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COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

And one called to another and said:


Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!
4
And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the
voice of him who called, and the house was filled with
smoke. 5 And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am
a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a
people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King,
the Lord of hosts!
3

MEMORY VERSES:
ISAIAH 6:3-5

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

ALAS AND DID MY SAVIOR BLEED


Alas! and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head
For sinners such as I?
Was it for crimes that I have done
He groaned upon the tree?
Amazing pity! Grace unknown!
And love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide
And shut its glories in
When Christ, the mighty maker, died
For man, the creature's, sin
Thus might I hide my blushing face
While his dear cross appears
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness
And melt mine eyes to tears
But drops of tears can ne'er repay
The debt of love I owe
Here, Lord, I give myself away
'Tis all that I can do

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

Chapter 1
HOLINESS OF GOD
One of the deepest longings in the human heart is to be known as we are. When
someone has a biased or distorted view of us, its impossible to have a genuine
relationship with that person. When we gain friends through wearing masks, we know
that these are not true friendships.
The more we value genuine relationships, the more we will value being known as we
actually are. This is Gods longing: that we know him as he is.

&

JEREMIAH 9:23-24 (ESV)


23 Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let
not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his
riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and
knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and
righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the
LORD.
ISAIAH 1:23 (ESV)
2 Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth;
for the Lord has spoken:
Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me.
3 The ox knows its owner,
and the donkey its masters crib,
but Israel does not know,
my people do not understand.
JOHN 17:3 (ESV)
3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus
Christ whom you have sent.

There are many views of God that people have picked up in our culture. The view that
God is holy is often missing from that picture. Among the many aspects of who God is, his
holiness must be central. To know God apart from an appreciation of his holiness leads to
a distorted view of God and an unhealthy Christian life. People who dont understand that
God is holy find Christianity's central messageJesus crucified, on a bloody crossa bit
over the top. All the emphasis on sin, and the necessity of Jesus personal sacrificial
death seems a bit too much for those who do not grasp the centrality of who God is: he is
holy.

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

TRUTHS TO INTERNALIZE
S E E IN G G O D : H O L Y , H O L Y , H O L Y
The one concept, the central idea I kept meeting in Scripture, was the idea that God is
holy. ... 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 (Luke
1:49). His name is holy because He is holy. 1
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God

&

ISAIAH 6:18 (ESV)


1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne,
high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above
him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his
face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one
called to another and said:
Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who
called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: Woe is me!
For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of
a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of
hosts!
6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal
that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth
and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away,
and your sin atoned for.
8 And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, Whom shall I send, and who
will go for us? Then I said, Here I am! Send me.

On a handful of occasions the Bible repeats something to the third degree. To mention
something three times in succession is to elevate it to the superlative degree, to attach
to it emphasis of super importance.
Only once in sacred Scripture is an attribute of God elevated to the third degree. Only
once is a characteristic of God mentioned three times in succession. The Bible says that
God is holy, holy, holy. Not that He is merely holy, or even holy, holy. He is holy, holy,
holy. The Bible never says that God is love, love, love; or mercy, mercy, mercy; or wrath,
wrath, wrath; or justice, justice, justice. It does say that He is holy, holy, holy, that the
whole earth is full of His glory.

Sproul, R.C. (2008-08-18). Holiness of God (p.12). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition.

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

In a sense the Bible uses holy in a way that is very closely related to Gods goodness. It
has been customary to define holy as purity, free from every stain, wholly perfect and
immaculate in every detail. Purity is the first word most of us think of when we hear the
word holy. To be sure, the Bible does use the word this way. But the idea of purity or of
moral perfection is at best the secondary meaning of the term in the Bible. When the
seraphim sang their song, they were saying far more than that God was purity, purity,
purity. The primary meaning of holy is separate. It comes from an ancient word
that means to cut, or to separate. To translate this basic meaning into contemporary
language would be to use the phrase a cut apart. Perhaps even more accurate would be
the phrase a cut above something. When we find a garment or another piece of
merchandise that is outstanding, that has a superior excellence, we use the expression
that it is a cut above the rest. Gods holiness is more than just separateness. His
holiness is also transcendent. The word transcendence means literally to climb across.
It is defined as exceeding usual limits. To transcend is to rise above something, to go
above and beyond a certain limit. When we speak of the transcendence of God, we are
talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us. Transcendence describes
His supreme and absolute greatness. The word is used to describe Gods relationship to
the world. He is higher than the world. He has absolute power over the world. The world
has no power over Him. Transcendence describes God in His consuming majesty, His
exalted loftiness. It points to the infinite distance that separates Him from every creature.
He is an infinite cut above everything else. When the Bible calls God holy, it means
primarily that God is transcendentally separate. He is so above and beyond us that He
seems almost totally foreign to us. To be holy is to be other, to be different in a special
way. 2
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God (emphasis added)
What thoughts and feelings do you have when you think about God as holy?

