In God’s Living Room
Things are not always as they first appear. Children learn this when they become young adults and experience the labor and sweat that was required of their father to put food on the table when growing up. As a child this is taken for granted: reality has not set in yet. At varying junctures in the Holy Bible, God’s people are allowed to see the realities of this world as they really are. There is more at stake, the enemy is more deadly, and the Father is more powerful and than the Christian may realize at 6 AM when wiping sleep out of the eyes. Wipe away the sleep and wake up to the reality of what it means to be in God’s presence: in His living room as it were.
When we speak of God’s living room, we use contemporary language to describe God’s temple, His dwelling place, or His presence. Throughout scripture, to be in the presence of God is a special event. Wherever God appeared in history became known as God’s dwelling place, and that place became sacred and reverenced. Consider the following examples: Jacob’s vision at Bethel (Gen. 28:10-22), Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3), God’s descent on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19 & 33), and God’s dedication of the Temple (2 Chron. 5-6). These events compose a short inventory of windows through which to gaze at the glory of God. While gazing through these windows of revelation, may God’s holiness radiate, may first impressions disintegrate, and may your level of reverence in God’s presence elevate.
Fine attention to detail is stressed whenever man stands in the presence of God. Notice how Moses was told by God to remove his sandals while in the presence of God (Exodus 3:5). In ancient times and in the East still, this is a gesture of respect and humility. When preparing to approach God’s glory on Mt. Sinai, the people were to wash their clothes of all impurities (Exodus 19:10), abstain from intimacy with their spouses during the days leading up to the event (Exodus 19:15), refrain from touching any part of the holy mountain (Exodus 19:12-13), and resist the urge to look at the brightness of God’s radiating glory (Exodus 19:21). When God appeared to Isaiah in visionary form, Isaiah was shaken with fear (Isaiah 6:1-5) and it was necessary that he be purged of sin in order to stand in God’s presence (v. 7). A similar picture is detailed in Revelation 7 as John looks into the heavenly throne room of God and sees God’s faithful standing in “white robes,” (v. 9). John would later explain these white robes represented the “righteous acts of the saints,” (19:8). Truly it is no trivial event to enter the living room of God.
The application from these revelations of scripture is abundant. For sake of space, answer this one application question, “How should man approach God’s presence in worship?” The church is called, “the house of God,” (1 Timothy 3:15) and, “the temple of God,” (2 Cor. 6:16). In both Paul’s address to Timothy and Corinth, Paul was addressing the church collectively, not individually. It would seem whenever the body of Christ, “comes together as a church,” (1 Cor. 11:18) this is a special event. While as Christians are individually God’s property (James 1:1) and He is supposed to be the center of the Christian’s life (Matthew 6:33), God is not present in an individual’s life in the same sense as He is described to be present whenever the church collectively comes together as the temple of God to reverence the King of Kings. The bottom line of all this is simply put- whenever the church comes together to worship, it is not to be approached casually. The modus operandi of modern church culture is to present worship as casual. A preacher is measured fitting by whether or not he wears muscly t-shirts or stylish flannels. The masses are encouraged to come worship God on reclining couches, wearing only the most comfortable shorts and flip flops, all while getting a refreshing frappamacchiatoccino at the coffee bar. Furthermore, it would seem God is only in His temple on Sunday morning, and He is somehow absent like Baal every other day of the week (see 1 Kings 18). Is this the blueprint in scripture for approaching God’s presence in His dwelling place? Should Christians pay ready detail to relaxation or reverence when preparing for worship with the church? Should the Christian busy him/herself so much so that Sunday morning is the only block of time he might suffer to approach God in His holy temple?
This message is in no means meant to be read spitefully or with a spirit of derision. Answer the questions above honestly and examine yourself. May our response to God be that of Isaiah, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…” (Isaiah 6:5). May God be reverenced to the uttermost by all men but especially by those who say, “You are my God!” To God be the glory.
What Does God Care About?
Hosea’s marriage to the unfaithful Gomer masterfully mirrors the relationship with God and unfaithful Israel. His writing’s would reach through the years and find themselves as a teaching point of the Master Teacher. While being questioned for His association with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus offers up some homework for the pharisees directly from Hosea: “go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice” (Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6). Christ puts forth an interesting assignment, one that draws the reader all the way back to Hosea.
