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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
February 27, 2005
Our Holy God
It has been on my mind for quite some time to speak on the nature and
attributes of God. I was able to get a start on that back in January by giving a
very general overview. I want to pick up from that this morning and expand on
God’s holiness. This is the first and foremost of God’s moral attributes for it
is an aspect of all the rest of God’s communicable attributes as well as of His
characteristics and actions. He is holy in His righteousness, love, goodness,
longsuffering, mercy, grace and truth. He is also holy in His compassion,
jealousy, anger and wrath as well as His judgement, forgiveness and
condemnation. If we are to know and understand God, then we must understand what
it means that He is holy. We also need to understand God’s holiness because He
has commanded His people to be holy (Lev. 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16). We cannot do
that if we do not clearly understand what it means that He is holy.
GOD IS OTHER
The starting point for understanding God’s holiness is coming to grip with
the fact that God is something completely other from us. I pointed this out last
God’s existence is in Himself (John 5:26), and He is independent of Creation
having no need for anything (Acts 17:24, 25). But man and everything else have
their existence in God and are absolutely dependent on Him (Romans 11:35,36).
God is a spirit Who is infinite with reference to space, for heaven and the
highest heaven cannot contain Him, and His divine essence is every where present
at the same time (2 Chron. 6:18 – cf. Ps. 139:7-12). Man is a finite & limited
God is infinite with reference to time. He has no beginning, for He was
already present at the beginning (Genesis 1:1). God has no end for He lives
forever (Isaiah 57:15). He is from everlasting to everlasting (Psalm 90:2). Man
is born at a point in time and space and will exist only into eternity future.
God is omnipotent and sovereign meaning He is all powerful and the supreme
One. He can do anything that is in harmony with His other attributes, and
nothing can thwart God from carrying out His will and judgements. Man often
wants to think of himself as autonomous to do what He wants, but he cannot
escape God. And even the most powerful thing man can accomplish does not even
match the force of one hurricane much less something like the Sun.
God is also immutable. He does not change. But the great hope of all people
is that they will change. We expect children to grow physically. Middle age
adults would often like to shrink a little around the middle. We all want to
become more knowledgeable and wise. That is why we school our children and
continue to educate ourselves in wide variety of subjects ourselves long after
the school years are over. Our hope for the future is that somehow we will
change from mortal to immortal beings, from being bent toward evil, to only
These are all characteristics of God that make Him completely other than us.
But God also has characteristics which He desires man to have as a reflection of
MAN; MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD
Genesis 1:26 tells us that God made man in His image (Gen. 1:26). We reflect
God’s image in having the ability to think (reason), feel (emotion) and make
decisions (volition). However, this image is a limited reflection, and ever
since man’s fall into sin (Gen. 3), even that limited image is seriously marred.
Even the most intelligent human has a limited ability to think because every
one of us was born with our understanding darkened and our minds blinded by sin
(Eph. 4:18; 2 Cor. 4:4). And even after salvation, though we can now do better
because our bondage to sin is broken, we still struggle because our minds have
to be renewed (Rom. 12:2), which comes through the work of studying God’s word
and yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit. Yet, even with a renewed mind and
maximum human intelligence, we cannot really compare ourselves to God for His
ways and thoughts are much higher than our own (Isa. 55:9).
Our ability to feel is also perverted by sin, so much so that we often
experience emotions that are based on falsehoods. Sin has also affected our
ability to properly use our emotions, so that too often we make decisions based
on how we feel instead of what is true and best.
The combination of corrupted reason and emotions would corrupt man’s volition
by themselves. When you add in the innate selfishness of man because of his sin
nature, then it is easy to understand why so many of our decisions are contrary
to truth, morality and God’s law. In comparison, God is all knowing and His
emotions are always based in truth, and His decisions, which are also based in
His other attributes of righteousness and justice, are always correct.
There are other attributes of God that man reflects to some limited extent,
though also marred by sin. God is righteous, true, just, impartial, and jealous
which gives rise to His wrath and vengeance against those who sin against Him.
God is also gracious, merciful, longsuffering, patient, good, kind, and loving
which gives rise to the offer of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ Who was
the sacrificial substitute for man’s sin. In all of this one attribute attaches
itself to all others – holy, and God has command us to become holy.
