Living with God

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How good is your imagination? Do you use it often, perhaps to imagine yourself somewhere else maybe sat on a beach somewhere with a better climate than this, sipping something cold? Or executing the perfect overhead kick into the top corner as the crowds go wild as you score the winning goal in the F.A. Cup final – just me then?

Seriously imagining or visualising something can be a powerful tool, sports men and women use it all the time e.g. F1 driver eyes closed in meditative focus, imagining each corner of their lap. Visualising the perfect lap beforehand can help a top sportsman execute it in real life. Interesting anecdote but what on earth has that got to do with Psalm 15 on a Sunday night at HTG?

Well this Psalm let's us into David's mind as he imagines or visualises the answer to the question he poses for us in verse 1;

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

The psalm paints a picture of what the answer to that question might look like. And just like a F1 driver visualising the perfect lap, David wants us to use this picture as a tool to help us live this type of life, a life defined by and consistent with God's presence in us. So tonight we're going to first review this picture that David paints of a life lived in God's presence and then look at how we can use it to pursue a life of holiness and integrity.

The Question

So first let's look at the question David poses in v1:

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

David's question draws on the imagery of the tabernacle, David is referring to the place where God's presence dwelt in the Old Testament. David asks an incredible question; he asks; who can dwell in God's presence, who can live with God?

His question goes beyond what even the high priest could do. He could enter God's presence once a year but only under the strictest conditions. David asks what would a person who is right with God permanently, who is able not just to go into God's sanctuary once a year but to dwell there, to live on God's holy hill, what would they look like?

David answers with a description of one who dwells with God. This person is truly righteous, trustworthy with clear allegiances and lives with deep integrity. We'll look at David's description, his character study in four parts:

1. Live righteously

The person who dwells with God is righteous, look at verse 2;

2He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart

Living with God requires a person to walk blamelessly and to do what is righteous. These are two ways of saying the same thing; walking blamelessly = being righteous. The term righteous means to be upright, virtuous. Like a true measure or like a ruler that is perfectly straight with no crookedness. When the Bible talks about God's righteousness it refers to his own self-consistency, his inability to be anything less than complete just and good in everything he does.

This isn't a pretence of morality, someone who is able to portray a positive public image or first impression. This isn't merely surface, this is character deeply wrought inside someone. This is to be the defining characteristic, notice the last clause in the verse; '…who speaks the truth from his heart'. The one who lives with God must be characterised by consistent, upright living. David is painting in broad brush strokes at this point but in the following verses he draws out what walking blamelessly means in day to day life. First David turns his attention to the things we say, that's our second characteristic; 'speak truthfully'

2. Speak truthfully

Read on into verse 3;

3 and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbour no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man

Living with God means speaking the truthfully, it is incompatible with slander – the deceitful accusations against or gossiping over others. James makes this very clear when he says in 3.9-11:

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness.

10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.

11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?

Remarkably Nic quoted these verses this morning as he led us into confession. He pointed out the stark inconsistency, the rank hypocrisy of in one moment using our words to curse our brother and the next moment using our words to praise God. Our words betray us they reveal the state of our hearts, the Bible speaks often of our words like this they are powerful; they can be used very differently; tearing down or building up but they always reveal the true state of our hearts. Those who truly know God will not be hypocrites or liars rather they will speak the truth from their hearts. They will not slander others, speaking ill of them in order to build up their own reputation.

So read those words again, the person who dwells with God; speaks the truth from their heart. There's no hypocrisy in what they say they really believe it and not just on Sundays. They speak from the heart not attempting to please men but to speak truthfully. Neither do they slander speaking ill of anyone, they do not cast slurs on their fellow-man.

How does that stack up for you? Does it describe the office, ward, factory, shop where you work? Does it ring true for you at the school gate, over the cup of coffee or the pint with a friend or the Facebook wall?

Knowing that God has given his son for us, that he has loved us despite our impurity and shame and that he has lifted us out of our own self-imposed wretchedness and made us his children is incompatible with speaking words which tear down others in an attempt to build ourselves up.

It is only when we forget these things that we speak so foolishly, so hurtfully. It's not just the blazing row, it's the snide quiet remarks, the cutting sarcasm and the desire to put down others that have no place in the hearts of those who love Jesus, and no place in a church that calls him king.

The question for us to examine ourselves by is; what do your words say about the state of your heart?

3. Make your allegiance clear

Thirdly, living with God demands that we make our allegiances clear. Read on to v4;

4 who despises a vile man but honours those who fear the LORD,

We're just back from visiting Carly's family in Northern Ireland. While I was there I went to a very special event, my father-in-Laws weekly catch up with the boys at the pub which in my eyes the point of true acceptance into the family.

