Monday, October 29, 2012

Why Not Fifty Shades of Gray

My mother-in-law loves cats.  My father-in-law is a dog person.  

Like oil and water, the two simply don't mix.  They may appear to come together for a brief moment, but wait a few minutes, and they're back on their side of the beaker.

When Opa is working in one of the barns or taking his morning walk down the length of our quarter-mile driveway, his pack of five large dogs follows him away from the house, making room for Oma's seven cats to freely walk in the open without the fear of being chased (or worse).

Yet, as soon as the dogs return, the cats scatter, some high atop the red Dodge farm truck, some to the pump house, and others into the woods.  

Even though they've all lived on the same farm for years, they still can't co-exist together, at least not in such a great number.  It's always one or the other greeting me when I walk down, never both.

This is the image that came to mind when reading Ezekiel 8 this week, the chapter where God explains why His presence is leaving the temple in Jerusalem.

Even though "the glory of the God of Israel was there" still in the temple of Jerusalem, those left behind after the deportation and exile to Babylon hadn't learned their lesson.  Instead, they ignored God like never before, worshipping their own idols and defiling His holy sanctuary (v.4).

Ezekiel states, "Then He said to me, 'Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north.' So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance. And He said to me, 'Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary?'" (v. 5-6). 

This idolatry, this sin was causing God to "be far from" His people.   

It wasn't a foreign power, not King Nebuchadnezzar and his mighty armies.  No.  Sin was expelling God from His holy sanctuary just as sure as sin expelled the people from the land of Israel.

Holiness simply cannot continually dwell in the presence of evil. 

In the rest of the chapter, God outlines the abominations of Israel.  There is an idol at the temple court's entrance, idols worshipped in secret, idols carved on the walls, women worshipping a false god, and even men turning their back on God's holy place to worship the sun in the temple's inner court.

This wasn't just one who had turned from God.  All had sinned.  All were worshipping other idols.

Yet, God saw what idols they had carved in their inner closets, those hidden behind secret panels that no one else could find.

God knew.  And God still knows today.

The sin that separated Him from His people back them still separates Him from you and me until we are covered by the blood of Christ.

His presence cannot reside where continual sin flourishes and thrives, unashamed, unchecked, unrepented.
Two chapters later, Ezekiel describes God slowly leaving the temple until "The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city" (Ez. 11:23).

That was it.  God's holy presence would no longer reside with sinful man until the time for Christ would be come.

Sin is that serious.  Even what we may rationalize away as "little white sins" are that divisive.

This side of the cross, Christ resides in the hearts and souls of men and women versus a physical temple.  Still, though, Paul repeatedly tells us in Romans that holiness and sin cannot dwell together.   We can either worship in spirit or in flesh, serve one master or another (Rom. 6).

If our lives are characterized by continuous sin and worship of anything that causes us to compromise God's holy standards, we need to really examine our hearts to see if we have ever truly repented and turned to serve Christ.  Yet, even if we are sealed by the Holy Spirit, continuous, unchecked sin in our lives can still divide us from the power of Christ within us.

It's time to look at our souls as oil or water, black or white, not fifty shades of gray.

Image: Cool science experiment found here

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