Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Be Rich in Good Deeds

Steven Dilla at The Park Forum:  Infinite Happiness

1 Timothy 6.17
As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.
*Editor’s Note: Today we hear the voice of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. (The Park Forum’s Scripture reading plan is based off his design.) In this sermon from 1848, M’Cheyne affirms our life in Christ as much as he rebukes our love for the world.
By Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843)
We know very little of God; but we know that he is infinitely happy. You cannot add to his happiness, nor take from it. The Bible shows that his happiness mainly consists in giving, not in receiving:
  1. His giving food to all creatures is very wonderful — not one sparrow is forgotten before God. 
  2. He gives to the wicked: “He makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and unjust.” Just think for a moment how many thousands God feeds every day who blaspheme his name, and profane his Sabbaths.
  3. But, most of all, he gave his own Son. Although he was emptying his own bosom, yet he would not keep back the gift. 
Now, some of you pray night and day to be made like God: If you will be like him, be like him in giving. It is God’s chief happiness, be like him in it. [And yet, you will object:]
My money is my own.
Christ might have said, My blood is my own, my life is my own; no man forces it from me: then where should we have been?
Would you have me give to wicked people, who will go and abuse it?
Christ might have said the same, with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood.
God gives to wicked people, who go and abuse it; yet that does not diminish his happiness. God makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and pours down rain on the just and on the unjust.
Oh, my dear Christians! if you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and the poor, the thankless and the undeserving. Christ is glorious and happy, and so will you be. It is not your money I want, but your happiness. Remember his own word: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
*Abridged and language updated from Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s sermon, More Blessed To Give Than To Receive.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Both a Sovereign and Suffering God

Excerpt from Steven Dilla post:  Finding Meaning in Suffering


While it is possible to suffer without purpose, something David Brooks acknowledges in his exploration of What Suffering Does, the gospel draws us to the way Christ renews even our deepest pains. Keller continues:
On the one hand, God is absolutely sovereign over suffering. It’s never out of his control. It’s always part of his plan. On the other hand, God has come into the world himself and actually suffered with us.
No other religion says that God is both a sovereign and a suffering God. This is the theological foundation for why Christians can be so realistic and yet so hopeful about suffering at the same time.
Because there is meaning in suffering we can refocus our attention toward the outcome. Brooks concludes,
Notice this phenomenon. When people remember the past, they don’t only talk about happiness. It is often the ordeals that seem most significant. People shoot for happiness but feel formed through suffering.
This is, of course, the joy Paul found in his many sufferings. His heart for the first Christians was that they would experience it, too, “We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Every Desire for Goodness

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. 12 We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Loving God

S.O. post:  Give It to God

Where do you run to when the doors close off?
     And who do you call on when it all goes wrong?
     The devil is telling me to feed my fears.
     “Why don’t you pack your bags and disappear?”
     I’d rather give it to God.
I lost my dad in a car crash when I was a teenager. He was a family man, a businessman, and most importantly a disciple of Christ. In an instant, my mother lost her husband, and my sisters and I lost our father.
Suicidal thoughts ran through my mind on a daily basis. Killing myself seemed like the easiest option to deal with the pain. My father and I had planned a number of things — from music business to family security — but it seemed at the time that these things were no longer a possibility. To date, this is the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with — and I’ve dealt with a lot.
At this point in my life, I thought giving God everything meant going to church, reading my Bible, and praying. But when faced with the reality that God wants more than twenty minutes of my day or a day of the week, the foundation I stood on was shaken.
Since I had placed God in a box, I didn’t have a category for him in my pain and suffering. School, love, family, friendships, food, and even pain were my responsibility. I knew that he was supposed to comfort those who were suffering, but when I was confronted with misery, I thought that it was my job to deal with it.