GOD IS HOLY
God declares Himself to be holy (Lev. 19:2; 20:26) as the holy one (Isa. 43)
whose very name is holy (Ezek. 36 & 39). In both Isaiah and John’s visions of
God on His throne in heaven they both see the Seraphim calling out "Holy,
Holy, Holy is the Lord…".
What does it mean that God is holy? The root idea in the word "holy" is to
"be set apart," "to be separated unto." God is holy because all his perfections
set Him apart from His created works. His perfection in righteousness sets him
apart from all sin and sinners. His perfection in knowledge and wisdom separates
Him from all angels. In other words, God is, by His very nature of perfection,
something different from everything He has created. He is set apart from
everything else as something above and beyond. A being who exists on a higher
plane. A being without any flaws and lacking nothing.
God’s command to us is that we are to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 3:18).
Things are made holy when they are set apart for God. We are holy only to the
degree that we are set apart to God and His service. We become more holy as we
are being conformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We are to be sanctified in
mind, body and soul and we will be as we yield ourselves to obey God’s word and
the leading of the Holy Spirit. But there is a foundational reason we do not
pursue this holiness. We believe Satan’s lies instead of the truth of God’s
LIES AGAINST GOD’S HOLINESS & RIGHTEOUSNESS
One of the reasons Satan can be so successful in getting us to believe his
lies is that we tend to project on God our own characteristics. We are inclined
to think of God in human terms. We view Him as a reflection of us rather than us
as dim reflections of Him. That began in the Garden of Eden when Satan deceived
Eve into eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She
thought it would make her like God, but it did not. It only corroded the image
of God that had been there.
Again, we must face the reality that God is not like us even in those areas
where we do reflect something of His characteristics. When we think of God’s
holiness and righteousness, we dare not think of those characteristics in
relative terms as we do for ourselves. We compare ourselves with others to gain
a relative sense of holiness or righteousness. We see someone else’s weakness or
failure and think of ourselves to be better than they. Or we will magnify some
small thing we do to try to make ourselves equal to someone else. But God is
completely, totally, absolutely, utterly, positively holy and righteous. Any
true comparison of ourselves with Him should leave us on our knees confessing
our wretched sinfulness. But it is the rare individual that will do that.
Instead, we believe Satan’s lies and project on God human qualities that make
Him seem more like us.
God Is to Be Treated as Holy.
One of Satan’s lies is to magnify God’s patience and grace so that we think
God is not very concerned about how we approach Him. This results in an improper
familiarity, a nonchalance, even a cavalier approach to God. Nadab & Abihu, the
oldest two sons of Aaron, believed this lie and Leviticus 10 records the result.
"Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took their respective firepans, and
after putting fire in them, placed incense on it and offered strange fire before
the Lord, which He had not commanded them. 2 And fire came out from the presence
of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. 3 Then Moses said
to Aaron, "It is what the Lord spoke, saying, ‘By those who come near Me I will
be treated as holy, And before all the people I will be honored.’"
God had given specific directions on how He was to be approached for worship
even detailing the specific mix of spices that would make up the incense that
was to be burned and that it would be "holy to you for the Lord" (Exod.
30:34-37). He had also warned that no strange incense was to be offered on the
altar (Exod. 30:9). But Nadab and Abihu payed no attention to these commands. In
fact, the restrictions placed upon the priests in Lev. 10:8,9 indicate that they
may have even been drunk when they went before the Lord with their incense pans.
They had not set themselves apart unto God. They were not careful in preparing
themselves to come before the Holy One of Israel. Their casual approach resulted
in direct disobedience to the Lord’s commands and that in turn resulted in their
deaths. The Lord is patient and longsuffering, but there are times when God’s
hand will not be restrained and there is judgement for such insolence. Nadab and
Abihu did not treat the Lord as Holy. They did not give God the honor that was
due Him. They paid for their unholy and disrespectful actions with their lives.
Do you treat God as holy?