How strong/weak is your sense of Gods holiness?

Sproul, R.C. (2008-08-18). Holiness of God (p. 24-26). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition.

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

Why is it of utmost importance to understand that God is holy?

S E E IN G M Y S E L F : W O E IS M E
Isaiah explained it this way: My eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty (Isa. 6:5).
He saw the holiness of God. For the first time in his life Isaiah really understood who God
was. At the same instant, for the first time Isaiah really understood who Isaiah was. 3
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God
Once Isaiah saw the holiness of God, he saw himself clearly for the first time: as a sinner
deserving woe. Isaiah, as a prophet, pronounces a curse upon himself, and declares
himself unclean.
Notice that Isaiah does not respond to God's holiness with uplifted hands of praise, as
appropriate as this would have been. But as R.C. Sproul notes, everyone in Scripture who
encounters God's holiness responds first with a deep sense of personal sin. Seeing
God immediately results in seeing ourselves in stark contrast to his holiness.
A very similar reaction is recorded about Peter's first encounter with the divinity of Jesus.

&

LUKE 5:410 (ESV)


4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, Put out into
the deep and let down your nets for a catch. 5 And Simon answered,
Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let
down the nets. 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large
number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their
partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and
filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter
saw it, he fell down at Jesus knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a
sinful man, O Lord. 9 For he and all who were with him were
astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were
James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And
Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid; from now on you will be
catching men.

Sproul, R.C. (2008-08-18). Holiness of God (p. 30). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Kindle Edition.

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

Peter's response to Jesus parallels Isaiah's. He does not respond with: "Jesus, that was
great. Can you come fishing with us every day?" His response is to recognize who Jesus
is, and simultaneously who he is a sinner. And just as Isaiah was commissioned as
God's prophet upon seeing his sinfulness in the light of God's holiness, Peter, too, is
commissioned as a fisher of men after he confesses, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful
man, O Lord."
For Isaiah and Peter (and for all of us), they did not know themselves deeply until they
saw themselves in the light of who God is.
A basic philosophical challenge is to know thyself. "Who am I?" "What am I made of?"
"What's really going on inside my heart?"these questions are harder to answer than
they should be. Surveys consistently show that we assess ourselves poorly, and that we
consistently overrate ourselves.
We know if we're small or big because we calibrate ourselves. Smaller than an elephant,
bigger than a fly. But what about morally and spiritually, where it really counts? How do
you calibrate yourself?
On most days, most people feel fine about themselves. We have a hard time
remembering anything we did wrong. We rate ourselves as above average in most things.
The fact is we have faulty memories. For example, we do not notice when we were rude
to someone, but clearly remember the times when we were slighted. Our memories and
feelings are allied together to present to ourselves a very warped picture of ourselves.
Comparing ourselves to the general practices of others in our society doesnt get us
anywhere closer to the truth either. Increasingly, people in our culture parade their folly
and sins without shame. We feel like saints compared to the people of our world who are
famous for having defaced all standards and live in utter degradation.
But is this the proper backdrop by which to see ourselves? What makes a stain ugly? It
depends on what its on. A ketchup stain on a picnic table is not great, but what if that
same stain was on the painting of the Mona Lisa?
The proper backdrop cannot be other people. We know that there have been periods in
which whole nations thought that they were righteous when they weren't: think pre-Civil
War South, or Nazi Germany.
The only proper backdrop is the holiness of God. And the scriptural claim is that deep
down we know this.

&

ROMANS 1:18-21 (ESV)


18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the
truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because
God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his
eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since
the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are
without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him
as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking,
and their foolish hearts were darkened.

