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3 Reasons God’s Holiness Terrifies Us

3. God’s holiness is terrifying because it reveals our strengths to be weaknesses.

Notice what Isaiah mentions when he sees and hears from God. Not his unclean eyes, or his unclean ears. His unclean lips. Why?

Isaiah was a prophet. So his lips were his point of pride. They were how he proclaimed the message to Israel. They represented his greatest strength. The way a pianist would feel about his fingers, or a scientist about her mind—that’s how Isaiah felt about his lips. But God reveals his greatest point of strength to be worthless. That’s why he feels undone. Even his best is insufficient. As Tim Keller says, the holiness of God doesn’t make Isaiah ashamed of his weaknesses. It makes him ashamed of his strengths, because they aren’t really strengths at all.

It’s doubtful that you and I feel that way about our lips. But there’s something in our lives that we’re trusting in to hold us together, something without which life would feel “undone.” It might be our bank account, or our business savvy, or our family stability. But if it’s anything other than the grace of God, then one glance at God in his holiness and that “glue” is going to come apart.

It’s not primarily our areas of weakness that keep us from God. It’s our strengths, because when we’re strong we take our eyes off of the hope of God’s grace.

So is there any hope?

When Isaiah saw God in his holiness, he was rightly terrified. But that holiness wasn’t just terrifying. It was also cleansing. The same God who dazzled him with his perfection also brought a coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s lips, declaring him clean. That coal had been drenched in the blood of a sacrificial lamb, the only way that Isaiah was able to stand before God’s holiness.

You see, we might naturally resist the idea of a holy God, but only a holy God can cleanse us. Only a holy God is worthy of our worship. Only a holy God can put us together when the glue in our lives has come undone. And only a holy God can satisfy the craving in our souls.

For more, be sure to listen to the entire message here.  

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.