Summary: Jesus is our only hope of drawing near to God in everyday life.
“How Can I Draw Near To God?”
Laurie grew up going to church sporadically as a child. Her mom and dad didn’t participate, but some of her friends did. Whenever Laurie would spend the night with one of her friends she would often end up going to church with them the next morning. Laurie wasn’t opposed to going to church. She was fascinated by some of the stories she heard while she was there, but she didn’t really understand too much of what was going on.
While Laurie was in college she met a guy and the two of them fell in love. When they began to plan their wedding Tim wanted to go to Vegas and get married in one of the wedding chapels, but Laurie wanted to get married in a church. There was one preacher that she had met when she went to church with her friend that she really liked a lot. She really hoped that Pastor Miller would do the wedding. He didn’t seem starched and serious like some of the other preachers she had met. Pastor Miller could laugh. He made you feel like he was really glad that you were in church and he taught the Bible in a way that Laurie could understand. When Laurie thought about where she would like to be married her first choice was New Hope and Pastor Miller.
Laurie called Pastor Miller on the phone and he said that he would be honored to perform her wedding. He told Laurie that he would need to get together with them and talk about the requirements before they signed on the dotted line.
Laurie and Tim met with the pastor. As the weeks passed they went through premarital counseling, made weddings plans, and even attended church on occasion. Laurie had never attended New Hope on a regular basis, but the more she and Tim attended church the more she looked forward to Sunday morning. Laurie grew to love the morning Bible study time, she invited many of her friends to attend church with her, and she hardly ever missed a Sunday.
Pastor Miller was a young guy barely in his thirties, but the news came one day that he was very ill. Doctors had discovered that he had cancer and it was advanced. Pastor Miller underwent chemotherapy. Doctors had hope, but Pastor Miller knew in his heart that his time was short. When his death came the church was devastated. They held his funeral and people from all over the city attended the funeral. Pastor Miller had taken what was a small, struggling church and in only a few years had grown it into one of the largest churches in the city…but now he was gone.
As the weeks and months rolled by Laurie began to struggle to get out of bed on Sunday morning. Things just weren’t the same. About a year later the new pastor arrived at New Hope and Laurie was there on his first day. She listened with an open heart, but he just wasn’t Pastor Miller. Laurie said, “This is my church and I am going to continue to stay involved because I know the Lord has placed me here.” Two years later, Laurie hardly ever attended New Hope. She hardly ever attended any church.
Laurie is not uncommon. So many people today begin attending a church because they like the pastor’s teaching, they enjoy their Sunday school teacher, youth leader, or there is some aspect of the church that really captures their heart. If the leadership changes and things aren’t like they “use” to be, then many folks lose their passion and commitment. Notice, I didn’t say “change direction,” I just said that a new leader arrives on the scene.
This reality is one of the Achilles heels of the Church. It has always been one of the Achilles heels of the Church. The priesthood of the Temple changed hands often because priests died, the leadership of churches changes because pastors and priests die or get fired or leave for another church. New leaders have new strengths and weaknesses, goals and passions, and some of those might not be the passion of our hearts. With such problems as these you have to ask, “How do you draw near to God when those who are leading you are transient, fallible, sinful people like you and me, different than what we are use to, and come and go with regularity?
In our study for this morning we are going to learn that God has given us a Priest, a Pastor, a Leader who will never die, who will never leave us, and who is faithful to the very end. Not only is He all of these things, but He can do for us what no pastor or leader of the church could ever do. He has all power to forgive us of our sins and to lead us into the very presence of God where our hope, salvation, and forgiveness reside.