Believing the Lie

What do you do when you have wept and cannot weep anymore? What do you do when everything crumbles and falls right in front of you? If we are honest, our initial response is not to pray, nor is it to run to God. We are not quick to say, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).
I knew the Scriptures. I knew that God is the “Father to fatherless and defender of widows” (Psalms 68:5). But I wrestled with that reality in the moment. Instead of listening to God, I listened to myself. I believed Satan’s lies and wallowed in my fears and depressive thoughts. I didn’t know that I didn’t have to carry this burden alone.
But one day I opened the Scriptures: “You shall love the LORD with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Matthew 22:37). Eventually I understood that loving God meant that I was to love him with everything that was in me. God doesn’t simply want a day or even an act — God wants to be cherished and glorified in everything I do.
He wants me to lay everything at his feet, including my pain. In order to love God at all, I must give him my all. I could no longer simply include God in what I knew belonged to him. Just as he declares that every square inch of this universe exists under his sovereignty, so does every aspect of my life — including my pain.

God Wants Your Pain

Along with everything else in my life, God wanted me to trust him with my pain. He wanted me to be vulnerable with him and trust that he would deliver me out of my despair. He pursued my hard heart. He wanted me to rest in his sovereignty. He wanted me to rest in his fatherhood. He began to display what it truly meant for him to be a “father to the fatherless.”
We pray “our Father in heaven” but often struggle to believe he’s truly good. We wrestle to see God as warm, gracious, kind, patient, and loving. We envision God as a tyrant, with a big stick in heaven, beating us on the head when we do wrong.
Jesus, the God-man, corrects our damaged understanding of the Father. He says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11). God is so good that when humans are comparatively mentioned in the same sentence, we have to be referred to as evil. He’s that good.

Give It to God in Prayer

This is why Jesus, in the previous chapter, teaches, “This is how you should pray” (Matthew 6:9). He teaches us to run to our Father. The fatherhood of God reminded me that though my earthly father had passed, my heavenly Father loved me dearly, and I could cast my burdens and sorrows upon him.
I finally learned to give my problems and pain to God. We live in a fallen world — a world that groans for the return of the Savior. Pain will exist from the cradle to the grave, but even in this, God invites us to know him and be comforted through prayer. There is a peace that surpasses all understanding that is readily available for those who make everything known to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6–8). Through prayer, intimacy with Christ is readily available for the weary and heavy-laden (Matthew 11:28).

The leading lyrics are from S.O.’s song “Give It to God” off his latest album So It Ends, now available on iTunesAmazon and at the Lamp Mode Store.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cry Out to God

Jon Bloom:  I Need Thee Every Hour

One of the sweetest refrains in English Christian hymnody is this:
I need Thee, O I need Thee; Every hour I need Thee; O bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.
Thank God for Annie S. Hawks who wrote these lyrics and her pastor, Robert Lowry, who composed the music. The lyrics could hardly be simpler, and yet they capture one of our heart’s most profound longings and can be prayed in the sweetest, most sorrowful, or most mundane moments in life. The prosody of the music, the way the melody and meter aligns with the wording, could hardly be more perfect.
But it is not the skill of the hymn’s construction that makes it so powerful. It is the colossal truth it so beautifully expresses.

O I Need Thee!

We need God.
It is not until we feel in the depths of our souls our utter poverty without Christ, our bankruptcy of any inherent righteousness, the impotence of our own strength and self-sufficient planning, our inconsolable loneliness when we are out of fellowship with God, the pathetic pretentiousness of our pathological pride, the hollow emptiness of all the godless gain of the world, our utter helplessness in the face of personal, institutional, cosmic, and molecular evil, that we know just how much we need God.

Every Hour I Need Thee!

Yes, we need to feel our need. Where real need is not felt, there is rarely any real praying. When Paul tells us to keep “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication . . . for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:18), it’s in the context of grasping the nature of the war we’re in and our helplessness without God in the face of the overwhelming power of our enemy.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them the Lord’s prayer as a sort of prayer template or structure (Luke 11:1–4). But in Acts 4:24–31, we see a prayerful exposition of “your kingdom come.” Those early Christians felt their desperate situation in the face of potentially lethal threats and cried out to God. And God answered, just as he promised:
“Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me” (Psalm 50:15).
Desperation drove our ancient brothers and sisters to prayer and it’s what drives us to prayer too. Our places of desperation are the places of God’s revelation of his power (2 Corinthians 12:8).
Need drives us to prayer, and our need is great. We need God every hour and we need him to show us this level of need. If we’re not really praying, we must plead with God to teach us. And his answer likely will not be a new method but a heightened awareness of our desperate need. And when he does this for us it is a priceless gift to us. It is key to not wasting our lives. An unceasing awareness of our need leads to unceasing prayer. And the constant practice of praying will teach us the methods of prayer most helpful to us. And constant prayer leads to new breakthroughs.

