“We serve a holy, holy, holy God,” Mike Hess proclaimed in his inaugural conference session as national representative. As he opened the 2019 conference’s first session, Hess addressed the theme “Essence of Worship.” He offered a definition which serves well to frame the entire discussion of worship as he said, “Worship is adoring God and submitting to Him in response to Who He is and what He has done.” Such a definition is vital as it brings the attention back to God and away from the many pitfalls into which churches and ministries are prone to fall. While the word worship brings to most people’s minds thoughts of singing, praise bands, and program schedules, Hess reminded conferees that before any of those things can be discussed, God—and His holiness in particular—must be the starting point for all worship. This reminder is both timely and critical as culture continues to turn its focus inward.
Yet, such an assertion is often easier said than done; so, working from Isaiah 6:1–14, Hess illustrated how God’s holiness can be the only proper source for all worship of God.
As Hess opened the text of Isaiah, he showed from verses 1 through 4 that God’s holiness fuels worship by bringing awareness of God. Isaiah saw a vision of the throne room of God in which the train of God’s robe filled the room (Isa. 6:1). Hess recapped verses 1–4, saying, “God’s holiness demands attention.” When Isaiah saw this, he realized an unavoidable truth: God is holy and there is simply no escaping. “Everyone will live with the reality of God forever and ever,” Hess explained.
In contrast to the undeniable awareness that God’s holiness brings to mankind, God’s holiness served as a mirror to show Isaiah the true depth of his own unholiness (Isa. 6:5). Hess pointed out this is also true for believers today, as God’s holiness fuels an accurate assessment of self. To demonstrate this, Hess noted that every time a church celebrates the baptism of an individual, it is as if it is celebrating that a person is a wicked, vile, and filthy sinner because when unholy man compares himself to holy God, it becomes abundantly clear that each person is thoroughly sinful. That is why, as Hess stated, “Instead of amazing people with us, amaze them with God!”
Though it would be easy to despair over the reality of God’s holiness against man’s unholiness, Isaiah 6:6–7 show that God’s holiness should fuel man’s understanding of hope. Thankfully, as Hess showed, because God is holy, He is the only one who qualifies to make an unholy person clean. “God is the initiator and God is the provider,” Hess said, and because of that truth, there is great hope.
As Hess brought the opening session to a close, he explained from verses 8 through 13 that God’s holiness fuels man’s understanding of mission. For any church or individual’s mission to be informed by any source other than God’s holiness is to attempt a futile and fruitless endeavor. But against the desires of sinful man, the mission God gives is not filled with promises of pleasure and prosperity; it is filled with difficulty and trials. Yet as Hess pointed out, God is worthy of our service because He is a great, holy, and gracious God. He said, “The greatest thing the GARBC has going for it is this—we serve a great God!”
In closing, it was quite fitting that all in attendance sang together with one voice, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”
Our God truly is holy, holy, holy!