The Holiness of Christ: The Holiness of God with R.C. Sproul
Articles
11


I spoke with a gentleman the other day who
had delivered a message on a college campus, and in the midst of his address he
was heckled by hostile students. He was talking about Christ, and in the midst of
his speech, somebody hollered out, “Who cares?” And he went on to explain to me —
he said, “Whew!” he said, “the audience was hostile,” and that more and more it
seems that there’s a growing hostility in our nation towards the Christian faith and
a growing sense of militancy from pro-Christian and anti-Christian forces.
We were just talking about that during the break, and on some occasions I think the
unbelievers in this country are deeply afraid that militant Christians are going
to try to force religious adherences through law and so on on unbelievers, and
they’re justifiably afraid of that. I try to remind my brothers and sisters that the
First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States protects the non-Christian
as much as it protects the Christian, and we need to be very, very careful about
that. But there is this often sense of anguish and hostility directed against
Christians, against ministers, theologians, televangelists, and so on.
But in the midst of all of that, what I find exceedingly rare is someone who
publicly will criticize the integrity of Jesus. I think, for example, of a comment
that George Bernard-Shaw once made where he was being critical of Jesus. He was not
a Christian, and Shaw said of Jesus when he criticized His behavior, he said,
“There were times when Jesus did not behave as a Christian.” I thought there
was some irony in that — that when George Bernard-Shaw wanted to criticize Jesus, he
could think of no higher moral standard by which to criticize Him than the standard
of Christ himself. And as I said, when I find pockets of real hostility directed
against me, against the church, against the history of Christian influence,
nevertheless there’s a kind of restraint about Jesus — that it — of all the human
beings who’ve ever lived, I doubt if there’s ever been a human being who has
engendered more universal respect for his integrity than Jesus of Nazareth. In fact
the world is so complimentary about Jesus the question I am left with is why, if He
was such a wonderful person and so loving and kind and compassionate, ministering to
all kinds of sick people and outcasts and sort of a Mother Theresa of His own
generation, and then some — why was He killed? Not only was He executed, but the
masses were clamoring for His blood. What was it about Jesus of Nazareth that
enflamed people’s passions either for Him or against Him? I’d like to read a passage
from Mark’s gospel that I think begins to get at this particular question. The
fourth chapter of Mark’s gospel, beginning at verse thirty-five we read this: “Now
that day when evening came He said to His disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other
side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along just as He was in the boat;
and there were also other boats with Him. And a furious storm came up and the waves
broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped, and Jesus was in the stern
sleeping on a cushion.” You get the picture. This was taking place on the Sea
of Galilee, which is the — a rather anomalous topographical phenomenon in
Palestine because of the wind tunnel that exists between the desert in trans-Jordan
and the Mediterranean Sea. So that what happens in this geographical situation is
a sort of wind tunnel is aimed at the Sea of Galilee, and storms of violent
proportion can arise without any warning whatsoever on that lake. In fact I was
over there a couple of years ago and took an excursion cruise across the Sea of
Galilee, and the most modern nautical equipment and the contemporary sailors
were telling us that they still lived in mortal fear of these rare storms that
occur even now over there. Well here the disciples were seasoned fisherman. They
had been out on that lake a thousand times, and one of these violent tempests
break out in the middle of the night, and the waves are in gigantic proportions. The
wind is howling, and at every second the boat is in imminent danger of capsizing
and killing the fishermen. And all the while Jesus is sleeping in the boat. I
hate people like that. I’ve seen them on airplanes. I’ve been on airplanes where
the stewardesses were screaming in panic, where the plane was dropping a thousand
feet at a time in violent turbulence, and the guy next to me is sound asleep. And I
wanted to shake him and say, “What are you, a Calvinist or something? What’s the
matter with you? Don’t you realize that we’re about ready to crash at any moment?”
