When I was a Personal trainer, people would often say to me, “Let me get fit first, then I’ll come and see you for a few sessions.” and I used to say, "But that’s my job. To get you fit, you’ll never be fit enough to see me, because my job is to take you from where you’re at, and get you fit and fitter”
It was backwards thinking and we can often think the same way about God. "Let me get good enough myself and then I’ll bring myself to you." The problem is, we can never be good enough for God–that’s his job–to make us good. He takes us from where we’re at and transforms us from there.
We often get it the wrong way round, thinking we’ll sort our lives out first. But it’s impossible, David’s thinking in a very similar way in this Psalm, when he asks...
LORD, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? ~Psalm 15:1 (NIV)
God’s sacred tent and His Holy mountain refer to the place God decided to dwell among his people - in David’s day it was a large tent, in Jerusalem, soon to become a massive temple built by his son, Solomon.
There were a few rooms in the tent and only the High Priest could enter the inside room where the presence of God was and only after offering a bunch of sacrifices.
God’s people would come year after year, offering sacrifices and gifts, being reminded of their inability to stand in God’s presence, because of their sin. David’s essentially asking — who gets to see you - what does it take to go in that room where you are - and stay with you?
When Jesus was speaking with his disciples one day about who he is, he was telling them that he’s going away to His father, and he’s going to prepare a place for them in God’s house, a special room for them, and then he said “you know how to get there” and Thomas, in classic doubting Thomas style said:
"Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. ~John 14:5-6 (NIV)
Jesus is God’s way in, His death and resurrection is the only way we get access to God’s heavenly home. He is the perfect sacrifice for our sin, he is the door into God’s house.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. ~Hebrews 6:19-20 (NIV)
By faith in him - He takes us in and allows us to stay and stand. Too many Christians stop there, they put faith in Jesus, and then think that’s it, I’ve arrived, but it doesn’t stop there, that’s only the beginning!
It’s true, God does accept us as we are, whatever we’ve done, however we come, he accepts us and because of Jesus he forgives us BUT just like a personal trainer — He refuses to leave us there... He loves us too much to leave us there — he wants to transform us to be just like Jesus, that’s the great privilege and joy of being Christian. Learning to have a heart like God for others. We must never think we’ve arrived at the end of our Christian life until we’re actually in the presence of God. Until that day, as the Apostle Peter put it:
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ~2 Peter 1:10-11 (NIV)
So, what does it look like to share the heart of God for others? David spells it out in these next 4 verses. They’re packed full of goodness.
It looks like.
1. Being holy because God is holy.
The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, ~Psalm 15:2a (NIV)
Blameless here doesn’t mean sinless, it can’t mean sinless, otherwise, Jesus would have died for nothing. No, it’s someone who’s done all that’s required before God. It’s the idea of being complete, dotting the "I’s" and crossing the "T’s" and filling in all the cracks.
Being blameless is having NO inconsistencies between your faith and your practice. Having nothing that God or others could hold against you. That doesn’t mean never doing anything wrong, but always seeking to do right. And, when you’ve done wrong, acknowledging it, confessing it, bringing it to God and seeking to change according to his word. Continual cycle…
I wonder if I asked everyone you know and come into contact with this week, to give an account of your life - If we downloaded a report from your mobile phone and computer and kept a recording of everything you said this week, if we had a full report of every aspect of your life, what it would reveal about you? How consistent or inconsistent would it be with your faith? Now, of course, we’re all a work in progress, and some areas are always going to be stronger than others, but the question is - how seriously are we taking those inconsistent areas... God tells us - Be blameless - because I am blameless.
Secondly - Having a heart like God means,
2. Speaking like God speaks
who speaks the truth from their heart; ~Psalm 15:2b (NIV)
This isn’t talking about that brutally honest person, you know the one, if there’s something that needs saying, you don’t have to ask them. That’s often me.
No, this is truth spoken with love. It’s the person who doesn’t just know the truth here in their head, just able to repeat it, but they’ve let the truth sink deep down into their heart. So, you know when they speak, they’re sharing themselves with you...
out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. ~Matt 12:34b (NIV)
Our words reveal our heart. Now it must be said, in James 3 he tells us - no human being can fully tame the tongue - he says - if anyone is able to control their tongue - they’re a perfect person. But we know that’s not us... And Jeremiah gives us the reason in 17:9-10 - The human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure - who can understand it.
