In the O.T. prophets, there is a section where God states his grievance. It is sort like an ancient equivalent to a modern lawsuit. The two big problems we face are our inability to be faithful, often expressed as a hostility (iniquity) towards God, and our need to be forgiven of the sin debt we carry due of our unfaithfulness. So God takes it on himself to pay our sin debt, putting us at peace with him, and he gives us the means to be faithful by pouring out the Holy Spirit. The big ideas this week are the forgiveness of sins made available by the cross of Christ, and there is the practical aspect of the resurrection: the power of the resurrection available through the Holy Spirit. On one hand you have a passage like Isaiah 53:1-6, speaking of a suffering servant who will make atonement for the people, and on the other hand, you have the New Covenant passages:
Ezekiel 36:26: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh."
Jeremiah 31:33-34: “'This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,' declares the Lord. 'I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. ... No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,' declares the Lord. 'For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.'"
I think in terms of how the book of Revelation opens with this awesome greeting: "from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power forever and ever! Amen" (Revelation 1:5-6). There is a process here: God desired a kingdom of priests, but first, the sin problem must be taken care of before he could "make" such a kingdom. Or in the view from the book of Hebrews, if the blood of bulls and goats cleanse outwardly, "how much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God" (Hebrews 9:14). Forgiveness, cleansing, freedom, and Holy Spirit empowered servitude.
We've all heard someone say, "if I'd go into a church, I'd burst into flames." Talk about an unclean conscience that keeps a person from approaching God. But that whole notion is a little flawed. Remember how Stephen warned not to build temples by human hands and expect God to dwell there (Acts 7:48)? God desires not to be shut up in some building, protecting it as sacred space. Instead, God desires to be present among his people, who gather in buildings in order to carry God's presence into the world. It's as God said to Moses, "Do not come any closer ... Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). Moses certainly hadn't just wandered into a church or temple. Why is he on holy ground? It is the presence of God that makes things holy - sacred.
Yeah, so you might walk into a church as a 'notorious sinner' and have your heart set on fire by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. You might in some way become sacred space, but first, you must take off your sandals and approach God with reverence. This is our responsibility as people on the worship team, leading people into worship, urging them to take their sandals off. Indeed we are in sacred space: God is present among his people.
Song for reflection:
Miracle by Mosaic MSC