Ps. 15:1 is a simple enough question. READ. Behind the question: the feeling of worthiness. Am I good enough to be in the presence of the Lord? Am I acceptable? The question can be stated even more basic: do you love me God?
I like the story of the boy sitting on the street corner with dog ~ a mutt ~ with a for sale sign next to the dog. “How much,” said a man on his way home from work. “$20,000,” said the boy! “$20,000, that is an outrageous amount,” the man exclaimed, “that dog can’t be worth more than $5.00.” And the man proceeded to give the boy a mini lesson on the finer points of business. The next day the man saw the same boy ~ without the dog. The man asked the boy if he’d sold the dog. “yes” said the boy. “And did you get the $20,000 you were asking?” inquired the man. “Oh yes,” said the boy to the man’s amazement, “I traded him for two $10,000 cats!”
Here’s some news: you are the $20,000 mutt, and God would not have bothered with the cats ~ he would pay full price and more and consider that a bargain. No price is too high to secure your redemption ~ I am the $20,000 mutt.
Let’s start with the Good News. READ Ps. 15:1. The rest of the Psalm answers that question. It is a surprising answer. This is good news because God wants your heart. Not your works. Not your efforts. You heart. If you study the book of Leviticus, a Bible book going into great depth about the sacrificial system, the different kinds of sacrifices, the rituals, how to, when to, who does what when... the ritual, the blood, burning up some sacrifices, eating others for the priests, the times of years, the festivals… if you should decide to study Leviticus, before and after every chapter read Ps. 15 as a reminder of what God really cares about. Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord? I am glad the answer is not, the one who makes a pure sacrifice, the one who follows the rules the best, the one who is most faithful in reading the Bible, the one who goes to church regularly. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, I find it profound the way David was restored to a right relationship with God was not by sacrificing a certain animal and spending a certain amount of time with ashes on his forehead. He was restored because his heart was changed. Psalm 51 expresses the repentant spirit of David: READ Ps. 51:1-2….
Here is the good news: God cares about your heart. You can be a mutt, and because he loves you, you are worth every penny and more of $20,000. Psalm 15 is a reminder that God cares about the heart, he cares about our character, our integrity. Kay Bishop understood (she died a few months ago), her favorite verse: Mic. 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
The one of integrity is the one who is a welcome guest in the house of the Lord. We could go through each verse of Ps. 15:2-5 to talk about integrity, that would be an excellent study, but I want to focus on a different lesson for today.
The Good News that God cares about our hearts more than anything else is also the bad news. Who may enter the presence of the Lord? Those who lead blameless lives. The bad news? I don’t qualify! I am not blameless! [note: rest of notes for this sermon is largely from a 2007 sermon by Jeff Jones, What God Expects From You: Psalm 15 ~ I’ve rewritten and added to maybe 30% of it, but it is so good and close to what I wanted to say it is hard to completely redo]
As I read Psalm 15, God does not require our best, he demands perfection! “He who walks blamelessly,” that is the standard. If the standard were to refrain from slandering your neighbor 90% of the time, maybe I’d be a little bit closer … but that isn’t what it says. It says “blameless.” No exceptions. That is the standard. That’s the qualification for living in God’s household. 100% on the exam of life. Perfection.
God everywhere in the Bible demands spotless perfection from His people. The sacrifices had to be unblemished – no spots, no wounds, no injuries. Any sin, no matter how small, is a capital offence in God’s eyes. Ezekiel warned Israel, “The soul that sins shall die.” Paul said in Romans, “The wages of sin is death.” Jesus Christ told His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Why is the standard so impossible? Why can’t God make allowances for our imperfection? Because we’re talking about His holy hill. Because the worship in His house is to be holy. Because He is a holy God. Totally set apart. Completely spotless. No other characteristic of God is spoken of by the Bible the way it speaks of His holiness. Not love, not mercy, not anything else. The Bible says repeatedly that God is holy, holy, holy – stressing it three times, the highest emphasis possible in the Biblical languages. God is absolutely perfect and holy, and wants nothing less from us, His people. We bear His image, we represent Him on the earth, we are the crown of His creation. For God to expect any less than perfection from us would be to violate Himself.
The Bad News: How is one accepted into God’s household? How do we attain to eternal life? Eternal life requires a perfect life. That’s God’s standard. Yet no one can be perfect! We all fail to meet this standard! John says it bluntly: “if we say we have no sin, we lie, and the truth is not in us.” As Paul says, “All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” Jeremiah reminds us that our hearts are “desperately wicked, and deceitful beyond cure.”
