Charles Stanley - Knowing Holy God
What is it about God that causes people to shun Him, avoid Him, detour around Him, distance themselves from Him, become angry with Him, hostile toward Him, and even hate God? How could somebody feel these things when we say that God is a God of love and goodness and mercy and kindness toward us? Where do all these negative attitudes come from? Why do people feel that-a-way? Well, I think there's one attribute about God that people don't usually think about, they don't want to think about, they don't like thinking about it, and that is the holiness of God. And that's what I want to talk about in this message entitled, when we think in terms of our attitudes toward God and all the things that we could think, "The Wonderful Privilege of Knowing Holy God".
And I want you to turn, if you will, to Isaiah. And in the book of Isaiah, that's Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, those big prophets there, for some of you who may be a new Christian, don't know where that is in your Bible. And I want you to turn to this sixth chapter, and while you're turning, I want to give you a little background of what's happening. King Uzziah was one of the best kings that Judah ever had. Came to the throne at the age of sixteen, reigned for fifty-two years. Started out well, did a fantastic job, strengthened the city, built up their military, fortified their city, lots of expansion. Then he comes to the latter years of his life with all of his wealth and power, and he becomes very prideful.
One day he goes into the temple, and he begins to assume the rights that God had only limited to the High Priest and to the priests. And so, when they try to stop him, he gets into this big rage. And as he begins to shout and rage at them, leprosy breaks out on his head. And so he ends his life in a very sad way. And if you turn to Second Chronicles for a moment, turn to Second Chronicles and the twenty-sixth chapter, and listen to this terrible way this very successful man ended his life. The scripture says about him, "And King Uzziah was a leper to the day of his death; and he lived in a separate house, being a leper, for he was cut off from the house of the LORD".
It is with that in mind that this sixth chapter of Isaiah takes place because Isaiah the Prophet, now, has gone into the temple to express his remorse and his grief before God because of what's happened to King Uzziah, and the scripture says, beginning in verse one, "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. Seraphim," now, Seraphim were what the Bible calls flaming angels. The only time that they are mentioned in the Bible's in this particular book and this particular chapter, twice here.
The Bible says they, "Stood above Him," that is God, "each having six wings; with two they covered their face, two they covered their feet, and two they flew. One called out to the other and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.' And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of Him who called out, while the temple was filing with smoke. Then I said," Isaiah speaking, "'Woe is me, for I am ruined!'" that is, this is it, life's over, "'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.' Then one of these seraphim flew to me, with a burning coal in his hands which he had taken from the altar with tongs. And he touched my mouth with it and said, 'Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin is forgiven.' Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?' Then I said, 'Here am I. Send me!'"
Now, here is an experience of Isaiah the prophet in the temple worshipping, and he gets a glimpse of God. That does not mean that he saw God face to face, for no man ever did or could and live, but he got a glimpse of the glory of God. And his reaction to this glimpse of the glory and the holiness of God brought him to a place of absolute awareness of his sinfulness, his unworthiness, and fell upon himself confessing his sins and acknowledging that he was unworthy even to be in the presence of Almighty God. It is with that background that I want us to talk about this whole idea of the holiness of God. What is it that we're talking about when we talk about the holiness of God? What is the holiness of God? What's holiness in the first place? What's the holiness of God?
So, I want you to listen carefully. The holiness of God has two aspects. First of all, it deals with God's moral purity, which means that God is absolutely perfectly sinless. That there is no evil, no evil motives, no evil actions, nothing that God has ever done has been wrong. He does not think evil. He does not do evil. He hates everything that is evil. He despises everything that is sinful. He is against all sin, all evil, and every type. He does not hate the sinner, but He hates what the sinner does. He despises all types of sin because God knows the destructive power of sin in a person's life. And therefore, because God has called every single one of us unto Himself, and because God desires to make us His children, because He has the best plan possible for each one of our lives, because He has a will for our life, anything that interferes with, anything that hinders, anything that would bring about sin in our life and cause us to miss God's best in our life, God hates it.
God wants it out of our life. God does not in any way tolerate sin. He cannot because it is His nature from eternal past, even after eternal future, God is absolutely perfectly sinless and pure. And therefore, He cannot tolerate, look upon, nor acknowledge nor ignore sin. So that the forgiveness of sin is not God ignoring sin, the forgiveness of sin is God having dealt with sin and relating that to you and to me. And so therefore, when we talk about God being holy, He is morally pure. There is not anything in Him that is not absolutely pure to a degree to which you and I could possibly not understand. For example, in First John chapter one, he says that in Him, that is in God, there is no darkness at all.
