Read His Words Before Ours!
The more we learn about God and walk with Him,
the more questions seem to enter our minds.
Questions are a good thing.
Questions and tension in the Christian walk mean we’re engaging and processing,
instead of glibly taking in information. One tension manifests as we wonder:
if God cannot be in the presence of sin, how can He live in our hearts?
In evaluating this query, we can make two assumptions about the heart with which it’s asked. The first is a recognition of God’s character, His unmatched holiness, perfection, beauty, truth, justice, and might (Isaiah 43:14-15, Exodus 15:11, I Samuel 2:2). The second, implied by the question itself, is the reality of our indwelling sin nature, even as redeemed saints (Romans 7:14-25). We wrestle with, “how can these two realities coexist?”
As we address this question, I also want to address the statement, “God cannot be in the presence of sin.” Scripture shows us repeatedly God can, has, and does manifest His presence among sin, namely, mankind. When we are faced with the holiness of who God is, it’s good to be also struck with the deeper realities of our sin and unworthiness.
Yet, Scripture clearly states the believer’s body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God dwells in us!
Let’s allow Scripture to guide our thinking about who God is, and how a holy, sinless God is able to draw near to sinful man.
The Holiness of God
In Isaiah 43:15 we read,
“I am the Lord, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King.”
Exodus 15:11 proclaims,
“Who is like You among the gods, O Lord?
Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?”
God is holy, which means He is completely separate from sin. He cannot tolerate it, nor is any darkness found within Him. (1 John 1:5)
The Wickedness of Man
From the moment Adam and Eve chose to trust themselves instead of their gracious, holy God, sin has infiltrated every human heart, landscape and system on this earth (Genesis 3).
Because of the reality of our sin, we are separated from Him. We have nothing to offer God to induce Him to pardon our sin.
God Draws Near
Ashamed at the reality of their sin, the first couple tried to hide. (Genesis 3:8-10)
He pursued and drew near.
He sought them and found them.
At the same time, He did not overlook their sin.
His standard of holiness remained unchanged, and a flood of consequences ensued. (Genesis 3:16-24)
From this moment of first sin, the Biblical narrative is one of God continuing to wrestle with mankind, longing to re-establishing His presence with them. The Old Testament shows us how God made a way to dwell among His people through the Tabernacle and requirements of the Law.
Though it was only a shadow of things to come (Hebrews 10:1-4),
the Law held men to His holiness
while He held Himself out
to be in relationship with them.
God ultimately drew near by sending Himself to earth. Immanuel, which was the special name given to Jesus (Matthew 1:23), literally means God with us. He remained fully God, became fully man, and humbly came to serve. (Philippians 2:5-8)
But for what ultimate purpose?
God Overcomes Sin
When God draws near, He is not passive. He’s always in control, and always stands in authority, even over the presence of sin.
John 1:3-4 tells us Jesus is the “light of men,”
and “that light shines in the darkness,
and yet the darkness did not overcome it.”
In fact, God overcame the darkness of sin and death when He laid upon Jesus the wickedness of man. God poured out His wrath onto His own Son, instead of humanity. Then, in His power, God raised Christ back to life. (1 Corinthians 15:3-4)
God’s act of victory was the final word on sin, death, and Satan’s power in this world.
If we have placed our trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ as the payment for our sin, then we’ve been justified, declared righteous before God!
However, this is an already-but-not-yet reality.
The question we’re grappling with reveals our keen awareness of the war waging within us between our sinful, natural desires and our redeemed spirits. And yet, this tension is why Jesus sent His Spirit in the first place: to be a helper! (John 14:15-17)
The Holy Spirit dwelling within us empowers us to say no to sin! (Titus 2:11-13)
Our holy God doesn’t shrink back from sinful man in a castle made of clouds, refusing to stoop into the muck of our neediness and unworthiness. Instead, He became one of us, overcoming sin, so His deepest desire, to dwell within His people once again, might be fulfilled.
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!