Our hearts are stained and our words are affected but thanks be to God, he’s working on that heart. So this is the person who speaks truth from a heart seeking to be consistent with God’s character. The person who’s been meditating on God’s heart from his word and values those words like the writer of Psalm 19 who says - they are more precious than gold, they are sweeter than honey.
Right speech comes from a right heart, so keep praying as you get to the word, that God would help those words sink deep down into your heart, not just stop at your head.
whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbour, and casts no slur on others; ~Psalm 15:3 (NIV)
Finish this phrase - "Sticks and stones will break my bones..." "but words will never hurt me." Nice idea, but words are powerful, aren’t they? Words are so strange, they’re just vibrations spoken into the air, but they have the power to sever a marriage, to rule a country, to start a war, to mend a broken heart, to save a life. Words are fundamental to all relationships, especially God’s with us.
God is a speaking God. He shares himself with us by His word, that word eventually showed up in Jesus Christ who demonstrated what real love for others is and then left us his words that we might continue showing his love to others.
A wise friend of mine recently said: “Jesus is the reason for all words”. Words exist for his sake and it’s so true! The word himself gave us, words that we would use for His glory.
A person whose tongue utters no slander, does no wrong to a neighbour and casts no slur on others, is someone who seeks to honour and protect the value and dignity of others in the way they talk to them and about them. It’s really the opposite of gossip and flattery. What’s the goal of gossip? – self-serving - and flattery is always about me before it’s about others..
I’ve realised recently I’ve got a tendency to complain about others and point out their faults. Sally’s been trying to get me to see it for years but I’ve only just come to realise. For years I’ve justified it as “venting” or “clarifying information” but in the end, my heart doesn’t naturally honour others. I was even pulled up on it twice in the last few weeks, by 2 different people. I’ll share one example –
Our youth pastor, Rehan was catching up with someone I’d met before and he remembered me and shared in front of Rehan how we connected at an event. When Rehan came back after the meeting I said to Rehan “he’s a funny character hey...” I shared with Rehan that I didn’t think we connected but I chatted to him because I felt we had a disconnection... but after I said that Rehan asked me “Oh did I need to know that...?” And as I searched my heart I had no response, but that I for some reason sought to dishonour him, and honour myself. Rehan’s comment was so helpful and has stayed with me since then and helped me reflect on how I speak about people when I’m not with them.
I wonder, how do you go with honouring others with your words? If words are a big challenge for you then read the book of proverbs, every time I do, I get to the end and say to myself, I think I want to speak less...
Thirdly, having a heart like God’s is
Viewing people the way God views them
who despises a vile person but honours those who fear the LORD; ~Psalm 15:4a (NIV)
This one jars doesn’t it?! The Psalms are often talking about hating God’s enemies and loving those who love him but in the New Testament, the gospel and love is offered to all. Here are we hating the vile person, or hating the actions of the person that we wouldn’t align ourselves with.
Now, If we despised all vile people, we wouldn’t share the gospel with anyone. Sometimes I think we like to tell God who he hates, based on what we think about what they’ve done. If God’s will seems to line up with yours too often, you’ve got to ask some questions.
Ultimately God’s enemies are all those who reject him to the end to the last day, never repenting, but until then we don’t know who those enemies are, that person WE think is vile may hear the gospel and repent just like we did, who were his enemies.
But there’s a special word here to those inside the church who claim to be Christian but are living in sin in a way that is vile before God. The apostle Paul tells us to have nothing to do with the person who’s claiming Jesus’ name and living in unrepentant sin. Not the one struggling with it, the one who’s given up struggling and are now justifying it as ok. Paul says don’t even eat with that person, but again that’s not the final situation. We’re to break fellowship with those people so that they would see how much that life of sin isn’t worth it and how much they need God! It’s always with the goal of restoring the person.
