3. A Valley Too Deep To CrossRelated Media
This has been very special weekend for my wife Violet and me. This Friday we celebrated our 53rd anniversary. God has tremendously blessed us through the years. Last 45 years in full time ministry together. God has blessed us with three happily married sons and eight grandchildren; ranging from age seventeen to two.
By now you all know how much I enjoy the opportunities to share the Word of God with you all here. One of the joys of the ministry is to have opportunities like this to share the Word of God.
Hopefully you remember our topic, Jesus the only way. I am sure you remember the story of the three cheaters. A Hindu priest carrying a goat. One of the cheaters comes and tells him, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? To which his response, are you blind? This is not a dog! This is a goat! Few minutes later another cheater tells him the same thing. Now the man is confused. Not sure what he is carrying. A little later third cheater tells him the same thing, how can you, a holy man, carry a dog? The man throws away his prized goat and runs away.
Remember the moral of the story? A lie when repeated several times does not turn into a truth, but it does become convincing. One of the lies in our contemporary culture we hear is that all religions are the same. You follow whatever path you want to, it does not make any difference; it leads you to the same God.
This may sometimes lead us to doubt our own faith. So we have been taking few points to dispel that lie so we would be confirmed in our own faith and also be ready to share the Truth when opportunity arrives.
All religions are the same is a lie from the very depth of hell. As Paul said, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
In our first lesson we took several concepts and saw that Christianity is drastically different and unique among all world religions. The concept of God, concept of human being, concept of sin and salvation, the concept of life after death and how everything will end; all these are unique in Christianity.
In our second lesson our topic was Mountain Too High to Climb. We saw that the concept of God in Christianity is different from any other religion. God, in other religions is thought of as seated on a high mountain and man is trying to climb that mountain. But God is so highly exalted, transcendent, unfathomable and beyond human reach, that no one can reach up to Him. The only way we can reach God, can have access to Him, can have relationship with Him is if He Himself came down to our level.
And that is exactly what God did in Jesus Christ. God, who existed from the eternity past, became man and dwelt with us so through Jesus we can now know God and have relationship with Him. There are many men who would be god, but there is only one God who would be man.
Today our topic is A Valley Too Deep to Cross
Isaiah 6:1-7; Revelation 4:8
As we read think about what is the one central attribute of God and the one central attribute of man that is in focus here, the problem this creates and how it is resolved
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (NIV)
Each of the four living creatures day and night never stop saying:
“‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’
who was, and is, and is to come.” (NIV)
Most of us, I suppose, have visited the Grand Canyon. It is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and 6100 feet deep. Now imagine God and man standing on the opposite rims of the Grand Canyon. Can any human being jump that 18 mile gap to reach God?
Bob Beamon in 1968 summer Olympic had long jump record of 29’ and two and a quarter inch. It took twenty three years to break that record, which was done by Mike Powell in 1991, who jumped 29’, four and a quarter inch, just two inches longer than the first record. Until today (2019), twenty eight years later, that record still stands. No one has been able so far to reach thirty feet!!
But the valley between God and man is far wider and deeper than the 18 miles width and 6100 feet depth of the Grand Canyon.
Most Significant Attribute Of God
What, do you think, is the most significant attribute of God? “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty” as both Isaiah in the Old Testament and John in the New Testament saw. These words, the word holy three times, are used only these two places in the whole Bible. But these words emphatically bring out the most significant attribute of God.
In Hebrew language there are no comparatives or superlatives. In English we would say holy, holier and holiest. But since there are no comparative or superlative, the Hebrew language uses repetition. Twice is better and three times is the best, the most. We sometimes use similar language. For example, when you are buying a property three most important things to consider are location, location and location! Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty. There is no one who can reach the level of His holiness. Only Thou Art holy, there is none beside Thee.
The holiness is God’s intrinsic quality. That is what makes Him God. One of the names of God in the Old Testament is “Holy”, just plain Holy. The phrase “Holy of Israel” is used 34 times in the Old Testament, 28 times in the Book of Isaiah. Holy of Israel means God of Israel, where Holy and God are synonyms.
The holiness of God supersedes His all other attributes. Holiness of God puts limitation on God’s all other attributes. For example, being all powerful and inability to do something cannot go together. That would be oxymoron! But because of his holiness the all powerful God cannot do some of the things that we can do. He cannot lie, he cannot cheat, He cannot commit any sinful act. He cannot do anything that is against His holy nature.
Similarly, an omnipresent God cannot be with evil. Or, all knowing omniscient God does not know many things, like He does not know the feeling of guilt.
