• Mark Pfaller

Who is Invited to the Party?

Updated: Jul 21

Psalm 24:3 asks the question: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? who is invited to this party? Who is qualified to earn an invitation to this party? Are you invited? I say the word party and your thinking 2020 has been such a difficult year…coronavirus, George Floyd, and still to come, the the 2020 presidential election. To get invited to a party sounds pretty good right now. I see people posting their pictures of going to the beach and I am like YES PLEASE. I am ready…I just need to get away.

You might read this question and say, I would like to go to a party, but this really isn’t talking about going to a party Mark? But think about it… this is an invitation to go to a place of Joy. A place where there is hope and a future. A place where the king reigns in perfect justice.

Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Notice that this question is a bit of a leading question. Its like when a lawyer wants to examine a witness – Tom Cruise questioning Jack Nicolson / you know, Colonel Jessup, he doesn’t say “what happened to private Santiago?” He says “You ordered the code red didn’t you?!” You can’t handle the truth! The question assumes the answer by how it is asked. And that’s what we have in verse 3…its already assuming on the destination…we already know we are going to the house of God, to worship the Lord, the only question left is who is going with me? And so you already know were we are going in Psalm 24… and where we are going our time together in this passage: I want that we would be those worshipers. I want that we would be the generation that seeks the face of the God.

Clean Hands

We want to answer the question – who can ascend the hill of the Lord. Verse 4 answers by saying: “he who has clean hands and pure heart.” Clean hands – this speaks to our actions and our dealings with each other. Pure heart – the motives behind these actions, the motives of our heart before God. The imagery of clean hands is used in scripture to speak specifically to our dealings with each other. Think of Pontius Pilate, who literally brought out a bowl of water and tried to wash his hands of the guilt of Christ…saying ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood’” (Matt. 27:24).

Think of these clean hands specifically in the conversation we are having about race. I got a chance to participate in a meeting this week with Pastor Darren Bennett of Miami Florida. Just 2 months ago, Darren’s brother, a police officer in Miami, who was working on the front lines in that city as they helped fight COVID-19. His brother contracted the virus and died on April 3rd. Darren is a biracial man; black and Italian, and coming out of this pain of losing his brother, is now dealing with these racial tragedies in our nation right now. Darren shared with us “Racism as a direct assault against the “Imago Dei”. It is grotesque for anyone created in God’s image to be treated with no dignity.” God calls us to love our brother with clean hands and a pure heart.

Gospel Cowboy?

But there is more to this than what we see in verse 4, look at verse 5: “He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” We receive righteousness from God! The clean hands we are seeking after in verse 4, God says he is giving to us in verse 5. This righteousness from God points us to Jesus, the only one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who ascended the hill of the Lord, entered the holy place by his own blood, to achieve our redemption. So that we come into that holy place because of his righteousness.

But stop and think about verse 4 and verse 5…these seem to contradict each other…which is right? Is the grace of God that is my righteousness, or do I need to get to work on my clean hands and pure heart? I have seen 2 extremes people go to solve this dilemma:

The Legalist – One approach is what I call the legalist. Pastor and Author CJ Mahaney defines legalism as “seeking to achieve forgiveness from God and justification before God through obedience to God.” So you can imagine how a legalist would react: we have a command given here in Psalm 24: clean hands and pure heart, we need to get to work or else we will not be accepted by God. Taken as the grounds of our acceptance before God, this directly undermines the gospel and instead promotes a version of “self justification”.

The Gospel Cowboys – Another approach is what I will call “the gospel cowboys”. This is a term used to describe the loose, wild, wild west style application of the gospel as grace, grace and more grace. This is like the other side of the ditch from legalism. The understanding promoted is that the grace of the gospel is so expansive that there is no other work to be done, no pursuit of holiness is to be had. PCA pastor Rick Phillips describes the issue with this gospel cowboy approach, saying: “Reformed leaders are gravely concerned that Christians are being told that they cannot pursue holiness and that their pastors should not tell them to do so.” -Rick Phillips, Where the Sanctification Controversy Lies.

