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Sermon Summary: God is Holy (Oct 9, 2016)

Last Sunday’s Sermon Summary • God is Holy (Psalm 99)
Tim Tseng • October 9, 2016

1. The typical narratives about the Christian God:

Either an angry God who can’t stand the sight of us or a Teddy Bear God who doesn’t judge or care about what we do. Both of these narratives are extreme.

Most of the times we think of Jesus as always gentle and loving. But, this is also not entirely true. Jesus also speaks of wrath, judgment, and condemnation (see John 3:36; 5:28-29; Matthew 12:36-37; 16:27).

2. A wrathful God, properly understood, can be a good thing.

As mid-twentieth century theologian H. Richard Niebuhr (Yale) once wrote: “a God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a Cross.”

But let’s not misunderstand: God’s anger and wrath is NOT what is essential about God. They are attributes – not essential to God’s nature. Love and Holiness are essential to who God is. And if God is essentially love and holiness, this helps us get a clearer understanding of God’s wrath.

It helps to distinguish “passions” and “pathos.” Passions are emotions that wax and wanes, feelings that infatuated young lovers have. Wrath, if seen as a passion, would be like a reckless fit of rage by someone has lost all reason and control. But that’s not God’s wrath. In the bible, God’s wrath is like “pathos” – a deep, consistent opposition to sin and evil, motivated by a desire for the good of his people. It is a determination to make things right. A holy God has a pathos for what is good and just for his creation.

3. God is Holy. In Psalm 99, we get a good picture of God’s holiness:

— A holy God is exalted over all the nations (verses 1-3). God is ruler of all the nations and creation, not just Israel’s God. Only an exalted God can judge all people.

— A holy God is a king who loves justice, equity, and righteousness (4-5). If God’s holiness means that he loves justice and equity, what does that mean for us?

— A holy God has a parent-like relationship with his people (6-9). He listens to and speaks to his people, he provides standards, sets direction, and metes out punishment yet forgives. A holy God is like a parent who raises her children with deep care.

4. The Impact of God’s Holiness:

To believers, God is a consuming fire. He loves us so much that he longs for us to be pure. He works tirelessly to make us pure. God is against sin and therefore for humans. God is against sin because he is for me, because sin destroys. Therefore, God is not indifferent to sin and THAT IS GOOD. God doesn’t make me feel bad or shame me, not does he use guilt or fear. His method of changing us is through his holy love that burns the dross of sin out of our lives. His Spirit awakens an awareness within us to repent and change. So we don’t really want a God who doesn’t care.

God’s holiness necessitates hell for those who choose to reject him. C.S. Lewis said that it is not a question of God sending us to hell. In each of us there is a wall that separates us from God and this wall grows taller as we make decisions to reject him and his love. In other words, people who choose a life unshaped by God’s love and purpose will drink judgment upon themselves – that is what hell is.

5. Soul-training: Creating Margins [“setting apart” life for God]

  • Get up ten minutes earlier, create a space for silence before you begin your day.
  • Cut out unnecessary entertainment activities.
  • Scale back some of your commitments – what are essential?
  • Reduce some activities that you do too frequently – e.g., family visits and celebrations, hanging out with certain friends – without cutting off relationships.
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About Tim Tseng

I'm Pastor of English Ministry at Canaan Taiwanese Christian Church (San Jose, CA), independent scholar and theological educator.

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