Wednesday, February 01, 2012


First Quarter 2012 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
For the week of  January 29 – February 4, 2012
Imagine it's your day off.  You're stumbling around in the kitchen, wearing an  old, stained sweatshirt, with your hair still the way it was when you got up.  Hearing the doorbell, you open the door to see an executive who is employed by the same corporation where you work.  This elegant, impeccably dressed person thought you needed a ride to the office this morning.  Instantly you feel the contrast between yourself and what you are looking at.  You feel intimidated, insecure, and embarrassed.

Multiply that feeling exponentially and you get a small idea of how you would feel if you were to see God.  When you see holiness, you’ll know because you will be in awe of what you see, and you will feel the contrast between you and God.  This feeling seems to be the norm in all Scriptural accounts where humans meet with heavenly beings.

In a recent program, panelists were asked to define holiness.  Despite receiving the questions in advance, no panelist had a concrete definition. Some spoke of holiness as an attribute of God, others addressed the question in terms of the Sabbath commandment, and still others, in terms of how human beings should behave.  However, the panelists did agree on one idea, no matter how vaguely they stated it, that Holiness is all that God is, and it is everything we are not.  While most of the audience seemed to understand the panelists’ struggle, the meaning of holiness remained just out of reach.

What is it that makes the definition of holiness so elusive?  The dictionary defines holiness as the state of being holy.  This brings us back essentially to the same question: what does holy mean?  According to Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2; and Hebrews 12:9, 10, ‘God is holy’, and He wants us to be holy as He is holy.  Thus, we can state with assurance, that holiness is an attribute of God, and that holiness not only belongs to Him, but that it is something tangible He wishes to share with us.  Hebrews 12:14 states, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.”

As you can see, defining holiness is not a simple task. In the context of defining holiness, how do we define God?  I John 4:8 says that God is love, His nature or essence is Agape, and that if we do not love, we don’t know God.  Paul describes this self-denying love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

“Agape suffers long, and is kind; Agape envies not; Agape vaunts not itself, is not puffed up,  does not behave itself unseemly, seeks not her own way, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; Rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Agape never fails.”

If holiness is what God is, and God is love, then it stands to reason that I Corinthians 13 also describes holiness.  We typically think of I Corinthians 13 in terms of performance, but, what God does is always a reflection of who He is.  There is no inconsistency between God’s essence or character and His performance.  Furthermore, God’s character is in evidence when you see Him.  In other words, when you see God, you see His character (Exodus 33 & 34).  However, since the advent of sin, shame and fear are the primary emotions our suspicious and untrusting nature experiences.  But when we see, through the scripture, that His work has been to redeem us, to reestablish the pure intimacy He had with Adam and Eve prior to the fall, we will see I Corinthians 13 personified.  Holiness and Agape are not separate attributes of God, He possesses them both, and when He inhabits us, we too will embody them both.

How do you know you have seen God?  Years ago, a friend fell from a tree and hit the ground.  In doing so, he fractured a bone in his arm.  I was told that he yelled out in pain, “I broke my arm!”  I asked the friend who related the story, “How did he know?”  Then one of them asked me, “Have you ever had a fracture?” I replied, “No.”  And he said, “When it happens to you, you will know.”  Years later, I slid on ice and landed on my right knee.  Immediately I knew that my friend was right; I knew I had fractured my knee.  Of course the x-ray confirmed what I already felt. 

When you see Holiness, your true condition will immediately be revealed to you, and you will know you have seen it.

From the biblical record, two phenomena will occur: first, you will be in awe of what you have seen; second, you will realize that you are inferior to what you see.  Read Isaiah’s story in chapter 6 particularly verses 1-7.

After Isaiah saw the Lord and heard the angels crying, “Holy, holy, holy, the earth is full of His glory” (splendorous character of Agape), his recognition of his own condition, provoked the response, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.”  Immediately, an angel flew to Isaiah with (a piece of) live coal, laid it on his mouth and said, “This has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.” 

It has always been God’s intention to remove from us our shamefully impure and embarrassingly sinful state.  He desires to cleanse us, so that we find pleasure and delight in Him.  We will continue to feel awe in the splendor of His presence, but we will feel welcomed and accepted at the same time.  Remember, if the nature of His holiness is love, and we do not feel loved in His presence, then the purpose is defeated.  God did what it took to change Isaiah’s sinful condition, and if in recognizing our true condition, we consent, He will do the same for us.  Isaiah felt the love, and we shall feel it too.

The Cross is the greatest revelation of God’s love.  It is the highest demonstration of His willingness to sacrifice everything dear to Himself in order to rescue human beings.  It is also the highest demonstration of His holiness.  Through the cross, God wants to give us new minds filled with thoughts and motivations such as Christ possessed.  He wants us to have new, loving hearts of flesh in place of our stony hearts and old attitudes.  He has new names for us, new citizenship, and His Holiness.

Unfortunately, due to our cultivated and inherited tendencies to sin, the offense of the cross continues.  Some of us will not let Christ into those innermost chambers of either heart or mind.  Instead, we keep Him at a distance – afar off – determined either to do things ‘just right’, or not really caring.  After all, we say, God is love, and He’s accepted me, so I can rejoice, all is good.  There is only one problem – God’s holiness is not separate from His Agape.  He is too much a gentleman to take anyone to live with Him whose neglect or fear prevents them from really desiring His close presence.  To all such, Christ pleads, “ye uncircumcised in heart and ears – do not resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did…for “Behold I stand at the door and knock, if any hear and open the door, I will come in and sup with him…” (Acts 7:51 & Revelation 3:20).
--Raul Diaz