These people who have this calm, tranquil spirit sleep through anything. Well this
is Jesus, sound asleep in the back of the boat. Now the Bible says something
fascinating here. It says that the disciples were afraid. Now there’s nothing
particularly fascinating about that, but I want to apply that to something. When I
was teaching in the seminary in Philadelphia years ago, I taught a course
on academic atheism, where the students were required to read the primary sources,
the writings of the most articulate atheists of western history. I made the
students read the objections of David Hume and of John Stuart Mill. I made the
students read the works of Nietzsche and of Ludwig Feuerbach. I made the students
read the critique that Marx gave against Christian theism, and of Kaufman and
others — Sartre and Camus — and we did these readings, and we found that the
atheists — particularly in the Nineteenth and the Twentieth Century — were trying
to answer this question. “We know,” they said, “that there is no God, but the
problem that still vexes us is that in spite of the fact that we’re convinced
there is no God, why is it that mankind seems to be incurable homoreligiosus —
that is why is it that everywhere we go we find people devoting themselves to the
pursuit of religion?” Madeline Murray answered that question. She said, “That’s
because the masses simply are given to superstition, and they’re not thinking
critically about this thing, and we just need to educate people further.” But
people like Freud and Marx and Feuerbach and Nietzsche wanted a more sound
explanation and so, to a man, they agreed on this: that religion emerges
historically out of the psychological needs of people, out of man’s human
frailty. The one thing that we all share is our mortality, and so, as Freud
suggested and Marx seconded the motion, was that every human being has a built-in
fear of natural forces that threaten our very lives. And what happened historically
was that people began to invent religions where the first step in the evolutionary
process was to impose the idea of a living soul inside these forces so that there was
a god in the storm, a god in the earthquake, a god in the pestilence.
Freud said the first step was the personalization of nature. Why? A very,
very fascinating theory — the idea is this: that there are all kinds of things
out there, ladies and gentlemen, that threate my existence — cancer, fire,
flood, war, other people — but I have learned as a human being how to survive,
at least this far, the hostility of other people. When you come at me, and you’re
gritting your teeth, and you’re angry, or you’re reaching for a gun, I’ve learned
how to deal with that. I can — if you’re angry with me I can beg you for mercy, or
I can compliment you and say, “You don’t want to shoot me. I’m the president of
your fan club, you know? I mean, hey! I love you,” and all that stuff. Or I can
try to bribe you. I can say, “Look, if you’ll spare me, half my kingdom is mine
is yours — and so on.” We learn these little devices of how to short-circuit
personal attacks against us. But the question Freud was asking is this: How
does one negotiate with a hurricane or a flood? You can’t plead with a storm. You
can’t bribe an earthquake. You can’t flatter cancer and make it go away. These
are impersonal, non-personal forces that threaten to destroy us, and so Freud said,
“What we do is we project onto nature personal characteristics so that we can
talk to the storm, and pretty soon we sacrilize nature — that is now we talk
about these deities who are in these forces or above, in a simplified version,
is monotheism where you just have to talk to one God about all of these problems.”
And so if you worship God and honor God and pay your tithe and send in your check,
then God, who’s powerful enough over the storm, will protect you from all of these
problems. You’ve seen the incidents in television, ministries where the emphasis
on prosperity now and health and everything. God always wills these things,
and we hear this concept of name-it-and-claim-it — that all you have
to do to experience prosperity and healing and all these things is to name it and
trust in it and believe in it, and God will deliver these things. I was playing
golf with a man here in Texas the last time I was in town. He was having a
miserable time. For the first nine holes he hacked the ball all over the place. We
got on the tenth tee, and he drew a line on the things, and he said, “Okay,
starting right now I’m going to begin to play golf. No more bad shots.” I said,
“Okay.” He hit a ground ball off the tee. He went up, took out a five-iron, shanked
it into the rocks. After hocking it six more shots and still not on the green, he
turned around to me, and he said, “So much for name-it-and-claim-it.” But we
certainly have an ability to project our desires and our wishes upon nature, as
