A Dangerous God

Today a lot of people talk about God very casually. They talk about being spiritual, connecting with God, getting still. The tone of their talk communicates an expectation of peace and comfort, as sense that all’s right with the world. And that’s certainly something Christians can expect to enjoy sometimes. But that’s only possible through the work of Jesus.

In Scripture the unmediated presence of God is terrifying. When God comes close, the overwhelming sense is one of absolute dread. We see this in the stories of people like Moses, Isaiah, and Daniel in the Old Testament. To be in the presence of a holy God is dangerous because God is holy, and we are not.

But talk of a terrifying God isn’t very popular today, and I’ll admit it’s troubling. But there’s a mercy in that trouble. It teaches us how serious it is to sin against a holy God.

The Ten Commandments given at Sinai revealed the holy nature of God and revealed human sinfulness. Though the people said they would keep the commandments, they didn’t. Scripture says they couldn’t bear what was commanded.

Immediately, mercifully, the next event in the development of Old Testament religion was a system of sacrifices. God made a way that allowed sinful people to live with a holy God nearby. Those sacrifices showed how serious and costly sin is. But Old Testament religion didn’t really solve our problem. It only pointed to our need for the perfect Law-keeper and a the perfect sacrifice Who was to come in Christ.

The closeness with God we long for will never be accomplished through our religious performance. You can’t approach God on your own. You can’t bear what’s commanded, though many think they can.

Even many church-going people spend their whole lives not understanding this basic idea. They may say they are Christians. They may believe in Jesus, but they live as if they have to save themselves. For the Christian life is one of trying harder to be better. But that will never be good enough, because God’s standard is not “better.” It’s “perfect.”  Perfect is unattainable except by His all-surpassing gift. Anything else is worse than pointless; it’s dangerous.

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