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

The word of God says that people suppress the truth about God, resisting the
knowledge of God because they do not want to honor him as God. This leads to their
thinking becoming infected and their hearts becoming darkened.
Why is it that so many people can be proud and egotistical and feel no conviction of sin
about it? Or be a selfish princess/prince and be shameless about it?
We're selfish to the core, and shamelessly so. Why? It's because we're so self-absorbed
that we don't see the context. If you're self-absorbed, you are essentially a closed system.
Whatever you are--whatever selfishness or sinfulness that you happen to beit just is. If
you are a closed system, then whatever you do, that just is. It is what it is. You don't
know what to make of it. Increasingly, our society is isolating us in bizarre little closed
worlds. With our earbuds in, and our eyes fixed on our small screen-world, we lack
external referents to know how to weigh, evaluate, or think about the quality of our souls.
So we are lost and afloat.
People are left to consult only themselves. They say things like, "I don't feel like I'm
selfish. I don't feel like I did something bad." Its like a driver careening through the world
crashing into things, but saying, I feel like I'm a safe driver. Many people live in this
kind of delusional bubble about their souls. They can manage to do so because they don't
bump up against reality that will burst that bubble. No one around them tells them the
truth. They only consult their own feelings.
Maybe you dont really want to see yourself. Maybe the truth about yourself does not
interest you, because you have a sneaking suspicion that it will be painful. So you choose
not to pursue this knowledge. You avoid self-criticism or reflection. You make yourself a
stranger to yourself, blunt your own conscience, and refuse to tolerate any negative
thoughts about yourself. You bounce your thoughts away from any sorrowful knowledge
of your sinfulness, and quickly assuage yourself with kinder thoughts about yourself.
What are some ways you avoid seeing yourself?

There are certain steps before one ever becomes a Christian, and the first is that a man
has got to stop and think. I say it is impossible to be a Christian without thinking. Yet
the whole case of the Bible is that a man does not even begin to become a Christian until
he thinks. What does he think about? He thinks about himself. David had committed a
terrible sin, a terrible crime. He was guilty of murder, he was guilty of adultery, and yet
he went on as if he had done nothing at all. And he had to be pulled up by the prophet
Nathan, who showed him what he had done and made him face himself. It was then
realized what exactly he had done. That is always the first step. If you are a person who
has not sat down and looked at himself, whatever else is true of you, I can tell you that
you are not a Christian. It is impossible to be a Christian without facing yourself and
looking at your own life. The world does its best to prevent us doing that. With its

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

organized pleasures and all its suggestive attractions it is doing everything it can to
prevent people sitting down and thinking and facing themselves and their own lives. But
the man who is a Christian has passed all that. He has stopped and has looked, he has
examined, he has recognized certain things about himself, he has made a certain
confession. You will find that in the first verse of the psalm. 4
- Martin Lloyd Jones, Out of the Depths
If you don't think, then what are you going to be left with? You're going to be left with
your feelings, which is why people can say, "I feel I'm not a sinner." But of course you're
not going to feel that you are a sinner until you've thought about it.
When was the last time you thought hard about yourself and tried to be
painfully objective about what kind of person you really are?

For the most part, we loathe this kind of thinking, and even if we try, our impossibly
distracting lives make such sustained and painful thinking very difficult. So we are left
with vague feelings about ourselves. And our feelings are our friends. Our feelings will
accentuate wrongs done to us, or the ways we are victimized, or yank us around with
cravings, frustrations, or anger. One thing our feelings will rarely do is give us a clear
sense of who we are really. Most likely, the sum total of what we're going to feel is that
we're the victim, the misunderstood, the underappreciated. We're the hero or heroine.