Freud indicated. “And so,” he said, “religion is this: out of our fear of
nature we invent God. It’s just that simple. So that God becomes a crutch, or
an opiate, as Marx suggested, for people who simply can’t bear to live in a hostile
or indifferent universe.” Now the reason why this episode in Scripture is so
important to our consideration, ladies and gentlemen, is this: that here we find the
disciples of Jesus terrified because of an encounter with the destructive forces of
nature. Their lives are in jeopardy because of the tempest arising at sea, and
the Bible says that they are frightened. And what do frightened people do in the
midst of a crisis? They immediately go to their leader, and so they came to the back
of the boat, and they shook Jesus awake, and they said, “Master, do something, or
we perish!” What did He do? He looked around and appraised the situation, and
then the Lord God Incarnate, the Creator of heaven and earth issued a verbal
command, not to men but to the impersonal forces of nature. He addressed the sea and
the wind and commanded in a loud voice, “Peace! Be still!” And instantly the
response of the cosmos, in obedience, took place so that the sea became as glass, and
the wind was so still that there was not even zephyr in the air. Now the thing that
grasped my attention about this narrative is the next line. What is the response of
the disciples when Jesus removes the clear and present threat of nature? Does it say
they throw their souwesters in the air and rejoice and say, “Oh, we knew you would do
it”? No. The text tells us that at that moment they became very much afraid —
that is, rather than having your fears assuaged and ameliorated, their fears now
became intensified. The thing that Freud didn’t understand is that, ladies
gentlemen, there is something within the human heart that we fear more than any of
the impersonal forces of nature, and that is the power and the presence of a person
who is holy. And now the disciples are trembling, and they ask this question:
“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Do you
remember in an earlier session I talked about xenophobia, the apartness of God,
the difference of God that threatens us and frightens us? The disciples say, “Wait
a minute. We have just now witnessed a display of a kind of humanity with which
we are utterly unfamiliar.” See every time that you meet a new person, your
brain goes through a computer cataloguing of responses. If that person’s smiling,
that tells you one thing. If that person’s frowning, that tells you another thing,
and if tall people — we have all these categories and catalogues that we use, and
from our experience as human beings. And we learn how to be with other people
through our experience. A few years ago there was this movement in this country
for therapy whereby everybody was supposed to sort of strip of their clothes,
literally, let it all hang out, and to reveal the deepest secrets of their heart.
And a premium was placed upon openness, right? Remember that? And everybody said,
“I want you to be vulnerable,” and that movement was very short-lived because
people got brutally hurt when they opened up too much. It reminds me of the story of
three ministers who came to the locker room after playing golf, and they had a
spontaneous session of confession of sins, and the one minister said, “You know,” he
said, “my conscience is really bothering me. I’m trying to be a pastor and to be
righteous, but I’ve had this weakness that I’ve battled with for all my life, and
that is a weakness with drink.” And he said, “I’m a closet drinker, and I haven’t
been able to have victory.” And the other two, they said, “Oh boy,” they said,
“that’s–well we’ll really pray for you.” And the second one said, “Well you know
I have to confess that I have a struggle too. I’m tempted with lust all the time,
and I’ve been able to control my behavior, but my thoughts have not always been pure,
and I just don’t know what to — how to get victory in this situation. Will you
men pray for me?” And they said, “Yes.” And the third one didn’t say anything, and
the other two said, “Well don’t you have any temptations?” He said, “Yes.” And
they said, “Well what is it?” He said, “I’m a compulsive gossip, and I can’t wait
to get out of here.” So much for being vulnerable. I mean the reason why we’re so
closed and so careful not to reveal everything about ourselves to every person
that comes along is that every person in this room has had a secret betrayed, where
you poured out your heart and your soul to somebody, and they tramped all over your
soul. That happens two or three times to a human being, and we learn to put some
armor on, don’t we? And so we don’t want to be vulnerable and to be open, and so we
use this mechanism of the computer very carefully to categorize every human being.
