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The Holiness of God | Gospel Basics Sermon Series #4

Sermon Notes

Why we should talk about holiness before we talk about sin

I’m convinced that the main reason we have such a hard time convincing people of the gravity and danger of their own sin is because we have a weak view of the holiness of God.

  • We can show how sin leads to greater sin
  • We can show how sin leaves us worse off than when we started
  • We can show how sin can lead to health problems
  • We can show how sin can lead to legal problems
  • We can show the general unhappiness in the life of a sinner

We can show and unbeliever many of the problems of sin but this will all mean very little if they don’t see their sin in light of a holy God.

We must return to a gospel that clearly, and passionately communicates to the world around us a God who is holy beyond our imagination, a God who shines with the brightness of 10,000 suns and whose light penetrates to the deepest and darkest secrets of man’s sinful heart.

The holiness of God is like a beacon of light shining in the dead of night, you will either run from it fearing the truth it reveals and the sin it uncovers, or you will draw near and allow its healing rays to wash and cleanse and give you new life.

On the loss of holiness

The problem is that we live in a world that it seems is doing it’s best in every corner of our culture to eliminate the faintest idea of holiness! To eradicate any vestige of holiness that might remain from traditions of an era passed by.

Long past are days when sexual intimacy was thought to be holy aspect reserved for marriage

Long past are the days when marriage was thought to be a holy institution reserved for one man and one woman.

Today most people have wrong ideas about what holiness really is:

  • They think it means shunning anything that is fun
  • And scowling and anyone who looks like they’re having fun
  • Wearing clothes that are stiff and uncomfortable
  • And in general not fashionable
  • Sitting for long periods of time reading theological tomes
  • And all around just being a boring and stuffy person!

Please let me tell you that they are wrong!

Let us look together at what the holiness of God really is and how it relates to the Gospel message.

In order to do that I want to start with the first place in Scripture where we really see God’s holiness being emphasized and for good reason.

Exo 3:1-8

3:1  Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

2  And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.

3  And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.”

4  When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”

5  Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”

6  And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

7  Then the LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings,

8  and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

The Primacy of God’s Holiness

I’m conviced that above all else it was vital for Moses to understand and believe in the holiness of God!

The task God given to Moses would require him to have utter and complete trust in a holy God.

The people to whom God was sending Moses had no Scriptures and lived in a culture full of idols.

Moses would not only lead them out of slavery and from under the rule of the Egyptians but he would be tasked with delivering to the people God’s law.

In order to do this Moses had to be crystal clear on the nature and character of God’s holiness and God’s holy demands for his people.

The concept and understanding of holiness must come first! It is primary. It instructs us about who God is and what he requires of man. Without this basic understanding we can not truly understand the gospel or hope to lead someone to a holy God who loves to save men for his own glory!

