God calls all Christians to personal holiness. To be holy means someone is God’s man or God’s woman, and this is a lifelong pursuit. However, because of sin, holiness is hard.
Those who seek the Holy God will face trials, and often be plagued by feelings of uncertainty, loss, inadequacy or failure. But personal holiness represents more than achieving moral behavior; holiness depends on whether God is your greatest dread or greatest delight.
God as your Greatest Dread
The holiness of God will be your greatest dread if you are engaged in these two things:
1. Idolatrous Rebellion
Sin is an act of idolatry because it is the worship of what is created rather than the Creator. Sin is also an act rebellion. By disobeying the cosmic King, people commit treason against an infinite God. Thus, sin represents a slanderous crime of eternal consequence!
Sin separates people from the blessing of God, for God cannot dwell with anything unholy. This was why Israel could not approach the presence of the LORD on Mount Sinai in Exodus. God warned Moses no one could see His face and live (Exodus 33:20). No matter the age, Sinners cannot stand in the presence of a holy God because we have no right to be there.
In the future, hearts far from God will experience the terror of God in his inescapable holiness. Revelation 6 says that one day, there will be nowhere to hide. All people, from the greatest to the least, will be exposed in their sin.
People will cry out to the mountains and rocks, saying, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, … [for] who can stand?” (Revelation 6:16-17).
“It [will be] a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). The LORD is Holy, and He alone deserves our praise. With that in mind, beware the temptation to commit shallow worship.
2. Shallow Worship
In Isaiah 6, the prophet came face to face with the LORD in His awesome holiness. Judah had rebelled by pursuing idols, and their worship of God reflected their divided and unholy hearts.
This also happens today. Shallow worship makes church about us and less about Christ. In our distracting age, delight in other things divides our love for the LORD. As a result, shallow worship undervalues sin and causes us to forget what God says.
Even though Isaiah spoke against the idolatry of the people, this prophet who delivered the Word of the LORD, realized his own words were not what they ought to be. In that moment, Isaiah knew how much he utterly fell short of God’s holiness, and so he said:
Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! (Isaiah 6:5)
You might have the same reaction to reading about God’s holiness. But there is hope! The Lord has given sinners a sure salvation.
In the following verses we read that amid the darkness, Isaiah was confronted, not in judgment, but with grace. Instead of being cut down by a flaming sword, an angel seared Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal, pronouncing:
Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for. (Isaiah 6:7)
Instead of experiencing the sword of God’s judgment for sin, Isaiah experienced the atonement of God’s Savior. And this transformed Isaiah’s dread into delight.
How can the holy God become your ultimate delight?
Just as Isaiah saw the Holy God, we are beholding the holiness of God whenever we read the Bible, for the holiness of God has been revealed most fully and meaningfully to us in the person and work of Jesus.
1. Behold Christ
Isaiah’s lips were cauterized by a coal from the altar of sacrifice, where sins were forgiven through the shed blood of a sacrificed lamb, and Jesus is the holy lamb of God, who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29). He makes holy all who trust in him.
Why? “For our sake, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
How? Jesus Christ “is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
When we are look to Jesus, he takes our sinfulness and we gain his holiness. Further, beholding Christ is the power for personal holiness, “for by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:14, NIV).
To delight in the Holy God, you must look to Jesus Christ.
2. Believe Confidently
Delight in God also fuels personal holiness because Christ is holy (1 Peter 1:14-15).
When the coal from the altar touched Isaiah, it also gave him compelling confidence in the LORD. So much so, that he commanded the LORD to send him back to the people! God’s means of atonement removed Isaiah’s dread, and gave him even greater delight.
Faith looks back to Christ on the cross, looks up to Christ in heaven, and looks ahead to Christ’s glorious return. The Holy Lamb of God can take away your dread, and the Holy Spirit promises to help you in your weakness, and conform you to the holiness of Christ (Romans 8:26, 29).
When you seek the Lord who is holy faithfully and fervently, His holiness will satisfy you. The Holy God will either be your greatest dread or your greatest delight. I pray the latter is true.