Sunday, January 14, 2007

The God Who Hears - Chapter 2 - Holy: How Can I Approach Him?

God's moral purity, his holiness and righteousness, is symbolized in Scripture as light. But understanding holiness is difficult, and life-changing.

We commonly misunderstand holiness as the merely the absence of moral darkness (sin). While it is correct that the biblical concept of holiness means "to be separate," Christians misunderstand holiness as a purely negative notion. This has caused many to consider being holy as a long list of "don'ts" "no's" and other negative things. This kind of "holiness" is repulsive, and so we don't.

But it is so easy for Christians to be unholy. Why?
  1. We are too willing to accept an overly negative definition of holiness. (Hunter goes on to say that holiness is also making wrong right, but he conflates God's holiness with his mercy and love.)
  2. We have gotten used to being holier than non-Christans, but do not actually attain to being holy.
  3. We have, in general, lost our holy terror of God. Confidence in prayer has become flippancy, boldness in approaching God has become arrogance.
Speaking of fearing God... without a right fear of God, there is no Christianity. Ultimate fear is reserved for the object of ultimate reverence, rightly belonging to the Creator. Fear of God would be reverence, respect, and regard for God. Too often, we do not understand God's holiness, and we replace his power and authority with our selves, or some material thing.

God is holy. He cannot respond positively to unholiness in his creatures. Sin is the failure to live in accordance to God's holiness. For Christians, failure to do the good we know can also be sinful (cf Romans 3:12). Somehow, Christians tend to forget, or at least behave like they forget, that we still struggle daily with sin in our own lives.

Why do we find it easy to live with personal and corporate sin?
  1. We, again, do not really understand God's holiness.
  2. We fail to see how destructive sin is and how imminet judgment is, because someone else died to atone for our sin.
  3. We misunderstand repentance and contrition, essential to confession and cleaning, and do not mourn over sin.
  4. We take for granted God's daily cleansing of our sin; it has become trite and mechanical. The blood of Jesus no longer grieves or amazes us.
How do we raise our consciousness of God's holiness? We should spend more time in the Old Testment (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Psalms) passages which emphasize his holiness. Some Psalms to try: Psalm 26:2, Psalm 139:23-24, Psalm 51:1-12. Holiness is not merely "not being unholy." Effective prayer begins with confession.

In conclusion, we must pursue holiness by increasing our awareness of God's holiness, resulting in a desire to repent and confess our sins, and with God's help hunger after righteousness, faith, love and peace.

  1. Can you think of illustrations that either prove or disprove the author's idea that Christians tend to think of holiness as primarily negative?
  2. How do you explain that Jesus was holy yet had friendships with drunks, gluttons and prostitutes?
  3. Why is it hard to repent of a sin?

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