READ | SERMON NOTES
Eugene Peterson has described discipleship as being ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ How do we persevere and stay the long course amidst life’s many demands, distractions and disturbances? Jesus has given us many blessings from the cross and one blessing that is most precious and vital for our discipleship is Full Access to our Abba Father.
1. Access: “Confidence to Enter” v19-20
Under the New Covenant, disciples of Christ have the freedom by the blood of the lamb to enter the most holy place to encounter the presence of God. This is a radical and unthinkable idea for an Old Testament Israelite. In Exodus 19:12, before God revealed himself to Moses, the people were instructed to stay away from the mountain, or it will lead to death. God’s presence with Israel was later symbolised in the Most Holy Place of the Tabernacle (or Temple). The increasing level of holiness from the courtyard to the Holy Place to the Most Holy Place, highlights the dangerous, awesome presence of God. The Temple helped people understand that God was with them. Yet, it reminded them of God’s holiness because it kept them at a distance. Only the high priest could go inside the Most Holy Place once a year under the strictest supervision. On account of Christ’s work on the cross, we can now enter the Most Holy Place with confidence. Instead of the thick curtains, we now enter through His body. What was once mission impossible, is now possible. This access is a new and living way through Christ’s once and for all sacrifice. This access is available to us, not because of how good we are but by faith and grace. If we feel rejected, abandoned, defeated by life or people, with no one to turn to, we know that we have full access to the most important person – Jesus.
2. Approach: “Let us draw Near” v22
Let us continually draw near to God with a sincere heart and a full assurance that faith brings. The posture of our heart is to be with God each moment of the day. We may have access to Christ, but it does not mean that we are drawing close to God. If we are not intentional, we became passive and just wait for the worship leader or preacher to do something for us. Verse 22 calls us to draw near with sincerity in faithful expectation that God can transform us and our circumstances. In the Tabernacle, the priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrifice on the altar and washed their hands and feet at the bronze lavar, as part of Old Testament purification rites. Today, we know that the blood of Jesus cleanses us with superior power and efficacy. It cleanses us from deep within (not external) and from a guilty conscience, to purify our hearts so that when we come before God, we can be certain we will not be struck dead. We can come before Him at any time of the day, like a child, knowing that our sins have been forgiven. We can draw near to God as we are.
Kyle Strobel described the essence of prayer as:
“Prayer is not a place to be good, it is a place to be honest.
Prayer is not a place to perform, it is a place to be present.
Prayer is not a place to be right, it is a place to be known.
Prayer is not a place to prove your worth, it is a place to receive your worth and offer yourself in truth.”
3. Abide: “Let us Hold on” v23
In the roller coaster of life, we are to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Hebrews 4:14 tells us that since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. Our hope in Jesus, our eternal high priest, is the anchor for the soul, firm and secure (Hebrews 6:19-20). Jesus can save completely those who come through Him because He always lives to intercede for them (Hebrews 7:25). We may be imperfect, but we can always have hope because when we stop praying or stumble in our praying, Jesus is still praying for us. When we are weak, He is strong. When we are faithless, He is faithful. Approaching and abiding in God are linked. Prayers and perseverance are linked. To travel a long obedience in the same direction amidst the turbulences of life, we need God and encounters with Him through prayers. (Quoting Luigi Gioia) If we feel inadequate to pray, try this and we may end up praying many times a day:
Each time I feel frustrated and discouraged, I tell God how and why.
Each time something hurts/pains me, I tell it to God.
When something gives me great joy, I take time to thank God.
Never think that we must overcome our anger/frustration before we can pray. It can be difficult to believe, but God is sincere and deeply interested in each of our thoughts – good and bad.
By granting us full access to God, Jesus has fundamentally changed the way we are to live. He gives us a new way of living where we can have God as an intimate companion. To be a disciple of Christ is not just having Bible knowledge or being engaged in Christian service but to be able to go through the different seasons of life with God as our divine companion, guide and shepherd.
PONDER | REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. Read verses 19-22. Why can we have the confidence to boldly enter the presence of God (with full access)? Why is the privilege of “full access” to God so revolutionary, in view of Old Testament constraints?
2a. Read verse 22. Why is drawing near to God integral to our identity and growth as disciples of Christ?
2b. In your life, how have you taken for granted your access to God? Reflect on your heart posture while attending a worship service/Christian meeting or during your quiet time. How might you posture your heart to be more open and attentive to God?
3a. In times of uncertainty and challenge, verse 23 calls us to hold fast to God. What aspect of hope are you clinging to the most these days?
3b. Verse 23 tells us that God who has promised is faithful. Do you believe this? How have you seen God’s faithfulness in the past, in ways which would encourage you to trust Him today?
3c. What steps or practices might you undertake to draw near to God, especially in times of challenge and busyness, to strengthen your hope in God?
4. Share personal needs and concerns; pray for one another. Pray also for God to help each member to take the next step of discipleship following this discussion.