Monday, November 29, 2010

Fear and Trembling

I've been reading a book by RC Sproul titled The Holiness of God. It is quite a classic and some consider it a "must read" book up there with Mere Christianity and JI Packer's Knowing God.

It is very good, and has caused me a lot of thought. The holiness of God. I can't even fathom it. In The Holiness of God, in chapter Four, the Trauma of Holiness, Mr. Sproul recounts the story of how Jesus rebuked the storm and it obeyed, and the time when Jesus said to put down their nets and their nets were overwhelmed with fish. Peter recognizes that Jesus is God; so holy he wishes him to leave him, realizing His own sinfulness in contrast to the perfect holiness of Christ. Here is what Mr. Sproul writes about the story in Luke 5.

"At that moment [Luke 5:8] Peter realized that he was in the process of the Holy Incarnate. He was desperately uncomfortable. His initial response was one of worship. He fell to his knees before Christ. Instead of saying something like, "Lord, I adore you. I magnify you," he said, "Please go away. Please leave. I can't stand it."

The history of the life of Christ is a history of multitudes of people pushing through crowds just to get close to Him. It is the leper crying, "Have mercy on me." It is the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years reaching out to touch the hem of His garments. It is the thief on the cross straining to hear Jesus' dying words. It is people saying, "Come close to me. Look at me. Touch me."

Not so Peter. His anguish plea was different: He asked Jesus to depart, to give him space, to leave him alone.

Why? We need not speculate here. It is not necessary to read between the lines because the lines themselves state precisely why Peter wanted Jesus gone: "I am a sinful man!" Sinful people are not comfortable in the presence of the holy." (pages 56, 57)

The holiness of God. Think about it. I do believe I'd fall on my face. To think that the holiness of God is excruciating to us. (Isaiah in the presence of God)

I don't meditate on the Holiness of God much, but it has been refreshing and beautiful to think of Him being so full and worthy of awe. Awe-ful.

Sometimes I read more than one book, and now I especially am since we are in the season of Advent. I was reading (rather randomly) in a book titled Watch For the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas. One of the chapters is The Coming of Jesus in Our Midst by Bonhoeffer. On page 205 he writes:

"It is very remarkable hat we face the thought that God is coming so calmly, whereas previously peoples trembled at the day of God, whereas the world fell into trembling when Jesus Christ walked over the earth. That is why we find it so strange when we see the marks of God in the world so often together with the marks of human suffering, with the marks of the cross on Golgotha. We have become so accustomed to idea of divine love and of God's coming at Christmas that we no longer feel the shiver of fear that God's coming should arouse in us. We are indifferent to the message, taking only the pleasant and agreeable out of it and forgetting the serious aspect, that the God of the world draws near to the people of our little earth and lays claim to us. The coming of God is truly not only glad tidings, but first of all frightening news for everyone who has a conscience.

Only when we have felt the terror of the matter, can we recognize the incomparable kindness. God comes into the very midst of evil and of death, and judges the evil in us and in the world. And by judging us, God cleanses and sanctifies us, comes to us with grace and love."

I have not a clue what it will be like in Christ's presence. Will I still feel unworthy and mindful of my sin? Or will I know that I stand before God and am seen without sin due to the imputation of Christ's righteousness? Will I feel the excruciating pain of knowing I was in the presence of God's holiness, or will I be at ease, in the arms of a welcoming father?

I can't even fathom the day.

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