In The Light Of His Countenance

Saturday, March 5, 2016
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Listen while you read: "Ivory Palaces"1 (Lyrics)

Last year during Lent, a friend of mine who sometimes attends church complained that the pastor's sermons contained too much about God and Jesus and sin, and not enough that's "uplifting".

Actually, I think I get that — because many of us, sometimes even church folk, go about our lives with only distant thoughts of God or Jesus. And we tend to view a lot of what once passed for sin through the lenses of the social and biological sciences. So preaching about sin — unless it focuses on hot-button justice issues — may strike us as banal.

It's not that we don't still have a sense of right and wrong, but living in an age that has distanced God, we have, correspondingly, "dumbed down" the idea of sin. We tend to see certain actions as unfortunate, regrettable, or inappropriate, but no longer appallingly sinful, because we have separated the offensive action from the party who was offended. It is hardly surprising, then, that our neighbours and even some church folk are not animated by the penitence that we focus on during Lent.

A line famously attributed to Dostoyevsky says, "If there is no God, all things are permissible." As that statement implies, the idea of "sin" depends on the assumption that God exists — that He intended us to live in a particular way, and that we don't.

After the prophet Nathan confronted King David about his affair with Bathsheba, David acknowledged God as the offended party:

Psalm 51:4a – Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight. (ESV)

Of course, Bathsheba (I hope), her husband Uriah (if he had known), and their respective families, would have thought themselves to be the offended parties, too. But David intuits Dostoyevsky's meaning: there can be no sin without God, so only He can infallibly hold us to a just account.

David's view, learned through bitter experience, is consistent with that of other Bible characters. Luke tells of a time when Jesus' disciples had spent a fruitless night fishing. The next morning, Jesus told them to try again, and what a huge catch!

Luke 5:7-8 – They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." (ESV)

Now, even the most avid fisherman wouldn't react that way, even if it had been the Real Fishing Show host, Bob Izumi, telling him to try again. So how do we account for Peter's reaction? Peter became aware, in a way that perhaps he had not been before, that being in the presence of Jesus, he was in the presence of the holy.

When God finally confronts Job, He spends four chapters recounting the marvels of His creation, and Job is ashamed and repents "in dust and ashes" (Job 42:6 ESV). When Isaiah has a vision of God in the temple, he exclaims, "I am doomed, for I am a sinful man." (Isaiah 6:5 NLT)

A psalm attributed to Moses says, "Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance" (Psalm 90:8 KJV). Lent is a time to enter into the light of His countenance, to catch a glimpse (for that's all we can bear) of God in His holiness, and to see ourselves revealed in that awesome light.

But like those Bible characters, there's something else that we're also likely to see in that light:

Psalm 16:11 – Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (KJV)

What could be more uplifting than that!

Prayer: Grant us, O Lord, to know the light of Thy countenance, that seeing Thee, we may see ourselves, and know ourselves in Jesus to be the undeserving children of Thy grace. Through Christ our Lord, we pray. Amen.

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About the author:

Robert Lyon <>
Guelph, Ontario, Canada

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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    A powerful message. Thank you.

    You are so right Robert. Thanks for sharing.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Blessings.

    Thanks Robert, for that thought-provoking reflection. I have been blessed.

    Robert. You reminded us of a very important fact of our existence about sin!

    I enjoyed your devotional. I thought the third paragraph, in particular, appropriate in light of the study on human sexuality our church has got itself enmeshed in. Well said! Blessings in Christ to you!

    Good message for today’s times Robert,
    Right on! Over the years I too have noticed the word sin disappear from our
    vocabulary; especially from the Christian community. — Why our world is in
    such a mess. Sad.
    Thank you for bringing it back into focus.
    God richly bless you and your writing.

    Hello Robert,
    Thank you ever so much for writing and contributing such an insightful devotional entitled In The Light Of His Countenance. Yes we need to be confronted with our sins and to understand how utterly reprehensible they are before our Creator God. Only then will we get on our knees and confess our sins before a righteous and holy God.
    May God bless you and keep you as you continue to contribute to PresbyCan Daily.
    Thanks again.

    THANK YOU. Your truths speak to my spirit. The truth of the gospel is visible through our journey with Jesus. Our denomination is the venue we walk through but our Christian witness is our strength and hope. I have learned in almost 75 years of life that being a Christian that religion may attract us to being in a relationship with Jesus but it is not something we inherit from our earthly Father.
    To have a right relationship with Jesus we must believe our past, present and future is in God’s hands once we choose to be a Jesus follower.

    Dear Robert Lyon,
    Thanks for the fine sermon!
    And along with the exposure of sin, and need for repentance, we also need joy.
    Jesus had JOY. It is written of Jesus, “… who for the joy set before him… ” (Hebrews 12:2 NIV): “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down on the right hand of the throne of God.”
    And let us not wait until Easter Sunday for the JOY preaching, because, without it, by Sunday we might have put off those who need to hear the good news of the joyful gospel. Folks might not stick with us until Sunday. Preach joy even before and on Good Friday. The poignancy of joy in the midst of its opposites will make it memorable.
    Consider what was Jesus’ JOY in HIS circumstances in spite of his endurance and shame.
    I think a large part of Jesus’ joy was in that he was given, by his Father, the privilege of saving us all who would believe that he has done all that is necessary to save us–with joy.
    Thank you for your emphasis on the key note grace.

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