I’m continually asking God to break my heart for what breaks his, and to teach me to love what he loves, but Honour those who fear the Lord
Let me tell you about a couple of guys I think are worthy of honour. A close friend of mine, Richie, topped his year at university and was offered a high paying role in a software development company. He turned down that role and kept his part-time job at JB-HI-FI so that he could keep giving his quality time to his church and serving on Christian youth camps. He’s been doing that for almost 10 years now. He’s a model of servant-hearted-ness.
Another guy from our Church named Nick. Nick just spent 4 weeks of his long service leave in our church offices helping out with some of our online training. Nick could have been skiing the slopes of Perisher, but chose to serve our church with his break. He even put on a BBQ for the staff team on his last day with us. Thanks Nick!
4. Faithfulness to our word
who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind; ~Psalm 15:4b (NIV)
They say the measure of a person is their commitment to their word. Reflecting on the power of our words, if others can’t trust our word, what else do we have?
Our God is all-powerful, but there are some things he can’t do, He can’t do evil, because he is only good, He can’t be false/he can’t lie because he is the truth and he can’t break a promise he’s made! He is bound to his word. His word reflects himself and he is 100% faithful. If he says something - he does it!
“He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a human being, that he should change his mind.” ~1 Samuel 15:29 (NIV)
We on the other hand, often only keep our word as far as it benefits us, if things look like I’m going to lose out I’ll work out a way to get out of it. Did you know that 1 in 3 marriages in Australia ends in divorce? That’s 1/3 of all marriages, that’s 1/3 of people who vowed for better or worse, I will commit to you forever have a broken promise.
Sally and I have more than once acknowledged that if it wasn’t for God, and our commitment to him, we’d probably be divorced by now. We’re committed to our word to one another, because we’re committed to being like God in his faithfulness to His word. He’s the one keeping us committed! That doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride, but being a Christian means no matter the cost, no matter how hard reconciling is, and however long it takes, our oath to one another isn’t up for change.
But this doesn’t just apply to oaths and vows, Jesus tells us we don’t need to make promises to be consistent with our words. He challenges us to make our yes a yes and our no a no.
A friend of mine was recently challenged when he told his workmate he was going to do something, his workmate said, ‘is this another one of those things you just say you’re going to do but don’t do it?’ That was a window into his life.
Hear the Apostle John’s encouragement this is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ said he loved us... NO... He laid down his life for us, then he says - dear children let us not love with words and speech, but with actions and in truth! Imagine if Jesus showed up and said he was going to save the world and never did.
We have an opportunity to represent Jesus’ faithfulness to His word as we hold ours to others. When we say we’ll do something let’s do it.
5. Having a generous heart like God
who lends money to the poor without interest; who does not accept a bribe against the innocent. ~Psalm 15:5a (NIV)
This is about not taking advantage of those who can’t defend or protect themselves. Instead, just like God did with us, we show generosity to those in need, without expecting to make something out of it.
You might not know but we have a big freezer at church full of frozen meals that generous people have prepared and donated for those among us who are in need. Could you use that? Could you prepare a meal? Get in touch.
But this also extends further into our workplaces, the other day a Christian friend of mine was telling me about a deal his work was making with a company who went bankrupt and needed to sell off everything they had and his company seemed to be benefitting a little too much, it all seemed a little dodgy, so he asked, "Is this wrong what we’re doing?" and his work colleague said ‘it’s not illegal, it’s just not ethical.’
As a Christian, I’m not sure we would hold a difference. Do you know how your business affects others? Maybe you could ask some questions this week.
After spelling all that out David concludes with this reality:
Whoever does these things will never be shaken. ~Psalm 15:5b (NIV)
They’ll never fall off the mountain, or out of the tent. This is the hope we have, it’s firm and secure, an anchor for our soul.
Now, remember none of these things on their own secure us a place before God. It’s only by faith in Jesus that we are secured a place in God’s presence. But the one who understands they’ve been given the privilege of living like Jesus will seek to do these things in unending measure.
As the writer of Hebrews says
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be Shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. ~Hebrews 12:28 (NIV)
The truth is God loves you just the way you are, but he loves you too much to leave you that way, he wants to make you just like Jesus - Just like himself. What a privilege!
Let’s pray reflecting David’s prayer
May the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in your sight Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. ~Psalm 19 (NIV)