Holiness: God & Us1
It was good to be back with everyone! Yesterday we talked about the last 1/2 of the book of Exodus. We focused on the following points:
- God's Holiness in Exodus 19;
- God's laws for Holiness in Exodus 20;
- Israel's unholiness in Exodus 32 and
- God's Holy-Love in Exodus 34.
We learned that since God is Holy we should never approach Him casually. But because of what Christ did for us, we can now all approach God with confidence! What a story... from Mt. Sinai to Mt. Zion.
We ended the service all worshipping together on the altar which was a symbolic way for us to acknowledge that all of this Gospel information is not just true - but it is true for all of us. Every single human being can now approach God with confidence because of Christ's shed blood for us! In John Stott's words, "We.Have.Access!" I am so thankful that these truths aren't reserved for those who are super-spiritual or super-educated or super-anything. Instead, God's Holy-Love is directed towards the "least of these" which is me and everyone else! Below is a picture one of our elders took of all of us worshipping near the end of the service:
Below are my answers to a few questions I received during the service from the congregation:
"Is taking an 'oath' in court 'so help me God,' falling in line w/ guarantee of a promise of future action? Many witnesses lie on the stand!"
This is a great question. One of the points I made in the sermon was that using God's name as a guarantee of a promise was a way of taking the Lord's name in vain. So does this mean people should not make this oath in court? I don't think so. The court scenario is different because in that instance people are being asked to promise to tell the truth, not the future. If they were being asked to tell the future, I think they shouldn't have to say, "so help me God." Telling the truth is possible for humans, telling the future is NOT usually possible by humans - and that is the key difference. Of course it is wrong to lie in court - but I don't think making the promise to be truthful in court is the same thing as taking the Lord's name in vain. I hope that makes sense!
"Idolatry - Anytime we make the God of the Bible into something, even slightly watered down, a god to suit our own desires, that is also idolatry...it becomes a graven image in our mind...
My God is love. He would never condemn. He shows only grace."
Great points here. Although I briefly talked about why idolatry was so tempting for the Israelites, I wasn't able to talk about what sorts of ways us modern people practice idolatry today. I think you are right - when we try to make God into an object for our own desires - we have made our relationship with God something else. It is easy for us humans to put other things as more important than God. Or, we make God into an object that is supposed to get for us all the things we want. Both actions are idolatrous in nature.
The second point is worth thinking about more - As I showed in Exodus 19 - God has more than one attribute to His name. The one we focused on in Exodus 19 was His attribute of Holiness. God is certainly love - but He is also much more than that.... or another way of saying it is that, "God's love leads to a lot of other things as well." We need to make sure we don't put limits on God's own self-revelation. We want the full picture of God! As we saw, God's Holiness leads to Him being compassionate, slow to anger, forgiving, abounding in love, etc. (Exodus 34:5-7). But this doesn't erase His Holy nature - instead, we should see that God's love explains His Holy nature. God's love is an outworking of God's Holiness. These terms aren't mutually exclusive. With God, they work in tandem.
And because God is Holy, He does condemn. In fact, one example of this is what we are talking about - because God is Holy, God condemns idolatry. Look at Exodus 20 - God makes a lot of condemnations against bad actions in the 10 commandments. This helps us to understand that "love" doesn't mean "I'm cool with anything." Instead, God's love means "I want the best for you, and I hate evil and so I'll ask you to do what's best for you, and I'll punish you when you do evil." This helps us to not only expand our definition of God - but it also expands our definition of love.
If you want to think further about how God's holiness relates to God's love, one of the best books on this topic just came out. It is by David Wells and it is titled, God in the Whirlwind: How the Holy-Love of God Reorients our World. You can check it out here.
"I The Lord your God, am a jealous God". Who is He jealous of, idols, other gods? #hcpreach"
This was a question someone private messaged me on Twitter. And it is a good one! When God says He is jealous, He is saying that He is jealous for us. God wants to be with us. He has a strong love for us. He is passionately intent on making a way for us to be with Him. To God, an idol is essentially a nothing. It is a false reality. So I don't think God is jealous of other false gods. Instead, God wants His people to be able to flourish and enjoy life to the fullest - which includes submitting our lives to God and then living for His name. God wants His people to be Holy as He is Holy.
In the majority of situations, the word "jealousy" has a lot of negative connotations, as it should. But in this instance God is not saying anything negative. He is making a positive assertion about His love and care for us. God doesn't want us to do things that are bad for us. Like a father wants the best for his child - so it is with God and us. God's jealousy towards us = God's eternal Holy-love and intentionality towards us. We should want God to be jealous for us because it means God will do everything He can to make sure we can be with Him someday. As a human, I am jealous in mostly all the wrong ways - but God is jealous in all the right ways. I'm so glad God is so different than me and yet He wants to be with me! This is all simply "grace upon grace..."
I'd love to hear YOUR comments or reactions or questions or answers as well! Please don't hesitate to let me know what YOU think of all of this. Remember: Church isn't meant to be an experience of monologue. It is to be a dialogue where together we worship Christ with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Friends, it is such a privilege for me to worship with you. Thanks for letting me be a part of the church at Holden Chapel!
- Pastor Mike
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