The Knowledge of the Holy: The Holiness of God
[Editor’s Note: This is a 23-Day Series exploring different aspects of God’s nature and personality, using Tozer’s “The Knowledge of the Holy” as a discussion starter. You can read the introduction of the series here.]
Holiness is something we don’t even like to talk about any more. In our contemporary understanding of religion, holiness is the creepy old uncle of Christian virtues. Its the one we all understand a little bit but very few of us want to actually talk about or show to others. This obviously comes from decades of church history where legalism was called holiness and we are in an age where people want to be anything but religious. But holiness, as I hope we’ll see, is the farthest thing from legalism. Holiness is the sign of the life of God in the soul of men and this is the reality we all desperately need.
It would be hard for us to get too far into a discussion of God’s holiness without stopping to remember the story of Isaiah. Isaiah was a prophet of God. He prophesied the true and accurate word of God for five whole chapters before he had an experience that changed his life forever. He had an encounter with God. In this encounter, Isaiah is taken before the throne of God and sees the Lord. He hears the burning angels around the throne declaring the ultimate holiness of God to one another. And it’s in this ecstatic vision that, though Isaiah had prophesied for five chapters already, he is struck with the sinfulness of his life and particularly the sinfulness of his lips. Isaiah needed a clear vision of God in His holiness before he could truly understand his utter sinfulness. This not only caused an acknowledgement of sin, but also a cleansing and a sending. It utterly changed the direction of Isaiah’s life.
Tozer tries to explain God’s holiness, but it’s obvious that it must come by revelation. It’s not something that a man can just explain. He must see it. So Tozer calls us away from futile activities like imagining the most holy thing you can think of and then taking it up another two or three notches. God’s holiness is not shared with anyone. Neither is there a standard of holiness that God must live up to. Instead, what God does is the definition of holiness. He is holy in whatever He does and what He does becomes our definition of holiness.
And because God is holiness Himself, He has made holiness the “moral standard” of health for the entire universe. God knows that His ways are best and that anything outside of His ways will destroy and degrade man and his environment. This is why the rebellion of mankind tainted the universe and unleashed death and decay. And this is why whenever you see systemic revival of the church and awakening in a society, the environment itself undergoes significant transformation. In order for God to preserve His world, He must actively war against that which harms it and this is why God unleashes wrath against sin on the Earth. “The holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the health of creation are inseparably united.”
Tozer goes on to remind us that God is holy with an infinite holiness that has no degrees. This is a holiness we can never hope to achieve. But there is a relative type of holiness that God calls His people to participate in. It comes through the cross and by God imparting it to us. And though these words may not be popular with society at the moment, God still says to His church “You shall be holy, because I am holy,” (1 Peter 1:15-16). None of us will claim true holiness, but in light of God’s command, we have to soberly set out on a journey to grow into His image.
How do we do this? Tozer has some recommendations: Stare at God. Become utterly fascinated with Him and who is He is in His holiness. We become what we look at. So if we stare at Jesus and worship Him in truth, we will become alive from the inside in a way that makes us holy. We also must hide in Jesus. This means naming and repenting of our sin and committing to have no righteousness outside of Jesus. It’s His blood that cleansed us that is the basis for our holiness. As we do these two things, we also allow the Lord to discipline us so that we can grow in His holiness. These three attitudes change us and transform us into a person that is more like God every day.
Today, I’m burdened. I’m burdened by the fact that so much of the church thinks that God’s holiness is just legalism. I hate that the church thinks that holiness is just old-fashioned and prudish. In reality, God’s holiness is burning, shining brightness and glory. It’s full of life and burns away the cancer of sin that chokes out life in a believer. The most fully alive human beings I have ever met have tasted a little bit of God’s holiness and it has changed them forever.
Friends, we need more Isaiahs. We need more men and women who have had a profound encounter with Jesus and have seen Him in His holiness and glory. One glimpse–just one–will strip away every ounce of needing to be cool or well thought of. It will shift our agenda from our own to His. It will unleash prophets who again will declare the things of God.
It’s not just the world who needs conviction of God’s holiness. Much like Isaiah, the people who need to see God’s holiness is us. We talked for a lot of chapters, friends. But are there things about ourselves and our nation(s) that we can’t even see until we see Jesus in His holiness? We need to begin to ask God for more vision. As we do, we will see real life overwhelm the plastic lives of legalism and sin. We will see more cleansing and more sending.
And that is the need of the hour. The Knowledge of the Holy.
That’s my takeaway today. What’s yours? Leave a comment so we can all grow together!
Day 21: The Holiness of God
Day 22: The Sovereignty of God
Day 23: The Open Secret