2008-11-16 (am) Psalm 24:3-6 Who May Stand Before the Lord?
As we come to know God, two things happen. First, we become more and more aware of How Awesome, indescribable, powerful, amazing, incredible, and pure and Holy God is.
There truly is no one, nothing like God. If you take all the world religions, all the false gods, not just the ones identified in the Old Testament and compare them with the God revealed in the Bible, a distinction becomes very clear.
All false religions worship gods created in human image. The Bible turns it around; God created humanity in His image. No single religion has object of worship that remotely compares to the God of the Bible. The more you learn about God in His Word, the more amazed you become. God, three persons living in perfect unity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three in one, eternal, loving, equal, this knowledge truly is awesome!
While this first thing happens, a second thing takes place, as we come to know God, we also come to know ourselves.
We cannot but help but begin to see ourselves through God’s eyes.
It is like being invited to dinner with the Queen, buying the best clothes you can afford but discovering that no matter how much you spent, no matter how hard you worked, all your efforts were not good enough. When you arrive, you realise that you’re terribly underdressed. The best suit at Moores is like rags when everyone else is wearing Armani.
With God, when we meet him, when we see Him and then see ourselves in the light of His presence, we realise how shrouded in darkness we are. Forget Armani, forget Moores, all our good deeds are, as the prophet Isaiah says, filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Now, at the risk of offending some, we have to be brutally honest here. When Isaiah says filthy rags, he’s not talking about dirty wash rags, stinky douks from the kitchen. He’s talking about used strips of linen that women back then used during their menstrual cycle. Yeah, all our good deeds are bloody pads, bloody tampons. If you think that’s gross, you’re absolutely right. But that’s a true description of our attempts to please God on our own. It is impossible.
For when it comes right down to it, when we truly come face to face with God, with the heart and head knowledge of God, we realise that we are sinners in need of a saviour.
Sot it is at that moment, totally humbled, that we ask what the Psalmist asks, “who can ascend the hill of the Lord?” I am a sinner; I desire to be with the Lord! But how can I get there? I am a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips!
Who has hands that are clean enough to raise them before God? Our hands are filthy! I remember when I was growing up, one of my Cadet leaders was a mechanic. I remember looking at his hands and asking him why he hadn’t washed his hands after work. He explained to me that the oil and grease that he works with every day stains his skin, that no amount of scrubbing could get the stains out.
Go ahead, look at a mechanic’s hands, you can see the dirt etched in there. That dirt will stay there as long as they keep working as mechanics.
Now, when we try to clean our lives up, we can often do a good job at hiding our worst dirt. We think we do a good job at looking presentable for others in church. We’ve got our nice clothes on, our nice jeans on. We look all pious and good in front of each other, and we allow ourselves to be fooled by one another at times. We see people in church, and go, aha! They’re doing good, they’re in church! We think we can fool other people, and sometimes we do, but we cannot fool God.
No matter how hard we scrub or clean we can’t get rid of the sin stains. No matter how we try to cover up our sin, God sees right through it.
There is only one way to get clean.
Jesus, through his atoning sacrifice, purifies us from all sin.
Now, our sin isn’t just on the surface. It isn’t just what we can see in others, it’s a lot deeper than that. Just like the dirt etched hands of a mechanic, our dirt doesn’t come off just like that.
In order to get rid of the etched in sin, the internal sin in our bodies, we must be washed in Christ’s blood. In this washing, we die and are raised with Christ.
Have you ever seen the hands of a mechanic who has stopped working? Have you ever noticed what happens to the grease and dirt that gets etched deep into your hands, when you stop working with grease, oil and dirt? It doesn’t simply wash away. No, eventually, the outer layer of skin, the layer that stained, eventually that layer sloughs off, and it is replaced with a new, clean layer of skin.
When we die to our old natures, when we confess and repent, our old natures, our old skin if you will, is removed and a new skin from Christ grows in its place.
Just as new skin makes a mechanic’s hands clean, new life, new skin from Christ makes us clean.
So, who then can ascend the hill of the Lord? Who then can raise holy hands? All who have been cleansed by Christ’s precious blood!
In Lord’s Supper, we celebrate the communion we have with God. It is not, as the Roman Catholic church teaches, that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, but rather that we, who are already seated with Christ in heaven, ascend God’s holy hill to get a taste of that banquet meal we’ll share with Christ!
Lord’s Supper reminds us of who we are in Christ, and where we are going! It gives us hope, strength and character to live our lives for God’s glory.