Now, every single one of us came into the world with a sinful nature, a bent away from God. We did not just naturally become transformed and osmose into becoming a Christian. You don't grow into being a Christian, you, by an act of your faith in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, placing your trust in Him by the grace of God and an act of God, we are forgiven of our sins. We are justified, declared not guilty, and become the children of God, which the Bible calls saints. That is, every single person who has trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior has become a saint.
Now, that is not a saint in terms of the way maybe some other church may make saints out of particular people who have lived a certain kind of life. But God says, for example, when He addresses the believers in Ephesus or Corinth or Philippi, He says, "To the saints in Corinth, to the saints in Ephesus, to the saints in Philippi, the saints in Thessalonica," we become the saints of God. So therefore, when the Bible uses that terminology, I want us to understand that when it comes to God, He is absolutely, perfectly, morally pure. There is nothing about Him that is tainted in any way. So because you and I come into the world with a sinful nature, we can only perceive or conceive of holiness and purity to some degree. But God is absolutely, never has, never will, cannot because it is His very nature to be absolutely totally pure above and beyond all sin under any condition at any time, eternity past till eternity future, so that is the moral aspect of God's purity, and that is the moral aspect of God's holiness.
Now, but the holiness of God involves more than just His moral purity. It involves separateness. It involves separateness. That is, that God is separated from. He has separated Himself from all evil and all sin. And God, we say, is transcendent, which means that He is lifted above and beyond. He is above and beyond this earth. He is above and beyond all human beings. He is the sovereign of this universe. His holiness, His purity, His righteousness is so above and beyond anything that we can possibly conceive of, that He is separate from man because of His holiness. He cannot look upon it. He cannot tolerate it. He cannot ignore it. That because of His holiness, God is just, and must deal with disobedience and rebellion in any and every single form.
When we think of the idea of separateness, there are some words, for example, that we use like holy, saint, holiness, sanctify. They all come from the same word. For example, the word holy, hagios. The word holy thing, a holy place is a hagion. Or we talk about to be made holy, to be sanctified, hagiasmos. And so, these are words that all have the same root, and the reason I mention that is this, that to be sanctified is to be made holy, to be set apart. God has made us holy. None of us could make ourselves holy. And so, the awesome emphasis all through the scripture, and those Old Testament saints understood that and over and over and over again, God demanded the recognition of His holiness and His punishment of His own people. He would just wipe them out when they proved to be unholy.
When they began to worship other gods, it was the one thing. God says, "I'm a jealous God. I'm the one who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. I'm the one who has blessed you with this land. I'm the one who's provided your needs. You're to worship Me and Me only". God Almighty, Jehovah God is the only person who has ever existed and who's always existed. He is the only person, listen, who deserves our worship and our praise and our honor because He is the only one who is absolutely, perfectly pure and holy and separate above everything that exists on the face of this earth. Therefore, when people use God's name today in profanity, they do not recognize, listen, now watch this. Are you listening? Say amen. The law of God has not changed. God has not decided it's okay to use God in profanity now these thousands of years later.
Does He strike us dead? No, because we're living in an age of grace. Now, I'll explain that in a moment. But in those days, somebody profaned the name of God, the penalty was stone them to death. To use the name of Jehovah in a profane fashion, God has not changed His law when it comes to the fact that that is a sin God hates. And yet people use His name in vain as if they were talking about somebody else or some other thing. There are some things that are holy. Now, how do people react to the holiness of God? How do people who are unchristian, how do people who are non-Christians, how do people who do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, how do people who do not know God, when it comes to the holiness of God, how do most of them think? Well, they think, "Don't crowd me. Don't smother me. Don't give me this God. Don't give me this Jesus bit. Don't throw the Bible in my face. Don't cram religion down my throat".
You know what the problem is? They are very uncomfortable in the presence of the proclamation of the gospel or they're very uncomfortable in your testimony about what Jesus is doing in your life. They're very uncomfortable about even talking about Jesus. They're very uncomfortable when you mention His name. They're uncomfortable when you talk about going to church and what God is doing in your life. They're uncomfortable when you talk about what the Bible is teaching you. They're uncomfortable about how God has worked in your life, uncomfortable when you start talking about sin and uncomfortable when you start talking about how God has worked in your life in the past, very uncomfortable. Why? Because that's exactly what holiness does.
When a person is living in disobedience, holiness makes them very uncomfortable. That is, I call it "holy heat". They can't handle it. They can't handle it. You go to work tomorrow, the people you work around, oftentimes, you start talking about Jesus, what do they start doing? They start backing off. You know, now let's...what do they say? I don't discuss politics and religion, which is a lie. Because I guarantee you they discuss politics and they discuss religion when it's safe in their crowd when everybody agrees with them, get rid of that! So, it's all a big lie. But they're uncomfortable. You go to work tomorrow and you start talking about, "Well, let me tell you what the pastor preached on yesterday," which you're more than likely not going to do. He preached on the holiness of God... I mean, who wants to hear about that? But you don't even have to come on that strong. You don't have to come on that strongly at all.
