Episode 1. It's Come As You Are
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Have you ever felt – “Well, before I go to God with this, I’d better sort it out?” We all do that sometimes. But it turns out that God’s having a party – and it’s come as you are. …
Have you ever thought to yourself – “Well, things are a bit of a mess. I’ve made a hash of this or that and before I go to God with this, I’d better sort it out”? We all do that sometimes. But it turns out that God’s having a party – and it’s come as you are.
The Faces we Wear
God promise is that when we place our faith in Jesus Christ, that He will give us an abundant life, abundant blessing; an eternal life, a life that we can’t even begin to imagine. Do you ever look at that sometimes and think, “It’s just too good to be true?” Yet some people seem to live with an amazing confidence in the blessing of God and others don’t, and the difference, I think, is that sometimes we don’t take God at His Word. That’s why this week we are starting a brand new, four part series, called exactly that, “Taking God at His Word.”
We can see our circumstances, we can see the physical things around us but with our eyes we can’t see the spiritual dimension; we can’t see the ‘God’ dimension and quite often, we look at our physical circumstances and say, “Well, God couldn’t possibly take my life and my circumstances and my failures and bless me in the middle of that.” But God means to do exactly that; His Word is full of promises that He wants to bless us – He wants to bless you, He wants to bless me. So today we are going to begin by looking at some of those promises, in particular the promises He makes about the relationship between Him and us.
Relationships are a funny and complex thing. How well we know one another influences how much of ourselves we expose to one another. Someone that we don’t know very well, someone that we have a shallow relationship with, we’re not going to talk to them about the deepest, most meaningful things in our lives. And someone that we do know really well and don’t like, who hurts us, well, we are going to be guarded with them. Hopefully a relationship between a husband and wife is really open and frank but even there, there can be barriers.
We all have different masks or faces for different occasions. I know I do – a professional face that I put on and a personal the face. The face that we put on in a passing relationship verses one that we wear in a permanent relationship. And even though I tend to be a very open and forthright and direct person, still, we all do it, don’t we? We have different faces for different people, different faces for different situations. We guard who we are depending on the person we are having the relationship with.
Those different faces that we wear are, in effect, different levels of permission and openness for different situations or people and it’s a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour. So, what face do you and I wear when we come before God? Is it a face that says, “Well, God, I’m just not good enough for you, so I’d better protect myself from your glory and your goodness”? Is it a face that says “God’s promises, they sound too good, well maybe they’re for that person, or that person, but they’re not for me”? Is it a face that says, “I’d better sort these things out in my life before I go to God”? What face do you and I wear when we come before God? It’s an important question – how do I approach God? Because how can we enter into God’s blessing if we don’t even know how to enter into God’s presence?
We are going to go to a passage in the Book of Hebrews. If you have a Bible, grab it and open it up at Hebrews, Chapter 4. It’s a strange little book – it’s less of a letter to a specific group and more of a general tract. “To the Hebrews” was probably added later on. We don’t know who wrote it, although, judging from its style, it wasn’t any of the other authors of the New Testament. And the basic thrust of the Book of Hebrews is to contrast the old covenant, the old promise, under the Jewish Mosaic law, with the new covenant, the new promise of God of grace and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ. And it shows how much this new promise is so much better than the old promise. Our passage does that.
Let’s have a look at it – we’re going to read it. Hebrews, Chapter 4, verses 14 to 16. It says this:
Since then we have a great High Priest who passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession because we don’t have a High Priest who’s unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet was without sin. Let us therefore, approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
It centers on the fact that Jesus being our High Priest understands our situation because He has walked in our shoes. This passage comes in the context of God’s rest. God plans to bless us by giving us rest, by giving us peace, by giving us joy, by setting us free from all the things in the world that would tear away at us – emotionally and spiritually. And He says, “Look, Jesus is your High Priest and it’s your High priest that brings you rest.”
Look at verse 10.
For those who enter God’s rest, also cease from their labours as God did from His.
The point is, that one of God’s promises is to give us rest and this picture of the High Priest goes right back to the Old Testament, Leviticus Chapter 16. If you have a Bible, flick back and have a look at Leviticus Chapter 16, the first five verses, which we won’t read right now, talk about the way in which sins were forgiven on the day of atonement and the priest went into the Holy of Holies of the temple and gave blood sacrifices over the alter. But look specifically at verse 17.
No one shall be in the tent of the meeting from the time that the High Priest enters to make atonement in the sanctuary until he comes out and has made atonement for himself and for his house and for the assembly of Israel.
No one else can be in the tabernacle when atonement was being made for Israel. Then over the page to verses 29 and 30.
You shall deny yourselves on that day, you shall do no work; neither the citizen nor the alien who resides among you. From this day atonement shall be made for you, to cleanse you from your sins. It is a Sabbath day of complete rest to you.
