Yesterday we saw that Satan had completely misjudged the foundation of Job’s love for God. He was sure is was rooted in God’s blessings. But when God allowed Satan to take His blessings away, Job responded by worshiping God! He responded by expressing his continued love for God. His love for God was not based on God’s blessings, or gifts, or wealth, but on something else. Job’s love for God was not based in God’s gifts but in Him.
This teaches us that love’s love is the holiness of God. This is what makes Christian love different from all the other loves of the world. The love that God builds into His saints is a love that sees Him as worthy of love because His holiness is attractive, beautiful, and desirable.
When we are talking about the holiness of God we talking about the characteristics of God that have to do with right and wrong such as goodness, love, mercy, righteousness etc… God is absolutely holy because He is morally perfect. Holiness is not so much a specific attribute of God’s moral character as it is a summary of it.
This attraction to holiness is the foundation for everything else we love about God. Christians love God first because of who He is, and secondly because of what He can do and what He does.
Let me unpack this idea by showing why love’s love is for God’s holiness and not for how great He is or what He does for us and then make some application of its implications for us as we are learning about loving one another as He loves us.
God’s holiness is what makes His greatness worthy of love. What do I mean by the greatness of God? Theologians and philosophers often differentiate between moral attributes from natural attributes. Moral attributes are the characteristics of God and ourselves that have to do with right and wrong such as goodness, love, mercy, and righteousness. These attributes constitute the holiness of God.
Natural attributes are those characteristics that are not morally good or bad by themselves such as strength, wisdom, and power. These attributes constitute the greatness of God.
What makes God’s greatness, His power and strength and wisdom (all His natural attributes) worthy of our praise is their connection to His holiness. Natural attributes are worthy of trust or worthy of dread depending on the kind of person exercising them. God’s sovereignty is worth our absolute trust because the God who is absolutely sovereign is also absolutely good, loving, and just. God’s moral excellence, his holiness is what makes His power and control so wonderful.
A great illustration of this truth is seen in the latest Superman movie, Superman Returns. Superman’s arch nemesis, Lex Luthor, has been let out of prison and steals crystals from Superman’s secret Fortress of Solitude at the North Pole. These crystals that came from Superman’s home world of Krypton, can create whole continents when they are exposed to water. Lex plans to replace North America with a new continent that he grows from one of these crystals. He almost succeeds.
But Superman, of course, proves unstoppable. Superman gets underneath the growing continent and lifts it out of the sea and flies it into space even as it continues to grow! Lex Luthor watches his island continent going up into the sky while fleeing the scene in a helicopter. The look on his face said it all. It said, Is there anything he can’t do? How can I ever win against that kind of power?
The reason we love Superman is because of his moral character. He stands for truth, justice, and the American way. And because of that we love the fact that he is so strong and powerful.
Now consider the Great White shark. The Great White is powerful, strong, mighty, swift, amazing. But when you are at the beach and someone yells “Shark!” Everyone runs for their life! Why? Because all that power is not guided by any sense of goodness, right and wrong, compassion, or mercy. It is devoid of a moral compass, so we are terrified of it.
The same is true of Satan. He is powerful, mighty, influential, and creative. He is knowledgeable and crafty. But we hate him and what he does. Why? Because those attributes are not guided by holiness but by evil.
What makes God’s natural attributes of sovereignty, omnipresence, omnipotence, wisdom, His greatness, lovely is that they are governed by His holiness. We love the greatness of God because we love the holiness of God!
God’s holiness is what makes His actions worthy of praise. You can’t read through the Bible without seeing that God is loved for what He has done for His people. Holiness can’t help but express itself in actions. And not just any action, but actions in relationship.
Moral attributes: love, goodness, grace, faithfulness, righteousness, trustworthiness, compassion, are only appreciated in relationships. The way you show You are loving, good, and gracious, is by doing loving, good, and gracious things.
So of course there is a lot of praise and thanks by the saints from one end of the Scriptures to the other for what God has done for them. But the reason, the ground, the foundation of the love that is expressed in these passages is the holiness of God that is proved by His actions. A great example of this is Psalm 99:1-9 (NIV),
The LORD reigns, let the nations tremble; he sits enthroned between the cherubim, let the earth shake. Great is the LORD in Zion; he is exalted over all the nations. Let them praise your great and awesome name—he is holy. The King is mighty, he loves justice—you have established equity; in Jacob you have done what is just and right. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORD and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them. O LORD our God, you answered them; you were to Israel a forgiving God, though you punished their misdeeds. Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his holy mountain, for the LORD our God is holy.
God is great, God is powerful, and He is awesome. He has done great and mighty things for His people. But the reason we are told to worship Him is because He is holy.
Love’s love is for the holiness of God. Holiness is what makes God beautiful and attractive. Holiness is what makes His greatness worthy of praise and what makes His gifts and blessings worthy of thanksgiving. Love’s love is holiness.