God is Holy, 6 May 2018

God Is Holy
D6 Series—
None Like Him
Psalm 99:1-5

Series Overview: This topical series focuses on the attributes of God.

Big Idea: We are to be holy…because God is holy.

We will be spending several weeks this month talking about the attributes of God. There is None Like Him. Amen?

God is holy. Have you ever heard that before? What does it mean for God to be holy…and what difference does it make in our lives? That’s our focus this morning. If your small group is using D6, you’ll note we’re skipping ahead one week. Our scheduled message is on God’s love, a topic we have covered extensively in recent days, so we’re covering next week’s topic, the holiness of God.

What comes to mind when you hear the word “holy?”

Holy Bible
Holy Spirit
Holy Rollers
Holy Cow!
Holy, Holy, Holy
Holy of holies

Webster’s dictionary defines holy as

1: exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness 

2: divine • for the Lord our God is holy —Psalms 99:9 (King James Version)

3: devoted entirely to the deity or the work of the deity • a holy temple • holy prophets

4 a : having a divine quality • holy love
b : venerated as or as if sacred • holy scriptureholy relic

5 —used as an intensive • this is a holy mess
—often used in combination as a mild oath • holy smoke

Often, it’s difficult to merely look at an English dictionary to understand a biblical word. In our scripture reading passage, the word “holy” is qadosh, to be sacred, consecrated, dedicated, set apart.

The Holy Bible is sacred, set apart from all other works of literature.

God is holy, sacred, set apart. Jesus invites us to call the Father “Abba” or “Daddy” or “Papa,” but that doesn’t mean we are to ever be disrespectful or flippant. I’m afraid sometimes we treat God too casually. It’s been said that we take ourselves too seriously and we don’t take God seriously enough.

Our scripture reading from Psalm 99 says

The LORD reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.
The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy. (Psalms 99:1-5)

These are powerful depictions of God. He reigns. Let the nations tremble and the earth shake. He is exalted over all the nations. His name is great and awesome. He is mighty. Exalt the LORD. Worship Him. He is holy.

The book of Isaiah has an incredible scene we’ll briefly examine. In chapter six, the prophet Isaiah writes,

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. (Isaiah 6:1-2)

And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:3)

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:4)

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

That should be our reaction to the holiness of God—woe, awe, reverence.

A.W. Tozer, in his classic
Knowledge of the Holy, said,

“God is not now any holier than He ever was. And He never was holier than now. He did not get His holiness from anyone nor from anywhere. He is Himself the Holiness. He is the All-Holy, the Holy One; He is holiness itself, beyond the power of thought to grasp or of word to express, beyond the power of all praise.

Language cannot express the holy, so God resorts to association and suggestion. He cannot say it outright because He would have to use words for which we know no meaning. He would have to translate it down to our unholiness. If He were to tell us how white He is, we would understand it in terms of only dingy gray.

It was a common thing in olden days, when God was the center of Human worship, to kneel at an altar and shake, tremble, weep and perspire in an agony of conviction.

He continues…

We come into the presence of God with tainted souls. We come with our own concept of morality, having learned it from books, from newspapers and from school. We come to God dirty; our whitest white is dirty, our churches are dirty and our thoughts are dirty and we do nothing about it!

If we came to God dirty, but trembling and shocked and awestruck in His presence, if we knelt at His feet and cried with Isaiah, I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5), then I could understand. But we skip into His awful presence. We’re forgetting holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).

Then Tozer prays…

O God, soon every person must appear before you to give an account for the deeds done in the body. Father, keep upon us a sense of holiness so that we can’t sin and excuse it, but that repentance will be as deep as our lives. This we ask in Christ’s name. Amen.” 

Oh, that we would get a glimpse of the holiness of God—and be transformed as a result.

Echoing the Isaiah text is a famous passage in the book of Revelation.

Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying:

“ ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:8)

What an image! Day and night the holiness of God is declared. It seems like the only appropriate response is for us to pause, meditate on God’s holiness, and declare it with the angels.

“Holy, Holy, Holy”
“Holy is the LORD”

So What?

I suppose we could go home now with the knowledge of God’s holiness in our heads, but I think God wants more. Sure, He wants our worship and adoration. He wants our respect and praise. But He also wants our hearts. He wants us. He wants our obedience. He wants us to be holy. God told Moses in the wilderness,

“Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy. (Leviticus 19:2)

Scot McKnight, in his new book
Open to the Spirit, writes,

Holiness is first and foremost devotion to God.

We could translate the word holy as “devout” and we would be accurate. So we see that separation from the world is the impact or result, not the source, of holiness. Devotion to God doesn’t mean isolation or withdrawal, as one finds among some sects. Rather, holiness means that in this world one listens and dances to the music of the Holy Spirit instead of the music of the world.

