Thursday: When Demons Speak

Read Luke 4:31–36. What testimony is given there about the holiness of Christ? What is significant about who gave that testimony too? What lessons can we draw from this story about God’s holiness? 1

Demons, who are fallen angels, remember who Jesus really is, and even they—in their nastiness, hatefulness, and rebellion—are constrained to acknowledge Him and that He is holy. Notice, too, that they feared that He was going to destroy them. Why so fearful? It must be that, so full of sin, even demons fear before the presence of God’s holiness, somewhat in the same manner that sinful humans do.

In the last book of the Bible, John describes receiving a vision from God. Read Revelation 1:12–17. John, sometimes referred to as the apostle who had the greatest insight into the love of God, has the same response to encountering the Holy God as we saw in the Old Testament.

Moreover, a vision of how celestial beings worship God in the heavenly sanctuary yields a similar picture to what Isaiah depicted centuries earlier in a vision (see Isa. 6:1–3).

What did John hear the heavenly beings around the throne saying? Rev. 4:8, 9.  

Though God is love and all heavenly beings adore Him, we can see that, around the heavenly throne of God, the worship anthem is not “God is love, love, love.” Nor do the heavenly beings cry out, “God is good, good, good.” Instead, day and night these mighty beings exclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Though all heaven is involved in the ministry of God’s love and salvation to this world, heavenly beings around the throne of God day and night praise the holiness of God. As sinless beings, they are awed by His holiness, but they don’t hide in fear of it, as do fallen beings.

In all the human encounters of the divine as depicted in Scripture, one never finds a suggestion that God is frightening. What we see instead is that, in the piercing light of His holiness, human beings finally see themselves for who they really are. And that is scary. In Scripture, when people truly encounter the God of heaven, we find no hand clapping, backslapping, and lighthearted singing. Rather, there is abject personal repentance. Each one sees and admits their personal guilt and without any excuses and without reference to the faults of anyone else. How different our words, our lives, and our actions would be were we all to live with the constant sense, not only of God’s presence but of His holiness, as well.

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Thursday: When Demons Speak — 15 Comments

  1. The lesson says.

    Though God is love and all heavenly beings adore Him, we can see that, around the heavenly throne of God, the worship anthem is not “God is love, love, love.” Nor do the heavenly beings cry out, “God is good, good, good.” Instead, day and night these mighty beings exclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty.” Though all heaven is involved in the ministry of God’s love and salvation to this world, heavenly beings around the throne of God day and night praise the holiness of God.

    It is true that the four creatures before the throne of God worship saying, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty” and that the 24 elders worship Him as creator but that is only part of the story. Revelation also says.

    Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!" (Rev 5:11-13 NKJV)

    While all the inhabitants of Heaven reverence God as holy they also praise Him for what He did on Calvary. And that could well be what they admire about God above all else.

    • And can anyone enlighten me on what the melody to these lyrics sounds like?
      Handel's Messiah perhaps....written under "divine inspiration in which he saw all heaven before him".
      Its not important right now!! It's part of the Mystery of Godliness. We won't know until we get there. And there will be no "I told you so" because none of us would have heard the melody before but will be able to sing lustily especially the Song of Moses and The Lamb.

    • Thank you, Tyler, for bringing in that balancing anthem from Revelation. God's "worthiness" is part of the basis of His holiness. And since love is the essence of His character, that is central to His holiness.

      One popular chorus includes these lines:

      Our God is an awesome God!
      He reigns from heaven above
      With wisdom, power, and love.
      Our God is an awesome God!

      I believe that God's "wisdom, power, and love" is a good summation of God's holiness. It includes his love, which the lesson authors seem to separate from His holiness.

      I remember Matt Redman writing of the "otherness of God," saying that "For worship to be worship, it must contain something of the otherness of God." And I believe that's partly what we mean by "holiness" -- the "otherness of God." He is so far above us not just in power and majesty, but also in character, that He is truly "other."
      Yet, we all thirst for love, and love is the essence of the character of God. Thus sinners are drawn to Him, even while they recognize His "otherness," like Peter did, when he exclaimed, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man," while clinging desperately to the feet of Jesus.

  2. This lesson made a great point. When a sinful being is in the presence of a holy, righteous being, he feels intimidated. We see this scenario all throughout the bible and even in modern-day society.
    Cain could not stand in his brothers presence without feeling resentment and outright hatred. Abel did nothing to warrant this reaction. All Abel did was live an obedient and faithful life.
    People who choose to not live through the spirit of the living God, will eventually have the same reaction when in the presence of one whose heart is longing for heaven. That person will try to convince him or her to come down to their level, or they will look for a way to obtain what they see in that individual, that only Christ can give. But either way, those are living in darkness can not stand in the presence of the children of Light.

  3. What does the writer mean in the reference to "no hand-clapping, back-slapping and lighthearted singing" when people "truly encounter Heaven"
    Is this a reference to different styles of worship or to specific groups of worshippers even within the Adventist "family"? Perhaps those who do not conform to "euro-centric" worship styles?

