“Do you want to receive God’s gift of the Holy Spirit?” one of the ministers asked me. I was 13 years old and had accepted the good news of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection just minutes before. Though the message was not at all new to me, there had been something different that day, a sudden realization of the sincerity of the gospel and God’s desperate love for a human being that broke down the pride and fear. “Yes” I said and the clergy laid their hands on my head and prayed. As I heeded their advice and began to worship God in my own words, tears started streaming down my face and I hugged myself as I felt His presence take up residence inside, my legs losing strength. I went down on my knees, trying to keep my wits about me before this power that steadily grew in intensity. I looked over to see an older person already on the floor, arms spread out in total surrender…
That was the day Jesus came into my life, and yet there was a time afterwards that I wondered what exactly it was that I experienced. It was overwhelmingly strong yet sweet enough for one to desire more. Familiar, like a father’s firm embrace, but still otherworldly, as my inner gut knew it was beyond me. I studied the word of God, pursuing Him in prayer and learned from those that came before me in the faith. Then the revelation arrived in one word, holiness. It was holiness that I felt on that day.
God is holy, or as the Merriam Webster dictionary explains, “Exalted or worthy of complete devotion as one perfect in goodness and righteousness”. This word`s meaning has become unpopular today but it`s understanding is essential in beginning to fathom God`s character. We know about heaven, many even want to go there. We want a place of perfect goodness where suffering has ended but we don`t want to face the One whose nature makes it that way. However, if God were to somehow change His nature, and be more like us, would He not cease to be “God”? Would there be any reason to worship, go to Him for prayer and guidance? Any reason to expect a hereafter? Hmm…more on that next month…
Lets back up a little. When questioning why anyone or anything is worthy of esteem we look at that person or thing’s inherent traits, don’t we? Humans seldom give others high praise if they are no different than themselves. In the case of Yahweh, the One who declares “I am that I am”, He is holy because everything good inside of you that wars against the temptation to do evil comes from Him. All that exists; the air filling your lungs, precious water, seasons of rain and harvest, spinning earth, atoms, molecules, they all hold together perfectly because a righteous God wills it to be so. (John 1:3) The disciple John even explains in a vision of the future how when God returns to the Earth, there will be no need for a sun or moon because His presence will light everything aglow. (Revelation 21:23)
Now understand, this claim of holiness is not only founded on His greatness in creating all things but the amazingly intimate involvement God has with their purpose, design and welfare. We see this in how He questions a servant of His, Job, on how much the man really knows God:
-“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?”
–“Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”
-“Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions when they crouch in their dens or lie in wait in a thicket? Who provides food for the raven
when its young cry out to God and wander about for lack of food? (Job 38)
There is so much more to talk about on this subject, and we will in the future, but I will leave you with this. What brought me literally to my knees on that day years ago was an encounter with the God who spoke the world and the stars into life. The presence of the One who did all that and still answered my voice, desiring to touch me. He is holy.
Check back next month for the final piece that brings the puzzle together, God- Jesus Christ.