You will never understand God’s holiness by setting your mind on the things of earth.
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)
In a previous article we mentioned that countless passages of Scripture exhort us to set our minds on the things of Heaven, and give us examples of that commandment put into practice. We saw God take Isaiah into the very throne room of Heaven in order to confront the prophet with His absolute holiness, so that Isaiah might see his own sinful state and be cleansed and prepared for the vital and eternal work God had called him to do.
We also saw that God has called every believer in Christ to do a vital and eternal work for their Lord. It is the twofold work of Christ’s Great Commission: evangelizing the world, and edifying the saints. As we find in Colossians chapters three and four, every believer in Christ has that work to do – in the home, in the workplace, in our neighborhoods, and in the church. That work, however insignificant it may seem to us, will have eternal consequences – heavenly consequences. It is God’s desire and plan to use His people as His instruments in saving others for eternity. It is His desire and plan to use His believers as His instruments to build up a people in the faith, so that they will be prepared for eternity.
And so we must ask the question: Dear friend, are you setting your mind on things above, so that you have this understanding of the holiness of God? Do you understand who this God is – the One who dwells in inapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16)? Do you understand that this holy God is a consuming fire (Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Hebrews 12:29)? Do you understand that because God is utterly holy, therefore fellowship with the holy God demands holiness on the part of those who would approach Him?
“Be Holy, For I Am Holy”
God says repeatedly, “Be holy, for I am holy” (e.g., Leviticus 11:44-45, 19:2, 20:7; Matthew 5:48; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Do you understand that God’s holiness is absolutely inviolable? Do you understand that He cannot for one moment condone sin or have any relationship with it (Psalm 11:4-6, Habakkuk 1:13)?
Do you understand that Genesis chapter two tells us that our first parents, in their un-fallen, holy state, enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God? Do you understand the consequences of their sin? Do you understand that their disobedience – not merely the act of disobedience, but the attitude of rebellion against God that led to it – broke that fellowship for themselves and introduced sin and its effects into the creation (Genesis 3:16-19; Isaiah 59:2; Romans 5:12 & 18, 8:20-22)? Do you understand that because of their sin, they and all mankind became the objects of God’s holy wrath (Romans 1:18, 2:5; Ephesians 2:3)?
Do you understand God’s holy anger with sin? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Do you understand that there is no place in Heaven or earth where you can go to escape God’s glory and holiness? Do you understand that there is no dark and secret corner of your mind and heart that is not naked and open before the holiness of God? Do you understand that you cannot go into some dark corner or some secret place, mentally or physically, and disobey God without that disobedience being naked and open before Him? Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” – the holy God.
Do you understand these things, dear friend? Do you understand that God is not the God of therapy for sin, but of judgment against sin? Do you understand that it is not merely a matter of sins – the acts that you commit and the thoughts that you think -but a matter of sin, a matter of a disobedient heart, the fact that apart from Jesus Christ you and every other human being is an enemy of God, in rebellion against His holiness?
The Only Way to Understand God’s Holiness
You can only have this understanding as you “set your mind upon things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.” You will not understand these things by setting your mind on the things of this earth. Only when you set your mind on things above can you truly understand that the wrath of God – His anger against sin – is essential to His holy nature. It is not a mere emotional matter. The holy wrath of God is His righteous and perfect indignation against anything or anyone who violates His holiness.
God is not indifferent to the poison of sin that has thoroughly polluted the perfect universe He created. More than twenty Hebrew words refer to the wrath of God in the Old Testament, and those words are used over 580 times. And the wrath of God is not merely an Old Testament concept. Many commentators want to say that the God of the Old Testament is the God of wrath, but the God of the New Testament is the God of love.
Dear friend, Scripture knows no such distinction. Jeremiah tells us that the God of the Old Testament is the God of “everlasting love” (31:3). But the New Testament also tells us repeatedly that God is the God of holy wrath against sin.
Look at Jesus’ teachings on God’s wrath in the Gospels. Look at Paul’s great exposition of the doctrine of justification by faith alone – deliverance from the wrath of God – in Romans. Look at the Holy Spirit’s explanation of Christ’s propitiation of the wrath of God by His own blood in Hebrews. Look at the great and terrible judgments that are prophesied in Revelation. “The wrath of God,” Paul tells us in Romans chapter one, “is revealed against all unrighteousness and ungodliness of men” – all without exception (Romans 1:18).
You Can Only Truly Be God’s Child If You Understand His Holiness
Dear friend, as you set your mind on things above, the very first question you must ask is this: Am I safe from the wrath of God? And only when you set your mind on things above can you understand that “where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God,” you will find the only remedy for your sin, the only propitiation for sin, the only thing and the only One who will take away the wrath of God against you – and that is the blood of Christ on the heavenly altar, and Jesus Christ the Righteous interceding for sinners who come to Him not seeking to do anything for themselves, but seeking by faith alone to appropriate what He has done for them.
Many passages in the Bible tell us that the holy wrath of God remains, and will eternally remain, upon those who persist in unbelief apart from Christ (John 3:36, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6, Revelation 20:11-15, 21:8). But those who place their faith in Christ alone, apart from works (Romans 3:28), are, Romans chapter five verse nine tells us, “justified by His blood… [and] saved from wrath through Him.”
You Can Only Truly Do God’s Work If You Understand His Holiness
The prophet Isaiah had this understanding of things above. When he saw the glory of God and the holiness of God seated on His throne, Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me, for I am undone [in the Hebrew, I am cut off, I am destroyed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
Isaiah saw the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, “the King, the Lord of hosts.” And later in his prophecy Isaiah asks, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with the everlasting burnings?” (33:14). God drove this great reality home to Isaiah by showing him the throne room of Heaven.
Listen again to the cry of Isaiah: “Woe is me, for I am undone [in the Hebrew, I am cut off, I am destroyed]; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” God showed Isaiah His absolute holiness. And, God showed Isaiah his hopeless depravity. Furthermore, God showed Isaiah that there is no hope to be found in the things of earth: “I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips.”
There is no help, no salvation, to be found there. But God showed Isaiah Himself, “high and lifted up,” seated on the throne of Heaven. And God saved Isaiah, and God set Isaiah apart to do a work for His glory. And when God said, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Isaiah said without hesitation, “Here am I! Send me.”
Isaiah was ready to do God’s work. Are you?