As the men gathered to pray this morning, I was again struck by the wonder that God made a way for us to be able to enter into the Holy of Holies, directly into His presence, where we are invited to submit our thanksgiving, petitions and supplications. The cost to enter this sanctuary was the highest price that can ever be paid…the life of His uniquely begotten Son, the Word of God in human flesh.
Last night, as we watched the Ligonier Church History video series, we viewed the episode on the early thoughts that would eventually contribute to the East-West split of the church. It was noted that in the East, the primary theological focus was upon the incarnation of the Word of God while in the West, the primary focus was upon the crucifixion.
As I watched and listened, I was grateful to live in a time where the connection between the two truths is being noticed and brought into our conscious awareness. The crucifixion would have no meaning if it were not for the Word of God being incarnated (taking on human flesh – adding humanity to His deity). The incarnation would have had no meaning if it were not for the crucifixion. It was for this reason that the Christ had to come. He had to be born in human flesh in order that He, as a kinsman to all humanity, might be qualified to be our Redeemer (taking God’s wrath against the sins of the world upon Himself and thereby purchasing peace with heaven on behalf of all those who would be saved).
It was through this set of actions, whose value is inestimable to us, that the curtain that separated us from God was torn; allowing us to enter directly into God’s presence, no longer needing an intermediary (priest). We are told that the curtain was, in fact, the body of Christ (the Word who took on flesh). We are told that it is His blood which has sanctified the heavenly temple (the one that required better cleansing than the earthly copy which had to be cleansed with the blood of bulls and goats).
As we saw Sunday (1-19-20) when we looked at Luke 11:38-44, it is not the faithful observance of ceremonial actions and rituals that gained God’s approval (note the Pharisees then, and any who believe they can do some religious act that will garner God’s increased approval), but it is the heart that is submitted to love God and follow His commands that is imputed (freely given) Jesus’ righteousness.
There are things that we do, as commemorations, memorials, symbols, etc. that were given to us to help remind us of the spiritual realities of our relationship to God. They are “just that;” tools designed to help us remember, to refocus our attention, and to give a visible identification with the One to whom our heart and life belong.
The observance of the ceremony can have great meaning that points toward God (acknowledging Him and identifying us as His servants), or great lack of meaning that points toward us (displaying our hypocrisy and self-deception). Augustine made a statement about the Lord’s supper that might qualify him to be the first Quaker in history: “The one who believes has already eaten.” (I may not have that exactly, but that is the very-close-jist of what he said). His statement was a clear reflection of all that we say Sunday, and more, concerning God’s concern with our hearts over the value He places upon our festivals, ceremonies and rituals. It is the affection of our hearts that God desires; “truth in the inward parts.” If He does not have our heart, no observances or ceremonies will suffice. None. Not even one or many.
So, we return to the question with which Sunday’s sermon ended.
Where is the affection of your heart? Are there places where you have allowed (or built) a crust that your innermost being hopes the Lord will not see through? (remember the cast-iron fry pan illustration?)
Psalm 139 comes into view so frequently, as it does again here: “O Lord, You have searched me and know me….” Will we be willing to continue in the same manner in which David is drawn in vs 23-24?