    Just wondered.

    • Jean, as I understand it, the writer was not here referring to worship styles as such. I believe that this is a call for us to examine the attitudes that we bring to the worship experience, and particularly the importance of reverence in the presence of a holy God.

    • I think the writer is spot on about hand clapping and such. Why is it that when it comes to music we can give God what WE like? Isn’t music an offering? As God’s last day people, we need to read the Scriptures and Spirit of Prophecy and find out what type of music is pleasing to God and offer THAT to Him. Too many times we have worship service where it’s simply an emotional display, with the shaking of body parts. When people move sensuously to music in church, they’re appealing to the carnal, not the spiritual.

      Let me give you an example: One Sabbath I was in church and they had one of those signing “performances” with some young girls wiggling and moving very sensuously to the music, signing when there was no one deaf in the congregation nor was the program being taped. Now, remember, sign language by definition IS a language. Not everyone understands it and in MOST cases there is not a need for it to convey the Gospel (signing for someone who is deaf). It’s simply a display of human performance, and in most cases very sensual. Anyway, after they were done, I went to the bathroom and there were two teenage boys in there. As they spoke among themselves one said to the other, “Did you see the girl in the front how she was moving? She was hot!” Now, my question is this: Is it possible to worship God sensuously? No. Sensuality is for the flesh, not the spirit. Also, should we move to music in such a way as to evoke such a response in people? No.

      Acknowledging the holiness of God should not result in hand clapping and doing the “wiggles and jiggles.” God is holy and we need to take a serious lesson from the creatures in Rev. who cry, “Holy, holy, holy” and from Isaiah in Is. 6:1-3. Not all worship styles is pleasing to God. It’s that simple. The Bible and SOP have all we need to guide us to converted responses that will please God. All we have to do is search and put what WE like on the side burner.

      • It seems that again, the whole point is missed. None of us have the right to adjudge what the worship service around the throne is like!! All we know is that they say "Holy Holy Holy" and "Worthy is the Lamb..." and "Blessing and Honour and Glory and Power": all in worship to a God who is Holy, Almighty, All-powerful, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

        Your bad church worship experience was unfortunate, but it does not support the author's interpretation of what she thinks is equivalent to the worship around God's throne by denigrating any worship that people "clap their hands... and shout to the Lord with a Voice of triumph".
        I have been to worship where the congregation sings and prays with Amen only after the morning prayer and benediction...Is this the correct interpretation of "holy worship" or "reverence"?
        That is why we are strongly admonished: "judge not so we are not judged".
        God has peoples of all nations kindreds tongues and peoples: When we start to understand that and stop trying to make us ONE nation kindred tongue and people except in being God's disciples "that they may be one" then we miss the point of redemption.
        If only we would allow God to open our eyes that we will see glimpses of truth He has prepared .....

      • I agree with JVGreaves

        Rich Ramdon wrote:

        I think the writer is spot on about hand clapping and such. Why is it that when it comes to music we can give God what WE like?

        My Bible includes this positive exhortation in Ps 47:1,2:

        To the chief Musician,
        A Psalm for the sons of Korah.

        O clap your hands, all ye people;
        shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

        For the LORD most high is terrible;
        he is a great King over all the earth.

        May I not conclude from this that clapping our hands is one way to praise the LordÉ

  4. Yes, the heavenly beings sing constantly of God's holiness as well as praising Him for His work and sacrifice of salvation!!!

    The author in the lesson made a very important point. I didn't see him separating God's love from His holiness but rather he countered a very popular trend that tends to separate God's holiness from His love.
    God's holiness is absolute unselfish love in absolute righteousness.

    The human tendency to complicity and rationalizing away their own sinfulness is a very serious problem in our world.
    Yet it’s absolutely true that "in the piercing light of His [God's]holiness, human beings finally see themselves for who they really are" -- sinners worthy of death.

    It is only as we recognize our desperate need that we can even begin to fathom God's love and what took place upon the cross. It sends us to our knees in self surrender, confession and repentance, clinging to the Savior not only for forgiveness but for strength and transformation. Creating a longing for His holiness in our lives.

    If Christians only talk about love without seeking to know God's holiness it only leads to more false security in sin for it is a Biblical fact that God's holiness will destroy all sin.

    Yes, in holy love, God makes every provision to save us FROM sin that we might not perish but have everlasting life! Indeed that is WONDERFUL news!!

    But to sin, wherever found, "our God is a consuming fire." Heb. 12:29. When we recognize God's holiness and submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin. There is forgiveness, justification and sanctification, transformation. But if a person clings to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, will destroy them at His coming.

    "When the spirit of holiness and perfect love abounds in the heart, working in those who profess the name of Christ, it will be like a refining fire, consuming the dross and scattering the darkness."

    We do need to emphasis God's holiness as well as His love!

