A High View of God

  • Steve Hatter
snowy mountain at sunset

For those following my blogs over the past three weeks, you will remember I have been working on a series addressing the ongoing conflicts in our nation. Like many Christians, I have been stunned and saddened to watch America so rapidly descend before our very eyes. In watching what seems a bad dream unfold I have been moved to pray how I might—as a pastor—best shepherd the Lord’s flock into an uncertain future.

Therefore, I have been considering these questions: How are we to live—as authentic followers of Jesus Christ—in our times? How do we persevere in keeping with the Apostle Paul’s standard found in Philippians 2:15:

“That you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” 

My pastoral interpretation of Paul’s command is that I am to live out the axiom Christ is all I need, which hinges on three factors: a correct understanding of conversion, an accurate view of history in keeping with Scripture, and a right view of God. Conversion and a proper perspective on history have been laid down in previous weeks, so today, I turn to the final element—that we need a correct view of God. 

A High View of God

The Scriptures instruct that a correct view of God is a high view of God. And a high view of God demands a low view of man. There is a directly correlating relationship. The higher our view of God, the lower must be our opinion of ourselves.

Where do we find such instruction in Scripture? The prophet Isaiah provides a comprehensive example in Isaiah 6:1-8. God gave the Old Testament prophet a life-changing vision in the Jerusalem Temple:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;the whole earth is full of his glory!”And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” 

Pastor H.B. Charles produced a marvelous sermon on this passage in 2011 that argued Isaiah’s encounter with God in the Temple revealed three essential elements of a high view of God. All believers should understand these elements as they navigate life in a fallen world: God is sovereign, God is holy, and God is gracious.

God is Sovereign

A secular understanding of the word sovereign means ruling power. The world’s sovereigns are people in charge calling the shots, like kings or emperors or presidents or prime ministers. But implicit in the word sovereign’s full meaning are two critically important ideas—supremacy and autonomy. A true sovereign not only rules with power but does so with autonomy and with supreme authority over every other ruling power. No human being ever was, nor ever will be, capable of true sovereignty because men lack the attributes demanded of true sovereignty, such as total awareness, pervasive presence, or power over nature. Human kings are limited. They are flawed. Try as they might, they cannot meet the deepest needs of those in subjection to them. They are weak.

Yet, men have always sought human kings who might somehow deliver on true sovereignty with glorious saving effect on all humanity. Addressing the reality of such errant searching, Pastor Nathan Schneider has been highlighting in his recent blogs the fallacy of modern progressivism—the 21st-century version of seeking salvation through men. In quoting author Rob Dreher, who recently published Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents, Nathan has made crystal clear the false hope of Marxism, which is the origin of the advancing progressivism in America today:  

“The progress touted here is firmly steeped in early 20th century Marxist doctrine and operates under the pseudo-religious belief that humanity is inexorably and inevitably moving toward progress. As Dreher articulated it, “The Grand March is the splendid march on the road to brotherhood, equality, justice, happiness; it goes on and on, obstacles notwithstanding, for obstacles there must be if the march is to be the Grand March…. Marx and his fellow radicals promised that radical politics, harnessing the power of science and technology, really could establish heaven on earth. They were atheists who believed that man could become like a god.'” 

We do not need an ultimately weak human sovereign propped up by a haughty ruling elite. We need a higher and true sovereign who possesses the attributes to rule absolutely.

The God of our Bibles is that Sovereign! A cursory study of His attributes—omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, eternality, immutability, righteousness, majesty, and holiness, to name but a few—serve to amaze. A more in-depth investigation of the One true God of Scripture pushes us beyond amazement to self-reflection, which results in utter humility. As we start to see Him as He is, we are overcome by awe. Our pride and sense of self-worth are crushed. Such a crushing is what Jesus was preaching in the Sermon on the Mount when saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

Isaiah saw a picture of God’s sovereign authority, for God was sitting on a throne. The vision was a Christophany, a preincarnate vision of Christ. Before the birth, ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, Isaiah saw the Lord Jesus enthroned in heaven, the Uncreated reigning over all creation. We need this God to be our sovereign, in control of everything, and He wants to be just that. God makes us for that purpose. Christ died a sacrificial death for that purpose.

God is Holy

Holiness, it can be argued, is God’s central, defining, and foundational attribute.  The word the Bible uses to describe God more than any other word is holy. And God is so holy that everything associated with God becomes holy. Thus, Scripture speaks of God’s name, word, law, promises, works, ways, wrath, and his people as holy. R.C. Sproul even once said, “Any attempt to understand God apart from holiness is idolatry.”           

But holiness is a hard to grasp the concept because only God is holy. Yet, as believers, we are ever compelled to try and understand holiness as we pursue God. A moment in one of my seminary classes last week helped me to understand holiness a little better. Fellow seminarian Brian was explaining his research for an upcoming sermon assignment on Psalm 97. Brian said that Psalm 97 is a “prophetic perfect,” which means the author saw into the future as if he were there in the present. The end he was seeing was the ultimate triumphant victory of God over all His enemies. And it is God’s holiness that serves as the agent to overpower and triumph. God’s weapon meting out His righteous wrath is His holiness. As Brian was explaining this idea, I noticed verses 3–5:

Fire goes before him and burns up his adversaries all around.His lightnings light up the world; the earth sees and trembles.The mountains melt like wax before the Lord, before the Lord of all the earth. 

God’s holiness is manifested here as fire that burns, light that blinds, and heat that melts! Wow! Save me, Lord, from your holy wrath! Like Isaiah, who saw the seraphim cover their eyes and heard them cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” we are undone in God’s holy presence. We cry for help in our utter helplessness before such holiness: “Woe is me!” And God answers with grace.

God is Gracious

H.B. Charles mentioned in his sermon, A High View of God, that some years ago, a conference on comparative religions argued the question, what makes Christianity distinct from other religions:  

“Is it incarnation? No, other religions claim God became man. Is it resurrection? No, other religions believe that dead people can rise again. So, what is it that makes Christianity distinct? While they debated, C.S. Lewis wandered in late to the meeting. He asked what the subject was, and they told him. And Lewis responded by saying, ‘That’s an easy question. The thing that makes Christianity unique is the doctrine of grace.’”

I agree with C.S. Lewis. The good news of amazing grace is uniquely Christian. Every other religion teaches people how to reach up to God, in one way or another. But Christianity begins by declaring that all of us are sinners who can never earn the righteous merit needed to satisfy God’s holy demands fully. But God, in His grace, has reached down to reconcile us to Himself by the impeccable life, atoning death, and glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

God is gracious, and the picture in Isaiah 6 of the seraphim providing Isaiah, outside of any powers of his own, the solution to his future, is a picture of Christ’s atoning death for us: The burning coal from the alter proved the agent of Isaiah’s redemption just as Christ’s sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection prove the means to our salvation: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” 

A Low View of Me

As one made in the image of God, I can be tempted to think I might occupy a throne of sorts in many areas of life. But the higher my view of God—based on the objective truth of Scripture—has a right and helpful lowering effect on my opinion of me. I offer this as a key idea for you as we together go forward into a future where men every day seek to compete with God. Strive for and keep a high view of God!