Sunday, March 1, 2015

God's Holiness and Ours

1 Corinthians 6:9–11 (NKJV)
9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 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 and by the Spirit of our God.

Paul reminds us that the One who claims to love God and does not keep God’s commandments is a liar. Though the world would claim that such an idea is harsh and judgmental, the Scriptures make it quite plain: the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Why is this? The Bible grounds its answer in the holiness of God: the one who serves the Holy God must himself be holy. Why? Well what does it mean that God is holy?

The word “holy” conveys the idea of “separate, distinct, or different.” Theologians note that God’s holiness is both metaphysical (referring to God’s being) and ethical (referring to His character). First, God is holy metaphysically – He is the Creator and everything else is created. He is holy – fundamentally different from His creation. There are two basic realities: God and non-God. God, in other words, is transcendent: He is not part of the created order but distinct from it. As Paul says, “Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath and all things.”

Not only is God holy metaphysically, He is also holy ethically. God’s ethical holiness is His love for all that is good, righteous, just, and pure – it is His love of that which reflects His own character. As a result of our rebellion against God and our attempt to defy the metaphysical holiness of God, to breach the distance between Creator and creature, to become “like God” – as a result of this rebellion, we became morally corrupt / unholy. Hence, not only do we stand before God as creature before our Creator, we also stand before Him as sinner before our Judge.

And it is this twofold reality of God’s “otherness” as our Creator and His “righteousness” as our Judge explains why we must be holy ourselves. God’s eyes are too pure to look upon evil. He cannot just wink at sin and overlook our rebellion.

Consequently, when the prophet Isaiah saw God lofty and exalted and heard the angels crying aloud to one another, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty! The whole earth is full of His glory!” – when Isaiah beheld this holy God, all He could do was cry out, “Woe is me! For I am undone! For I am a man of unclean lips and I dwell among a people of unclean lips and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Glory!” God’s holiness leaves us feeling not only small but also unclean for He is Holy – He is our Creator and our Judge.

So have you reckoned with this God? Have you considered that you live your life ever before His eyes? That He created you and has given you life, breath, and all things? That He evaluates you and speaks to you regularly in the world, in your conscience, and in His Word? And what’s more, have you reckoned that you know you have not done all He would have you do? That you have unclean lips and that you dwell among a people of unclean lips?

For if we reckon with God’s holiness, with our Creator and our Judge, then our only possible response will be to bow before Him and to seek His mercy and forgiveness. And the good news is that God has provided a way in which He can remain holy and yet restore unclean sinners to fellowship with Himself. How so? By sending His Son to live a holy life on our behalf and then to endure the punishment which our sin deserved; so for all those who seek God’s mercy and forgiveness through Jesus, He promises to forgive us, to receive us into His presence, and to give us His Spirit that we might become holy. But for those who reject Jesus there is no forgiveness but only a fearful expectation of judgment. So this morning as we enter into the worship of the Holy God, let us seek His forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ – and let us kneel as we do so.