Psalm 15 (NIV): Lord, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?
He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart
and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman,
who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the Lord, who keeps his oath even when it hurts,
who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken.
The standards that God set for those who want to live in His presence now and forever, are very high. In fact, to most people they seem impossibly high – so high that many, even Christians, write them off as ideals to strive for, not realistic standards. They are seen as something that people may strive for and approach, but never really achieve or live in. But that is not what God’s word says. When a person serves a holy God, they are expected, even required, to be holy – not to make excuses for why those standards are too high, or be satisfied with being “good” (or at least better than some). Many of God’s champions in the Old Testament days lived legitimately holy lives – witness Enoch, Noah, Moses, Elijah, Elisha, and many others. Some might point to Moses’ sin at Meribah (Numbers 20:2-13) as proof that even Moses was not perfect, but that was one sin (immediately repented of) in over 40 years of relationship with God, and Moses paid a hard penalty for that one sin. That hardly provides justification for people to live complacently with sin in their lives as a daily or frequent occurrence! God’s people, in the Old Testament times, New Testament times, and today, are expected, required to be holy, and any sins that they allow in their lives have consequences that will reach far beyond themselves. If someone wants to live in God’s presence, they must be blameless, and do what is righteous. They must obey God’s commands, not just those in the written word, but those He speaks to their hearts. They must be open and honest, living without subterfuge, and speaking the truth from their pure hearts. They are expected to do only good to their neighbors, never doing harm in word or action. They are not to make promises lightly, because they will be required to keep any promise that they make. They are to be loving to others, helping those in need without expecting to gain by it, and they are to be totally just in all their dealings. And with such a “great cloud of witnesses” in the Old Testament that actually lived righteous and holy lives, Christians should be inspired. Not to mention that your average Christian should easily be at least as righteous as Enoch, Noah, Moses or all the other Old Testament saints, because they have the Holy Spirit living in them to change their hearts and to move them to follow God’s commands from the inside. With all of God’s presence and power living in us and flowing through us, God’s people can be real saints. And God expects us to be.
Father, of course You are right. Forgive us, Lord, for making excuses instead of making strides in holiness. Forgive us for looking for loopholes instead of looking for ways to obey. Forgive us for being self-satisfied instead of being holy. Help us, in Your strength and power, to be ALL that You require. Amen.