The holiness of God is described in the Bible as a consuming fire, something terrible and wonderful and healing and destructive all at the same time. Men would fall on their faces in terror when His holiness would be revealed, and even then, they were only seeing a small glimpse of it. The Bible says that no one can see God and live. Not because God is cruel and doesn’t want to reveal Himself, but because our own sinfulness makes us incapable of seeing Him without being burned up. It didn’t used to be that way. God used to talk to Adam and Eve face to face as they’d walk through paradise in the cool of the evening, and if we were not so contaminated with our selfish desires and sinful nature, we’d be able to have that amazing communion too. Someday, we’ll be able to stand in that unapproachable light and not be destroyed, but not yet.
When Peter reminds us of God’s words in Leviticus, “Be holy, even as I am holy,” he wasn’t just telling us to live boring lives where we never have any fun, as the world wants us to believe. Being holy actually allows us to live in that awesome power of God as well. When we set ourselves apart from this world, God graciously covers us with His holiness. We are granted authority, and demons must bow before us, not because we deserve special treatment, but because we’ve been clothed in His righteousness. (Ephesians 4:24) That means when the devil looks at us, we terrify him because he can see God’s covering all around us.
God’s holiness is shown in His wrath, causing seas to rise, the earth to quake, striking down evil and punishing the wicked, and it also creates life and light. The only healthy response we can have to His holiness, is fear. Christians who feel uncomfortable with the idea of fear, try to explain it as mere respect. But if John fell as if dead when he saw God in the book of Revelation, if the disciples fell on their faces in terror when Jesus was transfigured in front of them, fear in it’s fullest meaning is appropriate. Jesus told the disciples not to fear those who can kill you, but to fear the One who can throw both body and soul into hell.
The casual manner in which Christians treat God is proof of how warped their image of God has become. Using the excuse of “nobody’s perfect” when we just can’t shake off a sinful habit, thinking that we can just pray for repentance over and over again as we indulge in that same sin over and over again, is an abuse of His forgiveness and a total disrespect for His character. The disrespect of Christians who energetically participate in praise and worship in their church, singing out of fleshly emotion with no intention of living in obedience, causes God’s wrath to burn. And for those who have no fear of God, not only are they opening doors for the devil’s attacks, their future is eternal separation from Him.
Our greatest fear should be the fear of losing Him. Without His protection, we would all be cast into hell, and rightly so. But His holiness includes mercy and compassion. He loves us so intensely that He chose to die in our place so that we can be clothed in Him and escape the punishment we deserve. Holiness is scary, but it also clothes us if we choose to obey Him. It’s a burning fire that can either consume or empower. To fear His holiness naturally spurs us on to live in the blazing light of His holiness so He can protect, heal, empower and transform us.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphim. Each one had six wings. With two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. One cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory.” The posts of the door moved at the voice of him who cried, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “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 my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” Isaiah 6:1-5, MEV