2 Samuel 6 records a similar incidence. David wanted to move the Ark of God
to Jerusalem. This was a good thing, but there was not enough care given to the
proper manner of moving the Ark of the Covenant. God had commanded that only the
Levites were to carry it on the poles specifically made for that purpose (Deut.
10:8; Exod. 25:28). David had not arranged for the Levites to carry out this
task. He was in a hurry. The Ark of the Covenant had made it to its current
location on a Philistine cart, so he made a new cart pulled by oxen to bring it
to Jerusalem. The consequences were tragic.
2 Sam.6:4 So they brought it with the ark of God from the house of
Abinadab, which was on the hill; and Ahio was walking ahead of the ark. 5
Meanwhile, David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord
with all kinds of [instruments made of] fir wood, and with lyres, harps,
tambourines, castanets and cymbals. But when they came to the threshing floor of
Nacon, Uzzah reached out toward the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen
nearly upset [it.] 7 And the anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah , and God
struck him down there for his irreverence; and he died there by the ark of God."
There certainly no indication that Uzzah had wanted to do anything but keep
the Ark of the Covenant from being bounced around so much and possibly be
damaged. The intention appears to be a good one. This was an action that any of
us might have taken if we were in the same situation. Yet, God struck him dead
on the spot. Why? It seems cruel and unfair until you read in verse 7 that it
was actually an action of irreverence. The ark had been put in danger because of
they had not planned to move it properly. The Ark had been at Kiriath-jearim at
the home of Abinadab for 20 years (1 Sam. 7:1,2). There was no need for a sudden
rush to move it. In addition, there is no indication that Uzzah was a Levite. He
may not have been qualified to have anything to do with the moving of the ark,
much less to touch it. In doing so, he violated God’s commands regarding the
care of the Ark of the Covenant, which was holy.
Our tendency is to think that Uzzah’s death was unfair, but the truth is that
the Lord showed great mercy to all in that only Uzzah died. All of them,
including David and all those involved in the celebrating that was going on
before the Ark, should have died for their irreverence. No wonder David was
afraid of the Lord that day (vs. 9) and that when he returned three months later
to move the ark to Jerusalem, he did it correctly (vs. 13f).
Both of these are dramatic stories, but the point it clear. When you believe
the devil’s lies and do not treat God as holy, there can be big trouble. The
Lord is to be honored and glorified with careful attention is to be given to
obeying His commandments. We must do things the way He says they are to be done,
and not whatever seems good to us at the moment.
Non-Christians, and even some Christians, routinely profane God’s name by
using it as a cuss word or using it as an exclamation. Both of these are taking
His name in vain. That cannot be done without believing the devil’s lies that
either God is not holy or that He cannot or will not do anything about the
irreverence. But God is holy and He can and will do something about those who
blaspheme Him in word or deed, but His judgement will be done in His timing
which in His longsuffering He may put off until their death, but then again He
may not wait. He will chasten true Christians (Heb. 12), and unbelievers
continue to increase the condemnation against themselves.
God Is Not Our "Buddy"
Most Christians will assent to the theological truth that God is holy, but in
practical terms it seems to have little effect on how they approach Him. This
has been especially true here in America the last several decades. Too many are
casual in their relationship with God and treat Him as a "buddy" instead of
reverencing Him as the Creator. As believers we do have an intimate relationship
with God and can call Him, "Abba, father" – "daddy" (Rom. 8:15),
but there is reverence in this. He is not "the old man upstairs" or the
"great whatever in the sky." We can count Jesus as our closest friend
(John 15:14,15), but that does not allow us to toss aside the decorum and
respect due Him.
Consider the detail God gave in Exodus & Leviticus alone on the manner in
which the Israelites were to approach Him to worship. The people made careful
preparation before they would come near God. Their celebrations of worship were
done in the beauty of holiness (Ps. 29:2; 96:9). When the glory of God filled
the Tabernacle in Exodus 40 and later the Temple in 1 Kings 8:10, the people and
priests were forced away by the glory of His majesty. This was the glory of His
holiness. They could only look on in awe. They had a proper fear of God that
even caused them to shy away from God’s presence because it was too much for
them to handle (Deut. 5:5).