“Is that person safe? Is that person not safe?” Well the disciples saw Jesus, and
they — their computers went haywire, and they said, “Wait a minute. We don’t have a
category for this man. We’ve never encountered one who is so other, so
different, so separate, so apart from normal humanity that He could command the
sea, and the sea obeys.” In other words, ladies and gentlemen, what terrified the
disciples, ladies and gentlemen, was that suddenly they realized that they were in
the presence of the holy, and their fear was increased. This isn’t the only time
that sort of thing happens in the New Testament. Another occasion, the same
people, the same sea where we read that the disciples had been out all night
fishing, and they come back, and their nets are empty. And Jesus approaches them
you know the story — and He says to Peter, you know, “How’d it go?” And he
said, “Ah, it was a lousy night, you know. No fish.” Jesus said, “Well Peter, why
don’t you take the nets and put them over on this side of the boat.” Now remember,
Peter’s personality profile in the Bible is one that describes him as rather
impetuous. Can you imagine what Peter’s thinking when Jesus tells him to throw the
net over this side of the boat? I can hear him. At least in his soul, he’s saying,
“Hey, Jesus. You are a fantastic theologian, a religious teacher, par
excellens, but give me some credit, for crying out loud. I’m a professional
fisherman. I’ve had this net over every side of the boat there is, all night long.
Are you going to try to tell me now how to fish? But, you’re the master. I’m the
disciple. We’ll humor Him, fellows. Throw the net over the side.” You know what
happened. Every fish in the Sea of Galilee jumped in the net, and so they had to
bring another boat alongside, and they’re about to sink because they’re so full of
fish. Now what does Peter do? Now remember, Peter’s Jewish, and he’s a
businessman. He’s not fishing for fun. He is fishing for profit. I know what I’d do
if I were Peter. I would have reached in my tunic for a contract and said, “Okay,
Jesus. Here’s the deal: Full partner, fifty percent of the profits. All I want
is five minutes a month. You just come down here one Saturday a month and tell me
where to put these nets, and that’s all. That’s fifty percent of the profit.”
That’s what I would have done. That’s not what Peter did. Can you believe what Peter
said to Jesus? Peter looked at Jesus, and he said this — it’s astonishing. He said,
“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” Peter said, “Jesus, please leave. I can’t
stand it.” You see what happens when one who is holy comes into our midst,
immediately we are uncomfortable. We are aware — dreadfully aware of our
unholiness, and we want that person to get as far from us as we possibly can. A few
years ago a golf tournament was held in North Carolina, and the defending champion
of this PGA tour event had been the previous year’s winner of the Golfer of
the Year award, and because he was there he was going to get this award at this
year’s tournament in North Carolina — and he was also the defending champion of that
tournament — part of the recognition was this: that he was to play his first
practice round with Billy Graham, with the President of the United States, and with
Jack Nicholas. It was the golfer of the year, Nicholas, Billy Graham, and the
President of the United States. That is a heavy foursome. And so they went out on
the course, and they played this practice round. And when they came in a friend of
mine was there, and he went up to this golfer, and he said, “Hey, what was it
like, playing with Billy Graham and Jack and the President of the United States?”
And this golfer was furious, and he responded in anger. He said, “I hated it!”
He said, “I didn’t need to have Billy Graham shoving religion down my throat for
eighteen holes of golf,” and he stormed off in a huff and went over to the
practice pee — over to the practice tee. He took his driver, and he just started
pounding one ball after another in fury and getting — and releasing all of his
anger. So my friend just went over and calmly sat and watched him until the
bucket of balls disappeared, and he came up, and he said, “Gee,” he said, “Billy
really came on strong, huh?” And the golfer said, “No. No,” he said.
