Have you ever had an encounter that rocked your world? Ever been touched by God through His word in such a way that you knew He was speaking to you? I have these moments that when they occur, they make me stop, turn my ear to heaven, and listen. Maybe it’s coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidence because I pray-no such thing if you are a pray-er.
Last weekend I attended the North Alabama Conference youth retreat called…Encounter. The speaker was Pastor Mike Satterfield, www.fieldofgraceministries.org. He is an amazing pastor, minister, and teacher who in a wonderful and powerful way, engaged these youth. His main text was from Psalm 24 which has the familiar passage “who shall climb the mountain of God? Those who have clean hands, and a pure heart, and has not lifted his soul up to another” (paraphrase). Pastor Mike reminded us so well that to be the church we constantly need God’s gracious forgiveness to cleanse us of our sin within so that not only can we continue to approach Him, but so that our service and witness are pure and effective. The reason this passage was significant is that I had been reading the Psalms, and on this particular day Psalm 24 is the one I was to read…weird…coincidence…I don’t think so.
As I thought about that this week, I was reminded of my stepfather. He is a wonderful person but not a believer. He is a skeptical doubter about God’s grace and what it means to be a follower. And here is the main reason. He has been a construction worker in drywall all of his life. His dad passed away when he was thirteen and he has never forgiven God for that. Worse yet, as a business man, he has come in contact with many people who do business with him. Many have invited him to church and shared with him about the faith. Here’s the problem…they then do something shady in their business practice or even cheat him out of a contract or money earned. It has put a sour taste in his mouth…and rightly so. It has been “Christians” who have been his excuse for not being a follower of Jesus.
It is really easy to claim, “Christians are not perfect, just forgiven”-that used to be on a bumper sticker. WRONG!!!! In fact, in Matthew, we are called to holiness and to be perfect as our Father is perfect. The context is “perfect in love” not necessarily moral action. Where people have failed is not “loving my stepdad as they should love self”. They did not love him enough to treat him ethically and fairly. He could care less about their moral code and external righteousness…but to cheat him, that is another story.
So coming to God with clean hands and a pure heart should not be confused with the list of do’s and don’ts we get wrapped in-more so, how have we treated our neighbor which means our coworker, teachers, people at school, and sometimes literally…our neighbor. Have we shown a perfect love that puts others needs above our own? What an encounter…what a vision…what a love…