Consider also the true majesty of the holiness of God and the glory that
radiates from Him. Isaiah 6 recounts the prophets vision of the Lord God in His
glory. In the year of King Uzziah’s death, I saw the Lord sitting on a
throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. 2
Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings; with two he covered his face,
and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called out to
another and said,
"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His
glory." 4 And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who
called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. 5 Then I said, "Woe is me,
for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people
of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
Isaiah’s response was one of utter humility as someone filled with the knowledge
of his own guilt before such an awesome and holy being.
John’s vision in Revelation 4 is similar. We read this passage earlier as our
call to worship. The scene is one of majesty and glory. The Lord is sitting on
His throne from which proceed flashes of lighting and peals of thunder. There is
the crystal sea before the throne and the rainbow around the throne. Before the
throne are the 24 elders and these four strange and marvelous creatures that are
crying out continually, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God, the Almighty, who
was and who is and who is to come." The 24 elders also fall down before the
Lord and are casting their crowns before Him in worship crying out, Worthy
art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou
didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were
The amazing thing is that God, this perfect holy being, desires to have a
relationship with us sinful creatures. His very holiness would prevent that
unless He did something to take away our sin and make us holy. He did that
through Jesus Christ who gave Himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. He
cleansed the true Christian from his sins through Jesus, and we can now come
directly into the presence of God the Father at His throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).
Do you really think this is to be done in a casual manner? Too many churches
are promoting their celebrations of worship as a party to attend so that you
will leave feeling good, and the people come with that attitude. We have had
many people come through our doors that have ended up going to other churches.
Frankly, that is fine with me because the Body of Christ is much larger than
this one local church, and we have about 300,000 people to reach in this county
alone. We need other healthy churches here to reach these people for the kingdom
of God. What disturbs me is when I find out that the reason some of them to go
elsewhere is because they are looking for a worship service that is more fun and
entertaining. It grieves me that so many these days give lip service to God, but
not true worship. They cannot endure sound doctrine so they seek out those who
will tickle their ears. The greater tragedy is that this is a common concern by
pastors I meet from everywhere across our nation.
True worship is done in the beauty of holiness and should have you leaving
with a sense of awe of God. Who He is and what He has done. Think about it for a
minute. How do you prepare yourself to approach worship of God – both private
and corporate? Is it mindful of the holiness of God? Do you prepare yourself to
come into the presence of our holy God? Is your purpose to give honor and glory
to Him, like the 24 elders, or is it to make yourself feel good?
This shows up in our prayer life too. Because we can come before God at
anytime with anything on our hearts we also tend to take Him for granted and
forget why we are praying. We can easily begin to think that God is there as a
servant waiting to fulfill our desires. One reason our prayer lives can descend
into a wish list is because we forget who we are praying to. We forget that He
is holy and we come with a nonchalant attitude. We treat God more like a clerk
at the store than the majestic creator of the universe whom we are entreating
with our supplications. We are creatures He has created to be His servants. We
are to seek to fulfill His will, not try to get Him to do our will.
Satan’s lies against God’s holiness are aimed to keep us from becoming
serious about our own sin and walking in holiness. If I do not understand God’s
holiness, then His call for me to be holy will not be understood. I will define
holiness in my own life according to what I think instead of what is actually
Redefining Personal Holiness.
Another of Satan’s lies is redefining personal holiness. I am sure you have
run into a lot of people, like I have, who believe they are good enough to be
accepted by God just as they are. They catalog sins according to their own list
of what is really bad and what can be over looked. They then think that God’s
list is the same as their own, and will therefore will excuse them for what they
consider to be inconsequential sins or will accept their good works as payment
against their sins.
For example, the Roman Catholic Church classifies sins and lists them as
being either venal sins which can be forgiven or mortal sins which cannot. What
does Scripture say? In 1 Cor. 6:9-10 Paul gives a list of sins saying, "Or do
you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not
be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate,
nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor [the] covetous, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God." According to
Catholicism, this list contains both mortal and venal sins, yet in vs. 11 we
find that what they say are "mortal sins" are forgiven on the same basis as the
venal sins. And such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were
sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in
the Spirit of our God."