  5. Unity and order - open to interpretation.
    Is it that we have thrown the baby out with the bath water for so many years that we fail to claim or reclaim for the service of God? What is it that we willingly leave with evil for his devices rather than have it as real joy in our lives, to share the glory of God. Some of us are made to rejoice with exuberance in all the roles of worship and others are not, timing is always of the essence - loud and exuberant in silent prayer - maybe not. Just a thought.:)

  6. We cannot even begin to understand how to worship GOD. Indeed, Jesus told us that when the Spirit of Truth comes He will teach us all things, and that includes what is pleasing and acceptable to GOD and what is not. True, we are all different -- thank GOD! True, there are cultural differences in worship styles; however, there are some things, regardless of cultural differences, that are never acceptable as worship of a HOLY GOD. I do recall God telling the children of Israel that when they come into the land He is giving them not to inquire how the inhabitants worship their gods because it is an abomination to Him.

    On two separate occasions, about 7 months apart, I visited two of my former churches that were considered "conservative" and I was truly appalled. I was not raised in the church -- I have danced in clubs and listened to music that did not put me in the frame of mind to consider GOD, and I am not just talking about the lyrics. Now I hear similar rhythms - loud and heavy with drums and electric guitars (don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the instruments, but the music that was coming from them as played was almost satanic) and see the "praise leaders" jumping (no exaggeration here) as if they were on a night club stage performing for the masses -- my heart breaks and I weep. This I have experienced on the East Coast and in a third church in the South.

    I never thought I could feel that way about what is taking place in the worship service. For me to feel that way it tells me "to each his own" has no place in worshiping a HOLY GOD. I left the "dance hall" music and performances behind in the world and our GOD IS HOLY -- HE is not looking to have HIS ego stroked, He does not need us to gratify HIM. For me, a sinner and coming from where I have been, to experience that strong reaction to what I was seeing and hearing, I can't help but think that indeed "the Spirit will lead us into all truths" -- and that includes what is acceptable to GOD in worship.

    I am not judging or criticizing anyone, but I do believe if we truly want to take ourselves out of the picture and lift up GOD, as the angels and other holy beings do, then we MUST ask GOD to give us of His Spirit who will guide us in how to worship HIM and He will not make us all clones -- cultural and personal uniqueness will not cause division or chaos but there will be unity AND reverence. How can there not be when HE is a GOD of order?

    • Dear Mary Ann,

      I'm sorry you had such a negative experience in two churches that were formerly conservative.

      I have personally attended services using contemporary music a tad louder than I was comfortable with, but I believe that all involved were truly worshiping God in a way that was consistent with their culture.

      On the other hand, I remember a service that was much as you described and left me with similar feelings that it was not worshipful.

      I think you pointed us to a key concept in worship when you wrote

      if we truly want to take ourselves out of the picture and lift up GOD as the angels and other holy beings do

      That means that those who lead out in worship singing should not draw attention to themselves, either by their behavior, their way of dressing, or their singing. This principle is applicable to both contemporary praise music and traditional Christian music.

      Your description reminded me of a situation in which the guitarist made a theatrical jump and a bow at the end of the song which certainly drew attention to himself, although I was told that it was not intended to do that. All I know is that I was left with sort of a sick feeling that this service was dishonoring God. Yet other sincere believers claimed they were blessed by the service, and it is not for me to doubt their word.

      On the other hand, I've had somewhat similar experiences in totally traditional services -- when the attention was on the soloist, either by the introduction, the soloists behavior, dress, manner of singing, or the congratulatory remarks. Even in traditional services, I encounter styles of music that don't seem particularly reverent to me but are preferred by the congregation.

      I'm glad that you recognize that there is nothing wrong with specific instruments, but the difference is in the way they are used. At one time, the organ was considered unfit for church, because it was associated with the dance hall. Now we associate organs mainly with churches. That demonstrates how culture affects our way of seeing instruments. But whatever instruments are used, they should not overpower the voices, if we are to worship with understanding.

      When we sit in the pews, there's little we can do about it, except pray that the Holy Spirit will overrule, and in extreme situations, we may choose to leave or not return.

      But if and when we are in situations of leadership, we should strive to ensure that the focus in worship is on God. That will take careful planning and can be accomplished in a contemporary or a traditional setting. The mindless formality in some traditional services is not necessarily any more worshipful than the mindless enthusiasm of some contemporary services.

      When we worship God, we need to pray and sing with all of our being, including our minds. (1 Cor 14:15) And when the worship leaders -- whether in a traditional or contemporary setting -- are truly filled with the joy of serving Jesus, the service will never be lifeless and formal or excited and shallow. The Spirit of the Lord will give life to heartfelt worship of His followers.

      I agree with the conclusion of your comment:

      I do believe if we truly want to take ourselves out of the picture and lift up GOD, as the angels and other holy beings do, then we MUST ask GOD to give us of His Spirit who will guide us in how to worship HIM and He will not make us all clones — cultural and personal uniqueness will not cause division or chaos but there will be unity AND reverence.


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