How are we supposed to get right with God, then? What if we just stop sinning? What if we do good works to make up for it? That won’t work. Even if we were to go forth and sin no more, ever again, we would not be blameless – for you still have a sinful past. Good works cannot cover our sins, the Bible tells us over and over. God’s holiness requires that sin be punished. We are speaking of a Holy God…Who can live in God’s house, and dwell on His holy hill? Only perfect righteousness, the one who is blameless.
The Good News is that God wants your heart, it is not the requirements of the law that make you worthy… the bad news is that nobody is perfect…. The good news is that to God, you are a $20,000 mutt, and that’s a bargain. God will pay any price for you.
The best news: there is one who is worthy, one who is perfect, and that one is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, sent into the world to redeem the world. Only one person in human history ever perfectly kept God’s law. Only one man was blameless, did no evil, perfectly loved His neighbor, truly and consistently valued the things of God. There is only one who perfectly fulfills the requirements of Psalm 15! This Psalm is a fore-shadowing of the character of Christ! Jesus Christ met and exceeded the standard God set. And in doing so, He earned the right to stand before God the Father. And more than that – more than a perfect life and a spotless record – He died the death that we all deserve for our sins. He took the place of sinners on His cross. He was pierced for our transgressions. Crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brings us peace was laid on Him. God the Father laid on His own Son, Jesus Christ, the sins of us all. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice!
Who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your Holy Hill? The one who recognizes their failure to do all these things David describes, and realizes that they have no hope of eternal life, of pleasing God, on their own. The only way you can hope to stand before God and not be immediately destroyed is Christ.
You must recognize that you are a sinner, and that sin makes you unacceptable in God’s sight. You must repent of that sin – that means, you must turn away from things that don’t please God. You must abandon all trust in your own efforts to save yourself.
The world says, “believe in yourself – you can do it.” The Bible says NO. This week we saw the death of Robin Williams. I have no great insight as to what was going on in his mind… I surely do not judge his salvation! But his death does spotlight the tragedy of suicide. To me, beyond the obvious loss of life, the tragedy of suicide is the depth of hopelessness….if you have no hope, you have nothing! We are not perfect, but Jesus Christ is, and he died for us. We are like the mutt that God paid far more than $20,000 ~ God sent his son Jesus Christ to die on the cross. You lose hope when the focus is on yourself, your efforts, your worthiness. Abandon all hope in yourself and hope in Jesus Christ instead. Believe in the spotless life that He lived – trust that His perfect and blameless life will be counted as yours by God.
That’s the Gospel – that’s the Best news. Though we could never be blameless, though we could never hope to be worthy of staying in God’s sanctuary or living on His holy hill, Jesus Christ is. And by trusting in Him, we are joined to Christ by faith. There is a mutt in God’s house, and the mutt is you!
If this isn’t you, if you haven’t yet put your faith in Christ for your salvation, don’t wait. Cry out to God – ask Him for mercy. And the promise is that through Jesus Christ you will be found worthy. God loves you.
There is a beautiful postscript to this Psalm: A promise of Assurance. David closes with a promise: “He who does these things will never be shaken.” Safe and Secure. Conviction. Assurance. A few months ago, I brought a woman in here from the Clothesline that wanted to see the stained glass window. She got tears in her eyes, and she said to me, “Can I ask you a question?” “Yes.” “Do you really believe in heaven?” A fundamental question from a woman living in a very tough situation, demeaned constantly, hard to flourish in her household. “Do you really believe in heaven.” I said gently, “Yes,” and the tears started again, only this time her tears came with a smile. “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine.” Is there any greater need in a tough world: assurance.
“He who does these things will never be shaken.” We have the same problem: by our own efforts we fall short of the standard described in Ps. 15: “walk blameless, speaks the truth, no slander, no wrong to neighbors ever, keeps promises perfectly….” If living a pure life is the standard, we fall short. But the answer is also the same: Jesus Christ did all these things. He lived a spotless life! This means Christ can never be moved! Christ cannot be shaken! He who does these things can never be shaken ~ we are talking about Jesus Christ!
If Christ could be shaken, then how could we trust Him? He might stumble. He might be shaken. He might lose His grip on us. We might lose our salvation. The Best news: Christ once declared, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day… I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Christ cannot be defeated! He cannot be frustrated. He cannot fail to do God’s will! He is God! Christ lived a perfect life, and God promises that a perfect life cannot be shaken. Jesus was perfect – and that is our assurance. That is our security. That is our hope.
And we, who are joined to Him by faith, we will not be shaken, either. We hope in Christ. God is our foundation and our assurance. Nothing in this life, no powers or persecutions or storms or swords, can ever shake us – for Christ holds us in His hand! What an awesome God! What wonderful salvation! And what amazing grace! Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine.