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TEXT: Hebrews 4:16, 10:19
SUBJECT: The Passion of Jesus Christ #25: Access
For the last half a year or so, we have been working our way through John Piper's The Passion of Jesus Christ. The little book addresses the question, 'Why did God send His Son to the cross?' There's no one answer that that; Piper, in fact, gives fifty answers, while leaving out far more than he put in. Nonetheless, it's a good book, both sound in its theology and warm in its devotion.
Tonight, we come to Chapter 24, which, I think, is the dullest one in the book. Except for the title. If the chapter plods, the title dances. I think you'll agree with me when you hear it,
Christ suffered and died to give us confident access to the holiest place.
Nearly every word is worth our meditation--and thanksgiving. So let's get to them!
THE HOLIEST PLACE
First, the holiest place. The words look back to the early history of Israel. The Lord had freed His people from Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. At the foot of Mount Sinai, they camped for some time, while Moses was at the summit receiving the Law. When we hear 'the Law', we think of 'The Ten Commandments', and, of course, he got them there. But that's not all he got. Of even greater importance, Moses got a set of plans, blueprints, for building the Tabernacle.
In a special sense, the Lord would dwell in the Tabernacle-and more to the point, it was the place He would meet His people. But not all of His people and not all of the time.
The Tabernacle was designed in three concentric circles. To the outer circle, anyone could come to the Lord any time he wanted to. Even Gentiles were welcome. But, inside the big circle, there was a far smaller one; it was called The Holy Place. It was for the priests only and only twice a day, and only when they were offering gifts to the Lord. The Holy Place, however, was not the inner ring. There was a much smaller tent, called the Holy of Holies (or, The Holiest Place). Into this place, only one man could come-the High Priest-and only once a year-on the Day of Atonement-and to do only one thing-to sprinkle blood on the Mercy Seat.
It was the man's highest privilege to come into the Holiest Place, and also the most dangerous thing he would ever do. The Ark of the Covenant was God's throne; He was not visible there, but He was there in His glory, grace, and justice. If the wrong man should come in, God would kill him. If the right man came in bringing the wrong gift or the right gift at the wrong time, he too would be struck dead.
Josephus, the Jewish historian, says the High Priest entered the Holy of Holies with a long rope tied round his waist. If the Lord should kill him, his brethren would pull him out without risking their own lives.
Why was the Holiest Place so dangerous? Because God is dangerous. People often think of Him as a cuddly grandfather, full of love and wisdom, maybe, but not Someone to fear. But this is exactly how the Bible describes Him.
His presence on Mount Sinai caused a fire and an earthquake. He met Job in tornado. His voice broke the cedars of Lebanon. And His face? Nobody can see that-and live! Our God is a consuming fire.
Especially to sinners.
Isaiah once saw a vision of God. The seraphim were circling Him and offering their worship. The word, seraphim, means 'the fiery ones'. It seems they are angels made of fire, or, perhaps, so glorious that they shine as though they were. In any event, if we saw a seraphim, we'd drop dead with fear!
But in the prophet's vision, the seraphim are not scary; they're scared! They're drawn to the holiness of God, but they're also struck down by it, and so they keep covering and uncovering their faces. What kind of Being could terrify a fiery angel? Only the Lord.
But they're not the only ones scared in that vision. Isaiah is, too, but in a double sense. While the Seraphim feel dwarfed by the Majesty of God's holiness, Isaiah feels both small and guilty!
Woe is me! I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips, and a dwell among a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.
It's a great honor to meet the Lord, but who's got the guts to try it? Who is worthy to appear in His presence? We don't have to guess, Psalm 15 tells us.
Lord, who may abide in Your Tabernacle?
Who may dwell in Your Holy Hill?
He who walks uprightly
And works righteousness,
And speaks the truth in his heart.
He who does not backbite with his
Nor does evil to his neighbor,
Nor does he take up a reproach
Against his friend;
In whose eyes a vile person is despised,
But he honors those who fear the
He who swears to his own hurt
And does not change.
