To everything (turn, turn, turn) there is a season (turn, turn, turn)…
After a 2-week writing hiatus, I am supposed to be writing about the pitfalls of a pre-Tribulation theology or about God’s heart for Israel (of course, none of you care about my self-imposed schedule, but I like to make schedules…). But today there is something more pressing to write about.
A word in season, perhaps.
Have you ever heard someone, when explaining the story of Jesus Christ and His salvation plan for humans, say, “And since God is holy and can’t be around sin, we can’t go to heaven unless we are covered by Jesus’s blood…”?
It usually comes after the part about God being so distinctly unlike us that we have no hope for being in His presence ever.
Now, I’m not saying anything about the well-meaning and often loving people who share the Gospel this way, but I am saying that we need to reevaluate this statement. Why should we reevaluate it? Because I think it causes a misunderstanding of the nature of God, which is a HUGE deal. If we learn something even slightly wrong about the nature of God when we pray to make Jesus the Lord of our life, it can have serious implications as we grow in our walk of faith with Him.
For starters, God IS HOLY. Three times holy. Holy, holy, holy! We get the idea… or do we? What does it mean to be holy?
We learn in Sunday school that the word ‘holy’ means to be set apart. We hear as an example that God calls His people to be set apart from the rest of the people of earth, to live a different lifestyle that points to God and how holy He is.
Here’s the problem. This idea that ‘holy’ means to be set apart has resulted in isolationism and separation of followers of God from the world.
Which is the opposite of what Jesus did when He lived on earth 2 millennia ago.
Let’s look at this verse from the epistle to the Hebrews:
“[Jesus is] the brightness of [the Father’s] glory and the express image of His person…”
Hebrews 1:3 NKJV
And this verse in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians:
“…Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
Jesus is the exact image (some versions say ‘exact representation’) of the Father. He is the image of God, like the Father put up a crazy mirror that would make His reflection into flesh and blood. Jesus shows us who the Father is——exactly.
Now, there are a lot of places I could go from here, and most of the time I think about this idea in relation to healing. For example: does God heal? Well, Jesus is the express image of God, and the 4 Gospels tell us that He walked around healing pretty much everyone who came to Him wanting healing, so YES. God heals. He wants to heal. He isn’t bothered by us asking for healing. He is willing to heal us! This is a big deal.
But that’s not what we’re talking about today.
God is perfect and can’t be around sin…right?
What does Jesus’ life on earth tell us about the character of the Father?
Jesus never avoided people full of sin. He embraced them, He ate with them, He partied with them, He went to their weddings, He healed them, He kissed their children, He touched their diseased hands, He met them at wells when He wasn’t supposed to talk to them. He let Himself be around sin because that’s where He found the people that He loves.
See, the reality that God is holy is that when He encounters sin, it does not change Him. He is not tempted to be like us. He is different than us! He is full and complete in Himself, confident of Who He is and how much He loves us that He can come close to the person steeped in sin.
This is a huge deal.
“Well, I know, but I’m talking about heaven. Sin can’t go into heaven,” you might reply.
Now, I’m not saying that we’re gonna carry sin into heaven with us, but let’s look at this—Job 1:6.
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them.
Dudes. This is a big deal. Satan is before the Father in heaven. The evil one. Full of darkness. In heaven. Full of sin. And God is okay with that for now.
So, say what we might about salvation and heaven, we simply can’t use the line “God is holy and can’t be around sin, so we can’t get into heaven if we are sinful because there is no sin in heaven…”
I’m no five-star theologian, but that’s simply not good theology.
True, we can’t make it into the presence of the Father in heaven on our own. We are in desperate need of a Savior Who will take our place in judgment and Who will wash us clean with His blood. Sin is a cancer that eats us from the inside out and Jesus wants life—and life abundant—for us!
But please don’t misrepresent the character of God for the sake of convenience in sharing the beautiful story of salvation. Yes, it might be more expedient—you might not have time to go into all the nuances of atonement and propitiation and the theological riches that the history of the people of God has given to us.
We have to be consistent in the salvation narrative:
God is good and He loves us. Sin separates us from relationship with Him, so He has made a way to be done with sin through the death of Jesus Christ His Son on the cross and through His victorious resurrection and ascension. He delights in us; He is not far from us; He wants to be with us. Say ‘yes’ to His invitation to relationship and make Jesus your Lord. Don’t be afraid; He is good! He is coming again to establish His flesh-and-blood kingdom on this earth! He will shake all that can be shaken, but through that, He will set all things right.
When you are weak, then you are strong.