So God’s plan in making atonement for our sins, in opening the door to a relationship with Him, is complete rest for us. Jesus was the High Priest, Jesus was the mercy seat, Jesus was the lamb whose blood was sprinkled in the sanctuary. That’s the old covenant. That was then, now we are going to have look at the new covenant – the covenant, the promise, the plan that God has for us which is so much better than that.
We are looking at God’s promises. Sometimes we struggle to take God at His Word and God has a promise of relationship and rest and peace for us. We’re specifically looking at what He says in Hebrews Chapter 4 verses 14 to 16 which talks about Jesus being our High Priest.
Under the new covenant, Jesus is the one, the great High Priest who not only went into the sanctuary to make atonement for our sins so that we can be forgiven, to pay for our sins. But He also passed into the heavens, and He also walked on this earth and He relates to us and understands that, He’s able, look at verse 15, He’s able to sympathise with our weaknesses. Not just our sin, but the realities of life here on earth. Jesus, you may get upset with me for saying this, but listen, Jesus went to the toilet, He became tired and frustrated, He felt crowded in, He knew the pressures of a busy schedule, He knew the deep pain of sacrifice – our High Priest, the one who was there when we weren’t, so that our sins could be forgiven.
Our High Priest isn’t some ecclesiastical elitist, He’s a pauper, He’s one of us, someone who walked in our shoes, He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust. Not just because He’s God, but because He walked as one of us. “Let us therefore,” says Hebrews, “approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive the mercy and find the grace to help in time of need.” Therefore, why? Because Jesus wasn’t just the High Priest, Jesus was a pauper; Jesus was an ordinary person just like you and me, with all the pressures, all the temptations, all the hassles of life. Isn’t that exciting, isn’t that wonderful?
A few years ago I had occasion to visit the Head of State of Australia. In Australia he is called the Governor General, his name was Sir William Dean, at the time and this place, Government House, where he lives, is steeped in history. We drove up the driveway – the driveway that kings and queens and presidents and prime ministers have come and gone on, and the place was full of the trappings of power.
You know, I played to that – I had a crisply ironed shirt on and I drove up the driveway in a dark coloured car that I had and there was a big bird plop on the front and I thought, “I wished I’d washed my car, I hope I look acceptable, am I good enough?” – but when I met the man, Sir William Dean, the Governor General of this country, what I discovered was this kind, gentle man who was one of us. He was disarming in his humility and his kindness. He wasn’t affected by his position or his status. He showed me around the art collection in Government House and his office and his wife’s office and he set me at ease – we had a cup of tea, he was just a wonderful human being.
You expect someone in a position of power like that, to put themselves above us, in a sense. But he didn’t do that at all, and in a sense, that’s what Jesus is like. In a sense, He is God; He is the Son of God, yet He became one of us. He walked on this earth, He sacrificed His life for us and that’s why we can approach the throne of grace with boldness. That’s why we don’t have to make sure our car is washed, we don’t have to put on our Sunday best, we don’t have to put on a “face” when we come before that throne of grace, because God is having a party and it’s “come as you are”. That is a wonderful message.
Your car is dirty, things aren’t quite right, you feel inadequate? Take God at His Word. “Let us therefore, approach the throne of grace with boldness” Why? Not because we’re fantastic, not because our car’s clean and our shirts are ironed and we’re perfect? No! Because we have in Jesus a High Priest, who in every way has experienced life the way we do. He understands; He can sympathise with our reality and because of that, it says, “Approach the throne of grace,” with what? – With fear, with uncertainty, with timidity? No! Approach the throne of grace with boldness. Come on! You take God at His Word. Would you come with me before the throne of grace putting your faith, not in yourself but in what Jesus did for us on the cross and take God at His Word?
Now the throne of grace is God’s place, just like Government House was the Governor General’s place. The throne of grace is God’s place, it’s about God’s sovereignty and power and awesomeness. Government House is to me what the temple was to the Hebrews – the all powerful, all knowing God, who transcends all things, but is a God of grace. What an incredible juxtaposition of images. A throne which talks about power, of grace; not a throne of power; not a throne of judgement; not a throne of superiority. God is all those things but He calls His throne, the throne of grace.
But what do we do? We focus on the throne, we want to put on our Sunday best, we want to sort ourselves out before we come to that place. Come on! How often do we have problems and think, “We have to sort them out before we go to God. We get to the driveway of that castle and we want to rush off – we want to wash the car, we want to iron our shirt.” There’s a beautiful picture in Luke 15 of the Prodigal Son, the son that deserted his father, spent all his money getting drunk and on prostitutes and he comes back feeling unworthy, saying, “Well, I’ll ask dad if I can become a servant and dad runs out – dad was already waiting on the road, looking for him and he runs out.”
Let’s have a look, reading verse 20 of Luke 15, which is where the story of the Prodigal Son is.
