3 Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place? 4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully. 5 He shall receive blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:3–5, NKJV)
One does not accidentally stand in the presence of Almighty God. Fellowship with Him is a privilege. Only the one who is holy as God is holy will be granted a place in His presence. One cannot live in the defilement of sin and properly claim a place of blessing in His holy place; such would be incompatible with the holiness of God. If you wish to ascend to God’s holy hill of habitation, the psalmist David explains the faith that must characterize your life. First, cleanse your hands. You cannot do impure things and stand in God’s holy place. Pure actions require a pure heart. Purge your mind of evil thinking so that you may stand in God’s presence. Additionally, you must not lift up any idol in your heart. Only the true and living God has a place in the soul of the person with whom God has communion. Finally, be an honest person, one who does not deceive or mislead with your words. God’s blessing of righteousness and salvation is given to the person of faith who is holy in heart, in word and in deed (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. (John 16:7–11, NKJV)
The Holy Spirit is “the Helper” Jesus promised to send to His apostles, who would “guide them into all truth” (Jno. 16:13). Jesus kept His promise on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4). By the preaching of the apostles, the Holy Spirit began convicting the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment. By their word, the Spirit of God convicted the audience of their sin (“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart,” Acts 2:37). He convinced them how to become servants of righteousness (“repent,…and be baptized,” Acts 2:38). And, he convinced them of judgment (“save yourselves,” Acts 2:40, ESV). The Holy Spirit continues to convict the world by the inspired message of the apostles, and by it, to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21).
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness, who remembers You in Your ways. You are indeed angry, for we have sinned— In these ways we continue; and we need to be saved. 6 But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:5–6, NKJV)
Far from confirming the false teaching of total depravity and a “sin nature” inherent in humanity, this passage explains the sinfulness of a rebellious nation. Neither does it teach that we can do nothing that impacts our salvation. Israel had turned from God’s ways to idolatry, eliciting God’s wrath (“we have sinned,” v. 5). Indeed, even after repeated warnings, Israel continued in the ways of sin instead of turning back to God’s “old paths, where the good way is” (Jer. 6:16; Isa. 65:2-3). The people needed to be saved. None of their sacrifices pleased God; in their sin they were unclean like a defiled garment (Isa. 1:10-15). It was their sins (not some “sin nature”) that separated them from their God (Isa. 59:2). Like Israel, God’s people can still turn away from God’s way, become defiled in sin, and face divine wrath. God spares the one who “rejoices and does righteousness” (v. 5; Acts 10:35). But, those who practice sin are like a dead leaf, blown away by the wind. So, rejoice in God’s salvation and walk in “true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24).
1 Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? 2 He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart… (Psalm 15:1-2, NKJV)
The one who “works righteousness” finds a place of spiritual rejuvenation in God’s tent. Working righteousness has a bad theologian reputation due to a dramatic failure to properly demarcate works of merit (by which one earns His standing before God, Rom. 4:2, 4; Eph. 2:9) from works of faith (the obedience that completes faith, Jas. 2:17, 20, 22, 24). The apostle Peter told Cornelius and his house that God accepts all who fear Him and “work righteousness” (Acts 10:35). We are confident He still does. God’s inspired word contains the “instruction in righteousness” that equips us “for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). John said, “He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 Jno. 3:7). Without living in obedience to Christ’s truth we will not be righteous nor dwell in God’s presence.