Summary: How do we approach God? What are the things that keep us from entering His presence? What enables us to come to God with full confidence?
Sermon for CATM – September 23, 2007 - Approaching God with Confidence
Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Show Video: I Am With You [See Sermonspice.com]
“I am with you”. That’s a powerful statement. A powerful truth. What does that mean to you? God is with you. God goes with you. He goes before you. His presence goes ahead of us. But what does this mean? Really. What does it mean to enter into God’s presence?
The book of Esther explains a very normal practice in early times: 4:11 "All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life”.
This was very typical in ancient times. A person had to be welcomed by the king and could never just walk up to him. People had respect for the office of king. If they didn’t…if they were from that land and they breached this important rule, they didn’t tend to survive for long.
Of course the living God doesn’t need to hold out a scepter and He’s not going to prevent us from coming to Him. But there are things in us that will prevent us from coming to him. What are the things that prevent us from entering God’s presence with confidence?
There are at least three things that block us from coming to God, coming willingly and knowingly and expectantly into His presence.
Heb 3:7-13 So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did. That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ’Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ’They shall never enter my rest.’" See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
At the most basic level, if we don’t believe in God, we’re not going even think about coming into his presence. That much is obvious.
The writer of Hebrews is getting at something different from complete ignorance of God here. He’s suggesting first of all that we can behave like we don’t believe. The people of Israel who had witnessed God’s miraculous power and had experienced their own deliverance from slavery…they, even having faith because of the miracles they saw…they failed to act in a way consistent with what they knew to be true of God.
Isn’t that something we can do so easily!?! Our lifestyle choices can come to no longer reflect the faith we profess. I’m not talking about just sinning.
Of course we all sin and stumble, sometimes badly, sometimes not so badly…but then we come to our senses, ask for forgiveness with the clear intention of stopping that behaviour, and God graciously restores us to Himself.
The Scriptures says of the people who wandered the desert: “Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways”. So the encouragement here is to be careful. There is so much to be gained by being in right relationship with God. There is so much to be lost by taking that relationship for granted.
Hebrews 4:2 says this to those whose unbelief is the thing blocking them coming into God’s presence: “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith”.
It gets worse. There’s another way that unbelief gets in the way. Hebrews points out the problem: 2:1 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away”.
There’s an unfortunate but natural human tendency to, unless we exercise great care, drift away from commitments. Married couples who do not take special care in their relationships can drift apart…to the point of feeling like strangers dwelling in the same house.