When you get personal with someone about Jesus, if they're living in rebellion toward God, they get very uncomfortable, it's "holy heat". You see, because watch this now. Remember who you are. You are a child of a holy God. You're one whom God has forgiven their sin. You have been pardoned of your sin. You are now indwelt by the person of the Holy Spirit who is a person of the Trinity of the Godhead. God is living on the inside of you. You've been sanctified, set apart by God for God. Are you still a sinner? Yes! Do we still sin against God? Yes. Are we morally pure all the time? No. So, do we have our faults and our failures and our weaknesses? Yes, but God has chosen to express His message, His witness, His testimony, His character in and through those of us who are still growing, still learning, still moving ahead.
Sometimes we stumble, but He has chosen to use us to get the truth of Himself to those around us. And so, it's very discomforting to some people. Well, what about those who have become children of God? But who have chosen to live in rebellion toward God, who are out of the will of God, how do they respond? Same way. "Stop giving, don't cram the Bible down my throat. I know about church. Don't give me this bit about tithing. Well, I'll read the Bible when I get good and ready. I used to read it. I've been there, I've tried all that. Don't put pressure on me. I'll come to church when I get ready". You know what, they have the same attitude oftentimes as an unbeliever.
When you get out of the will of God, the one thing you don't want to discuss is the holiness of God. When you're living in sin, the last kind of message you want to hear is a message about the holiness of God. Whether you're a saint or whether you're a rebel against God, that's the last thing you want to hear, why? Because it is "holy heat". We, listen, there's something about being confronted with the truth that we're repulsed by that. When sin on the inside of us is in control, when we have yielded ourselves to sin, when a person has given themselves over to their sinful nature and have chosen to live a diabolical life, listen, they're going to attack that which is holy, ridicule that which is holy, fight against that which is holy. And listen, demean in any possible way that which is holy.
You know what, all the attacks in the world will not make us less holy than we are. We're children of God. Doesn't mean that we're perfect. We're saints who stumble, saints who are in the process of being, listen, not only have we been sanctified and made holy, we're in the process of God refining our holiness until the day He calls us home to be with Him. Now, how does one who desires to live in the will of God walk in the ways of God, be obedient to God? What kind of response do they have to the holiness of God? Awed by His holiness, overwhelmed by His holiness, overcome by His holiness. It makes us want to get down on our face before God and acknowledge that we are unworthy to call His name, unworthy to receive His grace. Unworthy, unworthy to name the name of Jehovah God and to call Him our God.
We want to praise Him and worship Him. We want to gather together. We want to adore Him. We want to give to Him. We want His message spread around the world. We want God to have His way in our life. We want holiness to rule and reign in our life. We want to walk in obedience to Him. We want to be the kind of saints that those who are in need of Christ will see something in us that they will want who He is in our life. People respond to God in all kinds of ways. I believe that my response to the holiness of God, the message of His holiness to my own heart, or if suddenly, I sense I'm in the presence of God in His awesome holiness, my response to that is the best barometer I know to where you and I are in our relationship to Almighty God.
Now, with that in mind, I want to answer a big question, big question. And here's the question: How is it that Holy God, morally absolutely perfectly pure, separated from man, transcendent from man because of His holiness and His righteousness and His purity, how can this Holy God have a relationship with us, have intimacy with us? How can we talk to Him and He be willing to talk back to us? How can we say that God is with us? How can we say that He walks with me and talks with me and calls me one of His own? How can we say that we have a personal relationship with Almighty God? How can we talk about worshipping Him and being in His presence when He speaks of separateness? How can all of this possibly take place when God is who He says He is?
Now, I want you to listen carefully. What bridges the gap between Holy God and sinful man? Now, my friend, it doesn't make any difference who you are, where you come from, what you believe, what your religious belief may be. This is absolutely not my opinion. The biblical, eternal, unavoidable, irresistible, unchangeable truth of the Living God. There is only one way that Holy God and sinful man can ever come together. And what is that? That is by the cross of Jesus Christ. That is the only thing that bridges the gap between sinful man and Holy God. How does it happen?