He who does not put our his money
Nor does he take a bribe
Against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never
This is a wonderfully encouraging Psalm if you live up to its standards! But who does? Some people are better than others, but what honest Christian would say he walks uprightly all the time? Or that he never backbites with his tongue? Or that he never once swore to his own hurt, and changed?
This sort of person can come into the Holiest Place and be perfectly comfortable! He's got nothing to fear before an all-seeing God, for God's got nothing on him!
But the rest of us can only admire The Holiest Place from afar!
But look what our verse says, Hebrews 4:16. Speaking of the Holiest Place, it says, Therefore, let us come.The 'us' in the passage are not saints already in heaven or super holy people on earth. A couple of chapters later, we find they're rather slow in their progress, backsliders, even.
Later, we find they're struggling with assurance, missing church too often, not praying very well, even toying with the idea of giving up Christ and returning to their former lives! They are Christians, but not very good ones! Yet, they're told to come into the Holiest Place, and when they do, they'll be welcome.
For them, it's not the Tent of Judgment, but the Throne of Grace. Piper says they had access to the Holiest Place. And it's not only they who had it, but we also have it. Believers today, weak, sinful, and silly believers can stand before the Lord.and live!
This is good news! But there's more. Piper doesn't say we have access, but confident access. This also comes right out of our text, Hebrews 4:16,
Therefore, let us come boldly to the throne of grace.
Not 'doubtfully' as though we may not be wanted there, but boldly, knowing God welcomes us and is eager to give us all we need (and more than we need).
The other verse makes the same point, Hebrews 10:19,
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest.
God does not tolerate us, He accepts us. Of course we ought to be reverent and humble in His presence. But not only reverent and humble. We should also be daring, knowing that He's able and willing to give us more than we ask for.
CHRIST SUFFERED AND DIED
We have this confident access to God only because Christ suffered and died for us. How does one follow from the other? Here's how.
The holiness of God is against us if we're sinners. But, what if we're not sinners? Then, the holiness of God would be for us. Instead of judging us, it would reward us.
But what did the suffering and death of our Lord do for us? Objectively, they made us as righteous as He is! What? Am I saying you're as holy as Christ? That I'm as just as He is?
Yes, that's just what I'm saying. Because, through faith, the Christian is brought into union with Christ. That means His holiness is charged to our account. And so, objectively, we are as welcome in the Presence of God as He is.
THE RENT VEIL
We know that because of what happened when the Lord died. His death set off in earthquake in Jerusalem. What damage it did, we don't know, except for one place: the Temple. The Holiest Place was separated from the rest of the temple by a long and thick curtain. When He died, the curtain tore apart, from the top to the bottom, exposing the Ark of the Covenant to anyone who wanted to see it.
This Ark stood for God Himself, and so, the death of Christ opened the way to God for everybody! Not just the High Priest and not just once a year, but anyone can now come to God at any time and from any place. The Temple was torn down in 70 AD, but it was destroyed the minute our Lord breathed His last.
This means, you can come to God, right now, and without any preparation or qualification. Everybody can come to God. But only through Christ. Because He opened the way, and if you don't go through Him, you don't go at all!
If you're a believer in Christ, you have access to God. He's not against you or indifferent to you. He is for you! Always for you. Especially when you sin.
If have access to God, you ought to spend time with God in prayer, Bible-reading, and meditation. Christ didn't open the way so you'd look in from the outside, but so you'd go in and enjoy the One in whom is 'the fullness of joy'.
If you have access to God, anyone can have it. This means, get busy witnessing to the lost, praying for them, and assuring them that when the come to God through Christ, they will be received. With open arms.
If you have access to God through Christ, then thank the Lord Jesus Christ for giving it to you. And never think you've got it because of what you are or what you do or don't do.
If you have access to God through Christ, remember your brothers and sisters do too. This means you can never look down on them as inferior to you. Because you can't have more than access to God-and they've got that. Therefore, even when they're foolish and disappointing to you, they're still loved by Christ and welcome to God.
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