Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Mark 1:14-15

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Holiness of God - R.C. Sproul - Ch. 1 - The Holy Grail

I just finished reading a great book, The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul.  I would highly recommend it. I wanted to share the notes from it, as I have spent time studying the attributes of God and the Gospel message here lately.  Holiness, as you will find out, is the key attribute of God.  

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul:

1 - The Holy Grail
An artist must start with something.  He or she shapes, forms, or rearranges other materials.  But he or she never works with nothing.  God created the world out of nothing.  Before the world began there was nothing.  God called the world into being.  St. Augustine called it the “divine imperative” or the “divine fiat.”  It was simply by His command.  God then created man from breathing into a piece of clay.

There are modern theorists who believe the world was created by nothing.  Note the difference between saying the world was created from nothing and saying the universe was created by nothing.  The modern view is more miraculous than the biblical view.  It suggests that nothing created something.  More than that, it holds that nothing created everything!

True, they don’t say that the universe was created by nothing; they say that the universe was created by chance.  But chance is not a thing.  It has no weight, no measure, no power.  It is merely a word we use to describe mathematical possibilities.  It can do nothing.  It can do nothing because it is nothing.  To say that the universe was created by chance is to say that it came from nothing.

God alone can call worlds into being by fiat, by the power of His command.  Such power is staggering, awesome.  It is deserving of respect, of humble adoration.

My experience in the classroom, thinking about the creation of the world, was like being born again a second time.  It was like being converted, not merely to God the Son, but to God the Father.  Suddenly I had a passion to know God the Father.

Though I was deeply impressed by the notion of a God who created the universe from nothing, I was troubled by the fact that the world we live in is a place filled with sorrows.  My next question was, “How could a good and holy God create a world that is such a mess?”  As I studied the Old Testament, I was also bothered by the stories about God ordering the slaughter of women and children, of God killing Uzzah instantly for touching the ark of the covenant, and by other narratives that seemed to reveal a brutal side to the character of God.  How could I ever come to love such a God?

The one concept, the central idea I kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is holy.  The word was foreign to me.  I wasn’t sure what it meant.  I made the question a matter of diligent and persistent search, and today I am still absorbed with the question of the holiness of God.  I am convinced that it is one of the most important ideas that a Christian can ever grapple with.  It is basic to our whole understanding of God and of Christianity.

The idea of holiness is so central to biblical teaching that it is said of God, “Holy is His name.”  His name is holy because He is holy.  He is not always treated with holy reverence.  His name is drug through the dirt of this world.  It functions as a curse word, a platform for the obscene.  That the world has little respect for God is vividly seen by the lack of respect for His name.

If I were to ask a group of Christians what the top priority of the church is, I am sure I would get a wide variety of answers.  Let’s look at what Jesus’ priorities were.  What is the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer?  Jesus said, “When you pray, pray like this: ‘Our Father, which art in heaven…’”  The first line of the prayer is not a petition.  It is a form of personal address.  The prayer continues: “…hallowed be Thy name.  Thy kingdom come…”

We should be praying that God’s name be hallowed, that God be regarded as holy.  There is a sequence to the prayer; God’s kingdom will never come where His name is not hallowed.  His will is not done on earth as it is in heaven if His name is being desecrated here.  In heaven the name of God is holy.  It is breathed by angels in a sacred hush.  Heaven is a place where reverence for God is total.

How we understand the person and character of God the Father affects every aspect of our lives.  If God is the Creator of the entire universe, then it must follow that He is the Lord of the entire universe.  There is no part of the world that is outside His Lordship.

We must seek to understand what the holy is.  We dare not seek to avoid it.  There can be no worship, no spiritual growth, no true obedience without it.  It defines our goal as Christians.  God has declared, “Be ye holy, for I am holy.”  To reach that goal we must understand what holiness is.

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