Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reading the Classics Together – The Holiness of God

This week, we read chapter two of R.C. Sproul's, The Holiness of God. Sproul brings us to what could only be called the classic text on God's holiness, Isaiah 6.1-6.

I'm not sure that I can put into words the way this chapter has shaped my life, my teaching and my ministry. Politically, it has granted me perspective. In my old edition, published in 1985, on page 32, I find myself greatly comforted by the truth that I need never worry or grow anxious about the political climate in which I find myself, for the "Ultimate King" is on His throne. This King, who is thrice holy, rules over every single micron of His universe, including our president and congressman.

In approaching Isaiah's confrontation by the Holy God, Sproul reminds us of other requests to see God face to face (e.g., Moses in Exodus 33). When I think that he was only able to see the backside of God's glory, and Isaiah was undone in the presence of God's holiness, it makes me wonder if we sing about seeing God face to face all too flippantly. What if God chose to show up in a physical manifestation at that moment? Would be ready for it? Would we be able to bear up under it? Or would be swept away with our triteness and all too casual approach to a holy God?

As I read on of Isaiah's encounter with God, I forget just how much this teaching from R.C. Sproul has impacted the way I teach and preach. I've used this description of the thrice-holy God so many times, I've lost count. I've described Isaiah's "undoing" by the sheer presence of God's holiness that I almost think it's my teaching (this is a good reminder that it is not; very humbling, if I may say so). The reminder that even the inanimate objects in the Temple had the sense to tremble at their Creator's sheer awesome holiness is astounding to me. And would it not be amazing indeed, if all our modern psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists were to have this epiphany of holiness? Talk about a reformation in the self-esteem gospel!

Yet, even in the midst of all this, perhaps the most wonderful truth Sproul writes of occurs on page 46 of my edition: "The holy God is also a God of grace." Praise the Lord! He is also gracious, merciful and abounding in steadfast love. He redeems Isaiah. He cleanses him so he may be used as God's instrument for righteousness. Isaiah's self-esteem (if I can even speak in such a manner) became God-esteem (or Christ-esteem, using New Testament concepts). He wasn't wiped out. He wasn't destroyed. Isaiah became God's man.

There are more delightful things to come, but this is just about my favorite chapter in the entire book. I look forward to the discussion from all the other readers on Chapter Two.

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  1. Kevin,

    I enjoyed reading your words. I agree with what you say about "a reformation in the self-esteem gospel!" So true! I thought about that too. How can you approach a thrice-Holy God if you are not undone first? No wonder why they don't want to hear: who wants to be broken?

    Another Caffeinated Calvinist!

  2. Great thoughts you’ve chosen to share here, Kevin. Yes, this definitely grants us perspective. I need to be reminded of God’s holy, holy, holiness all the time. But like you said, if we were to see his full glory, would we be able to bear up under it? I think not. I’m glad he knows what we can handle. And yes, praise the Lord that “the Holy God is also a God of grace.”

    Looking forward to chapter 3 and hearing your thoughts on it.


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