March 8, 2013
By Skip Heitzig
There was a little boy who was always in trouble. One day when his mother had run out of patience, she asked him, “How do you expect to get into heaven?” He thought a minute, and then said, “Well, I’ll just run in and out, and keep slamming the door ‘til they say, ‘For goodness sake, come in or stay out!’ Then I’ll go in.”
We laugh at that, but it’s really no more unreasonable than the ideas some adults have for how to deal with God. The truth is, the Bible tells us: “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Hebrews 12:14 says to pursue holiness “without which no one will see the Lord.” And 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says, “This is the will of God, your sanctification,” a fancy word for being holy.
Holy means marked off, set aside, set apart. When we say, “God is holy,” we mean He is perfect; He is unique, unparalleled, unprecedented, exclusive.
I cringe when I hear people say things like, “When I see God, I have a few things I want to tell Him!” They have no idea what they’re saying. We have lost the reality of the transcendent holiness of God. He is not “The Man Upstairs.” He is not “The Big Guy.” Our God is a consuming fire. He dwells in unapproachable light. He is holy. That’s God.
It’s because of God’s holiness that He is a God of justice, and of judgment, and wrath and even vengeance at times. Holiness is His most noted characteristic. God is called holy in the Bible more than anything else—more than loving, or mighty, or merciful, or gracious. God is called “the holy One” 30 times in the book of Isaiah alone.
Yet today, holiness is probably the least-discussed attribute of God. In our “hyper-grace” environment we dwell on God’s love, kindness and grace, and underemphasize (or even ignore) His holiness. And yet, holiness is the core of His being: If you had to describe Him in one word, holiness would be that word.
In Great Doctrines of the Bible, theology professor William Evans calls holiness “the one attribute which God would have his people remember more than any other.” And before you say, “That’s Old Testament stuff,” remember that Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [or holy] be Your name.”
God’s holiness should deepen our conviction. In the presence of God, Isaiah said, “Woe is me, for I am undone!” One translation put this very forcefully: “I’m doomed!” He was profoundly convicted of his own unholiness, his utter spiritual bankruptcy. You don’t boast about your goodness in the presence of the perfect. Jesus called it being “poor in spirit.”
You find this kind of reaction all through the scripture. When he encountered God, Job said, “I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Peter told Jesus, “Depart from me, Lord, I am a sinful man.” When John saw the vision of Jesus Christ in Revelation, he said, “And I fell at His feet as dead.” And in Revelation 4 when the elders cast their crowns down before God’s throne, it’s as if to say, “In Your presence, no honor at all can come to me. All honor must go to You.” No one who rightly views God wants any honor at all.
Here’s the point: Show me a person filled with pride, and I will show you someone who’s never truly encountered God. If they had, their reaction would be more like that of Peter, or Job, or Isaiah.
Because of God’s holiness, there is only one way that we can dare approach Him, and that is by the blood of Jesus Christ! And we thank our holy God for that sacrifice!
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