We also find in the Bible that the venal sins are just as deadly as mortal
ones for it only takes one sin to be guilty. James 2:10 states, "For whoever
keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one [point,] he has become guilty of
all." And everyone is guilty of sin – "for all have sinned" (Rom.
3:23). No man loves God with all his heart, soul and mind as God commands. No
man loves his neighbor as himself as God commands. So it really does not matter
how you divide your list. Sin is sin and the wages of all sin is death (Rom.
6:23). Man’s lists do not match God’s lists, and it is God that defines sin and
its consequences. It is God that defines true holiness. Do not fall for Satan’s
or man’s redefinitions of sin, righteousness, good or evil.
BEING SERIOUS ABOUT PERSONAL HOLINESS
When the non-Christian, whether religious or not, falls for one of Satan’s
lies, he does so at the cost of his soul. God is holy and no man will see the
Lord without holiness (Heb. 12:14). Man is sinful and therefore not holy and
thus separated from the Holy God by that sin. Your efforts to be good, no matter
how admirable that may be, are not enough to make you righteous before our holy
God. Apart from Jesus Christ there is no means by which a man can be made
righteous before God. And if a person has come to Jesus Christ for salvation
from sin, then they are a new creature who is being conformed into the image of
Jesus Christ. They will be increasing in practical holiness in daily life. We
call that process sanctification.
The professing Christian must take sin seriously. You were saved that you
would be holy (Eph. 1:4), and your daily fellowship with God, and hence your
ability to live the Christian life, is dependent on your seeking to be
sanctified. If you do not live in holiness then you grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph
4:29). If you hide your sins in your heart then the Lord will not hear – pay
attention to – your prayers (Ps 66). If you continue in sin then the Lord’s
loving, but chastening hand will be upon you (Heb. 12). You will be like David
in Psalm 32 where he describes his condition before confessing his sins. 3
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away Through my groaning all day
long. 4 For day and night Thy hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was drained
away as with the fever heat of summer."
Don’t fall for Satan’s lies against God’s holiness and righteousness. Don’t
be self-deceived. Every Christian is commanded to be holy for God Himself is
holy (1 Peter 1:18). 1 John 3:7-10 is directly to the point that personal
holiness is to mark the believer. Little children, let no one deceive you;
the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 8 the
one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the
beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the
works of the devil. 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed
abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 10 By this the
children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not
practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.
May these truths mark your life and demonstrate that you are the child of a
holy God and one of His true worshipers.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you
hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch.
Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times
the word "holy" is used. 2) Discuss with your parents the holiness of God and
how your family can be holy.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How is God different from you? List out as many things as you can. What does
it mean to be "holy?" Describe what it means that God is holy. What are some of
the ways that Satan gets us to believe his lies about God’s holiness and
righteousness? What was the sin of Nadab & Abihu? What was the sin of Uzzah? Was
God fair to Uzzah? How important is it for you to treat God as holy? What
consequences are there if you do not? What is your attitude in your approach to
God? Why does God give so much detail about the tabernacle and the various
sacrifices in Exodus and Leviticus? Describe the majesty of God’s holiness. Why
should a holy God pay any attention to you? Why do you come to church? What do
you hope to accomplish? What should happen to you in true worship of God?
Describe your approach to God in prayer. What is the danger of making your own
catalog and rating of various sins? Have you done this? What is the standard for
holiness? What did God have to do to redeem you from your unholiness? Why does
the Christian need to be so serious about personal holiness? Are you? What does
1 John 3:7-10 say about the Christian’s holiness? How do you measure up?
Sermon Notes – 2/27/2005 A.M.
Our Holy God – Selected Scriptures
GOD IS OTHER
God’s marred image in man
God’s Holiness: God is holy because all his perfections set Him apart
from His created works
LIES AGAINST GOD’S HOLINESS
One of the reasons Satan can be so successful in getting us to believe his
lies is that we tend to project on God our own characteristics.
God is to be Treated as Holy
The Lord is to be honored, glorified and attention is to be paid to
the commandments He gives.
God is not Our "Buddy"
"Abba" (Rom. 8:15)
"Our closest friend" (John 15:14,15)
Redefining Personal Holiness
TAKING SIN SERIOUSY