Mark McClellan said God's holiness makes him uncomfortable, almost frightened. But the dean of Oklahoma Baptist University's Joe L. Ingram School of Christian Service said experiencing this attribute of God is also powerful - even sweet. McClellan shared his perspective of the holiness of God during the weekly chapel service March 11 on the OBU campus.
The message continued this year's chapel series, "Lost and Found." The series theme is based on "The Knowledge of the Holy," a book about God's nature written by A.W. Tozer.
McClellan said as he prepared the message, he felt some anguish over how long he has served God, yet how little of the holiness of God he feels he reflects. He said even Tozer admitted his own inadequacy concerning God's holiness.
"Neither the writer nor the reader of these words is qualified to appreciate the holiness of God," Tozer wrote. "God's holiness is not simply the best we know infinitely bettered. We know nothing like the divine holiness."
McClellan said only the Holy Spirit can impart the divine nature of God's holiness to man.
"To come into an experience with God and to realize He is holy makes us look at ourselves and compels us to see just how different we are from God," he said. "At the same time, as we receive by grace and the love of God a new life in Christ, we receive some holiness imparted into our life by Him."
McClellan identified two dimensions of God's holiness, based on Isaiah 6:1-7. Holiness, he said, is the distinctiveness of God, and it is the purity of God.
"When God sets something apart, makes it distinct, then He calls it holy," McClellan said. "It is clear in the Bible that what is truly holy is what God has touched, what He has set apart as holy. You and I need the touch of God. We need that continually. We need that powerfully. We need this holiness, and we need Him to accomplish that in us."
The first five chapters of Isaiah detail the frequent failures of God's people. Then their earthly king died. The prophet Isaiah came to a time of mourning. In the Scripture McClellan read, Isaiah had an unexpected experience: he encountered holy God. Trembling, the prophet immediately realized his inadequacy and failure in light of God's perfection.
"We have learned to live with holiness and have come to look upon it as a natural and expected thing," McClellan said. "The true holiness of God surprises us, and it shocks us."
The prophet Isaiah's response was, "I am ruined!" As long as Isaiah compared himself to other religious people, even the people of Israel, he could consider himself somewhat righteous, partially righteous, more righteous than some although perhaps not as righteous as someone else, McClellan said. But before God's holiness, Isaiah found himself to be unclean, undone and ruined. No amount of religious or intellectual activity could save him.
"Holy God, acting in grace and mercy, touched his lips, cleansed him and forgave him," McClellan said. "That's what the gospels and Jesus Christ do. When we respond as Isaiah did, that will be our experience as well."
He reiterated that meeting God totally changed Isaiah's life. He contended that encountering the holiness of God creates amazement, but at the same time causes people to come to know God.
"Holy God acts in grace and love and compassion across the great divide to touch us and to forgive us and to set us apart," he said.
"One of the most amazing and powerful things we can learn from Isaiah, Jacob, Habakkuk, Paul and Peter is that you and I, we really can come into the presence of a God who is holy," he said. "We really can. It's an amazing truth. It's a powerful truth."