I suggest you read the first part of this short series before proceeding. In it I shared a little “man-on-the-street” video we made several years ago. We approached total strangers on Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati and asked them three questions. The first question was this:
“What do you think God is like?”
We asked this question first because this is where everything begins. Watch the first two and a half minutes and listen to their answers…
There are a few exceptions, but generally you can see a picture emerge of a god who is the white-bearded grandfather in heaven. He understands that nobody is perfect so he accepts people because they try hard and do their best.
We like this image of God because it gives us comfort and makes us feel good, and we think it will draw others to him.
But this is not who God is. To be sure, God is love. Scripture says so. But it’s a perfect love. Not the soft “I’ll-support-you-no-matter-what-you-do” kind of love. In fact, just a few verses after John writes “God is love” he says “ …he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” In order to appreciate the power of this statement you might need to look up the word “propitiation.” We’ll talk more about this in parts three and four, but I bring it up now to show that…
God is not tolerant. God is holy.
Here are just a few verses that mention it:
Exodus 15:11 “Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like You – majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?”
Deuteronomy 32:4 “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
I Samuel 6:20 “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God?”
Isaiah 55:9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Psalm 145:17 “Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.”
This God is unlike anyone or anything we’ve ever experienced. And, before you start thinking that this is only the God of the Old Testament, I assure you he hasn’t changed. In fact, when you move into the New Testament you find that, not only is God still perfectly holy, this holiness is God’s expectation of us as well…
I Peter 1:15-16 “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
I know this all sounds very hard-nosed and off-putting. You may think think this is very legalistic, strict, and “fundamentalist.” But if God is tolerant of sin, and not completely holy, the gospel is diminished. It doesn’t even make sense.
If you are one who has this tolerant image of God and are having trouble shaking it, stay tuned for part three.
Go here for part 3.