So which is right? To answer that question consider A reference in the new testament to this same dichotomy is Philippians 2, which says: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Php 2:12–13). Is it the grace of God, or do I need to get to work? The answer is yes. Both. You should work out your salvation AND it is God at work in you. In theological terms, we must separate the work of Justification, accomplished once and for all, and the work of Sanctification, which continues throughout our lives. Both Philippians 2 and Psalm 24 rightly encourage us to pursue righteousness by the grace of God, without undermining the security we have in our justification.

Small groups

The reason I have wanted to talk about this tonight is because we have been in this study around small groups. I want to have a biblical approach that would embrace both of these truths, to have our eyes open to the tendencies we have to be drawn to either extreme. I want us to do this as a church, and I want to see that expressed in our small groups. In a small group setting it would be easy for us to become legalistic – pulling out our spiritual disciplines’ checklist on each other…It can easily turn into shame, manipulation, performance. But, we could also fall into the trap on the other side. We get so gospel cowboy that we never ask anything about what someone might say or do.

Instead we want to be the NATHAN kind of friend we talked about a few weeks ago – referring to the friend of King David in 2 Samuel 13, a friend who can ask the question. That has his eye on the grace of God just like I do, and is looking for where does that gospel grace need to be applied in my life? And we both corporately as a church and individually in these small groups, we want to pursue this goal together. I am going to encourage you and your going to encourage me so that we can go after him together. And Psalm 24 is showing us the way. With clean hands and a pure heart. Because I want to know him, I want to be part of a generation that seeks the face of God.

Think about this for a minute. Where else are you going to get that? Think about your neighborhood. Your school. Your workplace. Perhaps even in your family…where else to you get to do THIS together. In some of these other circles, its possible there are other Christians, you might talk about God, and even to have that is encouraging. But are you together working toward this goal of we are going to be a generation that seeks the face of GOD? This pursuit of God is so rare.

Be the Generation

Now, finally, we come to verse 6. It is so powerful – listen to the word of God: “Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.” – Psalm 24:6. My call to you today is this call from the word of God, that we would Be the generation that seeks the face of the God. What we have been talking about today, from Psalm 24: clean hands, pure heart, worshipers; this is what a generation looks like, that seeks the face of God.

When I hear that language of a generation it makes me think of how the kingdom of God is under assault from the enemy. With the way this year has gone, which has been crazy - All of this isolation with the stay at home orders, the lost jobs, all of the division, these unthinkable, racial charged deaths, tragedies of national proportion – its like the perfect storm. Its so overwhelming. So disorienting. You stop, collectively, as a nation, and say, what is this going to do to this generation? Is it going to galvanize us to a cause like 911 did? In the natural, that seems impossible. Is it going to fracture us as a nation in division? Right vs. left. Black vs. white. With as much evil as has been unleashed on this nation you have to expect this venom is going to have a terrible impact on this generation. But what if we led this generation in a new direction. That which the enemy meant for evil, God would use for good – as the very means of turning the hearts of a generation. To call on him. To seek him.

What would it look like for us to answer the call to Be the generation that seeks the face of the God? One of my first experiences of this kind of pursuing God was a discipleship group that was led by one of the pastors at the church named Rick. I was a young guy, just out of college, there were like 4 or 5 of us young couples that were in the group and we would get together at Rick’s house to study, pray, worship. Rick was a pastor at the church, but his main role was that he was the worship leader. And he was so gifted, so anointed by God. We were in his living room with him and his guitar worshiping God. From a music perspective, it was almost like I said pick your favorite artist and have this private concert with 10 of your closest friends. That’s what it was like. But it went way beyond just the music itself. It was the worship, the presence of God, applying God’s word in our lives, the way we pursued God together – it was incredible. This was us, as this group of young people, with one common goal – we are going to seek the face of God.

So what do you say? I say lets go for it! Lets knit together to go after this one thing with all our heart soul mind and strength. That we can be part of a generation that seeks the face of God.

To see the rest of the July Newsletter click here:


© 2019 Pastor Mark Pfaller

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Mark Pfaller