O Bless Me Now, My Savior

“Come to me,” Jesus says to us, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Jesus calls the desperate and burdened. He calls the sin-sick (Mark 2:17). These are the ones who know their need.
When we really come to Christ, we find in him all the rest and all the forgiveness for our sin-infected burdens that we need. In Christ is all our provision (Philippians 4:19). In Christ is all our wealth (Ephesians 3:8). In Christ is all our righteousness (Philippians 3:9). Through Christ comes the abounding grace (2 Corinthians 9:8), not of mere talk but of real power (1 Corinthians 4:20). Through Christ we draw near to God and he draws near to us and we are never alone (James 4:8Hebrews 13:5). In Christ we discover the unexpected and exalted joy of loving, servant-hearted humility (Philippians 2:3–11), knowing Christ is our greatest gain (Philippians 3:7–8), and in the power of Christ all evil at every level will be overcome and destroyed (Romans 16:20Hebrews 2:14Philippians 2:11).
All the blessings of God the Father come through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

I Come to Thee

When we feel deeply our need, not merely know it abstractly, we come to Christ. We come asking, seeking, knocking (Luke 11:9). We come alone and we come together. And we come continually, because we know we must abide in Christ our Vine or we won’t be able to do anything (John 15:5).
So let us come to Christ. Let us cry out to show us our need. Let us go to him for all our needs. And let us allow Annie Hawks and Robert Lowry to lead us in singing before the throne of grace this prayer that glorifies our triune God:
     I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
     No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

     I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
     Temptations lose their power when Thou art nigh.

     I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
     Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.

     I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will; 
     And Thy rich promises in me fulfill.

     I need Thee every hour, most Holy One; 
     O make me Thine indeed, Thou bless├Ęd Son.

     I need Thee, O I need Thee; 
     Every hour I need Thee; 
     O bless me now, my Savior, 
     I come to Thee.

A modern version of the hymn is provided by Indelible Grace and lyrics by Annie S. Hawks.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Neither Asceticism Nor Hedonism

Steven Dilla at Park Forum:  Pride, the Enemy of Pleasure

Colossians 3.2
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

The pilgrim is not to despise the comforts which he may meet with by the way, but he is not to tarry among them, or leave them with regret. — John Eadie
Only when a person is not dependent on an object or experience for pleasure are they truly free to enjoy it. We know this, of course, because things we’ve built anticipation for regularly find a way of letting us down. On the other hand, things for which we have little- or low-expectations find ways of impressing us greatly.
In response, some people cultivate perpetually low expectations toward everything and everyone. It’s a compensatory mechanism in which they seek to avoid life’s disappointments and, if all goes well, find themselves “pleasantly surprised.” This soothes the symptoms, but leaves the cause to fester.
The problem is not in the objects and experiences themselves, but our dependence on them to cultivate joy and happiness. It is another manifestation of the root of pride — our desire to derive primary satisfaction, pleasure, and identity from our personal experiences and achievements.
“True humility,” C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity, “is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” When our lives take on a posture of humility it affects not just our relationships with others, but our relationships with the objects and pleasures of this world.
Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call “humble” nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody.
Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him.
If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all. — C.S. Lewis
The Christian posture toward the objects and pleasures of the world is neither asceticism nor hedonism. Instead, our attention, passions, and desires have been so captured by the gospel that we are free to enjoy the many pleasures of this world without falling in love with them. Boasting in the cross makes us humble toward the world.