Hosea writes of God’s charge against unfaithful Israel, their call to repentance, their fall, and closes with their restoration. Throughout the book Hosea brings to attention the sin of Israel and the separation that occurred as a result. Israel would take the gold and silver given to her by God and make it into Baal (Hosea 2:8;8:4), she would leave the fulfillment of God for the emptiness of pagans (Hosea 3:1), she would be a stumbling block for other nations (Hosea 5:1) and Israel would remove the boundaries between God and Baal (Hosea 5:10), yet throughout all of this, Israel still upheld the Sabbath and feast days (Hosea 2:11), and offered sacrifices to the Lord (Hosea 5:6). This was not out of sincerity or love, for their faithfulness had “left like the early dew” (Hosea 6:4), but out of habit. Thus God, who still wanted their worship, would says to His once faithful bride “I desire mercy (i.e. Goodness, Steadfast Love, Loyalty) and not sacrifice. . .”(Hosea 6:6), that is, I desire sacrifice with obedience, not insincere offerings. (Matthew 23:23).
Christ uses the unfaithful, insincere, and the disobedient Israel to teach us two lessons that to this day remains applicable, (First) God cares about more than ritual obedience. Israel had offered God what He did not desire, sacrifices without love, in like manner today, many are good at going through the motions but forget that our worship to God is to be done in “Spirit (The right attitude) and truth (The right way)” (John 4:24). (Second) God is concerned about how we treat others. Christ taught Hosea 6:6 in the context of eating with sinners, and that their spiritual well-being needs to be important to us (Galatians 6:1). In the same manner “Christianity is not valuable because it gives a person spiritual knowledge. Ritual piety is empty, even when doctrinally correct, if it does not fill the heart with concern for others” (Mike Criswell, Commentary on Galatians pg. 245).
Why You Should Not Buy Into a Hippo
This is the sequel episode of a question introduced and answered a month ago, “Did the Catholic Church give us the Bible?” In answering that question, the Council of Hippo was introduced. This is the early church council that Catholics and Orthodox Christians point to and credit for producing the biblical canon as we have it today. Last month’s answer gave three burdens of proof in contradiction to the Catholic church’s confession. Now we ask the question, “Why did the Catholic church deem the Council of Hippo necessary?”
At the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., a council of church bishops convened and gave their official authorization as to which books were and were not inspired. Milton Fisher writes about the Catholic church’s declaration of the New Testament canon in the 4th century. He states, “A need for officially defining the canon was not pressing until then,” (Comfort, Philip. The Origins of the Bible, p. 67). Paul warned the Christians at Thessalonica not to believe coming imposters who would write epistles in the names of the apostles, trying to deceive (2 Thess. 2:1-2). By the time of the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., such imposters were at large, influencing Catholic bishops to make an official decree announcing which books were authoritative and which were not. In light of this brief history, no pope, man named Tertullian, or church council decided which books should be included in the Bible. The inspired collection of Bible books was recognized prior to this church council placing its stamp on the cover. Catholics and Orthodox Christians violently object to this truth, but it is indeed the truth as born out by historical fact. Much like a patient who has been given medicine by a doctor, the 1st century church was given the Bible by God. When the patient takes the medicine and acknowledges it to be good, he does not authorize the medicine; he simply recognizes the inherent authority already in the medicine. Such is the case with the Bible as delivered by the Great Physician. The church simply recognized the inherent authority within scripture, and it did so long before any Catholic church council opened its mouth.
The Bible contains God’s very words to men. These words were written down by inspired men of God as they were instructed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The individual books that resulted from this revelatory process were then shared among the 1st and 2nd century churches (Col. 4:16). The staunch oral tradition and preservation of biblical manuscripts allowed faithful Christians to refute uninspired writings no later than the 2nd century. The Council of Hippo was deemed necessary by men in order to affirm what was already true and authoritative. In short, the Catholic “stamp” of approval was plagiarized from the stamp of the apostles and prophets that originally produced and circulated the Bible canon. The testimony of history and of the Bible together speak to the divine self-efficacy of scripture, needing no Catholic stamp of authorization. The 66 books of the Hebrew-Christian Bible is God’s breath- inhale it.