“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” -Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
Who is God to you?
Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. with a group of fellow students. The trip lasted a little over a week. During our experience at the nation’s capital, one of the major events we were blessed to participate in was a visit to the White House. We toured the home of the President of the United States, viewing all of the magnificent rooms to which tourists are allowed entrance. The White House is stunning in both architectural beauty and grandeur, and fittingly showcases the power of the individual who lives in it, as well as the history, accomplishments, and people of the country it represents. Just a simple stroll through this gorgeous and unforgettable landmark that has served as the home of every chief executive of the United States since its second (John Adams) is enough to captivate a history buff like myself! The culmination of our experience at the White House, however, was getting to meet then-President George W. Bush. Our group was composed of an array of political opinions and backgrounds, with some group members being strongly in support of President Bush’s policies, other members strictly opposed, and still other members in between on various issues. However, the opinions of several of our group members stood out and were of particular importance. The reason? Because of the states they hailed from, they, by tradition, would have the opportunity to be closest to him during our group’s encounter with the president.
In the days before our visit, we all discussed what we thought the experience would be like. The group members who would be positioned closest to the president let it be known to the rest of our group that they strongly opposed the policies of the president and intended to tell him so. Personally, I was a little taken aback by their confidence in both what they intended to communicate to the president in terms of their opposition and their confidence in their own ability to do so. While I believe that every citizen, and especially Christian citizens, should know what they believe about the important issues facing our nation and be able to intelligently and competently communicate why they believe what they do, I also recognize the reality that some social situations lend themselves more to conversation and debate than do others – and a visit to the White House and brief photo op with the president did not strike me as the easiest or best context to hold a robust debate on the issues. However, these group members were left in no doubt concerning their own thoughts, plans, and abilities to say what they intended to say. As the day came, our group embarked on what was sure to be an interesting visit to one of the most fascinating – and intimidating – homes on earth.
After completing our tour, we were led outside of the White House to the area directly in front of the Truman balcony. Our group assembled and, in compliance with our particular group’s traditions, we were placed according to our home states, with the group members planning to express their opposition to the president concerning his policies positioned, as expected, most closely to where the president would be standing when he arrived. So, we assembled, took our places, and made small talk with each other as we waited for the arrival of the most powerful man in the world.
Those dissident group members placed closest to the president were confident in their plans of how they were going to “set the president straight” right up until the end. President Bush arrived, greeted us warmly and graciously, and spoke to our group about the importance of leadership and being leaders, even when “the going gets tough” and our leadership would not be appreciated. After concluding his brief remarks to our group, the president positioned himself in the midst of our group for a photograph – right in amongst the dissenting group members. Based on my placement as a group member from Kentucky, I was standing about ten feet away from the president and couldn’t quite make out what was said in conversation between him and the closest group members to him as the photographer made arrangements. What I could clearly make out, however, was their change in body language as the president politely spoke with them. Gone was their confident assurance in their opinions, their plans, and – apparently – their selves. What replaced their confidence appeared to be a sense of awe – a “weak at the knees” moment – as they recognized they were standing next to the leader of the free world – the holder of the office of the President of the United States of America and the immense power vested in that high office. When the president warmly asked them questions, all I could hear them answer in response was, “Yes, sir!” After a few polite rounds of that, the president turned to face the camera, smiled, and our group took the photo together. How quickly the “mighty” were humbled…
If we’re honest, the trappings of power, prestige, and rank can intimidate even the most confident – and arrogant – of human beings. Many people can talk a good game, but it’s another thing entirely to stand in the presence of the most powerful person we could imagine meeting and attempt to put on airs. We tend to go from “I’ll give [insert name here] a piece of my mind!” to “Yes, sir!” or “Yes, ma’am!” far more quickly than we think we will…
The President of the United States is vested with immense power and influence. So, also, is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Chancellor of Germany, the President of France, the King of Saudi Arabia, and the Pope in Vatican City. However, what all of these incredibly powerful and influential positions have in common is that they ultimately pale in comparison to the power, majesty, authority, and glory of almighty God. Presidents come and presidents go every four years. Prime Ministers may rise to power at a moment’s notice and then fall from power just as quickly. When a king passes on, “long live the king!” and on to the next reign. Managers, chief executives, and “titans of industry” of all kinds can make meteoric rises to the pinnacle of the corporate ladder – and experience equally meteoric falls from it just as fast. However, our God lives, rules, and reigns eternally. He has no beginning. He has no ending. And He knows no limit to His power, majesty, and glory.
So, who is God to you? Is He the creator of the world? Is He someone to be feared? Is He some far away, aloof force that set the world into motion but has little or nothing to do with it today?
The answer to the question “who is God?” is of enormous importance to every human being. The answer to this question forms the cornerstone of the Christian faith. God is, in fact, the creator of the world, but He is not cold and aloof. God is, in fact, someone to be feared, but feared in the reverential sense of the word. Far from being apart and aloof, almighty, holy, righteous God can be known, loved, and approached by His people. How? By the new and living faith inaugurated in the Lord Jesus Christ!
