Monday, October 09, 2017
Psalms 97:10 – 12 Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked. Light is shed upon the righteous and joy on the upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous, and praise his holy name.
The older I get (and believe me there are days I feel very old) the more I understand the direct relationship between the experience of joy and the choice to be righteous.
We live in an age where the predominant philosophy is that joy is self-generated rather than the product of a sacred and holy relationship with Almighty God. We are pressured by our culture to believe that joy is not contingent upon our choices. To even suggest that difficulty, hardship, and suffering may somehow be our own responsibility raises the hair on the back of our necks and stiffens our resolve to justify what we are doing.
As Christians, we have reached a dangerous precipice where we are precariously balanced between preserving our belief in the absolute holy nature of God and pursuing the promotion of self. One more step in the direction of the flesh and we will lose all solid footing and slip into a faithless freefall.
Satan would have us believe that we can balance there forever with an appearance of spiritual life while denying the power of it by continuing to seek self-fulfillment. The holiness of God has been declared irrelevant and has been relegated to a place of insignificance while the desires of the flesh are satisfied. God’s righteousness is being replaced with self-righteousness, which is based on moral relativity so that all of our choices may be justified. We have exchanged the image of God for the golden calf of the flesh, and have sought to explain away the consequences as naturally occurring events that would have happened anyway.
When God led the people of Israel out of their captivity in Egypt, He positioned Himself in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The people were told to only move when God moved, and to keep their eyes fixed solely on Him for direction. In return, He would guide and provide for them. The 97th Psalm further confirms that God wanted the people to see His holiness and glory and never follow anything else. Without ever using the word holy until the very end, this Psalm declares the holiness of God and the benefits He provides to those who participate in personal holiness.
The nature and character of God are so perfect and pure that we cannot look on Him and live. When He came to lead the people of Israel, clouds and thick darkness surrounded Him during the day because He would otherwise outshine the sun and destroy everything and everyone. His righteousness and justice are so perfect that all that is unrighteous would be instantly judged with death and destruction. He protected the people He loved and led by shielding them with the clouds and thick darkness.
Unquenchable fire came from His presence at night so that no matter how dark the world became, He could still be seen and followed and the people would know His power to destroy all enemies.
We can rejoice in these two great truths today. First, God is righteous and just, and we are shielded from a justified sentence of death by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, where clouds and thick darkness came upon the world while His life was judged in exchange for ours.
Second, no matter how dark our world becomes with sin and hardship, light is still visible in the fire of God’s glory and is seen by those who are righteous. There is not only a light at the end of the tunnel, but there is light in the tunnel.
However, the benefits of God’s presence are only realized if we choose to hate evil and walk in the light. His presence is found nowhere but in the perfect light. If we say we love the Lord, then we must first and foremost love Him for who He is and not for what He can do for us. He is holy and righteous and just. He hates evil and will at His appointed time destroy it all. He is absolutely holy, and there is no shadow in Him. There is no place of compromise. There is no single particle of anything even remotely related to sin in His being.
Those who love Him not only understand God’s holy nature, but also seek that same holiness. “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” says the Lord. The promises of a guarded life, a directed life, a hopeful life, and a joyful life, are only redeemable in the life of one who is upright in heart. Rejoicing in the reign of God is only possible for those who are being personally reigned by His holiness and righteousness.
Some of you are going to ask some very important questions at this point. Does God guarantee the removal of all suffering if I am holy? Why do holy people still suffer? And so on.
Holiness of heart does not remove us from the consequences of our own previous sins or from the sinfulness of this age. We will suffer and our bodies will still die. God will still discipline those that He loves, and we are all in need of discipline. My point today is not to argue the reason for suffering, but to declare the need for us to live our lives according to the holy nature of God.
Let it not be said of us that we are suffering because we do not honor the holiness of God. Let us not balance any longer on the precipice of personal pursuits at the expense of righteousness. Let us move far away from the slippery slope of sin and onto the Rock of our salvation, and let us stand in faithful righteousness. Then, being filled with the joy of the Lord, we can praise His Holy Name.