Saturday, April 10, 2010

Thirty Days of Prayer in the Home...Day 11

Hallowed be thy name....

"Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy.'" I Peter 1:13-16

As we've mentioned, Jesus advises us to start our prayer with a recognition of God's holiness. God is unlike any other, and His holiness is the essence of that "otherness". It is also the essence of his absolute perfection. In Isaiah 55:9, God declares, "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

He is the great "I Am", the Self-Existent One. He is the source of all good qualities and things and the standard for all goodness, as well. We know love, because love is an attribute of God. His love is pure and holy, far above the way that fallen humans attempt to love. His goodness is pure and holy and; his justice is pure and holy; his wisdom is pure and holy; his mercy is pure and holy. God's essential being is totally free from any flaw, any sin, any mistake, any impurity, and any failing. Whatever attribute of Himself that God discloses to us, we can be sure that it is both spotless and infinitely, wholly complete. There is nothing lacking in the attributes or nature of God.

Everything that God created was holy and good, because it sprang from our holy and good Creator. Thus, when God created man and woman and the animals and the world, He pronounced them "good". Our goodness was not something we came up with by our own power, but something that our Good Creator put in us. Since God made us in his image, He made us to share some of His wonderful attributes. We were holy, set apart for God's purpose, and in intimate, unbroken communication with Him.

However, when man and woman sinned and sin entered the world, we mingled sin along with the godly attributes we were created with. Sin created a new barrier in our relationship with a holy God. Our once intimate, unbroken communication with God was now broken. As Romans 3 tells us, every one of us since has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Thus, even though many people reject God and His ways, even the most wicked among us has some dim and concept that life should consist of good things, like justice, peace, and joy. The most adamant unbeliever will cry "That's not fair" if they sense someone is treating them unfairly. Thus, by their words, he betrays some idea that there is such a thing as justice and fairness -- though he may not understand that justice and fairness originate in God. The unbeliever's concept of God and holiness is perverted and the wicked seek after the wrong things in order to satisfy their longings.

Likewise, even the most devout follower of Jesus fails to attain holiness solely by his or her own effort. We may try with all of our heart, for example, to love our neighbor, but, in the end, find that our love is polluted by a drop of selfish ambition and diminished by a pinch of unjustified anger. We grow weary of loving someone who doesn't love us back. We expect rewards for our love. Or, we spoil the person we love or make of our loved one an idol or in some other way do harm when we mean to do good. Or, our love may be genuine and true, but we are powerless to act for our loved one's good in a certain situation. We need grace to help us love as God loves and as He teaches us to love. Likewise, we need grace to help us be righteous, pure, just, faithful, peaceful, joyful, etc.

God's holiness and our sin are incompatible. However, God still loves us and reaches out to restore our broken relationship with Him. He wants to recreate His image in us and to make us holy, set apart for His purpose as we were meant to be. Thus, God provided us with a Savior who "who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds." Titus 2:14

It is because of what Jesus has done for us that we can now "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16. Upon our true conversion, we are cleansed by the Lord's blood. This blood continues to cleanse us from all sin, provided that we walk in the light. I John Chapters 1 and 2. We no longer live for self and sin, but for the Lord. God counts us as holy and also continues to work holiness in us. God matures us more and more into the image of his Son. Romans 6:6; Galatians 2:20; Galatians 5:24; Romans 12:2; I Peter 1:14-15. Through it all, it is the Savior's blood that purifies us and makes us holy, enabling us to come into our Father's holy presence. We are justified freely by his blood. Romans 3:23.

God's holiness is at once comforting and sobering. It is sobering in part because His holiness exposes our lack of holiness. Indeed, when we truly recognize God's holiness, we also see our utter spiritual poverty. For the humble, that's a good place to be; Jesus says that those who see their spiritual poverty are blessed.

God's holiness also reminds us that we will be accountable to Him for how we live our lives. Hebrews 12:28-29 tells us, Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire."

This awe-inspiring holiness of God can be comforting if we let it be. If we do not flee the light, but come to the Lord in humility and honesty, we will find grace and mercy. John 3:20-21; I Peter 5:5 God's holiness may bring judgment to those who reject Jesus, but it builds humility, faith, truth, and purity in those who love Him and seek an ever- deepening relationship with Him.

God's holiness is comforting, because we know that God's dealings with us are always perfect, always righteous, and always holy. We need never fear, for example, that His love for us is tainted with selfishness or partiality. The Scriptures tell us that God shows no favoritism. God does not judge us as the world judges us, by superficial things. We can trust that, that in His love, He always does what is best for us. His infinite, holy love is accompanied by infinite, holy wisdom and infinite, holy power. God always has in mind the best interests of the ones He loves, and He has the power and the wisdom to carry out what is best for us. We may not understand what He is doing in the moment, but we can trust that He does and that it will work for our good.

God's holiness means that He is free of hypocrisy, deceit, selfish manipulation, and free of all of the sins that can do damage in even the closest, most sincere human relationships. If all others around us fail us or if we fail ourselves, God will still be true. We can count on that. His holiness is a spring of fresh, pure water. It refreshes us when we are weak, when we need forgiveness, when we are disappointed, and when we are desperate to find grace and truth.

Why is it important to begin our prayers with a name of God, such as Our Father, and a recognition of the holiness of his name? With foundation in scripture, the Jews understood that the name of a person represented more than a label or a way to get someone's attention. A person's represented the true identity of the person to whom you were referring. This was especially true of God's holy name. Likewise, God's Names conveyed his authority as well. Thus, to regard God's name as holy and to treat it as holy is to regard God, himself, as being holy. Also, the prayer points to the coming of God's kingdom in all of its fullness, when God's name will be honored by all. What could be more delightful to us than reverencing God's name and helping others to know and honor God, too.