The home where I grew up in the beautiful and mountainous countryside of Northwest New Jersey was immediately next to an exclusive country club. Our home was opposite the first hole, and it was not unusual for me to find a golf ball in the yard. If a right-handed golfer severely hooked his first shot of the day off the Number One tee, I was the new owner of his golf ball.
Being a bit of an entrepreneurial kid, I collected those golf balls, as well has many hundreds of others that I found by walking around the wooded perimeter of the course, and sold them back to the dopey golfers who lost them! I would wash them up and display them in egg cartons on a bench on the 18th tee.
But there were many hazards for me in this business. My excessive fear of snakes relates to this time of my life. And since the golf club was private, I was NOT allowed on it whatsoever. So my business was truly an underground, surreptitious operation. Most of my golf ball hunting was done in fields and forests just over the property lines of the club, but at certain points I would have to quickly cross a section of the course to get to the next area … always watching to be sure I was not discovered and chased by the grounds crew.
I had one classmate whose family had a membership at the club. One day he invited me to be his guest, and I was thrilled! With him – a member known there to everyone at the pool, the clubhouse and the pro shop, I was able to boldly walk around places I would have never been allowed to go by myself without him.
In the story of Esther, we have been talking about how in chapters four and five that Queen Esther remarked how even she was not assuredly able to come into the King’s presence without his original invitation. In similar manner, we may ask the question as to who we think we are to go into the presence of the Creator God of the universe. He is perfect and holy — all the stuff that we are not. And yet the Scriptures say we can have an open and bold presence with him, and that in fact he welcomes it!
As one of what is on my first handful of all-time favorite passages is this one from Hebrews 4:12-16 …
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Oh man … that sounds rather scary! There is no hiding the mess that each of us are! God sees through it as if our every fault is visible in the open sunlight in the middle of a vast wheat field. There is no hiding anything! But read on …
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Here is the great asset possessed by the believer in Christ. He is a great high priest who is in the very presence of God. Let me remind you what a priest does — he represents the people before God (whereas a prophet represented God before the people). Jesus was fully human like us, yet without sin and therefore perfect. He represents us before God as having paid our debt of sin, and we have therefore the bold encouragement to come openly before God with our needs — including with our sins and weaknesses that need forgiveness and His strength to overcome.
We are with Christ. And he has made us “members” and “family” who belong in God’s presence without fear of being harmed or driven away. I don’t know how to help anyone who cannot see the awesomeness of this privilege. So use it!
Use it, but don’t offend the representative. Use it … don’t Abuse it.
Jesus is the one who has cleansed us and welcomed us. We should “make every effort” to be found in him. There will be many at the resurrection who will say, “You taught in our cities …” and Jesus will reply “I never knew you.”
It is good that you recognize “the mess that each of us are!”. In that spirit of humility we can approach God. Because it is accurate that we each are a “mess”. So far are we from his perfection that it is hard to even describe.
As Jesus extends his grace to us, he wants us to extend it to others. And if we see people we have problems with, at church, we must remember that God has “problems” with us too!
We are charged before God not to judge our brothers and sisters, but if we see such a one overtaken by a sin “that doesn’t lead to death” we should pray and have God grant life to that person.
On that note you can pray about my sporadic church attendance and what God wants done about it. I’ve got a sleeping schedule (working at night) that has me sleeping usually when church takes place. And I’ve got other “excuses” too.
The scripture does urge us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together … and whether or not things that I do technologically have any modern day fullfillment of the requirement of meeting with other believers is an open question. Some of the things that characterize the benefits of going to church such as ability to warn or rebuke others, learn from others, support others in the faith can be done technologically. Writing letters or posting on blogs might help others, or even myself as I share my faith, while reading books, articles or watching stuff online might be personally helpful.
I know this comment of mine is changing into a big tangent. And you recently remarked that God gives different people different specific responsibilities depending upon where he has placed them in the body of Christ and depending on how He wants to lead each one who follows him.
Even attending church is a great responsibility, to do it correctly. God does want the people in the church to build each other up.
At times I struggle with when to give advice. Sometimes advice is helpful, other times it might be “nit-picking”. Or maybe what seems important to me is not important to others and vice-versa. And alternately, not speaking up at important times might imply agreement with something that is wrong.
On another note, the scripture you quoted in Hebrews 4:12-16 is a great scripture. And I ought to memorize the scripture quotation of Hebrews 4:12-13, to be able to cite it chapter and verse, because of my particular interest in scriptures that pertain to the judgment and how God/Jesus will judge people.
Blessings to the church, the temple, the body of Christ.