I love that! We are to be holy, not holier than thou! We are to be in the world—loving and serving our neighbors—but not of the world.

McKnight suggests three dimensions to growing into holiness:

1. Practicing spiritual disciplines or practices. These help us turn our eyes off of ourselves and focus on God. Spiritual disciplines include prayer, Bible reading, fasting, meditation and contemplation on God, and silence. In a world where we typically seek pleasure and comfort, the disciplines are often sacrificial activities not done to earn God’s favor, but rather to acknowledge it.

2. Discipline ourselves to practice acts of goodness, holiness, justice, love, compassion, and beauty. This includes being mindful of what we consume—food, entertainment, social media, the news—and engaging in healthy friendships and activities.

3. Remembering we do not make ourselves holy. We grow into holiness through the grace of the Holy Spirit in us, repenting of our sins and being filled with the Holy Spirit.

As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

Sound familiar? Holiness is primarily about being devoted to God. Not just for an hour on Sunday, but daily…always. And it means following Jesus in the world, not escaping from it. In the next chapter, Peter writes…

Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (1 Peter 2:12)

To be holy means to be separate, to cut, or to separate. God is a cut above the rest, and He invites us to be the other, to be outstanding, to be morally pure, and to be devoted to Him. Every act of loving God, others, self, or creation is holiness. To quote Scot McKnight, holiness is “love done well.”

To be holy is to be devoted, and this morning we close with a song of devotion, of surrender, of awe and reverence, of worship to the holy One who gave it all for us.

Credits: some ideas from D6

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Be Holy! 13 September 2015

    Be Holy!
    Series: What In The World Is Going On? A Study of 1 Peter
    1 Peter 1:13-21

    Series Overview:
    God’s grace is present in the midst of suffering.

    Big Idea: When suffering, we need not only need empathy but also holy action.


    Last week we began our series on 1 Peter, “What In The World Is Going On?” We live in crazy times!

    • We can kill babies and sell their parts but go crazy if a lion is shot
    • It’s ok smoke weed but not cigarettes.
    • Bush might run against Clinton for president!
    • Women now have wives and men can have a husband.
    • We are to be tolerant of everything yet offended by everything.

    I’ve heard Christians in the USA talk about suffering and persecution. Perhaps you’ve lost friends over your faith, have been skipped over for a job promotion for following Jesus, or been teased because you love Christ. While I don’t mean to minimize those things, it’s nothing compared to the imprisonment, torture, and even death faced by our brothers and sisters around the world. In recent days, the media has shed light on the horrific actions of ISIS and other groups who have promoted violence, prompted refugees to flee their homelands, and murdered our spiritual siblings.

    The theme of this book may well be called hope and grace in the midst of suffering. While we all experience trials, Peter—one of Jesus’ three best friends—is writing to scattered peoples fleeing for their freedoms and, in many cases, their very lives. In the first twelve verses of this epistle—or short letter—these exiles are addressed with reminders of their salvation, the temporary nature of their suffering, and hope both now and forever. This section focuses on holy living.

    1 Peter 1:13…

    Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.

    What is therefore there for? These exiles are suffering and have been given encouragement and hope.

    When you’re suffering, encouragement and hope are wonderful, but something else is needed to prevent despair: action. There are times we are to be still, quiet, reflect, and meditate, but when life gets hard, we can focus inward on our problems and miss out on God’s blessings. Most everything in life begins with our minds, our thoughts.

    I’d be the first to say positive thinking can be overrated, but not always. Paul famously wrote

    Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)

    Our actions begin with our mind. Garbage in, garbage out. Purity in, purity out.

    The temptation in suffering is to turn inward and suffer your own suffering, troubling your own trouble. Peter gives them a vision of something greater than the present. God is still on the throne.

    Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. (1 Peter 1:13)

    With minds that are alert and fully sober…what an interesting phrase. It means to prepare your minds for action, literally “gird up the loins of your mind.”

    Some have suggested we translate this passage “taking off the coat” or “rolling up the sleeves” of your mind. Take off your warm-up suit so your mind can move freely.

    Peter is saying maintain a loose grip on this world and a tight grip on what lies ahead. This world is temporary.

    Life is short. Eat dessert first!

    Then he says to make sure your minds are fully sober. This is a metaphor. He’s saying be self-controlled. Drunks cannot control themselves or their bodies. What’s the point of this gird of loins and self-control? Hope! With focused, ready minds “set your hope.”

    Hope is a challenging word because it means so many different things. I can hope to play baseball for the Detroit Tigers or I can hope you like this sermon or I can hope my wife will love me tomorrow. Like faith, the issue isn’t so much with me, but with the object of my hope. Playing for the Tigers is wishful thinking. It’s not going to happen no matter how much I think about it, pray about it, or hope for it. The love of my wife, however, is secure. Although I haven’t experienced tomorrow yet, I am confident in the love my wife has for me and I look forward to being with her tomorrow.

    Peter is saying our hope is in Jesus and His return. We can be sure Jesus is alive and coming back. It has not yet happened. We are waiting, but it is going to happen! There may be pain and trials now but Christ will return and justice will be served.

    1 Peter 1:14…

    As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

    Although our culture likes to talk about how things are not black and white but gray, the Bible is filled with contrasts: hot or cold, good or evil, heaven or hell. Every day we can choose to follow the world or God. We can reflect society’s consumerism and individualism or we can reflect God and His character, His nature, His holiness.

    There’s a lot of opinions in our world about right and wrong…or if there is any such thing. As I remembered
    9/11 on Friday I recalled the article I read shortly after the disaster in 2001 that asked why the terrorists were wrong. They did what they believed in, what they thought was right. Who are we to judge?!

    This has been the dilemma of our court system. Who is right? What is ok? Abortion? Marijuana? Gay marriage? Adultery? Sharing a Netflix account with a friend? Pornography? Human cloning?

    Ethics originate from within ourselves (conscience, reasons, nature) or from outside ourselves (the Constitution, revelation, codes of ethics). Scot McKnight writes

    Christian orthodoxy teaches that ethics flows from salvation and that humans, by themselves, cannot discern the will of God—for personal salvation, for personal ethics, or for the social order. We know God’s will because in his grace he has made his will known to us through his revelation, the Bible being the primary mode of this revelation. The same construction applies to our knowledge of ethics: We know what is good from what is bad because God has told us in his Word, beginning with the Mosaic legislation and climaxing in the teachings of Jesus and the apostolic testimony.

    Our text for today is quite explicit in this, distinguishing between evil desires of the world and holiness, reflecting God. Holy means “set apart” or “different.” It’s not necessarily saying perfection—though God is perfect and we are not—but different, unique, special. We are to be holy because we have been changed and because we are children of a holy God. Kids are like their parents (sorry kids!). Obedient children follow Daddy. We were children of the devil, the world, following its ways. Now we are to be obedient children of God, walking in holiness, imitating Jesus.

    We are
    called to be holy. As Jesus called Peter to follow Him, so also He is calling us to be holy and follow His example.

    Notice, too, Peter says, “It is written.” The Word of God is powerful. Do you know it? Do you read it? Do you live it? An hour on Sunday isn’t going to make up for the 167 hours you’re in the world, absorbing its messages of selfishness and pride. As Warren Wiersbe says,

    The Word reveals

    God’s mind, so we should learn it.
    God’s heart, so we should love it.
    God’s will, so we should live it.

    Author John Eldridge wrote, “Our journey to holiness is the process whereby we receive more and more of the holiness of Jesus Christ into more and more of our being…In fact, the assumption of the New Testament is that you cannot become whole without becoming holy; nor can you become holy without becoming whole. The two go hand in hand.”

    In order to make humans what they are meant to be the love of God seeks to make us whole and holy. We are not holy because of what we do for God, we are made holy because of what God has done for us.

    Are you an obedient child of God?

    When I reflect upon God’s holiness and my sin I realize I am desperate for Him.
    When I recognize God’s power and my weakness I realize I am desperate for HIm.
    This is why worship is so important.

    When I am desperate for God, I spend time with Him.
    When I spend time with Him, I know Him.
    When I know Him, I love Him.
    When I love Him, I obey Him.

    Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. (1 Peter 1:17)

    This fear does not mean anxiety or scary, but rather awe. Dad is watching us now, and one day He will judge each of us. We can have awe or desire the approval of the world as citizens or we can be in awe of and seek the Father as foreigners; visitors.

    For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

    We have been redeemed, purchased with a price. Jesus died, shedding His blood for us. Our redemption makes us grateful for not only forgiveness but adoption into our new family and a desire to live in holiness and awe before God.

    Our Father is the standard. He is holy. He shows us through Jesus what it means to truly be human, to live as we were created to live, full of faith, hope and love. He shows us the benefits of salvation, an eternal hope that cannot be taken away.

    So What?

    Is your faith and hope in God…or in the stock market?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your friends?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your job?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your social media popularity?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your stuff…the house, the cars, the vacations?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in our president, governor, or political party?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your gifts, talents and abilities?
    Is your faith and hope in God…or in your education and diplomas?

    Is your faith and hope in the present…or in the future?

    Peter encourages us to be aware of the future—God’s righteous judgment of our lives and also the hope of the joy of final salvation. The best is yet to come.

    Some ideas from

    Be Hopeful (1 Peter): How to Make the Best of Times Out of Your Worst of Times (The BE Series Commentary) by Warren Wiersbe

    Thru The Bible audio messages by J. Vernon McGee

    1 Peter (The NIV Application Commentary) by Scot McKnight

    You can listen to this message and others at the Scio podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.