And it changes our perspective in this life. Sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, we begin living and orienting our lives after God’s will. We change; we start living like Christ, following our new natures in Christ, rather than for our old natures. Do we still struggle? Of course we do, this side of heaven it is a battle. But the power of sin, the bondage of the will to sin has been broken, we’re now able to do good, to do the will of God, whereas before, we were completely powerless to do the will of God, in fact, we didn’t even have the desire to do God’s will.
Now, the question we have to ask is this. What does this kind of life look like? What does a new nature look like? What does a person who is clean, who is made new, who is purified in Christ, who can ascend to the holy hill of God, who can raise holy hands and who has a pure heart, what does that life look like?
We avoid sinning. We make every effort to have peace with one another. Sometimes that means we have to swallow our bitter pride, be the bigger man, and forgive our neighbours, even people in church who sin against us even though they should know better, it means we forgive them seventy times seven. It means no matter what, we forgive, we forgive, we forgive. We must always consider that for every injustice that happens against us, we’ve done more against God, and yet he is always willing to forgive. So, in response to such amazing forgiveness, we gladly, gleefully forgive others!
As I’ve already said, it is easy to fool one another. We can pretend we’re better Christians than we really are. But if we’re trying to do good deeds apart from Christ, if we’re trying to be all holy in pious to impress others, all we’re doing is waving around our filthy rags. It’s just plain silly.
We know that we cannot fool God. Nor do we want to. Having been forgiven, having tasted the grace of God in Christ, we have a new desire to be pure, not just on the outside, but pure in heart! Eventually we start to see that if we allow our focus, our desire to be oriented toward anything other than God, it is a cop out. It is settling for something that is totally substandard.
Our new hearts strive for God and they strive to be pure before God.
Such a heart, such a life refuses to hide anything. It is quick to confess sin. It is slow to sin again. It cries out in anguish even as we know we’re heading into temptation! It cries out and says, “Don’t go there! There’s no joy there! There’s no real satisfaction there! Turn around! And if, somehow, we persist in proceeding with that sin, it brings such conviction that we can’t bear not to confess.
The Christ-like heart is guarded and prepared to defend against the evil one. It works hard to become conformed to the image and will of God. Jesus Christ, the image of the invisible God, conformed himself to the likeness and will of His Father. He willingly submitted to His Father’s will. We should be like Christ.
Our old hearts were proud; Christ has placed new hearts within us which enable us to become obedient to Christ. We can imitate Christ’s obedience in doing the Father’s will.
A Christian should be characterised further with a healthy disdain for the vanity of the world. Matthew Henry, if he was alive today, would be utterly flabbergasted by many modern preachers who not only promise a Christian life of health and wealth, but who teach Christians to have health and wealth as a goal for this life.
Matthew Henry describes pure hearted Christians as people who “do not set their affections upon the things of this world, [who] do not lift up their souls unto vanity, whose hearts are not carried out inordinately towards the wealth of this world, the praise of men, or the delights of [the] sense[s], who do not choose these things for their portion, nor reach after them, because they believe them to be vanity, uncertain and unsatisfying.”
Oh, what a different world we would be living in, if that were true.
We’re going to look at this more closely next week when we look at verses 1-3, but let me set us up for it with this question. What’s the biggest sin that North Americans are guilty of? Adultery? Theft? Disrespect? Slander, gossip? Lust?
Do you know what is talked about most in the scriptures? Money. Money is idolatry. Probably a large number of us, if not all of us, in this building are guilty of breaking the tenth commandment. I freely confess before all of you that I am most definitely guilty of coveting.
I know I’m not alone. We live in a world that bombards us with advertisements, a world that cultivates covetousness. I admire guys like Pastor John Piper, who has taught me a lot about resisting the sin of covetousness through desiring God above everything else. He lives what he preaches. He buys suit jackets at penny saver stores. He doesn’t own a TV, because it would tempt him away from spending time with God, he puts all the money he gets from his book royalties into supporting the Desiring God website, so that people like me and you can go there and download his stuff for free. Most of his books can be downloaded and read on your computer, not to mention every sermon he’s ever preached, and all his lectures and conference events.
How does he do this? He does it because he is fully, completely focussed on God. He has found true joy, true happiness, and true satisfaction in the only place where we can find it, in God through Jesus Christ. Are we doing that? I know I’m not nearly doing that enough. Help me! Let us help each other! Let us confess to each other, and humbly care for each other and encourage each other!
Come, congregation, let us seek the Lord on his Holy Hill. Through the shed blood and sacrificed body of Christ, which we’ve symbolically ingested this morning, we can ascend and stand before our creator. We have found, and do find every satisfaction in Him. Let us turn away from stuff that is not God; stuff that falls far short of God’s glory. Let us trust in Jesus Christ. Amen.
Henry, M. (1996, c1991). Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Ps 24:3). Peabody: Hendrickson.