Editorial: October 2008
The moral and ethical qualifications which admit a worshipper to the presence of God are detailed in Psalm 15. The Psalmist enquires as to who are worthy to be Jehovah's guests, and to dwell in the place consecrated by His presence. The person coming into God's presence must squarely face the two-fold question: "Lord, who may abide in your tabernacle? Who may dwell in your holy hill?"
The Psalmist compressed the commandments in the Law, given at Sinai, into eleven statements: six positive and five negative. Isaiah stated them in six (33:15); Micah in three (6:8); Amos and Habakkuk into one (Amos 5:4; Hab.2:4). Jesus and the Apostle Paul reduced all the commandments to the quality of love (Matt.22:37; Gal.5:14).
These questions emphasise that God's standard must be met if a person is to be God's guest. Matters of integrity and righteousness relate to man's duty to God, while truthfulness and the remaining virtues refer to man's duty toward his neighbour. Psalm is ends with an enlarged and emphatic statement that, with the fulfilment of certain conditions, a person may not only be a guest of Jehovah, but also be in continued fellowship. "He that doeth these things shall not be shaken to the ages." The Psalmist believed that God would expect these ideals in those who come to worship Him.
The blameless character is assessed by personal and social conduct. The psalm sets the highest aspirations of a godly person-personal character in harmony with the character of God, righteousness in work and truth in word. He must maintain right relationship with his neighbour. Whatever the circumstances, he should have consistency of character and conduct.
While our right of access to God and fellowship with Him is created through Christ by grace, and founded upon justification by faith, apart from any works of ours, it must never be forgotten that justification is unto righteousness. If one thinks that justification is excuse for sin, or hiding of uncleanness, it is utterly unwarranted and wholly pernicious. Through justification, God, by His grace, has put righteousness at our disposal. Does grace give us licence to live anyway we want? We must not continue in sin, that grace may abound. Grace is entirely holy. It demands holiness. But our comfort is that it makes us holy. That creates our responsibility. To continue in sin is to frustrate the very purpose of God in grace. To do that, is to be excluded from His tent, to be shut out from the holy mountain.
The requirements for entering the presence of God have to do with character and behaviour, not with religious beliefs and observances. People must desire to be honest in their actions, truthful in their speech, and disciplined in avoiding slander and gossip. They need to trust God to strengthen them to do so in faith (Rom.1:17). They must know how to make right judgments between things that are good and things that are not. In addition, they must be reliable and trustworthy, keeping their word even when it hurts. They must be generous and helpful, and never take advantage of the poor or defenceless. Only such people will dwell in God's presence and enjoy the lasting security that only God can provide.
A person considered worthy to be in God's presence is blameless, actively upholding right dealing in all transactions, wholly free from duplicity. His heart is set upon truth. He does not slander. He is careful to avoid gossip (1 Tim. 5:13), never taking advantage of a fellow human being, careful not to distress his friends by foolish and tactless talk. He discounts a man who merits being despised, and respects any one who honours and fears the Lord (Psa.15:4). If he had undertaken a duty which later proves to be irksome and costly, he does not evade his responsibility; he considers the spoken word of vow as sacred (Josh. 9:19).
The requirements for entering the presence of God have not changed over the years. In Jesus Christ God gifted us with the ability to fulfil those requirements. We are not only saved by faith, but we also live by faith. Although justification is by faith alone, fellowship with God now and forever depends on a living faith attested to by certain standards of daily living. The Apostle James makes clear that genuine faith will be proved by Christian works (Jas. 2: 17, 26). As Jesus told the rich young man, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt.19:17).
Everyone who desires fellowship with God should apply these criteria to himself to see if these standards of God for fellowship with Him are manifested in his life through faith.
The requirements are not based on standards of power, wealth or standing in society. It is not related to national, hereditary or ecclesiastical phenomena. It is moral and spiritual in nature. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). "His will concerns the very substance of the Law, viz. our duties towards all men, and the inward state of the heart towards God."
