Friday, August 28, 2015

Reflection of the Week: God's Presence Demands Holiness

Lectionary Texts for this Sunday: Deut. 4:1-2, 6-9; Psalm 15; James 1:17-27; Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23.

The common theme in this week’s lectionary texts is the need for holiness in our heart because of the presence of God and the law in our midst. God's presence and His law in the Israel/church makes us a special people--people with wisdom and understanding. But we are chosen not because we are wise and understanding; we are wise and understanding because we are chosen. God, by his grace, having chosen us, gave us the gifts of His Spirit and Scripture to help us stay holy as He is holy. And holiness is the foundation of wisdom and understanding.

God's presence through His Spirit makes worship inevitable for we cannot be in His presence and yet not worship. Worship is nothing more than our grateful response to his manifest presence in our midst. But God is holy and his holy presence in our midst makes holiness in us an imperative. David in Psalm15 reminds us that we can only go up the holy hill of God in worship if our walk and our talk flow out of a pure heart. James 1:17-27 emphasizes that true faith is not just hearing God’s word but also doing God's word. If we are just hearers of God's word, but not doers, we deceive ourselves. Furthermore, our "faith" is no higher than that of the demons if we believe but don't obey God's law. Demons believe Jesus is Lord--and shudder. Disciples believe Jesus is Lord--and submit.

So God gives us His law so that we can keep ourselves holy. Grace does not change God's demand for holiness in his people: grace elects us to be God's chosen people and grants us the Holy Spirit and Scripture so that we can now have the power to keep ourselves holy.

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and scribes for equating holiness with outward performance of piety rather than inward perfection of purity. So Jesus quoted from Isaiah which says that worship is in vain when it is just art, not heart. If our worship does not flow from a pure heart, no worship art (liturgical, contemporary or indigenous) can make our worship acceptable to God. But if our heart is pure, no worship style can make our worship unacceptable to God. For it is not our arts that defile our worship but our hearts.

Father, thank You for Your Presence in our midst. Thank You that You have given us Your Spirit and Law to help us be holy, even as You are holy. Amen.

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