Monday, October 12, 2015

No! Jesus is Lord

Tony Reinke at Desiring God post:  The Christian's Pledge of Allegiance

The Apostles’ Creed first appeared around 140 AD.
It’s old — and it’s bold, bolder than we often give it credit for. In fact, the audaciousness of its historic claims easily get obscured by our familiarity with the ancient lines.
“I feel strongly about this,” John Piper once warned in a sermon, “that among those of us who have grown up in church and who can recite the great doctrines of our faith in our sleep and who yawn through the Apostles’ Creed — that among us something must be done to help us once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.”

An Act of Rebellion and Allegiance

Yawning through the Apostles’ Creed is absurd when you truly study its claims. This is something of the Christian’s pledge of allegiance, as Matt Chandler reminded The Village Church recently in his kick-off sermon to a 12-week series on the Creed.
“When the early church recited the Apostles’ Creed, it was simultaneously their greatest act of rebellion and their greatest act of allegiance,” Chandler said. “When the church gathered, they didn’t stand in an air conditioned room, protected by rule of law. When they stood, across the centuries, not knowing who would come in, being watched at who’s reciting this, they rejected the popular narratives of their day.”
He went on to explain:
In Rome they rejected that Caesar was lord. They rejected the narrative of the first century and said, “No! Jesus is Lord.” It is a beautiful moment when the people of God recite this creed. They said, “We don’t believe the story our culture is telling.”
The story our culture is telling has some similarities, but it has changed over time. Today, by reciting the Creed — if we believe it — we are saying:
  • We reject the narrative of materialism. We reject that stuff will satisfy our souls.
  • We reject the notion that what I need for physically satisfaction is more and more and more sexual partners.
  • We reject the idea that there are multiple ways to salvation, and everyone has his own way.
“We just fundamentally reject all these narratives,” Chandler said. “Our narrative is that we believe in the God of the Bible. When the church recites this creed, distilled, pulled from, wrung out of the Word of God, we are saying: ‘We reject the modern narrative. We believe the historic narrative — the narrative that God has come into the world to save sinners, that Jesus Christ has died for our sins, and we believe and trust that he has made known to us the path of life.’”

A Faithful Act of Mutiny

Yes, the Apostles’ Creed says all this. It is the Christian’s pledge of allegiance. We can debate a line or two, and we can modify the exact wording over time, but the statement has endured the ages because it is an always-relevant act of cultural mutiny.
            I believe in God, the Father Almighty,
                  Maker of heaven and earth.
            And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
                  Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
                  Born of the Virgin Mary;
                  Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
                  was crucified, dead and buried;
                  He descended into Hades;
                  The third day he rose from the dead;
                  He ascended into heaven;
                  and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
                  From thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
           I believe in the Holy Spirit;
                  the holy catholic Church;
                  the communion of saints;
                  the forgiveness of sins;
                  the resurrection of the body;
                  and the life everlasting. Amen.

No Patronizing Nonsense

Excerpt from Steven Dilla post at Park Forum:  Choosing Christ


This dilemma famously provoked C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. — C.S. Lewis


Thursday, October 8, 2015

He Loves Us

David Crowder Band:  How He Loves

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.When all of a sudden,I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,And I realise just how beautiful You are,And how great Your affections are for me.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Three Minutes of Good Advice Even If Not in College

Ben Stuart:  Practical Advice for College Students

With the semester well underway, many students have failed to live up to the expectations they’ve set for themselves and need help getting back on track. Some are discouraged and intend to wait until next semester to try again. If you’re a college student, be encouraged. It’s not too late to get your life under control. In three minutes, Ben Stuart offers brief and practical advice for college students that will enable them to glorify God and make the most of the semester.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Don't Lose Heart

Jon Bloom:  Praying for a Breakthrough 

A breakthrough is a military concept. When one army is able to weaken its enemy’s forces to the point of collapse, a breakthrough occurs allowing that army to invade and take its enemy’s territory.
But in war a breakthrough only really matters if it occurs at a strategic location. And the evidence that a location is strategic is almost always revealed by the amount of enemy forces amassed to protect it. An enemy led by skilled generals plans to ferociously protect what it prizes highly.
This means that an invading army can expect its attempt to achieve a breakthrough to be met by a barrier of fierce enemy opposition. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily.

