Encounters with a Holy God
Have you ever wondered: what do the four living creatures and 24 elders in Revelation 4:8-10 see that causes them to cry “Holy” unceasingly? What are they seeing that we are not seeing? Why does their response to a holy God seem so starkly different from how we respond to Him?
In January 2017, God gave me a vision of an old television — the boxy ones with antennas — that required tuning and positioning. All that was visible on the screen were static pictures and all I heard were unbearable static sounds. The Lord then revealed that this was the barren condition of the prayer lives of the young in Singapore. This broke my heart and brought me to my knees in repentance and I began to cry out for hearts to be awakened to a Holy God. I even found myself asking God to grip my own heart with reverence of Him. Little did I know, these prayers paved the way to deeper encounters that would forever mark my heart and life.
A couple of weeks later, during a church camp, God locked me into His presence by locking me on my knees and feet on two separate occasions. During this “love lockdown,” His Holy presence came intimately close to me and touched my filthy flesh, such that I had to hide my feet, cover my face, and stay on my knees (like the seraphim in Isaiah 6:2) for an hour one afternoon. That same evening, I stood stationary at the altar for another hour or two. I didn’t dare to move as I knew not what to do when a Holy God — who is utterly set apart and pure — wanted to come close to me. I was confronted with the heavy truth that in His Holy presence, every thing unholy had to go.
It was an incredible combination of emotions but in that moment, I experienced both intense repentance unto the Lord and immense dependance upon Him. In that sweet spot of emotional collision, God weeded out my deep-rooted fear of men.
It was confronting and painful because up to that point, I had lived all my life seeking to please everyone: my parents, relatives, classmates, friends, boyfriend, colleagues. I had wanted everyone to see me for who I was trying to be more than I wanted them to see Christ in me. My fear of men had abdicated God of His due honour, glory, and praise.
Two months later, I am still trying to process on how I can live a holy life. Amid this journey, these are three key things I’ve learnt (and am still learning) about God’s pure holiness, and how it brings inevitable transformation in our lives:
God placed His Holy Spirit in our unholy temples
If God marked our transgressions, who would stand? No one could, and no one would. Sin and unholiness cannot stand before Him at all. Surely it is by His grace through faith alone that we are saved (Ephesians 2:8).
When God made Himself so tangible in my life that momentous day, I instantly became aware of who was living within me and acknowledged that I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19). There was burning need to submit to a Holy God.
This was further re-emphasised by the guest speaker, Pastor Dian Botha, who said, “Holy is His name; Spirit is His surname.” When I pondered over this statement, I began to realise what a humbling measure of grace and mercy is daily flowing through us as we hear the Holy Spirit speak to us in truth (John 16:13) and prompt us to live lives that reflect Him!
R.C Sproul explains,
“…As long as our gaze is fixed on the horizontal plane of this earth, we have no problem with ourselves. But if we lift our gaze to heaven and contemplate what God is, we will be broken. Security and smugness is annihilated. Holy men are reduced to trembling with one glimpse of God.”
In His holiness I was broken, and He even confronted my unhealthy indulgence of dessert in my life, which was affecting the health of my physical body. It is no wonder Paul appeals to us in Romans 12:1 (ESV), “…therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” God’s original intent for us was to live holy lives, and we must respect His Holy presence living within us!
Holy Reverence and Fear of the Lord are not negotiable in our lives
An encounter with holiness will always lead one to repentance and submission. Since that encounter with God, He has put me in several situations where I had to choose between fearing Him or fearing men. For example, feedback or suggestions regarding situations were often interpreted and assumed as personal attacks and taken personally. I would then begin to make changes to who I was and what I did, based on what people had to say.
Being a “feeler” by nature, these choices I had to make showed evidently in my emotions. The first few challenges left me in tears as I allowed comments and well-meaning thoughts to creep into the fearful crevices of my heart, crippling me, and causing me to succumb to fearing men. These moments brought me to a place of repentance, and strengthened my heart’s resilience.
As these challenges became more frequent, my spirit began to intentionally choose to hear what God first had to say rather than listen and heed the voices of others. This resulted in me learning how to be confident in the Lord and learning to revere Him before anyone.
I am now convinced that the bride of Christ can no longer live ignorantly and indifferently. If we want to represent God rightly, we need to be holy. God made such a command in both the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 11:44 and 1 Peter 1:15-16).
Without proper reverence and fear of the Lord, we will easily lose sight of our need to be holy and we will eventually reign as our own gods. We must grow dissatisfied with our lack of holy reverence of the Lord in our lives. We must rid of the disgruntled and indifferent postures of our heart towards our Holy God and resolve to love Him with holy reverence and fear.
We are defected when without His Holy nature in us.
God is more committed to our holiness than we are
This is probably the most important lesson I’m learning: God is committed to my holiness by removing sin and insecurities, because He made me in His image (Genesis 1:27), and because He wants me to be with Him where He is (John 17:24).
Hebrews 12:14 (NIV) makes it clear for believers to “make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy,” because “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” I personally struggled with this because I thought, “God, I will never be able to be holy while I’m on earth!” However, time and time again, God would remind me that this was no excuse for living in perpetual sin and unholiness.
One of my church pastors recently shared his journey towards holiness, and it was through his journey that I gained clarity as to why God had kept reminding me not to stumble into sin just because I had deemed it impossible to live a holy life. God cares enough about your holiness and mine to bring Hebrews 10:14 (NIV) to pass, solidifying it as an unshakeable truth: “For by one sacrifice [Jesus] has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”
If God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son were both willing to lay down what was ultimately prized in their hearts (the former, His Son; and the latter, His life) for my holiness, surely God is more committed to my holiness than I could ever be!
Even when I cannot attain perfect holiness, I am motivated and convicted to live a holy life, just as my Father is holy. Every issue of sin in my life is brought to light because holiness is my reality, for eternity.
Living life on earth may be tough, and sin — like black, sticky, stubborn tar — can cling onto our white robes, causing us to be constantly weighed down. Let us remember today that God is committed to our holiness, and so must we. God’s holy nature will never change, and when He returns for us, may each of us be able to stand and testify that holiness was something we have pursued. I am praying that a generation of young people who will stake their lives for His holiness will rise up in these last days. May we never give God short of what He truly deserves.