T H E T R U E G L IM P S E
Occasionally, even in the midst of the mundane, we can get a glimpse into something like
an absolute standard.
For example, you ridicule a friend in public until you see her face. When you see the
sense of hurt and woundedness, then maybe, maybe you realize that your rude remarks,
made only in furtherance of your own social standing, have hurt and betrayed another
human being.
Or, say you make vulgar and cruel comments to a group of other guys about some
unattractive feature of a womans body as she passes by, until you look up and realize
one of those guys is her dad. You see the love of that dad for his daughter manifest on
his face in offended anger.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martin. Out of the Depths: Restoring Fellowship with God. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 1995.
pp. 67-68.
4

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Then the horror strikes you. Against the backdrop of a fathers love for his daughter, the
true, objective nature of what you just did is revealed. The context delivers it home.
Or, you read about the horrors of human trafficking, of girls being lured away from
villages to the big city, only to be abducted, and you get so, so angry. Against the
backdrop of these girls sold into brothels or the porn industry, you understand your own
sexual sins more accurately.
What is going on here? In the context of the love of family, or just basic human decency,
the sin become exposed as ugly. You are given a very small glimpse into something like
Gods view of things.
Take this and multiply it a thousand fold: we are not talking about the wounded heart of a
loving dad, but the God of the universe, the perfectly holy and loving God who is
goodness and holiness itself. Some people distinguish between Gods holiness and love.
But God is holy-love: he is holy in his love, and his great love and his holiness are one.
So, what is the proper context to see ourselves objectively? The fixed backdrop against
which you can see the essence of your soul, the quality of your personhood?
The only context, the only proper backdrop is Gods holy character. Instead of floating
around un-calibrated, you finally have the right grid, the right perspective with which to
see yourself. It is of the utmost importance that we see ourselves through the holiness of
God. This shame, this cringing sense that I am a blemish on the pure moral canvas of his
holy character brings out of us Isaiahs cry: Woe is me, I am ruined.
Explain your personal experience of coming to see your sins against the
backdrop of the holiness of God.

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11

G O D S W R A T H T O W A R D S IN
God is holy. Part of his holy love for purity and goodness means that he must be opposed
to sin. But there has not been a moment in our lives when our sinfulness has not violated
and scoffed God's glory, presence, and sovereign rule. This conviction of sin is the
beginning of a Christian journey. It's not only the beginning, it's the ongoing Christian
journey. Lose sight of this, and our Christian walk will falter.
Yet, deep down in our hearts, there is a resilient pride that makes it difficult for us to
grasp the reality of Gods holy wrath, and the wonder of his mercy toward sinners.
When Gods justice falls, we are offended because we think God owes perpetual mercy.
We must not take His grace for granted. We must never lose our capacity to be amazed
by grace.
I remember preaching a practice sermon in preaching class in seminary. In my sermon I
was extolling the marvels of Gods grace. As the hymn says, I spoke of Gods grace,
infinite grace.
At the end of my sermon the professor had a question for me. Mr. Sproul, he said,
where did you ever get the idea that Gods grace is infinite? Is there absolutely no limit
to His grace? As soon as he asked that question, I knew I was in trouble. I could quote
him chapter and verse of the hymn that taught me that, but somehow I couldnt come up
with a single Scripture verse that taught Gods grace is infinite.
The reason I couldnt find any Scripture passage to support my statement is because
there is none. Gods grace is not infinite. God is infinite, and God is gracious. We
experience the grace of an infinite God, but grace is not infinite. God sets limits to His
patience and forbearance. He warns us over and over again that someday the ax will fall
and His judgment will be poured out. 5
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God
Somewhere deep inside, in the secret chambers of our hearts, we harbor the notion that
God owes us His mercy. Heaven would not be quite the same if we were excluded from it.
We know that we are sinners, but we are surely not as bad as we could be. There are
enough redeeming features to our personalities that if God is really just, He will include us
in salvation. What amazes us is justice, not grace. Our tendency to take grace for granted
was powerfully demonstrated while I was teaching college students. I had the assignment
of teaching a freshman Old Testament course to 250 students at a Christian college. On
the first day of class I went over the course assignments carefully. My experience taught
me that the assignment of term papers required a special degree of explanation. This
course required three short papers. I explained to the students that the first paper was
due on my desk by noon the last day of September. No extensions were to be given
except for students who were physically confined to the infirmary or who had deaths in
the immediate family. If the paper was not turned in on time, the student would receive