“Actually,” he said, “Billy never said a word about religion. I just had a bad
day.” The Bible says that the wicked flee when no man pursues. Luther said that it
is the experience of the unbeliever to tremble at the rustling of a leaf. Here
was a man who spent this time with Billy Graham, who is one of the most
gracious human beings you will ever meet, and Billy Graham didn’t have to say a word
about Christianity, and this person was feeling uncomfortable. I find out, when
I’m playing golf on the golf course, I do everything in my power, when I hook
up to a strange group, I know that inevitably the question’s going to be,
“What do you do?” And all I have to do to destroy the
fun that the people are having on the golf course is to tell them, “I’m a
minister.” So I, you know, I fudge. I say, “Well I’m a writer.” “Well
what do you write about?” “Oh, lots of stuff. ” Or, “I’m in the insurance
business, you know,” or whatever — not because I’m ashamed of being what I am,
but I don’t want to ruin their day because as soon as I tell them I’m a minister
then, you know, they start moving away and giving all these apologies for their
language. People are uncomfortable — imagine somebody being uncomfortable in
front — in front of me. That’s ridiculous, but people are uncomfortable
in our presence not because we’re holy but because we represent the one who is,
and it’s interesting to me that the most vehement enemies that Jesus had in His
lifetime were the Pharisees, those men who were devoted to righteousness. They were
the self-righteous ones, and the people that were the most comfortable with Jesus
were the outcast sinners, you see, because they had no illusions about their ow
righteousness. But those who took pride in their moral purity, when Jesus came, He
exposed their unholy character because when the light comes the darkness cannot
stand in its presence. Well you know when Peter said to Jesus, “Please leave,”
Jesus wouldn’t leave, to Peter’s everlasting joy, that Jesus didn’t take
Him up on the invitation. Instead He said, “Peter, come here. You come unto me.
You’re burdened; you’re heavy-ladened. I’m going to give you peace.” You see, ladies
and gentlemen, the worst-kept secret in the whole world — it’s well-kept, but
it’s a horrible thing that it has been kept — is that we are invited to come to
the presence of a holy God. Sartre said in his writings that the last thing that he
ever wanted to do was to be submitted to the unremitting gaze of a holy God, and
yet David, after he was subjected to the scrutiny of God said to God, “Oh Lord,
search me and know me.” The secret the Christian carries around with him is the
knowledge this is the one place where we can really be vulnerable, the one place
where we can be comfortable, the one place where we can be naked without fear is in
the presence of Christ. We must come to understand that even though we have this
built-in antipathy and fear towards the Holy One, and even though we recognize
that we are unholy, in Christ, ladies and gentlemen, we are welcome. The first
fruits, the apostle tells us, of a person’s justification are these two
things: peace with God and access into His presence. I’m sure that there are people
in this room right now and who will be watching this series on tape who have no
peace with God, who are still saying with Peter, “Please leave, Jesus. You make me
uncomfortable,” and I say to you, I beg you that if you’ve been listening to this
series on the character of God that you consider a couple things. One, that there
is no possible escape ever from the holiness of God. You are going to have to
deal with it now or at some point, and so I plead with you that right now you get it
settled, that you understand that there is a righteousness that God has provided for
you in Christ that is not your own righteousness. It’s an alien
righteousness. It’s a foreign righteousness. It is the righteousness of
Christ that is freely offered to you if you will submit to the lordship of Christ.
All that He has, and all that He has done becomes yours, and the worst storms of
divine wrath that you could imagine are silenced forever, and God declares peace.
And you will experience the experience of Isaiah when he knew the word of God, which
said, “Behold, your guilt is taken away.” To be a Christian is to be forgiven. The
essence of the Christian faith is grace. The essence of the Christian ethic is not
arrogance but gratitude, and forgive us if you are an unbeliever if we have presented
ourselves to you as self-righteous because I guarantee you that there’s no Christian
in this room who is righteous in and of themselves. But get it settled, now and
forever. Let’s pray. Father, forgive us for fleeing from your presence in terror.
Father, forgive us for participating in hostility toward you. Father, cover us
with the righteousness of Christ, that for once in our lives we can be comfortable in
our presence. For we ask it in the name of Jesus, amen.

I love reformed theology, u ever notice it's all biblical, and the other side (arminian) side is more about emotionalism…

What a treasure trove of God's love and knowledge! Oh the depths of you, Father! May I know more and dig deeper into the Holiness of the One I have been attracted to and repelled by. "Come to me," (Matthew 11:28) He says. Oh to go to Him!

This series of sermons has been life-changing for me! I needed it so much and thank God for it. R.C. was a theologian among theologians in our generation! All praise be to God!

@ 20:06 when he says the computers went haywire, the screen actually messes up for a second. Good ol' R.C., always making sure we're awake. 😂😂

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