The Holiness of God

Steve Viars June 3, 2007 Isaiah 6:

 

- this morning we’re beginning a brand new series that will carry us through most of the summer...

- perhaps this would be a good opportunity to step back and evaluate our overall theme this year which is Reaching New Heights...

- we understand, I think, that this is a crucial year in the history of our church...

- by human standards, we are taking on a lot...

- and that has been done carefully, and prayerfully...as a result of a planning process that has literally taken years...

- but the fact remains...we’ve concluded that the Lord would be pleased by us continuing to be faithful and growing in all the existing ministries of the church...

- and also to open a community center for those who live around us...

- and construct and begin a faith based residential treatment center for at-risk girls...

- and begin a church based seminary for people preparing for Christian ministry...

- we also believe that if we are going to ask the Lord to allow us to serve Him in ways like that, then we have to be committed to Reaching New Heights on all fronts...

- all of that requires what will be for many of us, a new level of walking with the Lord and serving Him...and with that comes a sense of excitement and fulfillment mixed in with a healthy amount of vulnerability and exposure...

- this is anything but the safe, easy, predictable, comfortable route...

- it’s like, do you want to climb up the mountain or just walk around it?...we decided God would be most pleased if we tried to go up...

- my question for you at this point in the study is...are you reaching new heights?...are you at a better place?...in specific and demonstrable ways?...

- like what?...well, here’s what we’ve especially emphasized thus far...

- Reaching New Heights in our Faithfulness to Pray

- Reaching New Heights in our Commitment to Scripture

- Reaching New Heights in our Love for the Savior

- Building Strong Families and Relationships

- as you think back over those messages and emphases, would you be able to point to specific ways in which you have Reached New Heights?...

- now, this summer we would like to turn our attention to...

Reaching New Heights in Our Knowledge of God.

- in its most technical sense, this is a study of theology proper...the doctrine of God...

- biblical truths are organized under the heading of systematic theology...studying and compiling all the Scripture says on particular topics...

- and some of those classifications include...

- Anthropology – the doctrine of man

- Hamartiology – the doctrine of sin

- Soteriology – the doctrine of salvation...and so on...

- this summer we’re talking about Theology Proper – the doctrine of God Himself.

- now, you might say, how does that fit into where we are as a church?...

- the answer is, one of our concerns is that this place could pretty easily turn into an exercise in busy-ness or activity as ends in themselves...as opposed to purposeful ministries with the desired end of knowing God in a fully, richer, more intimate way and helping others know Him as well...

- we echo what the apostle Paul said to the Philippians when he wrote of his desire - Philippians 3:10 - that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings...

- we agree with the heavenly Father when He said - Jeremiah 9:23-24 - Thus says the Lord, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me...

- that’s what motivates our activity and empowers our service...

 - Romans 11:36 - For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

- Charles Haddon Spurgeon was discussing this with his church family in London and he said...Oh, there is, in contemplating Christ, a balm for every wound; in musing on the Father, there is a quietus for every grief; and in the influence of the Holy Ghost, there is a balsam for every sore. Would you lose your sorrows? Would you drown your cares? Then go, plunge yourself in the Godhead's deepest sea; be lost in his immensity; and you shall come forth as from a couch of rest, refreshed and invigorated. I know nothing which can so comfort the soul; so calm the swelling billows of grief and sorrow; so speak peace to the winds of trial, as a devout musing upon the subject of the Godhead.

- now, let me just say to all us of us, especially those who might be newer to studying Scripture...I understand some might say...Oh boy, a summer of devout musings on the godhead...

- I can assure you of this...these topics are immensely practical...

- not because we somehow have to make it practical, but because they are intrinsically practical...

- and followers of Christ sometimes fall into one of two ditches...

1. on the one hand are those who seem to be satisfied with learning more facts about God without allowing those truths to impact them on a day to day basis in their relationships and situations they face all the time...

