Summary: Psalm 96 is one of those wonderful psalms of praise that remind the people of God what they are supposed to be about.

Holiness: The Big Picture

Psalm 96

Cascades Fellowship CRC, JX MI

February 20, 2005

2nd Sunday of Lent

Rach and I were talking the other day about education. We were listening to some talk show – I am not sure which one any longer – when we heard one woman referring to her family as uneducated. What she meant by this statement is that she was the lone college graduate in her family. The rest of her family, which had apparently all completed high school, were deemed uneducated. Isn’t that fascinating? High school graduates are considered uneducated. What an odd idea.

Education, as many of you know is not always best accomplished through a formal process – going to classes, taking exams, passing a controlled practicum – that progresses through levels of difficulty and complexity. This truth hit home to me while I was working as a construction worker for a temp agency.

One the sites I worked was in Yorktown, VA under the oversight of a man named Keith. Keith was a good ol’ boy in the best sense of the word. He had that Chesapeake Bay/Virginia accent – you know, the ones that say “hoose” instead of “house.” He was blonde and burly with the disposition of a teddy bear. If he had wore a beard and red flannel, he would have been a dead ringer for Santa Claus.

We were pouring the footing for a large utility building. We had dug the footing by hand and was waiting for the cement truck to come in when the vice president of the construction company drove up to check on our progress. Keith told us to take a break while he and the boss had conference. Leaning heavily on my shovel, I eavesdropped a little. It was just so curious to see Keith and this well-dressed, educated man taking counsel.

Much to my surprise, the conversation was not as one-sided as I thought it was going to be. Without a blueprint anywhere to be seen, they began talking details about the building we were going to build. They were detailing problem areas, walking up to the door and indicating what adjustments needed to be made for it to shut properly. They even talked about how to change the support structure – extending this beam so many inches, moving this one over just a hair. They pointed and moved around the building as if it already existed, seeing the unseen – a building that only existed in their minds.

I marveled at the spatial intelligence these two men displayed. Keith was obviously educated – oh, not in the traditional sense, not through books, classes and exams. But through experience and training on the job. His education had taught him a skill that no amount higher education can impart to a person. Keith could see the big picture – he could envision the finished product.

There is an enormous value to being able to see the big picture, not the least of which is being able to discern problems before they actually occur. When we see the big picture, we are better prepared to establish a plan to get us there. When we see the big picture we are also better prepared to know where we are on the way and give us a realistic idea about how far we have to go. Seeing the big picture can motivate us, give us the endurance we need to make it through the difficult times on the way.

Last week, we began talking about holiness and whether or not it is still important to the Christian life. We wondered if this was just an old fashioned idea left over from the Puritan days – a form of legalism that is just taking centuries to root out of the church – or if we really need to concern ourselves with holiness. We found that holiness is indeed necessary for the Christian life. Holiness is not passé.

So this morning we are going to take in an overview of holiness, try and get the big picture. Then, in the following weeks, we will breakdown the big picture into more detail. To frame our big picture of holiness, we will begin by looking at Psalm 96 – a cry of God’s people to reveal his holiness. Then, we will touch on some of the talking points of holiness – particularly as holiness relates to our lives in Christ.

Psalm 96 is one of those wonderful psalms of praise that remind the people of God what they are supposed to be about. It amazes me that few people recognize the evangelical nature of the Old Testament faith. The modern church often acts as if God had no interest in anyone save the children of Israel before Jesus came – as if prior to the cross, all nations other than Israel were expendable. It is as if grace was in short supply before Jesus came on the scene.

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