Our new and living faith in Christ enables us to confidently enter the holiest of all presences – that of God Himself (vv. 19-20). The word “confidence,” used in Hebrews 10:19, comes from the Greek word “παρρησίαν” (“parresian”). The word conveys the notion of being able to enter the presence of God freely and openly with bold assurance and without fear. That is, we are able to enter the holy presence of God whenever we choose to, knowing Him personally and being able to fellowship and commune with Him. In this intimate relationship with God, we are able to experience His guidance and direction over us. He cares for and protects us. He strengthens and delivers us. He fills our hearts and lives with joy, rejoicing, assurance, confidence, and victory over the trials, temptations, and difficulties of life.
Our new and living faith in Christ enables us to know and serve the great High Priest of the house of God (v. 21). The Lord Jesus is not a high priest over a mere earthly temple or sanctuary, which deteriorates with time and must be renovated, replaced, or renewed. Rather, He is the High Priest over the heavenly house of the Lord – the eternal dwelling place of God Himself! Our faith in Christ is not one which only gives us an academic awareness of God’s existence. Knowing God exists is foundational to the Christian faith – it is the beginning of our faith. However, it is not the culmination or full extent of our faith. True faith in Christ brings us into the very presence of God Himself through our great High Priest, the Lord Jesus. We are able to know God, to fellowship and commune with Him, and to worship Him in the knowledge of who He truly is.
Our new and living faith in Christ is secured in our drawing near to God (v. 22-23). In truth, this is the first duty and the first priority of every Christian. The Lord Jesus prepared the way for humanity to be forgiven and reconciled to their God. In completing His earthly mission, Jesus took our sins upon Him. In bearing them, He also bore the guilt and judgment that accompany them. And in giving His perfect, sinless, spotless life in death on a Roman cross, He paid the full penalty they required. While the High Priest of the Old Testament sacrificial system made atonement on behalf of Israel through fulfillment of his duties in a temporal, imperfect fashion foreshadowing what Christ would do, Jesus made complete and everlasting atonement for all humanity in sacrificing not an animal but His very life for us. As a result, Christians have the sweetest and most dearly bought of all gifts – the ability to draw near to almighty God through our Savior, the Lord Jesus. We are invited and called to come before Him with a true heart – with a genuine and honest spirit, full assurance of faith, and without divided loyalties in our heart – in joy and appreciation, and in true reverence and worship of Him.
Do you ever – or often – find yourself feeling drained and tired? Exhaustion comes in many forms. There is physical exhaustion. There is mental and emotional exhaustion. But there is also such a thing as spiritual exhaustion. Spiritual exhaustion doesn’t come from overworking one’s self or exposing one’s self to mental and emotional turmoil. Rather, spiritual exhaustion occurs when we allow ourselves to go too long without communing – spending time in prayer and Bible study – with the God who loves and saved us. Think that’s an oversimplification of spiritual exhaustion? If so, I understand your skepticism. People have a natural tendency to want to oversimplify the problems and challenges we face by trying to make them seem easier, smaller, or simpler to fix than they really are. But, dear friend, this is not an oversimplification. We need to draw near to the presence of God. We are called and invited into His presence. We are designed for His presence – to need Him and time spent with Him. And – most gloriously of all – we are saved for His presence! We are not designed to be solitary creatures. There is no such thing as a “lone ranger” Christian. We are called to commune and fellowship with one another. But, above all, we are called to commune and fellowship with – to draw near to – our God. Drawing near to God enables us to hold fast to our hope (v. 23), to “stir up” one another to love and good works (v. 24), and to worship together (v. 25). It is the ultimate and perfect antidote to spiritual exhaustion and the crucial practice of the faithful Christian life.
Drawing near to God empowers us. Drawing near to God sustains us. Drawing near to God restores us.
As the Puritan Robert Hawker prayed:
“Precious Lord Jesus! Oh for grace to love you, who have so loved us! You stoop to call such poor sinful people your own, and love them as your own, and consider every thing done for them and done to them as to yourself.
Show my poor heart a portion of that love, that I may love you as my own and only Savior, and learn to love you to the end, as you have loved me and given yourself for me, an offering and a sacrifice to God.
Precious Lord, continue to surprise my soul with the tokens of your love. All the tendencies of your grace, all the evidences of your favor, your visits, your love-tokens, your pardons, your renewings, your morning call, your mid-day feelings, your noon, your evening, your midnight grace.
All, all are among your wonderful ways of salvation, and all testify to my soul that your name, as well as your work, is, and must be, wonderful.
Jesus, you put forth your hand and touched a leper! Deal with me the same way, precious Lord. Though I am polluted and unclean, yet reach down to put forth your hand and touch me also.
Put forth your blessed Spirit. Come, Lord, and dwell in me, abide in me, and rule and reign over me. Be my God, my Jesus, my Holy One, and make me yours forever.
Yes, dearest Jesus, I hear you say that you will be for me, and not for another. So will I be for you. Oh! You condescending, loving God, make me yours, ‘that if I live I may live to the Lord; or if I die I may die to the Lord – so that living or dying, I may be yours.’”
 Barbara Aland et al., eds., The Greek New Testament, Fifth Revised Edition. (Stuttgart, Germany: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2014), Heb 10:19.
 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 781.
 Robert Elmer, Piercing Heaven: Prayers of the Puritans (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019), 94-95.