2. on the other hand are those who truly want to grow in practical ways but who don’t take the time to gain the knowledge base necessary to sustain or undergird that effort...

- the first person is like the individual who stays at the table and never gets up and works and uses that energy for meaningful labor...

- the second is like the person who stays in the field and tries to work without ever coming to table to find the sustenance he needs to energize his efforts...

- so, Reaching New Heights in Our Knowledge of God...

- and we believe the logical place to begin that study is by thinking about The Holiness of God...

- with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 6 [page 491 of the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- now, while you’re turning there, let me also explain that we are going to be sharing this series this summer with a number of our pastoral staff members...

- and I’m doing that on purpose...I think you know that I like to preach, so I’m certainly not looking to get out of something...so I think there is some benefit from having several of our pastors participate in speaking on Sunday mornings from time to time...

1. One of those reasons is, the Lord has given us an unusually strong pastoral staff and I believe the congregation is best served by hearing from as many of them as possible.

- that brings us to the vote we’ll be having tonight about two of our men who have been serving as pastoral interns, Trey Garner and Titus Curtis...

- we believe having interns who might eventually become members of our staff is good for a variety of reasons...but at some point our constitution states that pastors have to be elected by the congregation...

- we are also in the process of changing some of the pastor’s titles in preparation for having interns as part of our seminary program...

- so if you’re trying to figure out how all of this would shake out if the votes are positive tonight, here’s the answer...

Brent Aucoin – Pastor of Seminary and College Ministries

Titus Curtis – Pastor of Worship Ministries

Mark Dutton – Executive Pastor

Trey Garner – Pastor of Children’s Ministries

Doug Gray – Pastor of Counseling and Outreach Ministries

Rob Green – Pastor of Counseling and Seminary Ministries

Steve Viars – Senior Pastor

Andy Woodall – Pastor of Youth Ministries

Dustin Folden – Pastoral Intern

Brad Franklin – Pastoral Intern

Joshua Knipp – Pastoral Intern

Alexandre Mendes – Pastoral Intern

Aaron Prelock – Pastoral Intern

David Sommers – Pastoral Intern

- you can decide what you think of my part in all of this, but speaking of these other fellows, I believe we should say that the Lord has blessed us with an unusually strong pastoral staff...and we should be very thankful for that...

2. Another reason we’re doing this this summer is because I’ve tried to surround myself with as strong a team of people as possible...so that we could be as interchangeable as possible...

- that’s why we dropped the assistant this and assistant that...

- an organization this size needs a whole team of strong leaders so there isn’t a concern about...well, what would we do if that person this...or that...the stable’s full...and that should give us a level of confidence as we move forward together...

- now, of course we could add to this all the great men and women who serve on the staff and as committed laypersons---that would include literally hundreds and hundreds of persons whose contributions here are remarkable...right now I’m simply trying to explain why we would have several pastors involved in a series like this...

- with all of that in mind, let’s turn our attention to this great text in Isaiah chapter 6 and learn all we can about the holiness of God...READ Isaiah 6:1-8

- I think we would all agree that this is a crucial passage of Scripture for students of the Word of God to understand...so let’s use our remaining time to find...Four lessons about God’s character from the ministry of Isaiah.

I. One of God’s Central Attributes is His Holiness.

- Isaiah actually served during the lifetimes of 4 different kings of Judah, the southern tribe of Israel...

- and chapter 6 tells us that this event occurred the year that King Uzziah, by far the most prosperous of the 4 kings humanly speaking, who reigned for 52 years...

- this event occurred the year that King Uzziah died...something that certainly would have rocked the nation...

- and we learn here that God revealed Himself to Isaiah in a unique way by giving him a glimpse of his heavenly throne where angels were...Isaiah 6:3 - And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”

- this is consistent with other places in Scripture where we are given a glimpse of God’s throne where the central focus is on God’s holiness...

A. The meaning of the word.

- this is the Hebrew word qadosh – noun - marked off, withdrawn from common, ordinary use

- verb – to cut off, to separate

- the idea in part is that God is completely unlike any other aspect of His creation...

