happen externally. It’s going to happen like it always has: inside out. It will be normal people like us that live holy lives and then we all have little networks of relationships. And some of you have really big ones. And you’ll just get bold.

And by the way, pretty soon it’s not going to matter. So you might as well be bold now. They are going to whack you. You’re going to become more and more unpopular. And, by the way, what we know historically, it’s probably good. When they got rid of all the missionaries in China and they were persecuted, they went from a few million to a hundred, hundred and twenty million today.

In Greece, Germany we have some very important relationships there – what is happening among the refugees because of ISIS, I am telling you, tens of thousands of people are coming to Christ.

Christians who are persecuted, this is historically always true, God will purify His Church and He is probably going to do that to some degree and maybe to a big degree in America. So we need to get our chin strap on and realize this is the spiritual NFL and we want to gain yards and people who want to gain yards realize when you come through and even if it’s a good, little hole, bam! You get hit by a linebacker. Well, you don’t go, “Oh, what happened?” We have got to quit thinking that somehow that we are living in a culture that is positive toward our faith and our belief and now we are going to have to learn to love people and be kind to people and respond to people because good is more powerful than evil as we lay out our convictions and live out a life that is radically different than probably ever before.

Because the America that you live in now is not the America that was fifty, sixty years ago, that was very sympathetic, that shared the values. You are now intolerant, narrow bigots because you believe Jesus is the answer and that there is absolute truth and there is absolute truth about life and about eternity and about morality.

Now, the danger is championing that in a way where you are hard-headed, legalistic, self-righteous saying that we are better than other people. We have done that before; that didn’t work. We need to do it the way Jesus did. We need to live this amazing life before our world that is pure and righteous and take a strong stand and then have people who think that we are the enemies be absolutely astounded. Why are we driving them to the doctor? Why are we loving people who outwardly hate us? Why do we give good instead of evil? Because that is what turns the life around. And that’s how holiness brings health.

His Son, obviously, the Lord Jesus, a holy birth; His pure, sinless life. We get the sneak preview of His holiness where the Transfiguration. His unholy death. You understand that all, this is a great theological truth: 2 Corinthians 5:21 is that when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He said, “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken Me?” Do you understand what was happening?

For the first time in all eternity, God the Father turned away from God the Son and there was a break in the fellowship in the singular God, but in the person of the Father and the person of the Son, because in that moment of time, your sin and my sin and the sin of all people of all time was placed on Christ and He became our sin offering. And He became sin on our behalf.

He carried the weight of it all. And then the just wrath of God, the just anger of God for all sin of all people was placed on Christ and He atoned, He covered it.

I have often longed for an illustration to try and get my arms around holiness because doesn’t it feel like it’s this, it’s here and then it’s here and it’s here but how do you get your arms around it?

The best picture, I was a young pastor in Texas. And I lived in the Dallas area and if you know between Dallas and Oklahoma, it’s tornado alley. So we had tornados all the time.

And we had, I remember hail would come down, sometimes golf balls, sometimes like a baseball. It was, all my cars had little dents all over them or big dents. And we had just a very simple, little twelve hundred square foot house and three small, little bedrooms. And no basement, which is not good when tornados come.

And so they, on the radio, they would tell you, “If you have that kind of house…” but we had a bathroom in the center of the house and I would get my wife and I only had three kids. Three kids that I would put them in the bathroom and then you get a mattress and then when all this starts happening, and then you take the mattress and everyone gets in the bathtub and you put the mattress over you and you pray like crazy that, one, it doesn’t hit your house and, two, if it does, that the house goes and you don’t.

And it sounds funny now but it was terrifying then. But something that would happen is the winds would start but just before they would start, the [makes siren noise], you have these sirens, tornado warning.

And then you would go out and I put my family in the bathroom but I wanted to see what was going on. And there would be like the sky would turn this really funky color of pink. And then this weird grey and there would be this stillness. And it would be, like, eerie, terrifying, but really kind of beautiful.

And then the winds would come and it would go, whooooo. And so I remember you would see trees, the ones that around, they were just completely bent over. And then often the hail would come down. So I would be in the bathroom like this. But it was so beautiful. There was something that would draw you because it was so amazing and so powerful and so terrifying and so beautiful at the same time.

And so, “I need to check and see if it’s safe yet.” No. And I would go out there. And I would just see the trees and hail coming down. And it’s just like this. And that’s my best picture of the holiness of God.

There is something so beautiful, so powerful. It’s like you know about the hurricane, in the very center of the hurricane there is this absolute stillness and quiet. And there is something about the holiness of God that just, it scares you to death, there is such power and, yet, there is beauty.

And I think it’s that’s what the men and women of old, when they got a snapshot of God. And it changed them.

In fact, it’s through the people of God. I would like you to open your Bibles and I want to walk through a familiar passage but I want you to see the pattern. I am sure most of you are familiar with Isaiah chapter 6. But Isaiah chapter 6 is the pattern of what happens to a man or a woman who gets a glimpse of the holiness of God.

As I read it, I want you to begin thinking about three views. One, an upward view. Two is an inward view. And three is an outward view. And in the context, I want to suggest that this is a deep, deep crisis in Israel and if you’re a prophet in Israel and the world is falling apart, and the political situation is unstable, does this sound familiar? And you’re not sure what the future is going to be like, does this sound familiar?

And everyone is fearful and you have a moral responsibility as a spokesman for God to know what’s going on, you go meet with God in the midst of a crisis and I am going to suggest that your personal crisis or the one that one of your kids has, might be the doorway where God leads you to get a glimpse of His holiness.