One time I wrote about a family making preparations for the pastor’s visit to their home. Among other things, they busied themselves with hiding risque magazines under the couch. The teens changed t-shirts with grisly artwork and inappropriate language for button-downs. With final instructions for everyone to be in best behavior mode they became a collage of smiling faces as the door was opened to their guest.
In the 14th verse of Deuteronomy, chapter 23, Israel is commanded to get their house in order. “For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.” A Bible teacher speaking of this verse asked his students, “What if Jesus Christ was visible to you as He moves about in your life? How would you live if His words were spoken directly to you and audibly heard? What if you could feel His hand upon your shoulder? If Immanuel (God with us) was at present manifested in the flesh and always by your side how different would you be?
Those searching and sobering questions should challenge anyone who professes Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Is our temple (I Corinthians 3: 16-17), our camp, really clean, pure and holy? Our conscience compels us to be clean before the pastor, but what of the Lord whom the pastor serves? It is the Lord who declares, “Your camp shall be holy!” In fact, the Lord our God lives right inside of us. He knows our every thought and every motivation behind every word and action and reaction every moment of our lives. But because this earth suit and its five senses cannot get a handle on that, we often live as though He is visiting someone in the next county. We live like we have plenty of time before His return to get our dirt swept under the proverbial rug.
When we live apart from the reality of God with us, our camp inevitably becomes barren, indecent and unclean. And James tells us: “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinner; and purify your heart, you double-minded.” (4:8) But how; how do the unclean clean? How do we exchange hypocrisy for real holiness? How do we get our hands around His perpetual presence?
I am sure there are good answers to those questions. I find mine in the excellent chapters (14th through the 17th) of the Gospel of John. I love Jesus’ prayer for us in chapter 17 including these words – “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (v. 23) This bedrock portion of Scripture speaks so much of our intertwined relationship with our triune God. Jesus tells us, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:3, 4)
He will continually clean our camp as His word becomes our life and breath. He will animate our every thought, word and action as we abide in Him and He in us. And we will keep our house in order because He is Lord of all our coming and going, doing and being. Therein is found the key to living out the reality of God with us.