Holy Love


(Joshua Elder) #1

There seems to be a tendency in our culture to form God in our own image. Swarthmore College, founded by the Quakers, is now offering a class on “queering God”. A topless activist recently grabbed the Jesus statue from the Vatican’s nativity scene and yelled, “God is woman”. Within the Christian church itself, we can often find pastors and leaders teaching that God is not interested in the moral issues that we are and instead God is about love and doesn’t draw lines or separate people. Of course, our definition of how this love is defined becomes so encompassing of all meaning that it really means nothing.

Yet this is not the real God, and this is not the God of scripture. The God of scripture is most certainly a God of love, who cares for his creation and all people upon the earth. But this love, like all love, is not bounded and defined by us, but by God. And this love of God is also Holy, pure, undefiled, commits no wrong, enjoys no wrong, has no false motivations. Our love on the other hand is shallow, defiled, caring only for our own interest, enjoying our own wrongs, and lost in darkness.

In the 1600’s Stephen Charnock said, “It is less injury to Him to deny His being, than to deny the purity of it; the one makes Him no God, the other a deformed, unlovely, and a detestable God … he that saith God is not holy speaks much worse than he that saith there is no God at all.”

God is not made in our image, but we are made in His. This image that we bear is what we defile, its what we break, its what we tarnish with our own sense of right and wrong. Defining God by our darkness is worse than saying there is no God at all. Praise God that His love knew the cost to save us, to clean us, to make us Holy as He is Holy. The pure, undefiled love of God is Jesus Christ who was willing to sacrifice Himself on behalf of our darkness, and our fallenness. May God grant us wisdom that through Jesus Christ, God may not become more like us, but that we may become more like Him.

Have you ever tried to justify yourself by making God more like you?

What does God’s Holiness mean for your life?

(SeanO) #2

I still remember the first time I read R. C. Sproul’s book on The Holiness of God. He makes many good points. Among them, I really like the following two, which encourage us to be amazed by the cross and to not take grace for granted.

I think in our post-Christian culture, we take grace for granted as a concept apart from the cross. We think we deserve grace and forget that Christ revealed grace to the world. Like the people Paul described in Romans 6 - we think that even if there is a God we can sin more and more and just receive more and more grace. As Paul said, God forbid! Grace is meant to lead us to a life of holiness, self-sacrifice & love.

I pray the Church would continue to be salt in our culture so that in a few generations we do not entirely forget the love & grace of Christ. People simply do not understand the terrible consequences of forsaking the foundation of all grace - Christ - the Holy One of Israel.

“The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to complain for injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused.”
― R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God

“When God’s justice falls, we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy. We must not take His grace for granted. We must never lose our capacity to be amazed by grace.”
― R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God

(Tim Ramey) #3

Joshua, your post brought up many issues in my mind. However, your last question I’d like to speak to. In Jesus, we are holy. As we all know the saints are the set apart ones. This is nothing that we do, we just follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. Simple enough…

However, I have found within a church if I call myself holy, I am looked up and down like who do you think YOU are? Holiness is nothing that I can do or Jesus wouldn’t needed to have died. Yet, the fact that we are followers of Jesus should set us apart more than by making us obstinate. We should look and act like Jesus. In 1 John 2 it says, “He who says that he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.”

God’s Holiness in me means that I am a new creation because of what He has done. I am not the old man patched up, I’m new. And that creation, believe it or not, is new every morning.

(SeanO) #4

@Tim_Ramey That’s a good point. Where I come from, people often say, “We’re just sinners saved by grace”. But, as one of my pastors pointed out, we are not sinners if we have been saved by grace. We are saints - set apart ones. And God expects us to live like it by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I think when we say “I am holy” people get the wrong idea. They think we are “holier than thou” or that we think we are perfect and never make mistakes. Most Church goers simply do not have the theological training to understand that we just mean we are “set apart” by God for His purposes - articles for special purpose (2 Timothy 2:20).

(Jolene Laughlin) #5

I think this goes right along with the question that @CarsonWeitnauer brought up a few days (weeks?) back about Millennials believing that “Whatever is right for your life or works best for you is the only truth you can know.” We have a society that defines their own reality in almost every area of life, not to mention that fact that almost all traditions of reverence and respect have been tossed out the window. In the US at least, there is no recognition of ultimate authority. This has to bleed over and affect the way that we relate to and understand God. I realized the enormity of this even as it relates to Christians, the first time I attended a Catholic mass - there was a reverence to the service that I had never experienced before.

Do you think that there is any context in our society that would give young people an understanding of holiness? Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions on how to make the awareness of God’s holiness and purity central in our lives and keep a correct perspective?

(SeanO) #6

@Jolene_Laughlin I think there are 2 elements in our society that make communicating truth about God very difficult - a demand for autonomy and a disrespect for authority.

When I first taught at a Korean Church I was shocked by how respectful and obedient the students were - one of my students stood through Bible study in order to stay awake purely out of respect for my position as teacher and the importance of God’s Word.

I think teaching self-control (rather than pure autonomy) and respect for authority - balanced with a Berean like motivation to search out the truth - would provide a more fertile ground for integrating holy living once the heart has been drawn by God’s Spirit.

However, as Martin Luther observed about history - always swinging back and forth between extremes - culture on a large scale always seems to sway between legalism and licentiousness publicly with a mix of both privately. So the Church needs to be a community showing the larger culture the way of grace and truth in contrast to both.

(Jolene Laughlin) #7

@Sean_Oesch - This is dead on. Not long ago I got into a conversation with someone in my family who seems to consider God his “home boy.” He had absolutely no concept of the enormity of who God is, or of what it would be like to stand before a being that is completely pure and holy. He said to me “Well, I do think of God as my friend.” He seemed somewhat taken aback by my assertation that we will not just shove our way right up to God and give him a slap on the back and a “Wutz up?!” as we step into eternity. It was actually a troubling conversation because I wonder if someone who takes God so very lightly isn’t, in a way, more at risk of missing Him than someone who understands the truth of who He is, even if though they fight against it.

(SeanO) #8

@Jolene_Laughlin So true

Even when we talk with other people, there is a certain sense in which we should take them seriously - as C. S. Lewis said:

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.
End Quote

In the same way with God - we must first approach Him as He is - and then, yes, He may laugh with us and rejoice over us. But it must begin with us approaching Him in fear & trembling that He might fill us with His holiness and light that we might draw nearer into His love.

(Jolene Laughlin) #9

I have always loved that quote by CS Lewis. Yes - thank you for the reminder that we should always grant other people dignity as well. If for no other reason that that, they, too, are made in God’s image and are his creation.