Never Have I Ever Been Unholy
Have you ever played the social icebreaker game in a small group or youth group, Never Have I Ever?
Imagine if, during my turn, my statement was, “Never have I ever said anything unholy.”
Immediately, you would know that I was lying! “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
And as you scanned the room, every honest person playing the game would be standing or raising their hand—because we all have said many unholy things. In fact, my guess is that if you’re anything like me, you haven’t been able to go the last hour without saying something unholy!
The Bible has much to say about holiness and our speech. You and I don’t need any greater evidence of the depth of our sin than what comes out of our mouths.
“The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).
As we continue our discussion of the doctrine of the holiness of God, it’s interesting how the prophet Isaiah’s vision is illustrated by lips. Our lips, and what flows from them, are constant evidence of the depravity of sin and why we deserve God’s wrath.
“And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)
Isaiah’s reaction is remarkable. He doesn’t editorialize about how amazing this vision is or talk about how privileged he is to see it. Instead, he is immediately filled with overwhelming fear and doom.
Only when you stand before the majestic grandeur of God’s holiness will you know who you are and what you need. Divine holiness, human identity, and spiritual need are all inextricably tied together.
If, however, you do not place yourself before the glorious glory of God’s holiness, you will see yourself as more righteous, wiser, and stronger than you are, ever were, or ever will be. You will live as if there is no God, and if there were, you wouldn’t really need him anyway.
Only God’s earth-filling holiness can fill your heart and capture the imagination of your mind so that you can grasp the extent of your unholiness and cry out with a sense of the extent of your own need.
Do you want to honor God with your lips? Do you want to stumble less with what you say? Then place yourself under the light of the glory of the One who is utterly holy in every way, all of the time.
And as you do, remember the rest of Isaiah’s vision. It illustrates and reminds us of the atoning grace of Jesus.
“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:6-7).
Until we get to the other side, you and I will never stop dishonoring God with our lips; we will continue to stumble with what we say.
Yes, we have seen his holiness, which has exposed us to who we are and what we need. But we have not been left to our doom.
We have been greeted in our moral disaster with the justifying mercies of the Savior and the cleansing coal of his atonement.
Our guilt has been absolved!
Paul David Tripp
1. When was the last time you said something unholy and dishonoring to God? What did you say, to whom did you speak it, and what was your motivation?
2. Have you confessed those words to God and the other person?
3. When was the last time you wanted to say something nasty, and while you managed to hold your tongue verbally, you still followed through with those unholy words in your heart?
4. Have you confessed those silent words to God and the other person?
5. Evaluate your everyday speech over the last week, month, or even year. If you listen to yourself, what might you discover about what is ruling your heart? Where do you need to seek practical help for some of these more significant struggles?
6. What can you do to place yourself under the light of the glory of the One who is utterly holy? Be specific. Are you afraid of what might be exposed? Why can we be humble, honest, yet without fear?