The Nature of God’s Holiness

  • Separate/Unique/Exclusive/
    • The burning bush in it’s self is a sign of God’s uniqueness. How strange and how different is it to see a burning bush in the middle of the desert!
    • God is different than us
    • God is different than other God’s
    • God is different than all creation
    • God isn’t just different but he is exclusive
    • The exclusivity to God would be vital for Moses to understand after growing up in a very polytheistic culture.
    • Moses had to understand and believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God was exclusively God, that he was greater, stronger, purer, and better in all ways than any of the Egyptian Gods.
    • Later on God would do great miracles called the Plagues to primarily show the Israelites that he was Separate, Unique/Exclusive!
    • Later still God reinforces this core aspect of holiness with the 10 commandments
    • Exo 20:1-5
    • 20:1  And God spoke all these words, saying,
    • 2  I am Jehovah your God, who has brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
    • 3  You shall not have any other gods before Me.
    • 4  You shall not make a graven image for yourself, or any likeness in the heavens above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth;
    • 5  you shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them; for I am Jehovah your God, a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of fathers on sons, on the third and on the fourth generation, to those that hate Me;
  • Pure
    • God is the cleanest of all clean things, the purest of all that is pure.
    • He is not pure or clean because he tries to be these things, he is pure by nature, it is innate to his existence.
    • He doesn’t just meet a standard he is the standard.
    • Thus he is the unique source of all purity and righteousness.
    • Which means there can be no purity, no moral standard, no righteousness without his direct intervention.
    • This idea of purity is communicated through the simple action of removing the shoes.
      • Imagine the filth on Moses’ shoes after weeks walking around with a few hundred sheep?
      • Remember that Moses fled Egypt because he had murdered a man. This was about more than a pair of dirty sandals! Moses himself was not worthy to approach a holy God!
      • Moses needed to understand that in order to draw near to God he would need a purity that was not own, and in order to become the leader of the people he would have to trust in the holiness of God.
      • This is why a few verses later on Moses, complains and says, “Exo 3:11… Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring out the sons of Israel from Egypt?
      • The idea of purity would later be communicated to the Israelites through dozens of laws that included various washings, and ceremonies. These were all signs to remind the Israelites that God was a pure and holy God and he demanded the same of the his people.
  • Revered
    • God’s holiness makes him exclusively worthy of worship.
    • When we see and understand God’s holiness the proper response is worship.
    • Worship was the point of God’s saving powers for Israel and it is the goal of our salvation as well.
      • The reason God took Israel out of Egypt was specifically so that they could worship him.
      • Exo 5:1 “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to me in the wilderness.”
    • God’s holines informs us that salvation isn’t merely a ticket to heaven, or a thoughtless prayer, or insurance against the fires of hell.
    • Too many today have turned faith in God to into a stepping stone towards a better life. They see salvation and the gospel call as means to more success, more happiness, and more of want they want in this life.
    • While there are great joys in the gospel we must keep our eyes focused like a laser on God’s holiness and his call to worship!
    • Salvation is the call of a holy God to worship.

The Character of God’s Holiness

  • Good
      • It is good because God is good and his goodness can not be removed from his holiness! His holiness is goodness for him and for us.
      • Some people say, “Your god is too picky, he’s exclusive and that’s not good! I believe in a god who accepts all people from all times, and all faiths, regardless of what they believe or who they are!”
      • But how can they say it is good for God to lack standards, and order, and requirements for moral purity?
      • They have imagined a god who requires nothing, demands nothing, and punishes no one. That is not good!
      • They have arbitrarily placed upon God an apathetic and laxidazical attitude that they would never place upon them selves.
        • Imagine the next time you get on an airplane and once everyone has boarded and the door is shut, the main flight attendant comes on the p.a. System and says, “Dear passengers thank you for flying “Anything Goes Airways” we’re glad to have you on board today! Unfortunately, our pilot came down with a sudden illness last night and he will not be joining us for the flight, but don’t be discouraged, we are determined to get you there regardless! We’ve written down all the passengers names on pieces of paper and put them in a bag and now I’m going to reach in and pull out one name and that person will have the privilege of being our pilot for today!
        • Certainly the passengers would all protest, they would say, “this is not good!” We won’t accept just anyone as our pilot. We demand that he be qualified and able to fly a plane safely!
        • Even in the most simple things we demand standards of safety, of purity, and of comfort.
        • Imagine if you’re at a restaurant and the waiter brings you a bowl of soup. You look at the soup and see a mouse floating in it. You immediately say to the waiter, “Take this back, I’m not going to eat it!” In fact, I’ll bet that most of us wouldn’t eat anything in that restraurant after an experience like that!
        • You have standards, I have standards and we are not willing to just let anything go, yet when it comes to God so many want him not to have standards!
      • In reality God’s goodness is seen in his standards of moral purity and in the order that he has ordained in creation. God is good because his standards, and his laws, and his demands are good and unchanging.
  • Dangerous
      • As it is with all good and beautiful things, there also lies within them a danger and a terror which is very real and requires us to approach with respect and make sure the proper measures are taken lest we put ourselves in the path of that danger.
      • We can see the danger in God’s holiness in the fact that the bush was burning! It certainly caught Moses’ interest and caused him to come close, but not too close!
        • For Moses, understanding and respecting the danger of God’s holiness would be vital.
        • He had to fear God’s holy wrath more than Pharoh’s wrath.
        • It was God’s holy wrath that sent down fire on those who grumbled against Moses
        • It was God’s holy wrath that opened the earth to swallow up Korah and his followers when they came against Moses and claimed holiness.
        • It was why Moses’ didn’t enter the promise land.
  • Num 20:10-12