Sproul, R. C. (2008-09-18). The Holiness of God (p. 127). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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an F for the assignment. The students acknowledged that they understood the
requirements.
On the last day of September, 225 students dutifully handed in their term papers.
Twenty-five students stood, quaking in terror, full of remorse. They cried out, Oh,
Professor Sproul. We are so sorry. We didnt budget our time properly. We didnt make
the proper adjustment from high school to college. Please dont give us an F. Please, oh,
please give us an extension.
I bowed to their pleas for mercy. All right, I said. Ill give you a break this time. But,
remember, the next assignment is due the last day of October. The students were
profuse in their gratitude and filled the air with solemn promises of being on time for the
next assignment.
Then came the last day of October. Two hundred students came with their papers. Fifty
students came empty-handed.9 They were nervous but not in panic. When I asked for
their papers, again they were contrite. Oh, Professor. It was Homecoming Week. Besides
it is midterm, and all of our assignments are due in other classes. Please give us one more
chance. We promise it will never happen again.
Once more I relented. I said, Okay, but this is the last time. If you are late for the next
paper, it will be an F. No excuses, no whining. F. Is that clear? Oh, yes, Professor. You
are terrific. Spontaneously the class began to sing, We love you, Prof Sproul. Oh, yes we
do. I was Mr. Popularity.
Can you guess what happened on the last day of November? Right. One hundred and fifty
students came with their term papers. The other hundred strolled into the lecture hall
utterly unconcerned. Where are your term papers? I asked. One student replied, Oh,
dont worry, Prof, were working on them. Well have them for you in a couple of days, no
sweat. I picked up my lethal black grade book and began taking down names. Johnson!
Do you have your paper? No sir came the reply. F, I said as I wrote the grade in the
book. Muldaney! Do you have your paper? Again, No sir was the reply. I marked
another F in the book. The students reacted with unmitigated fury. They howled in protest,
screaming, Thats not fair! I looked at one of the howling students. Lavery! You think
its not fair? Yes, he growled in response. I see. Its justice you want? I seem to recall
that you were late with your paper the last time. If you insist on justice, you will certainly
get it. Ill not only give you an F for this assignment, but Ill change your last grade to the
F you so richly deserved. The student was stunned. He had no more arguments to make.
He apologized for being so hasty and was suddenly happy to settle for one F instead of
two. The students had quickly taken my mercy for granted. They assumed it. When
justice suddenly fell, they were unprepared for it. It came as a shock, and they were
outraged. This, after only two doses of mercy in the space of two months.
The normal activity of God involves far more mercy than I showed those students with
their term papers. We have come to expect God to be merciful. From there the next
step is easy: We demand it. When it is not forthcoming, our first response is anger
against God, coupled with the protest: It isnt fair. We soon forget that with our first sin
we have forfeited all rights to the gift of life. That I am drawing breath this morning is an

COURSE 201 CHAPTER 1 HOLINESS OF GOD

13

act of divine mercy. God owes me nothing. I owe Him everything. If He allows a tower to
fall on my head this afternoon, I cannot claim injustice. 6
- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God (emphasis added)
Write a short response to the above excerpt regarding demanding or expecting
mercy.

God is morally pure, and the manifestation of God's moral purity is necessarily wrath
towards sin. We must not mistake his forbearance and longsuffering as a lack of wrath on
Gods part. If you are morally pure, you are going to have wrath towards sin.
Let's think about that. We don't have access to actual moral purity, but we can get close
by some examples. Let's say that you became an aunt or an uncle, and your niece or
nephew just takes your heart away. Through that nephew and that niece, you begin to
see the world as a potentially dangerous place that can harm the child you love so much.
Before, when you heard about child molesters, you were just disgusted. But once you
genuinely love your nephew and niece, that love manifests itself as wrath towards child
sexual molestation. We want to remove them far, far away from children.
How much more would God? God is holy. He is full of love, which means He has a
settled opposition toward moral impurity that manifests itself as wrath.
If we were to be able to clearly grasp the impact of our sins, all the victims of our cruel
words, of our selfishness, envy, competitiveness, and manipulation, and if we were able
to see all the people whose lives we failed to bless, all the things we left undone, all the
people we ignored, all the ways in which we acted like we are regal and self-created, and
we traced the damage and repercussions across relationships and across time it would
be overwhelming. Mercifully, this is a picture we do not have the perspective to see fully.
But God does. He sees it. He sees our sins in their full ugliness, and he sees the full
wide-ranging impact of their rippling consequences.