- 1 Samuel 2:2 - There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God.

- Exodus 15:11 - Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders?

- now, to help us bring that in focus, please always keep in mind that God’s holiness has...

B. 2 Important Emphases.

1. He is completely separated from anything or anyone that is sinful.

- we’re talking about perfect moral purity...

- that’s why James would say...James 1:13 - Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.

- the prophet Habakkuk said- Habakkuk 1:13 - Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor.

- Millard Ericksen said– “This means that He is untouched and unstained by the evil in the world”.

- sometimes theologians speak of this as the negative aspect of God’s holiness...in other words, the things that He’s not, or that He cannot be...

- which by the way, is good news in and of itself...many of the ancient gods were no different than the people who worshipped them...they had the same drives, the same passions, the same sinful propensities...

- not so with the God of Bible...we’re talking about someone who is completely separate from the possibility of doing or being wrong...

- but there’s more...

2. He is positively pure in every conceivable way.

- Charles Ryrie – An analogy may help in understanding this concept. What does it mean to be healthy?  It is the absence of illness, but also a positive infusion of energy.  Holiness is the absence of evil and the presence of positive right.  In God, His holiness is a purity of being and nature as well as of will and act.

- no wonder we would read statements in Scripture like -1 Chronicles 16:10 - Glory in His holy name; Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.

- with this topic, there is a lot to be glad about...

- now if you say, PV, I have trouble getting my mind around all of this...if that’s true, you’re in good company...

- A. W. Tozer wrote – Neither the writer nor the reader of these words is qualified to appreciate the holiness of God. Quite literally a channel must be cut through the desert of our minds to allow the sweet waters of truth that will heal our great sickness to flow in.  We cannot grasp the true meaning of the divine holiness by thinking of someone or something very pure and then raising the concept to the highest degree we are capable of.  God’s holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered.  We know nothing like the divine holiness.  It stands apart, unique, unapproachable, incomprehensible, and unattainable.  The natural man is blind to it.  He may fear God’s power and admire His wisdom, but His holiness he cannot even imagine.

- now if you say, Pastor Viarsis topic is practically overwhelming...that’s clearly the picture...

- that’s why the thresholds of the foundation were trembling and the temple was filling with smoke...that doesn’t happen when there’s a great sale down at the department store...

- now, the logical question is...what are we supposed to do with this realization?...

- the answer is...the same thing Isaiah did...

II. Thoughtful People Respond to this Doctrine with Repentance.

- please notice in verse 5 that that occurred on 2 distinct levels...

A. Personally

- verse 5 – Woe is me, for I am ruined!  Because I am a man of unclean lips...

- Isaiah very well may have been the godliest man in the entire country, but compared to the holiness of God...he knew that the logical response was...repentance...

- and that is one of the questions that I would ask of you this morning...is your heart moved by the truth that the God we serve is characterized by perfect holiness...

- now, you might say...moved in what way?

1. with a heart of thanksgiving.

Psalm 30:4 - Sing praise to the Lord, you His godly ones, And give thanks to His holy name.

- the more thankful a person is for God’s holiness, the more likely they are to acknowledge the ways that they’re not...

2. with a heart of praise.

Psalm 99:3 - Let them praise Your great and awesome name; Holy is He.

3. with a heart of trust.

Psalm 33:21 - For our heart rejoices in Him, Because we trust in His holy name.

Psalm 47:8 - God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne.

- now, let’s back up and try to tie some of this together...when Isaiah received a flesh glimpse of the holiness of God, he immediately thought of how short of that standard he fell...for people today, that has to occur on two very distinct levels...positionally and practically...

- if a person doesn’t understand that concept, much of the Bible will be very confusing...

- positional truth is what occurs the moment a person trusts Christ as Savior and Lord...your stand [position] before God immediately and unalterably changes the moment that decision is made...