Normally the topic of conversation is motorbikes or how expensive everything is getting but on this occasion it turned to religion. One guy said they'd been talking about it in the office and decided that faith was fine, it was religion that was the problem. I'm actually quite sympathetic to that argument given that you won't find any one who attacks man-made religion more violently than Jesus. My fear however, is that the statement; 'faith is fine, religion is the problem' really means; 'faith is fine as long as you keep it private/don't bring it to work with you'. I'm fearful because verse 4 doesn't allow for this type of 'private' faith.

David says that we should; 'despise a vile man but honour those who fear the LORD', we need to be prepared to call right – right and wrong – wrong. We are to keep our promises even when it costs us because pursuing truthfulness and integrity (things which mirror our creator and redeemer) genuinely means more to us than any material loss we might suffer as a result.

These are public acts that call for consistency between what we say we believe and what we do. Or to put it another way David is calling for consistency between what we say we believe and what we actually believe. Because what we do and say reveals what we really believe, as we've already read it is out of the overflow of a man's heart that his deeds come from.

This description of a distinctive life lived in public continues into verse 5 as David describes living righteously in the spheres of business and law, which forms our final point:

4. Live with integrity

The second half of verse 4 and into 5 describes this dweller with God as being one:

…who keeps his oath even when it hurts,5 who lends his money without usury (interest) and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.

We are to be people who keep their promises even when that is difficult or inconvenient for us. We are to live lives of integrity and faithfulness that truly reflect the image of our creator in us.

But what about this second bit; who lends his money without usury (interest). So if we are to dwell with God we can't be bankers then? No doubt there'd be some support for that given the current economic climate but that's not at the heart of what David is saying. In the Old Testament the only circumstance in which an Israelite would ask another for money was if they were destitute. David is really asking us to love our neighbour rather than exploiting them. So we lend without expecting anything back because that is grace, the same grace which God has poured out lavishly on us in Jesus.

Similarly we shouldn't be take a bribe. We shouldn't exploit the positions of power or trust that God has given to all of us in different settings rather we should live with integrity; hating evil and loving good, doing justice and protecting those who are vulnerable in society. That's the call of the Bible Old and New Testaments again and again.

That's David's visualised answer; this is the one who dwells with God; one whose life is marked by righteousness and integrity. He is one who speaks truthfully, who nails his colours to the mast and then lives consistently with his convictions. So the question is;

Do you recognise yourself?

Imperfectly but recognisably. Can you relate to this? If this were the perfect lap visualised for us do you at least recognise some of the corners? Maybe you're struggling to see yourself. This is fine for David the man after God's own heart imagining what it would be like to live with God but for me well it's like me sitting in my car imagining the perfect F1 lap, I can imagine it all I like but it won't help me become world champion, I simply don't have the talent, never mind the financial backing, years of training or let's be honest; car I'd need to do that. So the visualising is all very nice but really it's just like me imaging I'm somewhere hot on a dreary Bank Holiday or imaging scoring the winning goal in the Cup Final; it's never going to happen is it?

Except that it already has happened. This Psalm isn't for us a pipe dream, an idle day dream. No – Why? Well because this Psalm works in reverse for us. Let me explain; David asks;

1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

And he answers with this picture of a man who is like God, who has his righteousness, his standards of truthfulness, integrity an love and it seems at best a unrealistic hope and at worst a cruel mirage of a life we'll never be able to lead.

But we can answer David's question differently. Not with a list of characteristics but with a man; the God-Man Jesus Christ. He has already ascended God's holy hill. He3 can truly live with God because he has lived THE righteous life. And he has given that life for us dying on the cross. As he did so the temple curtain ripped in two so that all could enter God's presence and live with him, not once a year like the high priest but permanently, in fact eternally.

Because of Jesus David can ask; who can live with, dwell forever with God and we can answer confidently; me. I can live with God because of Jesus. But that's not the end of the story because as we look at Jesus as we look at his life, the life which perfectly mirrors the love, the glory, the righteousness and integrity of God it affects us. More than that it transforms us, the Bible says that we are being transformed from the inside out to look more and more like Jesus so that one day we will see him and be like him. That process has started now; Jesus has left us his Spirit – so God literally dwells in us and he speaks to us through his Word he places us in a new family; a royal priesthood a chosen and holy nation and through these things he changes, he sanctifies us, make us holy.

So perhaps I can re-state David's question not; who can dwell with God? but will you dwell with God? Jesus has done everything necessary for us to confidently approach God and ask him to come and dwell in us, in our very beings and change us from the inside out.

Perhaps you've never asked that before, why not ask it tonight. And for those of us who have asked God to dwell in us. Let's use David's picture, this Psalm as a tool. Let's use it to convict us of where we fail to live in a way which is consistent with God dwelling within us and let's together, collectively visualise what HTG, what Gateshead would be like if we lived this type of life. Lets ask for God's help and in his power pursue a life which look more and more like Jesus.

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