Sproul, R. C. (2008-09-18). The Holiness of God (p. 123-126). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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14

A GOOD GOD AND HELL


When we sin, we not only commit treason against God, but we also do violence to each
other. Sin violates people. There is nothing abstract about it. By my sin I hurt human
beings. I injure their person; I despoil their goods; I impair their reputation; I rob from
them a precious quality of life; I crush their dreams and aspirations for happiness. When I
dishonor God, I dishonor all people who bear His image. Is it any wonder, then, that God
takes sin so seriously?
Hans Kung, the controversial Roman Catholic theologian, writing about the seemingly
harsh judgments of sin God makes in the Old Testament, says that the most mysterious
aspect of the mystery of sin is not that the sinner deserves to die, but rather that the
sinner in the average situation continues to exist.
Kung asks the right question. The issue is not why does God punish sin but why does He
permit the ongoing human rebellion? What prince, what king, what ruler would display so
much patience with a continually rebellious populace?
The key to Kungs observation is that he speaks of sinners continuing to live in the
average situation. That is, it is customary or usual for God to be forbearing. He is indeed
long suffering, patient, and slow to anger. In fact He is so slow to anger that when His
anger does erupt, we are shocked and offended by it. We forget rather quickly that Gods
patience is designed to lead us to repentance, to give us time to be redeemed. Instead of
taking advantage of this patience by coming humbly to Him for forgiveness, we use this
grace as an opportunity to become more bold in our sin. We delude ourselves into
thinking that either God doesnt care about it, or that He is powerless to punish us.
The supreme folly is that we think we will get away with our revolt.

- R.C. Sproul, Holiness of God


Some people say: How can a good God send people to hell?
Philosophically this is not a problem. The notion of a good God and hell are totally
compatible. Because a good person naturally finds evil loathsome.
Take a look at yourself.

Have
Have
Have
Have
Have
Have
Have
Have

you
you
you
you
you
you
you
you

ever
ever
ever
ever
ever
ever
ever
ever

told a lie?
cheated?
secretly rejoiced over a friends downfall?
manipulated others for your gain?
crossed sexual boundaries?
been cruel?
wished harm on someone?
wished someone would disappear?

Sproul, R. C. (2008-09-18). The Holiness of God (p. 116-117). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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When the above questions are posed to us, we find that the true answers to these
questions are disturbing. We may succeed in not thinking about these convicting truths
and their implications, but when we truly face them, the verdict is inescapable. The
scriptures echo the same sentiments.

&

MARK 7:2023 (ESV)


20 And he said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For
from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual
immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit,
sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come
from within, and they defile a person.
2 TIMOTHY 3:25 (ESV)
2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant,
abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless,
unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving
good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure
rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but
denying its power. Avoid such people.
ROMANS 1:2932 (ESV)
29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil,
covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit,
maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent,
haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish,
faithless, heartless, ruthless.32 Though they know Gods righteous
decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only
do them but give approval to those who practice them.

The witness of Scripture and our own inner convictions bear witness to our condition as
sinners.
So the more difficult question ought to be, How can a good God tolerate this? Why
does he allow human sin at all? Why are we not utterly destroyed?
If we think this is exaggerated, its probably because we have an ungrounded sense of
human entitlement, this sense that I am somebody. We feel we shouldn't be treated
like this; we should not be held accountable for our sins, and we should be free to
sin. Where do we get such notions? After all, we are creatures. We have no claim on
God. God is not obligated to us. God is only obligated to his own nature, his holy
character.
Yet, here we are filled with sin, and brazen about it. We are all, at some point, arrogant
ingrates; two-faced hypocrites; liars and cheats; covetous, slanderous, proud and vicious.
If a fraction of who we are were to be projected on a screen, we would be horrified. Yet
before God, we think we are okay. We make sense of our own lives according to our selfproclaimed narrative. We look at the Bible, and its utter seriousness about human sin
leaves us a little cold. We don't feel it. God goes on and on in the Bible, prophets cry out

