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 are hid with him on high.
“No tongue can bid me thence depart” — nor can anything else in all creation separate us from his love.