Tag Archives: The Holiness of God

“The supreme mysterious stranger” by R.C. Sproul

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ (Mark 4:39–40, NIV)

The life of Jesus was a blaze of miracles. He performed so many that it is easy for us to become jaded in the hearing of them. We can read this narrative and skip quickly over to the next page without being moved.

Yet we have here one of the most astonishing of all Jesus’ miracles. We have an event that made a special impression on the disciples. It was a miracle that was mind-boggling even to them.

Jesus controlled the fierce forces of nature by the sound of His voice. He didn’t say a prayer. He didn’t ask the Father to deliver them from the tempest. He dealt with the situation directly. He uttered a command, a divine imperative. Instantly nature obeyed.

The wind heard the voice of its Creator. The sea recognized the command of its Lord. Instantly the wind ceased. Not a zephyr could be felt in the air. The sea became like glass without the tiniest ripple.

Notice the reaction of the disciples. The sea was now calm but they were still agitated:

They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’ (Mark 4:41, niv)

We see a strange pattern unfolding here. That the storm and raging sea frightened the disciples is not surprising. But once the danger passed and the sea was calm, it would seem that their fear would vanish as suddenly as the storm.

It didn’t happen that way. Now that the sea was calm, the fear of the disciples increased. How do we account for that?

It was the father of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, who once espoused the theory that men invent religion out of a fear of nature. Man feels helpless before an earthquake, a flood, or a ravaging disease. So, said Freud, men invent a God who has power over the earthquake, flood, and disease.

God is personal. We can talk to Him. We can try to bargain with Him. We can plead with Him to save us from the destructive forces of nature. We are not able to plead with earthquakes, negotiate with floods, or bargain with cancer. So, the theory goes, we invent God to help us deal with these scary things.

What is significant about this story in Scripture is that the disciples’ fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid. Jesus’ action to still the tempest made them more afraid. In the power of Christ they met something more frightening than they ever met in nature.

They were in the presence of the holy. We wonder what Freud would have said about that. Why would men invent a God whose holiness was more terrifying than the forces of nature that provoked them to invent a god in the first place?

We can understand men inventing an unholy god, a god who brought only comfort. But why a god more scary than the earthquake, flood, or disease? It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The words that the disciples spoke after Jesus calmed the sea are very revealing. They cried out, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’ The question was, ‘What manner of man is this?’ They were asking a question of kind.

They were looking for a category to put Jesus in, a type that they were familiar with. If we can classify people into certain types, we know immediately how to deal with them. We respond one way to hostile people and another way to friendly people.

We react one way to intellectual types and another way to social types. The disciples could find no category adequate to capture the person of Jesus. He was beyond typecasting. He was sui generis—in a class by Himself.

The disciples had never met a man like this. He was unlike anyone they had ever encountered. He was one of a kind, a complete foreigner. They had met all different kinds of men before—tall men, short men, fat men, skinny men, smart men, and stupid men.

They had met Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Egyptians, Samaritans, and fellow Jews. But they had never met a holy man, a man who could speak to winds and waves and have them obey Him.

That Jesus could sleep through the storm at sea was strange enough. But it was not unique. I think again of my fellow passenger on the airplane who dozed while I was gripped with panic.

It may be rare to meet people who can slumber through a crisis but it is not unprecedented. I was impressed with my friend on the plane.

But he did not awaken and yell out the window to the wind and make it stop at his command. If he had done that, I would have looked around for a parachute.

Jesus was different. He possessed an awesome otherness. He was the supreme mysterious stranger. He made people uncomfortable.”

–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1993), 77–81.

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“His forgiveness is holy” by Ed Welch

“No doubt you have wronged other people in your life and they have forgiven you. That is certainly an expression of the grace of God. But don’t use the experience of human forgiveness to understand the forgiveness of God. Remember: we have been enemies of God. We still find the seeds of rebellion in our hearts everyday; we didn’t even seek God and beg His forgiveness, yet He is pleased to forgive.

One common feature of all world religions, except for the religion revealed in the Old and New Testaments, is that the gods demand some kind of human penance when they are wronged. Human beings must pay the gods back by giving more money, adhering to proper rituals, going through some form of self-punishment, or practicing some means of works righteousness.

When religions are shaped by the way people treat one another, such a system is unavoidable. The psalmist knows this. He knows that all other gods keep records of who has been naughty and who has been nice. But God is holy, and his forgiveness is holy. Nothing can compare to it. As a result the psalmist says, ‘If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with You there is forgiveness; therefore You are feared’ (Ps. 130:3-4).

Do you ever think that your sins are too bad, and that forgiveness for those sins requires you to get your act together first? If so, you don’t fear God. You are minimizing his forgiveness. You are acting as though his forgiveness is ordinary, just like that of any person or make-believe god. In contrast, the fear of the Lord leads us to believe that when God makes promises too good to be true, they are indeed true.”

–Ed Welch, Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest (Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2007), 194-5.

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“Sin is cosmic treason” by R.C. Sproul

“Is the death penalty for sin unjust? By no means. Remember that God voluntarily created us. He gave us the highest privilege of being His image bearers. He made us but a little lower than the angels. He freely gave us dominion over all the earth. We are not turtles. We are not fireflies. We are not caterpillars or coyotes. We are people. We are the image bearers of the holy and majestic King of the cosmos.

We have not used the gift of life for the purpose God intended. Life on this planet has become the arena in which we daily carry out the work of cosmic treason. Our crime is far more serious, far more destructive than that of Benedict Arnold. No traitor to any king or nation has even approached the wickedness of our treason before God.

Sin is cosmic treason. Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign. It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself. Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo? What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God. We are saying, ‘God, Your law is not good. My judgment is better than Yours. Your authority does not apply to me. I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction. I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.’

The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority. It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything. It is an insult to His holiness. We become false witnesses to God.

When we sin as the image bearers of God, we are saying to the whole creation, to all of nature under our dominion, to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field: ‘This is how God is. This is how your Creator behaves. Look in his mirror; look at us, and you will see the character of the Almighty.’

We say to the world, ‘God is covetous; God is ruthless; God is bitter; God is a murderer, a thief, a slanderer, an adulterer. God is all of these things that we are doing.’”

–R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Wheaton: Tyndale, 1985), 115-16.

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