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a torrent of words against human sin, Jesus bled and died for human sin, and we still find
it easy to believe that were not all that bad.
Those who continue to refuse God, trusting their feelings about themselves, in the end
will have their way. C.S. Lewis said that in the end, there are two kinds of people: those
who say to God, Thy will be done, and those to whom God will say, Thy will be
done. And that's heaven and hell. Hell is a place apart from God, which is what its
dwellers wanted all along. There they cry, Who are you to tell me what to do? I
determine good and evil for myself, and as far as I am concerned, I'm good. One thing I
will never doubt is my own goodness, my own okay-ness. I am the measure of all
things!
Ultimately it's pride at the core, pride that refuses to submit to the truth and bend to God.
When you're young, sin is not immediately costly. It even seems exhilarating. You feel
like you're getting away with it. But you won't get away with it for long. Not in your
thirties, and certainly not eternally. Gods holiness is the shape, the deep structure of
reality. To violate that consistently means that your life will get destroyed.
So take these three thoughts: Gods holiness, sinful humanity, and eternity. If you
consider these factsa holy God, my sin, and the reality of eternitythere's only one
conclusion. It's hell for us all, but for the cross of Jesus. Eternity for any sinful person will
have to be eternity apart from God, because God is utterly holy.

THE CROSS
A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom
without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a
Cross. 8
Theologian H. Richard Niebuhr summarizing the liberal gospel, The
Kingdom of God in America
The cross of Jesus addresses us as sinners before a holy God. In the context of eternity,
judgment, human sinfulness and Gods holiness, the cross means wrath that is mercifully,
miraculously averted. The wrath I deserved was poured out, not on me but on Jesus, the
sinless, perfect, eternal son of God. It all falls on Jesus on the cross.

&

2 CORINTHIANS 5:21 (ESV)


21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God.

On the cross, Jesus absorbs all our sins and dies, as the timeless, eternal, once-and-for-all
sacrifice for all human sin. He extracts your sin out of you. He draws it all out of you and
it all goes on him. He becomes the most loathsome thing in the universe. According to 2

Niebuhr, H. Richard. The Kingdom of God in America, New York: Harper & Row, 1959 [1937], p. 193.

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Corinthians 5:21, he who knew no sin became sin and took on the wrath of God. In
exchange, not only is wrath averted, but wonder of wonders, we become the
righteousness of God.

&

ISAIAH 6:5-7 (ESV)


5 And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips,
and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have
seen the King, the Lord of hosts!
6 Then

one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning


coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my
mouth and said: Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken
away, and your sin atoned for.
Once Isaiah pronounces a curse upon himselfwoe is meGod does something. The
seraphim comes with a burning coal and pronounces atonement: Your guilt is taken
away, and your sin atoned for. God takes away the guilt when we declare a curse upon
ourselves, i.e., when we see ourselves against his holiness and realize that we have
offended and violated his character, and we declare ourselves guilty sinners deserving
woe. Then the mercy flows from Gods altar, and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin.
The cross is like a multi-faceted jewel reflecting many truths. In it we see Gods love and
his holiness. We also see our sinfulness. But we see our preciousness as well. It's the
cross that shows us, at the same time, who we are and who God is. Christ took the justice
of God upon himself. His holy heart became blemished, stained, and ruined upon the
cross. He took it all, and now he offers forgiveness.
Is this not the most awesome message any human being could hear?
Spend some time thanking God for the cross.

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PITFALLS TO AVOID

What is the relationship between not internalizing the truth about Gods
holiness and the following:

abusing Gods grace (lack of seriousness towards sin)

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not putting in the effort for sanctification

lack of joy of salvation

19

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self-righteousness and pride, rather than gratitude and humility

serving God grudgingly, rather than with a sense of privilege

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Christian life being all about people and image-management

HABITS TO FORM
S E L F -R E F L E C T IO N
Self-reflection is one of the habits we need to form as a way to locate ourselves
accurately against the backdrop of Gods holiness.
But a Christian is a man who has seen himself and seen what he has done. He has
seen his transgression, his iniquity, his sin. He realizes the meaning of his actions. He
realizes he has sinned again God; and he has seen that his actual nature is itself sinful.
I would call that the sinner awakening, facing himself and realizing the initial truths
about himself. 9
- Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones, Out of the Depths (emphasis added)

As soon as we are alone, ...inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing
and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again. Entering a private room and
shutting the door, therefore, does not mean that we immediately shut out all our inner
doubts, anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings and impulsive
desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distraction, we often find that
our inner distraction manifest themselves to us in full force. We often use the outer
distractions to shield ourselves from the interior noises.

