“Hey, Ben. Here’s one for you. How is being an Alaskan salmon like being a Christian?” Mark looked at his friend for two seconds.1
“They both get wet.”
“C’Mon, Ben, that was too easy. Where does the Alaskan salmon begin its life?”
“Hatched from a fish egg laid in a mountain stream.”
“So, Ben. Would you say it spends its whole life there in the beautiful forest and streams?”
“No. But for up to three years, it’s paradise for those fish. They swim in dozens of streams, gradually working their way closer to the seashore and changing their systems so they can tolerate salt water. But, Mark, that doesn’t have anything to do with being a Christian.”
“What happens next?”
“They join a group of other salmon and head for sea and spend up to eight years in the ocean waters of the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. Then they get homesick and head back to their birthplace.”
“How can they do that?”
“We don’t know for sure, but somehow through the waves and the seaweed they make it back to the exact stream where they were hatched.”
“That’s where they lay their eggs for the next generation. And then they die.”
“Exactly. Now, Ben. How is an Alaskan salmon like a Christian living a holy life?”
“They both get wet.”
“And what else?”
Ben thought for a while. Then he said, “I’ve got it!” What conclusion do you think he reached?
[Thought Questions for The Holiness of God February 1, 2012]
1. God is holy. Do you ever spend time reflecting on the holiness of God? How important is it to us that God indeed is holy? Could we worship Him as effectively if He weren’t? Pagan gods are known for their power, but seldom for their holiness. Why do you think that is so? Is the God of the Old Testament as holy as the one depicted in the New Testament? Are there degrees of holiness? How holy is God?
2. Holiness in the Old Testament. Can you and I understand the holiness of God? Was it His holiness that was made manifest during the Creation process? What about the flood that covered the earth? The rescue of Daniel from the hungry lions? The wars and other forms of destruction of peoples who had rejected God and His plan of salvation? Would you tremble now before a Holy God you could see and hear? What do you think the holiness of God will have to do with the final destruction of sin and those who cling to it?
3. Set apart. Are you capable of being holy? If you ask God to lead you through the coming Sabbath day and keep it holy, will you be able to do that? How? Does it help to think of “holy” as meaning “set apart” or “sanctified”? In your life with Christ, can you be satisfied with “holy” as the idea of being different from and separated from the influences of the corrupt world around you? If you were baptized, wasn’t that act a symbol of your desire to yield totally to God? Since then, have you been holy? Would you like to be holy 24/7? Can you be? Should you stay on goal?
4. Repenting. What does repenting of our mistakes and sins have to do with our being accepted for salvation by a holy God? Is there something wrong with our Christian experience if we fail to sense a deep respect bordering on fear in our walk with Christ? As modern-day Christians, why do we like to put aside all thoughts supporting a stern and holy God? Have you ever talked to someone about being a Christian and sensed a strong resistance to making any changes? What about having someone confide his or her mistakes and failings to you? How can you help that person repent?
5. A Holy God in the New Testament. Have you ever considered that one big reason for the differences between the Old and New Testaments is the time periods involved? The Old Testament covers at least four thousand years, compared to about 100 or so in the New Testament. Should we be surprised that the New Testament focuses mostly on Jesus and his ministry? Is there any difference in God’s holiness between the Old and New Testaments? Was he more demanding in the Old Testament? More accepting in the New? Why is such an interpretation harmful?
6. What will we sing in heaven? The lesson authors are sure we won’t be singing choruses about God’s love or goodness in heaven. Do you agree? What topic do the authors think will be the theme of our singing when we are translated? What do you think of these strict words from the lesson authors (Thursday): “…[W]hen people truly encounter the God of heaven, we find no hand clapping, backslapping, and lighthearted singing. Rather, there is abject personal repentance.” Would you like to suggest to your pastor and music director to give a more “abject” presentation on Sabbath morning? Why or why not? What is more important, God’s love or His holiness? Why?
7. Cleansing the temple. How do Jesus’ actions in cleansing the temple support the holiness of God? How is that related to the importance of reverence in His sanctuary? Why were the “stock” exchangers so frightened by the presence of Jesus in their midst that they fled in terror? Some people are eager for us to institute a similar “cleansing of the temple” in our church today. What do you think of that idea? What about the temple that is you and your body? Do you ever ask for a total cleansing of your heart and your thoughts? Do you want God’s holiness? Will He grant your request?