Don’t Take Just a Few Shots; Swim, Drown, Die!

Victory just started the first week of our brand series on holiness yesterday and I am excited that our churches all over the Philippines will be talking about the holiness of God in the next three weeks.

Holiness is not an easy topic to preach or talk about. The term itself sounds deeply theological and many of us have this strong aversion towards theology. We don’t want to theorize and philosophize. We don’t want to subject God to too much analysis and logical thinking; we would rather feel and experience Him. We’re afraid that if we think too much, we’d go overboard and become dry and boring Christians (as if boredom is a mortal sin).

But holiness is an inescapable biblical theme. It is the only character trait of God that was mentioned in both New and Old Testaments with extreme superlatives (Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8). We talk so much and sing so much about the love of God these days but the truth is that without a firm grasp of God’s holiness, our understanding of God’s love is just mushy and vague. Holiness is the flip side of the coin of God’s love. Those who loudly claim that God loves unconditionally often wrongly imply that God is a helpless doormat lover-slash-martyr you can abuse anytime.

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Grammar and the Holiness of God

In the English language, we use bold letters and underlines and exclamation points to emphasize something we write.

In the New Testament, when Jesus emphasizes something, he uses the verbal equivalent of bold letters, underlines, and exclamation points. He says, “truly, truly, I say to you…”  In other versions, the word is translated as “verily, verily,” and whatever is spoken after those two words are important. What’s surprising is the fact that in Greek, the original word is actually “Amen, amen.”

Let this not escape your attention. Today, we use the word Amen to agree that the word we heard is true and Biblical. Our Amen is a response to something that we heard was spoken. Jesus, on the other hand, uses the word Amen before he even spoke. He signals that what he was going to say is the truth regardless of whether you accept it as true or not.

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Foolish Prayers

R.C. Sproul in his book The Holiness of God:

There is a kind of sequence within the [Lord's] prayer. God’s kingdom will never come where His name is not considered holy. His will is not done on earth as it is in heaven if His name is desecrated here. In heaven the name of God is holy. It is breathed by angels in a sacred hush. Heaven is a place where reverence for God is total. It is foolish to look for the kingdom anywhere God is not revered.

While I read that passage above, I kept thinking about the church. We always pray that God would show up in our services, that He will come down in power and glory. Now I feel foolish because I don’t see that reverence in my heart. And yet I ask for Him to come down and meet us. Lord, have mercy.

The Terrifying Holiness of God

Starting September 7, Victory Tacloban will start a three-week series on the holiness of God (Victory Metro Manila and other Victory centers start this weekend, August 31). The importance of this topic could not be overstated. We live in a time when people generally think of God as their pal, someone they could have drinks with. We no longer think of God as terrifyingly holy. This series is an attempt to address that. Drew Dyck, in his book Yawning at Tigers, describes the holiness of God in striking details. Quoting from Isaiah 6, he writes:

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Communion Thoughts

We take communion every month in our local church and every time I administer it, I always remind myself to do some research on why we do communion in the first place. What are the timeless truths the church should emphasize? What are the biblical truths that should be brought to our attention?

John Armstrong, on the September issue of Christianity Today, gives some insights that I believe should be in the minds of pastors who administer the Holy Communion:

First, the Holy Communion should call to mind the crucifixion of Jesus and the future fulfillment of His kingdom. It’s like a look back to the origins of our faith and a look forward to the things to come. The church is oftentimes too wrapped up with the pressing needs of the day that it forgets to stop and consider that it doesn’t stand alone. We have a long history behind us and we have a glorious future ahead of us. Our troubles today will all seem smaller if we only pause for a moment and remember that Jesus is the Lord of the church.

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