Go and tell my servant David, this is what the LORD says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in.
1 Chronicles 17:4
It seemed only natural to David that he should build a house for God. His motives were well founded, he had, after all, already built himself many houses. But God stopped him, saying that this was not His will. He thought along the lines of his own sentiments, even those sentiments for God, and discovered that there was a difference between his imagination and the true will of God.
The biblical emphasis on the personal nature of our faith and relationship with God is balanced by the emphasis on the separateness of God. God is close to us, filling us with His Spirit, yet God is not the same thing as our imagination. He also stands apart from us – separate, over, above, and sometimes even aloof. We need Him to maintain His separateness from us so that we learn to see life from His perspective and so that we do not pervert our faith into something so personal that we find a way to justify any and everything.
I heard a true story of a young unmarried couple who wanted to have sex with one another, and being tempted they decided to go to the church and pray. They “prayed” long enough together until they had a peace about having sex outside of marriage, thinking that this was the will of God – despite the fact that the Bible clearly reveals that sex outside of marriage is against the will of God. What concerns me about this story is not just that young couple, but that this is entirely so human and so easy for us to do. Like David, we rush ahead or lag behind the leading Christ, because we have an idea or thought or feeling about God that did not really come from God.
Be sure what you know about God is from Him, and not from some sentimental thought or feeling. Though Christ is the Lord who loves, forgives, and cleanses our sins, He is never the Lord who counsels us to sin or who coddles us in our sin. He is the Holy One from the Father full of grace and truth – not only grace but also truth! A strong belief in mercy without an equally strong belief in truth can make the water of morality a bit murky. The Great God of the universe has come to indwell ordinary sinners who are redeemed by His grace, but we have not become God in this process, and our consciences are not perfect either. We need to recognize constantly that He who loves us and who calls us and who indwells us also stands apart from us, calling us toward obedience and holiness.
Lord, show us who You are, Your greatness and majesty, that we might be guided by truth. Amen.