The man of God walks uprightly. His works are righteous. The genuineness of his works is seen in the fact that he speaks the truth in his heart. He does not mistreat his fellow human beings. He does not slander his friend and he does not take up reproach against his neighbour. This eliminates gossip about brethren in the church. He does no evil to his friend. Who mistreats his friend is not fit for fellowship with anybody, especially with God. In his eyes, a reprobate is despised. (Elisha is a striking example of one who despised a reprobate. He despised Ahab, but honoured God-fearing Jehoshaphat (2 Kgs. 3:13). He keeps his word. He does not change even when he finds that his oath works to his own hurt. He does not charge exorbitant interest. (This criterion does not condemn legal interest as charged in modern commerce.)
One who desires fellowship with God will not take a bribe, for "a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous" (Deut.16:19). He will not take a reward against the innocent; it is unthinkable for one who fears God. He will treat his fellowmen with Christian charity. Whoever would have God as Father must treat his fellowmen as brethren.
Whoever wants to sojourn in God's tabernacle (the body of Christ, the Church) in this life and dwell in His holy hill for ever must sincerely practise love for his fellow men. Safety and innumerable blessings are promised to him who measures up to this standard. He will be like Mt. Zion "which cannot be moved, but abides for ever" (Psa. 125:1).
God has given added assurance of this by giving the Holy Spirit to the believer as a guarantee that He will do as He has promised (Eph. 1:13-14; Heb. 6:13; 10:23;2 Pet.3:9). "If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Rom. 8:9). It is His Holy Spirit who enables us to desire God's standard and strengthens us to do so. "The Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses" (Rom.8:26). "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (Rom.8:11).
God is always faithful to His promises. He says what He means and means what He says. The covenants of God do not depend on the faith of the saints for their certainty; they depend only on the faithfulness of God. How grateful we ought to be for the unchanging Word of God! Don't treat Him like a buddy who cannot be taken seriously. He is far too holy.
Only "he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully" can stand in His holy place (Psa. 24:3-4). God's people should be faithful to their promises, even when it involves personal inconvenience (Deut.23:23; 2 Cor.1:17-20). Even if the world does not like what you say, they will respect you for standing your ground and speaking your heart. So, walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called as children of God (Eph.4:1).
People, in general, are incredibly open to Christian values. The secular world expects a high standard of integrity from us. The business world is discovering daily the truth of the old adage,' Honesty is the best policy.' Lack of integrity among the top bosses led to disaster in the Enron crisis of 2000. Ensuring integrity and honesty among employees is an area of prime concern to HR managers all over the world. It has become a serious challenge for top executives everywhere to attract and retain talent while observing the best standards of ethics. Glancing through the daily newspapers, we see the reports about how the world detests corrupt people. The wads of currency notes displayed in the Parliament on July 22, 2008 are still fresh in our memory.
Walking the talk is vital for success even in the commercial world. No one will believe you if you do not practise what you preach. You cannot expect people to believe what you preach, while you lack honesty in your dealings. Paul Wolfowitz, the President of the World Bank, took up the issue of cleansing the operations of the bank. Unfortunately, he forgot that he should not throw stones while living in glass houses. His cleanliness drive ended tragically after he was exposed as having clay feet. He was found guilty of unduly favouring one of the bank employees. Eric Spitzer, a great champion of integrity, who built up a great reputation and rose to become the governor of New York, had to go in disgrace when it was discovered that he did not observe the best standards of ethics in his personal life.
These are just a few reminders to the effect that our walk should match our talk, particularly if we bear the name 'Christian'. We should not walk in darkness when we claim to belong to the Light of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let me narrate a positive example. On January 10, 2008 Ratan Tata launched Nano, the one-lakh car, the cheapest in the world. This new car is expected to hit the market before the end of the year. Nano is not only a new product, but also a new way of thinking. Tata announced four years ago that they will engineer a small car and make it available to the public for one lakh. Since then the price of raw materials has increased dramatically. He had every reason to jack up the price. The people would have bought the car at the increased price, without a murmur. But he said, "A promise is a promise" and kept the price at one lakh. What a great example for us Christians to emulate!
Let me close with the words of the Apostle Paul: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things"(Phil.4:8).