When I was training in my previous role in the commercial world, an old colleague once said to me: ‘If ever you feel intimidated in a meeting, just imagine them all sitting in their underpants.’ It’s a fairly comical strategy, but many will testify that it works!
This idea of finding ourselves in the presence of someone or others ‘with no place to hide’ is a hidden fear for many people. But if that seems scary in the presence of another human, imagine what that must be like in the presence of Almighty God. ‘With no place to hide’ wouldn’t even come close to it!
Or so you would think. Certainly we have to acknowledge that the awesome presence of God throughout the bible was enough to make people fall on their faces before him. And yet, St Paul is able to talk of a very different reality for those who are in Christ. Thanks to the work of reconciliation effected by Jesus – through his bodily crucifixion and resurrection – the incredible news is that can now be presented to God ‘holy in his sight’ (v22).
The word ‘holy’ means set apart, chosen, special – and that is what we are. We might not feel like that – but the bible consistently affirms that it is true. For many of us, a key point of growth in our faith is to really accept the fact of our holiness – set-apartness – even if it doesn’t always feel like it.
This act of being presented holy has two particular blessings attached to it: firstly we are ‘without blemish’ i.e. clean. Many of us feel ‘soiled’ by things we’ve done wrong, or by the more general sense that life rubs off on us. But in Christ we are clean – ‘not just nearly clean, but really clean’, as the cheesy old ad put it. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,’ as God promises in Isaiah 1 – praise God!
Second, we are ‘free from accusation’. And who accuses us? Most of the time, it is ourselves. Our consciences nag us, occasionally we get that little voice in the ear, whispering lies: ‘You’ll never be good enough for God’ – or somesuch. But such lies are destroyed by the good news of our faith, by the fact of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is not a leap of faith as such, but an historical event. Feelings rest on faith. Faith rests on facts. And because Jesus really died and really rose, the voice in our ear can be silenced. There is no-one now to accuse us, because Jesus has declared us holy!
So whatever our past life – and Paul talks openly about the reality of that in v21 – our future is assured. In Christ we can be presented before God – holy, clean and ‘in the clear’. ‘This is the gospel that you heard…’ Paul says (v23). It’s the same gospel we hear now – and it is life, joy and peace to us. May we live clean, and free, today. Amen.