Lloyd-Jones, David Martin. Out of the Depths: Restoring Fellowship with God. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 1995.
p.49.
9

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This makes the discipline of solitude all the more important.

10

- Henri Nouwen, Making All Things New


Self-reflection should be a written record of a period of disciplined thinking about some
incident, or even a passing moment, that seems significant.
Some Tips to Help Observe and Reflect Upon the Self
Step #1 LIST THE FACTS
Go through facts utilizing the 5Ws - Who, What, When, Where, Why
This is where you want to review what happened with as much accuracy as possible. You
can list out basic facts of the situation in chronological order. Focusing on facts halts
rationalizing and self-justifying emotions. For example, rather than saying, I felt like he
was attacking me with his words so I responded in this way, just state the objective facts:
I yelled at my roommate.
Step #2 EXPLORE
Based on some facts, you can begin to explore some questions to help you think, such as:
4 Why did I say that? Why did I do that?
4 What was I feeling when I did that?
4 What was going through my mind?
4 What were some events leading up to this incident?
Step #3 ASK, WHAT DOES THIS REVEAL ABOUT ME?
After reviewing the facts and exploring why you reacted or felt as you did, now you can
ask yourself the question, What does this reveal about me? Here are some questions
that might be helpful:
4 What does this reveal about me?
4 What does this show about what drives me?
4 What does this show about whats going on inside of me?
4 What does this show about my view towards(others, God, myself)?
4 What does this reveal about what is important to me?
Dont use a lot of jargon and try not to be overly dramatic in language. For example, I
feel like I dont deserve the cross of Jesus! Try to use plain speech as much as possible.
Step #4
4
4
4

WORD OF GOD
What about the gospel addresses me at this point?
What is true and real according to God's word?
How does the word of God bring reproof and correction (2 Timothy 3:16) to you
regarding this situation?

Often, people either go into a downward spiral of self-flagellation, or they might be


satisfied with merely identifying what they did wrong and end there. If you dont go

Nouwen, Henri. Making All Things New: An Invitation to the Spiritual Life. New York, New York: HarperSanFrancisco.
1981. pp. 70-71.
10

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through this step, you can leave God entirely out of your struggle. Sometimes in peoples
reflections and repentance, they commit to never doing something again in a very selfdriven way, without going through the full process of seeing themselves and their own
sinfulness in light of who God is. They end up missing out on Gods grace and his
forgiveness pronounced through his words.
Truth may hurt, but it is always best to face the truth. Gods word will be relevant and
powerful when there is proper admission of and discovery of truth. By default, we have
layers of self-deception, denial, rationalization, justification, etc. Writing self-reflections
can slice through all of that and help you get to the truth of who you are. And of course
what we want is the truth about ourselves! Its something many people do not have, nor
treasure.
Above all, be honest. God wants to dialogue with us.

&

ISAIAH 1:18 (ESV)


18Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.

Ultimately God wants to dialogue in truth so that we can be healed and so we can be as
white as snow.
There is freedom when you know you have properly acknowledged, repented of and fully
processed the junk inside. There is self-knowledge and, with it, a growing appreciation of
the holy love and grace of God.
Let me ask a simple question at this point: Have you faced yourself? Forget everybody
else. Hold up a mirror before yourself, look back across your life, look at the things you
have thought and done and said, look at the kind of life you are living...The first call to
man by God is to be honest, to stop arguing and to face himself. Let him examine
himself...There is no hope for a man who does not do that, and the truth about the
modern world is that people are running away from just this[doing] anything to fill up
their lives and keep them from thinking. I say that you have to fight for your life
and you have to fight for your soul. The world will do everything to prevent you
facing yourself. My dear friend, let me appeal to you. Look at yourself. Forget
everybody and everything else. It is the first step in the knowledge of God and in the
experience of His glorious salvation. 11
- Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Out of the Depths (emphasis added)

Lloyd-Jones, David Martin. Out of the Depths: Restoring Fellowship with God. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books. 1995.
pp.24-25.
11

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PRACTICE
This week, pair up with a friend and meet together for Devotion Time (DT). At the end of
DT, spend 15 minutes personally going through the self-reflection exercise (4 steps) over
an incident or area in your life. Then share it with each other and help one another find
relevant Scripture. Conclude by praying with and for one another.