Tag Archives: salvation

Being made worthy to approach God

We see in numerous stories throughout the Bible that God’s people believed that being in his presence would destroy them. Stories like that of Gideon and the parents of Samson show us that. Isaiah thought he was doomed when he saw the Lord in the temple; he was “rescued” by an angel that touched him with a burning coal and took away his guilt. The stories of Uzzah and Aaron’s sons that perished remind us of the seriousness of the presence of God.

When Moses asked to God’s glory, God told him:

“I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” (Exodus 33:19–23)

“No one may see me and live.” I think this is a statement of fact, not a threat. That is, sinful humans cannot be in the full presence of God and not be destroyed. That’s why sin “disqualifies” us from being in his presence. That’s why sin must be removed for us to enjoy full fellowship with God.

Paul describes God in this way:

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:15–16)

Unapproachable. There is certainly a way in which we can approach God, but I don’t think that anyone with sin can enter God’s full presence. The darkness in us cannot withstand the light. The sin in us cannot survive God’s holiness. Our only hope is to be made acceptable through Jesus:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19–22)

Without the cleansing that we receive through Jesus, we cannot hope to draw near to God.

God’s presence can destroy

Let me continue exploring this idea of God’s holiness eventually destroying sin (and sinners). I see this illustrated in the exodus story. When the Israelites made and worshipped the golden calf, God was on the verge of killing everyone except Moses and beginning again with a new people. When Moses interceded for the people, God said:

“Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.” (Exodus 33:3)

Eventually God relented and accompanied the people. But this is when the tabernacle was established, with a system for cleansing the people of sin and protecting them from destruction. I think that describing this destruction as “God’s anger” is a bit of an anthropomorphism. I don’t think it’s an uncontrollable emotion that God feared would break out at any given moment. I think it’s a description of the very real fact that if God remained in close proximity to these people, the contrast between his holiness and their sinfulness could lead to their description.

God’s full presence was limited to the Holy of Holies (where he sat enthroned on the ark of the covenant). And a system of sacrifices and offerings was set up in order that that Holy of Holies could remain in proximity with the people without bringing about their destruction.

One day, we will live in the full presence of God. If our sins have not been removed/forgiven/atoned for, we will not be able to survive in that presence.

I’ve more to say, but I’d like to hear from you. Are you tracking with me? Does this make sense? Am I off base somewhere?

Thanks for the feedback!

Light expels darkness; holiness expels sin

Yesterday I began presenting some thoughts about holiness and sin being unable to exist in the same place, seeing this as an explanation as to why sin must be removed in order for someone to be in the presence of God.

As I mentioned, I compare this to light and darkness. Darkness can’t remain in the presence of a bright light. The light expels it.

John uses this fact to describe God when he writes:

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth.”
(1 John 1:5–6 NIV)

The New Testament frequently uses darkness to describe evil, while describing God as light. The two can’t go together.

My thought is that God’s holiness acts toward sin as light does toward darkness. There can be no mingling of the two. Where the godly one exists (holiness, light) the other cannot. God is life so there is no death where he is. God is truth so there can be no lie in him.

God is holy. That holiness expels and destroys sin.

The relationship between holiness and sin

I want to use The Kitchen for its intended purpose for a few days. This is a testing ground for half-baked thoughts, so I want to present something more as a proposition than a proclamation.

I’ve been thinking a lot about man’s relationship to God, especially in light of ideas presented by N.T. Wright. (Jay Guin has been resuming some of Wright’s thoughts while discussing one of Wright’s latest books)

My basic thought is this: God wants man to live with Him forever. However, nothing sinful can survive in the presence of God, much as darkness cannot remain in the presence of light. Therefore all sin must be removed for man to be able to live with God.

I’ve moved away from the basic “sin demands a price” way of looking at salvation and see it more as “holiness eradicates sin.”

I’ll try and flesh out those ideas a bit, but I wanted to lay out the basic idea. Maybe someone can totally refute it before I waste too much time trying to explain it.

We were all dead in sin. Some still are.

seekingContinuing the train of thought from yesterday, I’d like to look at how the apostle Paul talked about sin. Think about what he told Titus:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. (Titus 3:3-5)

We were lost. God saved us. Some are still lost. They need to be saved.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Some are disobedient. We were among them. We were dead. In sin. Now God has saved us. The disobedient still need to be saved! They are still dead. They are still in sin.

When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins. (Colossians 2:13)

Dead. Because of sin. Not just the Colossians. Not just the Gentiles. “He forgave us…”

We can’t lose this message. It’s too important. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see. I was a sinner. Dead in sin. Lost. God saved me.

Some are still disobedient. They are dead in sin. They need to be saved. They need the good news of salvation, the hope of eternal life, the message that in Jesus God is offering salvation to the whole world, to all who will obey, to all who will come to him in faith.