I’ve tried to remember how I used to approach God in my BC years. Tentatively? Without confidence, certainly, and without a sense that God was there. I had no assurance of Him, or that He cared about me, or that I could even talk to Him.
Now I know how the Old Testament priests did it. They had to come with a blood sacrifice and blood sprinkled as a sign of cleansing. They continually washed themselves in basins of clear water, again as a sign of cleansing.
But they were fearful and never sure. Would God accept them? If they were honest with themselves, they knew that no matter how many blood sacrifices were made, how many times they washed, they were still the same sinners in heart.
Their only hope was in God’s promise of a Savior and of a new covenant articulated by Jeremiah 31:33 where the Lord said, “I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God and they shall be My people.”
Ezekiel 36:25-27 says it again, “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
I didn’t know about those promises when I tried to approach God. Would I have had more confidence if I did? Probably not. If we put aside our false and small notions about God and truly consider Who this is that we seek, an element of awe, even fear, should make standing before Him far from being a trivial and easy thing.
Whoever wrote the New Testament book of Hebrews knew that. He tries to reinforce it, but at the same time encourage his readers (Jews either on the brink of turning to Christ or on the brink of running the other direction). In Hebrews 10:19-25 he offers this, the new Covenant from God, made through Christ:
“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
This is new. Now everyone can approach God, not just the priests. I can come through that temple veil that was torn in two, top to bottom, when Jesus died on the cross, a veil that was once a barrier for them is now gone. That holiest of holies is open to everyone.
Jesus, my High Priest, took the sacrifice of His own blood into that holiest place, not the temple but the very presence of God in heaven, and it was accepted as my offering for sin. I can draw near in full assurance that God will not turn me away.
My heart is made new, my guilty conscience washed as I confess my sin, and my entire life is made pure, not by water baptism but by the washing done by God as He cleanses me. I can hold onto the promises of God, not because I am anything, but because He is faithful.
My task is not to worry about where I stand with God (that is taken care of by Jesus Christ), but to consider others, to encourage love and goodness in them as we fellowship with one another and look for that day when Jesus returns.
I’m a detail person and delight in the details that God has covered concerning my salvation, but at the same time, when He grants me an opportunity to ‘stand back and look at the big picture’ my delight becomes elation. I see myself as one small part of God’s huge plan for humanity and now as I approach Him, I am humbled and filled with great awe.