When we think about the attributes of God, we think of Him being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. These are actually not intrinsic attributes of God. These are some of His abilities. What makes God God is not being omnipresent or omniscient or omnipotent. But what makes God God is His holiness.
Think about Jesus. While on earth omniscient God grew in wisdom and knowledge. Omnipresent God limited His presence. Nowhere in the New Testament we see Christ present at more than one place at the same moment. Omnipotent God became obedient to His parents. In everything He was just like us. There was only one thing he could not give up and still be God; His sinlessness, His holiness. What separated Him from the rest of the mankind was His holiness. He was God because He was sinless. During His earthly life He laid aside all His abilities we assign to God, except His holiness. He could not have been God without His holiness.
Most Significant Attribute Of Man
On the other hand, what is the most significant attribute of man? You know the number given to the Antichrist, right? 666! There are more speculations about the meaning of that number than that number itself! But one of the most convincing interpretations is that if the number seven is for perfection, for God, the number six is for imperfection, for man. The text does say that this is the number for man. If God is holy, holy, holy; man on the other hand, is unholy, unholy, unholy.
One of the commonly accepted principles of Christianity is the total depravity of every human being. Total depravity does not mean that every person is as depraved as he could be; there are comparatively good human beings. But it means that every aspect of being is tainted by evil, by sinful nature. As the prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9). And that applies to every human being ever born on the face of the earth.
Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi official who helped Hitler to carry out the mass murder of six million Jews during World War II. For years, he had evaded the authorities and lived in relative peace in Argentina. He was hunted down and on May 11, 1960 he was in the custody of the Mossad, Israel’s secret service and brought to trial, sentenced to death and hanged in May 1962.
One of the key witnesses at the trial was a Jew named Yehiel Di Nur, who suffered under Eichmann and witnessed firsthand all the atrocities. At the trial after his initial brief testimony Di Nur fainted and could not continue.
In an interview on 60 Minutes, some twenty years later, aired on 6 February 1983, De-Nur recounted the incident of his fainting at the Eichmann trial to Mike Wallace the host.
Wallace asked him, why did he faint? Was he overcome by hatred? Was he overcome by fear? Was it because of his horrid memories? No; it was none of these, he answered. Rather, Dinur explained to Wallace, “All at once I realized Eichmann was not the god-like army officer who had sent so many to their deaths. This Eichmann was an ordinary man. Man just like me. So I was afraid about myself. I realized that if he can do such things, what prevents me doing those things? I am capable to do this. I am ... exactly like he.”
The Valley Too Deep To Cross.
Holiness of God and sinfulness of man creates the vast valley between God and man that cannot be crossed. The valley too deep to cross.
It was not like that from the beginning. God created man upright. But they sinned and that created that vast and deep valley. Since then every human being is born with sin nature and is prone to sin. As David said, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:6).
The Bible says, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrew 12:14). And so the command, both in the Old Testament and the New Testament, “Be holy because I Am holy” (Leviticus 11:45, 46; 19:2; 20:7, 26; 21:8; 1 Peter 1:15, 16).
Can anyone be holy as much as God is holy? Our goodness is comparative. We compare ourselves with those who, we think, are worse than us and we feel better. Compared to people like Hitler, we all can pat our backs and feel good. We can compare ourselves with what is going on in the world around us or in the culture we live and feel ourselves far better than them. The Pharisees did the same, “I am not like….”. And there is a Pharisee in every one of us. We all have that holier than thou feeling.
But who can meet that standard of holiness that God expects? The standard of righteousness that God wants us to meet is His righteousness that we can never attain. From the beginning of mankind humans have been trying their own ways to meet that standard, to cross that valley too deep to cross. Adam and Eve made clothes from fig leaves. Our good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). Our religious activities are like clothes made from spider webs, “Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make. Their deeds are evil deeds, and acts of violence are in their hands” (Isaiah 59:6).
In 2009 a movie Slumdog Millionaire was very popular. It is filmed in India featuring slumlord who is capturing street kids and maiming them and forcing them to beg, exploiting them to get rich. I have to warn you, this is very repulsive. In the movie there is a scene of two boys goofing around. One of them goes in a public latrine. The other boy just for the fun of it latched the door from outside.
Then they hear loud shouts welcoming Amitabh Bacchan, a famous and very popular Hindi film actor. The boys are great fan of him. The boy outside, forgetting his friend, runs away to see his favorite actor. The boy inside wants to do the same but has no way to get out. He does not want to miss the chance of seeing his favorite actor. So he takes extreme measures. The latrine is made of a cement slab with a hole with the sewer running below. He slips through the hole, walks through the sewer and comes out at the other end completely covered with the filth.