- then the rest of your natural days are to be lived out bringing your practice [what you do] in line with your position [who you are]...

- so when we talk about repentance in response to the holiness of God...

4. with an understanding that your position before God must change.

- if you’re trying to process all of this you might say...wait a minute...if God’s holiness separates Him from sin, where in the world does that leave me?...

- the answer, in of yourself, separated from Him...

- Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.

- now if you say, well, I better get with it...let me save you some trouble...you can’t...you cannot manufacture holiness on your own...

- in fact, here’s what that would be like...

- tell the story of the bird whose leg was caught in his nest this week and hanging upside down...]

- that is why it is so amazing that God would reach down to us in that condition and send His perfect Son to die in our place, not just to forgive us of our sin, but to secure for us a righteousness that could only come through Him...

- [cf. II Cor. 5:21...]

- that is what it means to be justified---followers of Jesus Christ, the moment they trust Him, are positionally made holy---declared righteous...

- where does that lead...

5. with a understanding that your practice before God and others can/must change.

- Ephesians 1:4 - just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.

- 1 Peter 1:15-16 - but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

- 1 Thessalonians 3:13 – so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.

- now, some questions obviously grow out of all of this...

1) are there specific ways that you are growing in personal holiness?...

2) is that true in positive ways...there are signs of spiritual health in my walk with Christ that are new...refreshing...

3) is it true in so-called negative ways...in the sense that things you once did you no longer do...you are growing in holiness?...

4) are you passionate about this topic?...are you putting effort into it?...

- it is not an overstatement to say that a person who does not evidence a growing concern for personal holiness has every reason to question whether they are truly in the faith...

5) what about the person who has said...well, God has not shown me addition ways I need to grow?...

- are there things in Scripture that you already know that you are not obeying?...

6) what plans have you made this summer to move forward spiritually and not backwards?

- now, let’s push it another step...Isaiah then applied it...

B. Corporately.

- verse 5b – I live among a people of unclean lips.

- what had happened in Isaiah’s days is that they had crammed their hearts and lives full of idols...

- they were not worshipping the God of heaven uniquely and supremely and exclusively...they brought in the gods from the nations around them...the more the merrier...

- even though those idols were blind, and dumb, and dead...

- and the principle is – you are what you worship...

- you will become like your god...

- and Isaiah’s challenging ministry was to proclaim the beauty of a holy God to a nation of people who chose to be delighted in something else...

- they weren’t holy because their gods weren’t holy...

- well, let’s fast forward that to the church...would the Scripture say something about that regarding us as a group?...

- Colossians 1:22 - yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach—

- Ephesians 5:27 - that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless.

- if we’re serious about reaching new heights, that will be evident in the level of attention we give as a church family to acknowledging the ways we need to repent...it ought to be a regular part of the way we live...show me a person who is quick to repent, and I’ll show you a person who has been impacted by the doctrine of the holiness of God...[contrast]

- now, there’s a lot of good news to all of this...The Lord did not leave Isaiah in his repentant position...

III. God’s Holiness Includes His Willingness to Forgive.

A. For Isaiah.

- what a beautiful picture when he acknowledges his unclean lips that God directs an angel to take a coal of fire and cleanse his...lips...

- Isaiah 6:6-7 - Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 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.”

- and when you thread all of this together...the more we understand holiness, the more we appreciate...forgiveness [hit the church family night tonight and the opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s table...]

B. For us.

- we have something much better than a burning coal, we have our Savior’s blood...

- Hebrews 9:12 – and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

- [develop – this process is only beneficial for those who choose to use it – cf keeping short accounts and growing in holiness by acknowledging sin and requesting forgiveness.]

- now, where does the story end?...it is utterly amazing...especially in light of the new heights we are trying to reach...

IV. Persons Properly Impacted by the Holiness of God Are Qualified to Serve.

- Isaiah 6:8 - 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!”

1) VBS

2) Cleaning in the CC

3) Community Picnic

4) Red Cross

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video