Our Breakthroughs Are Opposed by Powerful Forces

This is as true for spiritual warfare as it is for terrestrial warfare. In the spiritual realm, as opposed to the terrestrial, the church is an invading force. Though we can easily slip into a defensive, circle-the-wagons mindset, Jesus clearly intends for us to be aggressors, not merely defenders. The Great Commission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). In a world that “lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19), that’s militant language. Our mission: to liberate those the devil has taken captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26).
But we must keep in mind that strategic ground is not yielded easily. Whether we’re battling for breakthroughs against our own stubborn sin or the unbelief of a loved one or breakthroughs in the missional advance of our local church, reaching unreached peoples, rescuing persecuted believers, orphans, sex slaves, or the unborn, we are up against “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). We don’t know exactly what that means except that these forces are very strong.

Daniel’s Example

Daniel 10:12–14 gives us a brief glimpse of what’s happening. Daniel had been praying and partially fasting for 21 days to gain greater insight into the revelations he had received (Daniel 10:3) when an angelic being finally showed up with an answer to his prayers. This messenger said that he had been trying to get to Daniel for those 21 days, but had been detained by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia.” The chief angel Michael had to come and free him.
This experience of Daniel is an example to us. It’s not a formula that can simply be boiled down to pray and fast for 21 days and Michael will come help you overcome cosmic forces. But it is an example of what is taking place outside of our sight. God does not want us to know more about the angelic realm than what he has revealed in Scripture, otherwise Scripture would have revealed more. But he clearly wants us to know that there is more going on than we see so that we will pray to him and fast until he gives us an answer.

When God Moves, Satan Responds

The consistent pattern throughout the Bible is that every significant move of God is preceded by a season of increasingly difficult, discouraging opposition. And if we take Ephesians 6, Daniel 10, and other warfare texts seriously, we can understand why: God is invading what Satan considers his territory. God’s kingdom is breaking through the lines of the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13).
If we are not encountering opposition, it’s likely we are not attacking a strategic location. But if we are, we are on to something. Where the enemy is fortifying his forces is where we must focus our assault.
And where the enemy is fortified, there is going to be a fierce fight if we are going to achieve a breakthrough. We are going to receive volleys of flaming darts (Ephesians 6:16). We are going to be attacked on the rear. There will be spies in the camp. There will be jeering and intimidation and accusations. There will be efforts to destroy our morale and determination.

A Call for Breakthrough Determination

So this is a call for holy determination. Keep praying and don’t lose heart (Luke 18:1). Just like in any large-scale war, there are many battles. Some breakthroughs are achieved relatively quickly; others require long, persevering endurance. But either way, breakthroughs require a determination to keep up the assault.
Usually breakthroughs are not achieved by prayer alone — there are works to be done and courage to be exercised. But real spiritual breakthroughs are not achieved at all without prayer. Concentrated, specific, persistent, prevailing prayer, often engaged in by two or more (Matthew 18:19), is needed to weaken our spiritual opposition. And fasting is a wonderful help. “Fasting tests where the heart is. And when it reveals that the heart is with God and not the world, a mighty blow is struck against Satan” (A Hunger for God).
So if you’re praying for a breakthrough and not seeing it, and in fact experiencing more temptations to discouragement, frustration, weariness, doubt, and cynicism than before, do not give up. Increasingly intense fighting always precedes strategic breakthroughs. Strategic ground is not yielded easily. You’re up against more than you know. But “he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). He has overcome the world (John 16:33) and he will give you justice (Luke 18:8).
Don’t lose heart. Grow determined. There’s a breakthrough ahead.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

No Tongue Can Bid Me Thence Depart

Jonathan Parnell:  Two Obstacles to a Relationship with God

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 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. (Hebrews 10:19–22)
The writer to the Hebrews commands us to draw near to God.
This letter exhorts us to persevere, and this profound call to draw near to God is right at the heart. In the midst of difficulty and temptation, we’re told to come closer. To move in. To draw near. This command to draw near might be summarized as a summons to live in a rich God-accomplished relationship with God.

