Lord willing sometime in 2019 I will be publishing my 2nd book—entitled Before the Throne: Reflections on God’s Holiness (see synopsis). Today, I share an excerpt from chapter 9 of the book. First and foremost I hope this post helps you deepen your understanding of the holiness of God. I also hope it helps get you excited about the book. You can pray for the publishing process! It’s less fun (to me) than the writing process…
Finding Our Place
Have you ever walked into a room and realized you’re underdressed? You thought “casual” meant shorts and flip-flops when in reality it meant slacks and a button up shirt. It can feel pretty awkward as all eyes turn to you and you just want to hide under a rock. When you’re out of place, all you want is to get back to the place or environment that makes you comfortable again—and the sooner, the better!
Isaiah [in Isaiah 6] was out of place. He exclaimed, “My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5). As his world turned upside down around him, Isaiah began to understand that the God he thought He knew was vastly greater than he originally imagined. Caught in the holy gaze of the living God, there was nowhere left for Isaiah to hide. He couldn’t pretend to be someone he wasn’t. He couldn’t fake it. Isaiah had crossed the line from the creaturely realm into the presence of the God of unapproachable holiness. Yet, it was grace that brought him there. He was out of place not merely because of the location he was in but because of the person he was.
As God turned Isaiah’s world upside down, suddenly Isaiah realized that it was actually turning right side up. The God of unapproachable holiness made a way to be approached. When it comes to the holy gaze of God, there is no rock to hide under, but there is a Rock to hide in. The coal from the altar (Isaiah 6:6) typified the blood of Jesus that would be shed for Isaiah’s sins almost 800 years later.
We try to keep God at arm’s length while we go about our lives casually calling upon Him when it’s convenient. In reality, because of His unapproachable holiness, He should keep us at arm’s length, casting us to the very pit of the hell we all deserve. But He doesn’t do this. Instead, He secured the way for us to approach Him through the blood of His Son, (Ephesians 1:7).
He invites us to seek Him daily through Christ. By faith, He touches our hearts with coal from the altar, the sacrifice of Jesus, cleansing us from all sin. This reality doesn’t cause us to be flippant or casual in our approach to God. It causes us to live in awe.
Comprehending the unapproachable holiness of God means living in constant awareness of the depth of Christ’s work for us as well as admitting our continued need of grace. We do not say “everyone’s a sinner” to comfort ourselves in our disobedience. Rather, we now pursue God on His terms of grace.
This grace does not do away with our need for personal holiness. Instead, it reminds us that our standing before God is secure in Christ and empowers us to walk in newness of life. Thus, true grace compels us to interact with God as though He is who He really is: the God of unapproachable holiness.
God is Light
God is light, (1 John 1:5). This means that God cannot have any fellowship with darkness and that any exposure to the holiness of God will always result in the uncovering of sin in our lives. This is exactly what happened to Isaiah in Isaiah 6. Yet, this is grace. Suppose you went to the doctor and he didn’t reveal the news that you had cancer because he thought it would upset you. But without this crucial information, you can never be healed.
Similarly, even though God’s holiness exposes us for the vile and wretched sinners we really are, it is actually the only true healing balm for our dirty souls. Without His light, we would not recognize our filth and would never desire to be cleansed.
We don’t merely observe God as though He is some out of touch celebrity. We are invited to walk with Him because of what He has done for us in Jesus. The only man worthy of approaching holy God is Christ, (Revelation 5:5).
Here is an amazing exhibition of the deity, purity, and power of Christ. The God of unapproachable holiness can and must be approached through Jesus alone. The unapproachable holiness of God simultaneously pushes us out of place and draws us into the position we need to take through the God-Man, Jesus Christ. And His unapproachable holiness reminds us that walking with Him haphazardly means we have a lesser view of Him than what He has shown us in His Word.
The holiness of God burns hotter than the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Daniel 3:22-25). It shields His own and consumes the rest (Hebrews 12:29). Believers are called to live in light of this awesome reality. You were not made for casual Christianity. Anything that prevents you from growing in your knowledge of God is not worth it. Let it go. Walk in the light of the God of unapproachable holiness.