Who is worthy or holy enough to gaze upon the face of a holy God? Who is worthy to approach His throne?
Over recent months I keep running across the theme of God’s holiness and God’s glory in books, quotes; and in Scripture which seems to suddenly jump out at me. It began with a quote from Warren Wiersbe:
There is nothing God will not do for his servant who gives him the glory and who does not fret when others take the credit. The servant who lives for the glory of God has at his disposal all the authority and power of the universe. All of creation works with him to “declare the glory of God.”
What an awesome privilege! Read the whole thing again for good measure.
Not long after, I read R. C. Sproul. He observes that most people, when asked about what the top priority was, would give several answers: evangelism, social action and spiritual nurture. All these things are worthy and related causes. But should these come first?
Sproul notes that he’s yet to hear anyone talking about what Jesus’ priority was. He points to The Lord’s Prayer and the words “Hallowed be Your Name,” followed by “Your Kingdom come.” Christ’s primary concern was His Father’s glory – all else followed on from that. (See R. C. Sproul The Holiness of God p 13)
The theme of God’s Kingdom (and our redemption) is also connected to His bringing glory to Himself. In John MacArthur’s Foreword to He Will Reign Forever he wrote:
…the kingdom of God is the central and unifying theme of Scripture, and it is the climatic fulfillment of the story of redemption. In his words, the kingdom of God is both “the grand theme of Scripture and the solution for all that is wrong.
Stephen Lawson writes in his essay For Thine is the Kingdom:
All things are for the glory of God! This driving passion was the very heartbeat of the Lord Jesus Christ, the highest aim He sought, the loftiest goal He pursued. All things in life and ministry, He taught, are to be solely for the glory of God.
All this got me to thinking: how often do I seek to give God glory and seek His holiness in my daily conduct? Do I ever? The more I think about it, the more I squirm. I shouldn’t be alone either.
Anyone who’s been paying attention should be alarmed at the sin-affirming trend of many modern church leaders. Pastors and leaders are seeking to be LGBT “inclusive.” Churches are sanctioning abortion. Now some are even blessing the practice of polyamory.
Holy living is passé. We’ve created our own world and enthroned our rebellious selves in it, rather than God. I’d hate to be the pastor telling the flock that it’s OK to do whatever they desire because God loves them anyway (James 3:1).
Holiness is an attribute of God. It is directly related to His glory. While holiness can be attributed to entities such as angels (Luke 9:26), it isn’t the same as God’s incomparable unchanging holiness (Job 15:15).
Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, Awesome in praises, working wonders? Exodus 15:11
And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come! Rev 4:8
Remember that fascinating account where Moses asks to see God’s face and glory (Exodus 33:18-23)? God denies Moses’ request to see His face, but allows him to see His back. When Moses returned from the mountain, his face was shining brightly. This phenomenon terrified Israel and he was forced to hide his face behind a veil.
In Isaiah 6:3 the seraphim also cry, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” We’re told in v 2 that even these seraphim covered their faces. Sproul writes:
…as angelic beings, they [the seraphim] are still creatures, and even in their lofty status as consorts of the heavenly host it is necessary for them to shield their eyes from a direct gaze on the face of God. (p 23)
When Isaiah saw this vision he cried out:
Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Isaiah 6:5
One of the angels then took a burning coal from the altar and touched Isaiah’s lips, saying that his iniquity had been taken away and his sin forgiven. Isaiah had to be cleansed. He couldn’t do it himself. If these prophets weren’t worthy to gaze upon God’s face, then what about me and you?
Sproul notes that “the final goal of every Christian is to be allowed to see what was denied to Moses.” We want to see Him face to face and bask in His radiance (p 22). Jesus told His audience that, while no one before John the Baptist was greater, the least in the Kingdom of heaven would be greater than he (Matt 11:11).
Later on the Apostle John wrote one of my favorite passages in Scripture:
Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 1 John 3:2
No burning coals, no viewing the back only, and no veil. We are the children of God and members of His family (Rom 8:16-17). However, we tend to forget John’s admonition about sin and righteousness in the following verse of that glorious promise.
And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:3
This isn’t talking about purifying ourselves as some perquisite to salvation. That is Christ’s (finished) work. What John is saying is that, because we love God and we have these glorious promises, we ought to be seeking to live holy lives (Lev 11:44-45; 1 Pet 1:16).
In his book Slave, John MacArthur writes that the sins of every believer are forgiven through the Cross (p 184). Salvation cannot be forfeited. But we will still be assessed (Rom 14:10-12; 1 Cor 3:12-15):
Whether by death or by rapture, every believer will one day report to the heavenly Master for evaluation and reward. Once again, the obedient slave has nothing to fear from facing the Master.
Personally, it’s very difficult for me to live every day seeking God’s glory and holiness. I know I ought to, yet fail miserably (Rom 7:15). Even so, we should keep this discipline constantly in mind.
I want to one day to see the Lord’s face, and earn a crown. How about you?
Lord, come quickly! And may we all be ready.