So the son set off and went to his father but while the son was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion and ran out and put his arms around him.
That’s what the throne of grace looks like. The throne of grace is a mobile throne of grace. The throne of grace, when we take the smallest step towards God, comes running toward us, because Jesus understands. We need to stop looking at the castle and focus on the King, who became a pauper for us. We need to forget the trappings and look at God. We didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but a spirit of adoption so that we can cry, “Abba Father, Dad.”
When ever we think of that throne, the throne of grace, let us think of that waiting Father, when we take the smallest step towards Him, just as we are, He races out to greet us. He throws His arm around us; He doesn’t condemn us. We are His children, not His slaves. Stop looking at the castle, focus on the King. So how should we approach the throne of grace?
The Mobile Throne
So how should we approach the throne of grace? What does your translation say? Mine says, “with boldness” and the Greek word that sits behind our English translation – it comes from Greek philosophy – it means “public”. This is presupposition of democracy – it means the right to say anything, a frankness and a candor. That same word is used again in Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 8 and verse 32, telling of the death and resurrection of Jesus. It says this:
Jesus said this quite openly and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
Now that word “openly” is the same word as is used for “boldness” here in this passage in Hebrews. In other words it means “just as we are” – no faces, no masks, no fear, no pretending, no trying to dress ourselves up and get our clothes ironed and our car washed. No! God wants us to be frank and open, to tell it the way it is.
There’s a story in Mark’s Gospel, Chapter 9 around verse 14 that tells about Jesus healing a young boy. Jesus has been just up on the Transfiguration Mount and He comes down and there’s this young boy with demons and His disciples have been trying to cast out the demons and they can’t and so the young boy’s father pleads with Jesus and he says, “If you are able, have pity on us and help us,” and Jesus says, “What do you mean if you are able? All things can be done for the one who believes.” And immediately the father of the child cried out, “I believe, help my unbelief.” There’s this big crowd there and here’s this man who said, “I believe to a point, I can’t believe a hundred percent. I can just believe as much as I believe and as much as I believe, I believe in you.” And the boy was healed, the demons were cast out. Now that father didn’t get a miracle because he had perfect faith.
I don’t have perfect faith. My faith is much stronger and much bigger than it was five years ago, but it’s not perfect. God doesn’t want perfect faith from us, God just wants us to take the faith that we have and place it in Him. Even faith is a gift from God. That father got a miracle because he was honest, he was direct and this son, who from birth was like this, was set free. Have you got a circumstance in your life that you think, “Well God can’t possibly do anything with this because I have been like this for so long and besides I don’t have the sort of faith that they’re talking about?”
Well here’s a story, you don’t need perfect faith. You just take the little bit of faith that we have and place it in Jesus and Jesus can and will do the most amazing things in our life because the effect of going before that throne of grace is to obtain mercy and grace in the time that we need it.
That mercy is the outworking of how God sympathises with us because we don’t have a High Priest who’s unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who, in every respect has been tested as we are, yet was without sin. “Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness so that we may receive what? – The outworking of God’s understanding, the outworking of His love and His sympathy, so that we may receive mercy and find grace, to help in time of need. That grace is free; that grace doesn’t depend on our goodness and our perfection, it’s there because we believe in Jesus. Come on! Will we take God at His Word? And to get help is the sense of help running towards us. It’s that sense of the waiting father, right when we need it; right at the perfect time.
Have you ever noticed how perfect God’s timing always is? Just when we need something, God is there to help. Now this passage is saying you can trust in that, you can believe in that. If your faith is in Jesus, you can come before this throne of grace with boldness and just believe that God will help you.
When you need stuff, when you need help, when there’s something that you can’t get through, come boldly before the throne of grace. Don’t worry about the bird plop on the front of your car, don’t worry about whether your clothes are ironed, don’t worry about what we look like or how we’ve behaved or how big our faith is – that’s not the point. The point is that we have a Saviour who can sympathise with us and calls us to come boldly before His throne of grace.
In Jesus we have it all – King, High Priest, sacrifice, place of forgiveness – He’s one of us, and because of who Jesus is, we can approach the throne of grace with openness, with a boldness, leaving the mask at the front door and just talking to Him the way it is. Focusing on the King and not the castle – on His empathy and understanding because of who Jesus is. Remember He is Abba, He is our Father, the waiting Father who will run to our aid. That throne of grace is mobile, that throne of grace is coming towards us.
And some people think, “Oh I’m afraid to ask God for this, I’m afraid to ask God for that.” Maybe we have had anger or sin or failure or low self-esteem – will we let God help us with a special, well-timed, perfect touch of grace? Come on, will we take God at His Word and come boldly before the throne of grace. Not because of who we are, but because of who Jesus is and because in Christ, God understands and sympathises and wants to pour out His mercy and His grace on you and me. Come on! Will we take God at His Word?