How do we begin to understand God’s holiness? According to A.W. Tozer, we are the total opposite of holy; we are vile.
Perhaps you have a different perspective about yourself, but Tozer explains that all humans are fallen beings: spiritually, mentally, and physically. “We are fallen in all the ways that man can fall,” Tozer claims. “Each one of us is born into a tainted world, and we learn impurity from our cradles. We nurse it in our mother’s milk; we breathe it in the very air. Our education deepens it and our experience confirms it -- evil impurities everywhere. Everything is dirty; even our whitest white is dingy gray.”
As a student, I remember longing for the day when I could wear my white nurse’s uniform and a white cap . . . well, maybe not the cap. I worked hard to keep my uniform clean and white so that my patients and co-workers would view me as a professional and competent nurse. But putting on white, clean clothes does not make us pure or holy in God’s eyes, and we can’t expect to be in his presence if we have even one speck of gray within us.
We can begin to understand God’s holiness by seeing the presence of God as a “devouring fire” and “everlasting burnings,” as described in Isaiah 33:14. Many times God came near to his people in fire. He was in the burning bush that Moses encountered. He was in the pillar of fire that directed the Israelites for forty years. Paul was blinded by the light of Christ’s presence. Hebrews 12:29 reminds us that “our God is a consuming fire.”
Tozer warns that it is so very important that we realize just who we are dealing with when we approach God. “If we had a better picture of His awesome holiness, we would not neglect to repent of those ‘hanging on’ sins,” Tozer writes. “We would not insult His majesty by coming to Him in prayer with a ‘shopping list.’ He is the God who is of ‘purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity’ (Habakkuk 1:13), and ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed’ (Lamentations 3:22).”
God wants us to draw near to him, but how can we get close to “the unapproachable fire?” Tozer suggests that we can be in his fiery presence like an iron in a hot flame by “absorbing” the fire. Because our sins have been washed away by the blood of Jesus, because we have the imputed righteousness of Christ, we can glow with his holiness, just like a hot red iron, and we can enjoy his presence for eternity.
As Christian nurses, I pray you will take to heart these words from The Message in 1 Peter 1:15-16: “So roll up your sleeves, put your mind in gear, be totally ready to receive the gift that’s coming when Jesus arrives. Don’t lazily slip back into those old grooves of evil, doing just what you feel like doing. You didn’t know any better then; you do now. As obedient children, let yourselves be pulled into a way of life shaped by God’s life, a life energetic and blazing with holiness. God said, “I am holy; you be holy.” Amen!
This is the tenth post in a series by NCF Director Jane Hall on God’s attributes. She is inspired by the writings of A.W. Tozer in “The Attributes of God Volume 1 with Study Guide: A Journey Into the Father’s Heart.”