As I mentioned in an earlier post, back in ’99 I did a mission trip to Hungary and the Ukraine. It was in the Ukraine where I encountered a holiness of God I hadn’t seen before. I visited a Russian Orthodox church. There God was holy. He was holy other. They respected the space reserved for God in the sanctuary. The reserved the space for him. There was no sitting, no seats nor benches. Only a place to stand in awe of God. The father would emerge from behind a screen, a place reserved for the sacred scriptures, carrying a ball of incense. The incense represented our prayers being lifted before God. Scripture was read, the words of Jesus sung. The whole experienced showed me that there was something special about God.
Too many times we have the idea of the buddy Christ. A personal savior is important. But when he becomes your buddy, then he’s lost his holiness. Christ is our king. He is the king of kings and should be treated as so, yet at the same time he is loving and is our friend. In fact, he calls us friends. But he is still Lord. In fact he is Savior, Lord and Friend. Savior because he died for our sins upon the cross. Lord because he is the one who is in control of our lives. Friend because we are close to him.
But there’s a difference between buddy and friend. A buddy is someone you hang with. A buddy is someone who you do dumb things with. A friend is someone who is close and intimate. They know your fears. They know your worries. They know you inside and out. A buddy you go fishing with. A friend you have deep conversations while fishing.
We’ve somehow lost a sense of the holiness of God, the holiness of Christ, the holiness of the Holy Spirit. The very name Holy Spirit, shows his holiness, his otherness.
God tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9
“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.’”
He is other. He is separate from us. He is beyond us. He is beyond our very comprehension yet he condescends, he comes down and limits himself so that he can communicate with us.
Think of that, God limits himself so that he can come to us. He is holy other. He is different than us and he comes down. He limited himself in Jesus Christ, coming as one of us, pure and holy but limited. Limited in that he could have done so much more than he ever did but chose not to. Even at his betrayal and arrest he could have commanded an army of angels to protect him but instead he chose a poor excuse for a trial and death upon the cross.
He is holy. The Hebrew for the word holy is qadosh (KAH-dosh). It means different, set apart, not of this place, special. And this is what God is, he is special; he is different; he is amazing; and he is holy.
As we come before our God, our Savior, our Holy Spirit, we come before a holy God. A God who tenderly loves us. Who is so holy that we can barley comprehend who he is.
This itself should grant us comfort. We have a God whom we can’t understand. If we had a God we could understand, that would place him on our level and strip him of his holiness. Instead, we are able to approach the throne of he who made the universe in the name of Jesus Christ who died for our sins by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Come before the most Holy God. Know that he is special. Treat him with the holiness he deserves. Treat him with the knowledge that he has come down from his holiness to lift you up to his. Knowing that in Christ you are a new creation, a creation that is able to be holy as he truly is holy.