Here's the way it happens. The most horrible demonstration of justice ever demonstrated, ever expressed in humanity happened on a hill called Calvary. It happened, the crucifixion of Jesus, because here's exactly what happened. God, in His justice, demands penalty for disobedience. Every single living human being, past, present, future, has disobeyed Almighty God. And so therefore, every single human being is guilty before God. Let me add one parenthesis. I'm accepting those babies that born and die early in life before they can ever reach an age of knowing and understanding and being accountable to God. So we're talking about the average normal person now. Every single person under, listen, under the penalty of the guilt of disobedience to God because we came into this world with a bent away from Him and all of us have sinned against Him.
Now, God in His justice requires judgment on sin. That means that every single one of us, if we had died and there'd have been no cross, we would have been separated from God eternally under the wrath of God, which is His intense hatred for sin for all eternity. That's what, listen, that's what Hell is about. That is what eternal separation from God is about. Now, watch this. Sanctification, set apart for God. But dying without Christ, set apart from God. And so what did God do? In His love, in His goodness, in His mercy, listen, at the cross two things met. At the cross, here's the justice and the mercy of God. The justice and the mercy of God. Here, listen, here is the justice and the grace of God meeting at the cross. What is God doing? He's placing this awesome load of all the sin of all mankind upon the person of Jesus Christ and then unleashing, listen, His justice, unleashing His wrath upon His only begotten Son.
God, listen, Jesus Christ is the, listen, Jesus Christ is the only sinless person God ever punished. And Jesus Christ volunteered. He offered Himself as the Lamb of God to be slain for the sins of the world. And so, God the Father placed upon Him every sin of every single human being on the face of this earth. And what did He do? He unleashed His judgment. He unleashed His wrath. He could not look upon, listen, He could not look upon His only begotten Son with all of the sin, the wickedness and the vileness, listen, every single possible sin that man can commit and every single sin that man, listen, did commit, had committed, is committing, or will ever commit, listen, all the penalty for all of that was placed upon Him in one single act, and God judged Him, condemned Him, unleashed His judgment upon Him in one act.
And what was Jesus's response? My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me, distanced Yourself from Me, separated Yourself from Me? That's what judgment's about. That's what wrath's about. That's what condemnation's about. That's what's Hell is all about. God, listen, the Bible says that God created Hell for His angels, fallen angels, the devil and his angels, not for us. A person has to choose, a person has to choose to disobey and rebel against Almighty God. And so what did God do? Because His love for you and me was so great, He placed upon His Son everything that you and I deserve. The last thing you want is justice. You want grace. You want love, you want mercy.
And so Jesus Christ died as a substitute for your sins and mine. And now here's what God did. He said, "Now that My Son has paid your sin-debt in full and paid the full penalty. My Son has felt and experienced My judgment, My condemnation, My justice, and My wrath. I separated Myself from Him and let Him pay the penalty," in order that you and I would not have to. And now that He has paid that penalty, here's the offer. If you are willing to acknowledge your sinfulness and that you're unworthy, unfit, helpless and hopeless before Almighty, sovereign, Holy God, and you're willing to confess your sins before Almighty God and ask Him to forgive you, pardon you of your sin based on not your conduct, your promises of better behavior, but based on the fact that Christ died for your sin, paid your sin-debt in full, suffered His wrath, condemnation, and judgment in your place, and you're willing to accept Him as your personal Savior.
In that moment, the moment you say, "I'm asking You to forgive me of my sins and I'm trusting Jesus Christ as my Savior. I'm placing my faith in Him as my Savior," in that moment, God executes as the judge of life, He executes what? He executes His righteousness for you and me. He justifies us. As the judge of all humanity, in that moment, He declares you and me no longer guilty. How can He declare us no longer guilty and still be God? Because His Son is the substitute for your sins and mine and He had to be the virgin-born, sinless Son of God because everyone else would have had to die for their own sin.
In that moment, he justifies us. In the moment He justifies us, this is what He does, He declares us no longer guilty. We are pardoned of all of our sin. We're, listen, we're freed from the penalty of sin. We instantly become a child of God. Our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life. We are eternally and forever secure in the, listen, in the undying, unchangeable, unconditional, eternal love of Almighty Holy God. That's what the holiness of God's all about. And that's why there's a cross. It isn't something you just hang around your neck. It isn't something you put on a bracelet. It isn't something we put on a steeple. The cross is God's holy bridge from holiness to sinfulness and bringing us back to Him.
And Father, how grateful, how unworthy we are to call Your name, to speak Your truth, to proclaim Your holy Word. I pray the Holy Spirit will sink this message so deep, so strongly, let it penetrate every single heart that hears it. I pray that there will be multitudes of people, as they hear it now and around the world, who will acknowledge Your holiness, their sinfulness, their need of Christ. And in confession of Jesus as Savior, receive Him as the Lord and master of our life. For we ask it in His wonderful and holy name, amen.