10  Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

11  And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock.

12  And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

  • This seems like a little thing and we may ask, “why was God so upset?”
  • He was upset because he knew how important it was that the people understand his holiness.
  • God knew that a low view of his holiness would be destructive to their spirits.
    • We can compare the danger of God’s Holiness with certain aspects of the creation.
      • Lightening viewed from a distance is beautiful and we are in awe of each bolt of energy. Yet, get to close and you are in real danger.
      • A river can be a majestic thing, able to carve deep scars through mountains of stone! They carry the largest ships in the world with ease. Yet when they flood their banks they destroy homes, and property that men have invested their lives.
      • These aspects of creation are good, beautiful, and dangerous all at the same time.
    • Within the holiness of God we see his goodness and his dangerousness all in one. Like Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series we understand that “After all he’s not a tame lion”

The necessity of God’s Holiness in the Gospel

  • The Gospel without God’s holiness:
    • May have all the trappings of religion
    • May have a Christianesque look and sound
    • May call people to do good things, be good citizens, and live decent lives
    • But without a clear and unhindered vision of the terribleness and goodness of God’s holiness the message of the gospel is but a spineless animal unable to pierce the thick layer of pride that envelopes our sin laden hearts.
    • Without God’s holiness there is no brilliance, no light shining into the dark corners our heart. There is no knowledge of sin, no feeling of guilt, no horror over our sinful natural state.
    • Without God’s holiness is there is not motivation for repentance, no understanding of the need for forgiveness, and no comprehension of the importance of the new birth.
    • When our Gospel message fails to communicate God’s holiness, it doesn’t just weaken the message, it destroys it! It takes out the very foundation upon which the Gospel is built, it removes reason for our salvation and the goal of our salvation.
  • The Gospel is about holiness
    • Throughout Scripture we see God’s holiness in connection to his saving work
      • Psa 98:1-3   A Psalm. Oh sing to the LORD a new song, for he has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him. 2  The LORD has made known his salvation; he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations. 3  He has remembered his steadfast love and faithfulness to the house of Israel. All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
      • The point of the gospel is to bring us as a people inline with God’s holiness in such a way as to showcase God’s holiness to all creation!
    • Jesus often dealt with the idea of false holiness, which really only happens when misunderstand the true holiness of God. He condemned the Pharisees for their surface appearance of holiness.
      • Mat 23:27   “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
    • Jesus pointed out the he alone was good and holy
      • Mat 19:17  And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”
    • Preaching in the New Testament points us to a Messiah that lived a uniquely holy life. It is exactly because of his holiness that he has the ability to be our Savior and stand in our place!
      • Heb 7:26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.
    • The gospel call is a call of a holy God to unholy people so that they might be holy and be in relationship with a holy God!
      • 1Pe 1:15-16  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16  since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
      • 1Pe 1:15-16  but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16  since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
    • It is a unique message
    • It is a pure message
    • It is a message that brings us to our knees in worship
      • And if the gospel preached doesn’t do these things then it is not the true gospel.
    • It is a message that explains the demands of a holy God and then gives us the exclusive way to meet those demands.
    • It is a message that gives us hope because it gives us the holiness of God through sacrifice of Jesus Christ!
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I am a pastor, missionary, and preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Ukraine since 2007. God blessed me with a wonderful wife and 5 amazing children! My greatest passion is to teach, encourage, and exhort others to turn to Jesus, who is Savior, Lord, and God!

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