The character of God matters to our quiet times. There are several big lessons we should learn as we read the Bible. We should learn that God is great. The more we understand this, the more we will recognize that we exist for Him and He is to be worshiped on His terms. Therefore, there is one key result we need from our daily devotional.
The holiness of God
The holiness of God is all through scripture. We see it in His separateness from creation in Genesis 1:1 through to His sovereign determination of judgment in Revelation. We learn of it most graphically, and perhaps most reluctantly in his judgments which are found throughout scripture and are often shocking to our independent western sensibilities.
Who does God think He is by telling us what we can and can’t do? Who does He think He is for punishing people for doing what He says is wrong? Such questions are grounded in our pride and independence from our Creator, but they come so naturally, and even without thought. Just because we feel this way, it doesn’t make us right and God wrong. When we consider our position in light of what the Bible teaches about history, we begin to understand how wrong such questions are.
God didn’t have to, but He did. He created. He created all things for Him (Col 1:16). This world we live in – it is His, created for His purposes. He created us; we are created by a sovereign being for His purpose. All that is around us belongs to the creator. Nothing exists in and of itself or for any ultimate purpose other than Him.
Where it went wrong
By nature, we don’t like to hear this sort of thing, but in the beginning, it wasn’t a problem. God created man to worship, serve and fellowship with Him. We were happy with this arrangement for some time, but then the man rebelled against the creator, rejecting His warning and destroying the relationship between them and God. They destroyed the relationship both for themselves, for God and for those who would follow after them.
They became corrupted. We inherit this corruption. This corruption is what causes us to continue to rebel against the creator, and this rebellion causes further corruption.
How it becomes right
When Christ came, he didn’t come just to declare forgiveness, though He certainly did that. God joined himself to humanity so that humanity could be joined to God. The incarnation is the basis for our union with Christ. This union with Christ is brought about by the Spirit of God dwelling in or joining Himself to followers of Christ. The indwelling Spirit of Christ brings new ways of thinking (1 Cor 2:16), new desires (Gal 5:17) and consequently a new life.
Yet it isn’t plain sailing. In fact, the presence of the indwelling Spirit of God makes life more complicated and confusing. Where we were enslaved to sin or free from righteousness, now we are free to do what is right or what is wrong. The confusion comes because of the conflict between the corrupted self that continues to exist and thoughts and desires of the Holy Spirit within us.
God’s intended change
God’s holiness is consistent. God cannot become greater, he is already greater than we can fathom (Ps 145:3). God certainly doesn’t become less worthy of our service or praise, nor any less desirable as someone to relate to. Once man enjoyed the created order, but in our corruption, we want things to work for us and around our desires and felt needs. We have exchanged what is truly honorable for something created.
Since we made this exchange, and since we have become corrupted, if we are to recapture any aspect of our former relationship to our creator, we need to change and be transformed.
Transformation is exactly the reason why God joins Himself to us through His Spirit. He wants to begin to restore the relationship for which He created us, and joins Himself to us to help with this transformation. He desires our holiness so intensely that He participates in order to ensure it happens.
We see this in numerous places in scripture. In 1 Thess 4:3, Paul explains, “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” The word “will” here means “desire” or “what one wishes to have happen.” So much of what passes off as Christianity today has little regard for what God wants and is far more concerned about what we want or what we find desirable. Sadly, in many churches, the notion of sanctification or personal holiness is almost forgotten.
When Paul wrote about God’s desire, he was writing to a group of Christians in what is today northern Greece. These people read the letter that Paul wrote out loud to the congregation, and they heard Paul tell them that God’s desire for them personally was their holiness. But, Paul wasn’t thinking only about this small group of believers he’d had to leave behind a few weeks earlier. He could say this with confidence because it is God’s desire for all those who are disciples of Christ that they would be holy.
Just as God called Israel to be holy because they belonged to Him (Ex 19:5-6), so also each member of God’s new covenant assembly, which we call the church, is to be holy because we belong to a holy God (1 Peter 2:9, Matt 5:48). If you and I are called to belong to God, we are called to belong to a holy God, which means we need to grow in holiness.
God’s personal desire in your daily devotional
When it comes to our daily devotional or our quiet time as I more often call it, the one thing God most desires of us is to grow in holiness. The point of a daily devotional is not how often we have it, but the result we are seeking to achieve from it. If we come to our daily devotional with the idea of getting something from it, we’ve missed the point. God’s purpose for us is for us to grow in holiness, not feel better. This doesn’t mean that the word of God doesn’t console us or change how we feel, but our feelings are not determinative as to whether our daily devotional is successful or not. If you have ever wondered what the point of a daily devotional is, it could be that you’ve lost track of God’s desire. We all do from time to time.
God desires you to be holy so that you and I will again act more as creatures and less as gods, restoring the relationship we were created to have. This means honoring Him as God. It means to worship, to give thanks and obey Him.
But it also means that our appreciation and feelings toward Him grow, not because of any particular experience, but because as we are transformed or grow in holiness, we are increasingly able to test what He wants of us and for us, and as we do, we will grow in our approval of His sovereign plan (Rom 12:2) and His character. As our approval of these grow so too will our desire for Him.
Without holiness, God will seem distant – not because He is, but because we are.