Rich — And Accomplished by God

It’s a rich relationship, not a mechanical one. It requires a “true heart in full assurance of faith.” This is a full and rich and satisfying relationship — one that is more real to us than anything else.
It’s a God-accomplished relationship, not one that we contrive. This relationship we’re called to is not our building a tower, or our climbing stairs, or our somehow trying to maneuver our way to get close to him. Notice the language: We’re to draw near “with our hearts sprinkled clean from a evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” This echoes the God-centeredness of the New Covenant, when God promised that he’d write his law on our hearts, that he’d give us his Spirit, that he’d make us clean (Jeremiah 31:33). The point is that God is behind this. God did it. Draw near to him.

Two Obstacles in the Way

But it’s not that simple. There are obstacles in our way. There are many things, in fact, that might deter you from a rich relationship with God, but two in particular are worth mentioning: 1) the fear of judgment and 2) the fear of disappointment.
The fear of judgment keeps you from a rich relationship with God because you just can’t believe that God can forgive your sin. You know your sin and guilt, and although you like the idea of a closer relationship with God, you wouldn’t dare pursue it. You think a person as messed up as you just isn’t supposed to be close to God. The fear of judgment imagines God frowning, crossing his arms, annoyed, angry, fed up with your mess-ups. He is not a Father running to meet you, but one waiting to punish you. How could you draw near to him?
The fear of disappointment, on the other hand, says, “Oh yeah, I get that relationship stuff. I’ve tried it before. Have you seen how crazy my life is?” This is a fear that doesn’t tempt us to stop believing; it tempts us to forfeit a life of intimacy with Jesus because we just don’t think that kind of life is possible for us. We’ve tried it. We just can’t do it. And therefore we’ve bunkered down into a Christian life solely about survival.
But God has something to say. If we struggle with either of these obstacles, Hebrews 10 speaks up with the good news that Jesus abolishes both fears at the cross.

Jesus Died for Us

First, we can have a rich God-accomplished relationship with God because of Jesus’s sacrifice (Hebrews 10:19–20).
Notice how verse 19 begins, “Therefore, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus.” He means that we have access to God now because Jesus died in our place. The once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus has completely absorbed God’s anger towards us. Yes, we have sinned. Yes, we are sinners. Yes, we deserve punishment. But Jesus was the sacrifice for us. He died in our place. He bore our sins in his body on the tree. He suffered the wrath of God on our behalf.
We don’t have to be afraid of God’s judgment anymore. If you are united to Jesus by faith, the anger is gone. The punishment has been paid. There is no more condemnation. God looks at you as a loving Father with his arms wide open and he says to you, “Draw near by the blood of my Son.”

Jesus Prays for Us

Second, we can have a rich God-accomplished relationship with God because Jesus prays for us (Hebrews 10:21).
The second part of verse 21 gives us another reason to draw near to God: Jesus prays for us. The writer tells us “. . . and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near . . .” Right beside the foundation of Jesus’s death in our place is this glorious picture of Jesus praying for us. The death of Jesus and the intercession of Jesus, then, provide the grounds by which we can have a rich relationship with God.
This is better than anything we could imagine. Jesus has an active, priestly role for our sake at the Father’s right hand. Hebrews 7:25 tells us, “Jesus is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” He is always praying for us, always fueling the furnace of our faith. When the stresses of this world and the worst of suffering might seem to extinguish our hope, it doesn’t. It can’t. Jesus is praying.
There are two glorious ways Jesus abolishes the fears that might keep us from a rich relationship with God. He gave us a once-for-all sacrifice and he gives us never-ceasing intercession. The sinless Savior died and he ever lives and pleads for me. Our sinful souls are counted free and our names are written on his heart. He is our perfect, spotless righteousness and our lives our hid with him on high.
“No tongue can bid me thence depart” — nor can anything else in all creation separate us from his love.

Desiring God partnered with Shane & Shane’s The Worship Initiative to write short meditations for more than one hundred popular worship songs and hymns. The Worship Initiative is an online platform devoted to training musicians for songwriting and worship leading.
This meditation was written to accompany the song “Before the Throne of God Above” which is included in The Worship Initiative, Volume 3. Other meditations from Desiring God include: