A word describing our culture today could be “casual.” We’ve traded our three-piece suits for skinny jeans (often with pre-made holes) and untucked shirts. We communicate substituting initials for words (lol). Businesses used to have “casual Friday,” now it’s casual every day.
Casual is in style. However, I’ve seen a growing problem in the modern Church. We’ve become casual with God. I’m not talking about our wardrobes, but becoming over “familiar” with the Almighty. Instead of bowing in awe at the majesty and glory of God, we “casually” sing our songs and tell God we love Him with no sense of mystery or wonder or even fear! God tells us that the fear of the Lord is wisdom and life. Fearing God is submitting to God in utter reverence of His awesomeness. “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy” (Rev. 15:4).
The contemporary problem of familiarity and casualness with God is that we don’t understand God’s holiness. And when we don’t grasp His holiness, we lose the sense of who God really is. Bible scholar AW Pink wrote, “only God is independently, infinitely, immutably holy.” God is absolutely pure, unstained or tarnished by even a shadow or hint of sin. "God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all!” (1 John 1:5)
God is “glorious in holiness” (Ex. 15:11). Stephen Charnock, renowned Presbyterian clergy and Bible scholar in the late 1600s wrote: "Power is God’s hand or arm, omniscience His eye, mercy His bowels, eternity His duration, but holiness is His beauty.” It’s God’s holiness, that renders Him lovely to us because we have been delivered from the grip of sin’s dominion and our response to the beauty of his holiness is that we bow down and worship Him, adore Him and give Him our lives. There’s nothing casual about it.
Knowing God and His holiness affects us in three ways.
First, knowing God and His Holiness profoundly deepens our love and thanks and appreciation of what Jesus did for us!
God is holy and despises all sin. And the biggest obstacle humanity has in knowing God is that we’re not holy! The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23, “We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” And because God is holy, He must punish sin.
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But good news! Jesus died for our sins, took our punishment, and now, because of His shed blood and our trust in His work on the cross we can stand before our holy God clothed in the righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ. God looks upon us and sees His perfect, sinless Son.
That should make Jesus even more precious to us and make us more willing to follow Him and love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.
Second, knowing God’s holiness brings the wonder, awe and reverential fear of God back into our worship! “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him” (Psalm 89:7) When was the last time you heard heartfelt prayers of repentance and contrition in a contemporary worship service? The Bible tells us to “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at His footstool; He is holy" (Psalm 99:5) In the light of God’s holiness, we are to worship “at His footstool,” the lowest posture of humility, prostrate and bowed before Him.
The more our hearts are captured in awe by God’s holiness, the more acceptable our approaches to God will be. And God’s holiness is beautiful! When God appointed singers in Israel to worship Him, He instructed in 2 Chronicles 20:21 “they should praise Him for the beauty of His holiness"
Third, knowing God’s holiness motivates us to pursue holiness in our own lives! We were created in God’s image and in Christ by the Holy Spirit, we are being transformed more and more into His likeness.
God’s command in 1 Peter 1:16 is simple yet so profound: “Be holy, for I am holy.” We aren’t commanded to be all-knowing like God, or all-powerful like God but to be holy like God! How do we honor God? Not by the expressions of our devotion and love, nor by our rituals of worship or service as important as they are. The way we truly honor our holy God is to be holy in our hearts and lives becoming more and more like Jesus from the inside out!
The Rev. William Thomas is pastor at Hereford United Methodist Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.