This is the picture of every human being covered with sin! In the book of Isaiah God tells, “From the sole of your foot to the top of your head there is no soundness—only wounds and welts and open sores, not cleansed or bandaged or soothed with olive oil” (Isaiah 1:6).
The valley between God and man is too deep to cross by any human being unless, of course, God Himself provides the bridge to cross it. And that is what God has done in Jesus Christ.
The Lord looked and was displeased
that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
he was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm achieved salvation for him,
and his own righteousness sustained him.
He put on righteousness as his breastplate,
and the helmet of salvation on his head (Is. 59:15-17, NIV)
There is only one Mediator between man and God who has provided the way to come into relationship with the holy God. Now the curtain is torn and we can enter into the holy of holies and have relationship with the holy God. The valley too deep to cross can now be crossed by the cross, by everyone who comes to Christ by faith.
He took all our filth and gave His clean robe of righteousness to us! That is exactly what happens when a person comes to Jesus by faith. It is mind boggling. God in Christ took away our filthy garments and robed us with His own righteousness: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). Or, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God”. (2 Corinthians 5:21).
One of the things that prevents people from coming to Christ is their assumed goodness. Unless and until you realize the valley too deep to cross, you will not see the value of God reconciling mankind to Himself through Christ
Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. The only difference is the grace of God that takes hold of me and prevents me to go that extreme. It is only His mercy that does not zap us every time we sin.
A couple of weeks ago we had a pest control person to take care of ant infestation in the house. When the young man came I asked would it be okay if I walked around with him and talked. When someone comes to our home for any service, I stay with him and talk. I observe how he does it so if possible I can learn and take care of that particular problem next time. It also helps me to make sure that the thing is done right.
But that gives also me opportunity to share the Gospel. No one that comes to the Christian home goes without hearing the Good News. After few initial get acquainted questions I ask do you go to church. This man said he does not like religion. I said, I do not like religion either. Then I had almost an hour with him to talk back and forth and share the Gospel. At the end when I asked him if he had any question, he asked, why God did not punish those people in the Bible who committed rape, incest, adultery, murder.
You see, when people hear the Gospel most of the time they do not want to commit themselves and want to avoid the topic and so come up with some question or point. The Samaritan woman did the same thing. The fellow who asked who is my neighbor also was just trying to avoid the main issue.
I told him, for the same reason that He does not zap you and me when we think bad thoughts or commit a sin. If God zapped every one every time they did something wrong, no one would be alive in the world. We think about sins of other people and think why does God not punish them, but we forget that before God we are sinful people. Our goodness, our holiness, is comparative holiness. But God does not grade us by a curve. Before God there is no difference between Hitler and me. But God in His mercy through Christ overlooks our sins and in His grace has provided the way for forgiveness.
No other religion speaks about the holiness of God in these terms. Sinfulness of man and the wide gap that creates making impossible for man to come into the relationship with God. A valley too deep to cross.
No other religion provides the way to fill the gap between God and man.
No other religion provides the way of forgiveness.
No other religion provides the way to attain the holiness that God requires.
One, It is only in Christ that we have access to God. There is no other name.
Christianity makes sense. It is logical religion. Obviously there is no other way to bridge the gap between God and man except through Christ.
If you have not yet come to that point, you can do that right now. Until and unless we come into the relation with God through Christ and receive His forgiveness and His holiness, we all are like Hitler destined to the same eternal fate.
Two, those of us who have received the righteousness from God, now demonstrate the righteousness of God in our daily life. God has robed us with His righteousness, now it is our responsibility to keep that robe clean. You know the story of the king Hezekiah who got sick and prayed to the Lord to heal him and the Lord granted him fifteen years more to live. In his thanksgiving prayer he muses to himself, how can I thank the Lord for this? He answers his own question, “I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul” (Isaiah 38:15). All my life I will walk so carefully that I do not defile myself, do anything that displeases the Lord.
It was God who first put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. And now it is our responsibility to put on the breastplate of righteousness and helmet of salvation.
Three, be assured of the truth of the Gospel. Study it, understand it, cherish it, share it. Do not let what we hear around us doubt your faith. Do not let anyone steal your goat!
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, Holy, Holy! Merciful and Mighty!
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Holy, Holy, Holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man, Thy glory may not see:
Only Thou art holy, there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power in love, and purity.
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All thy works shall praise Thy name in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, Holy, Holy! merciful and mighty,
God in Three Persons, blessed Trinity!
Reginald Heber (1783–1826).