The gospel grants us glorious access to the presence of God. The dividing barrier of sin has been torn down by the cross, and as a result, the children of God are welcome into His presence. And as such, we should come – even boldly – into that presence. This is what the Bible tells us to do:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need (Heb. 4:14-17).
Think of that for a moment. Because of the righteousness of Christ given to us, we can come – not timidly, not shakingly, not apprehensively – but boldly into God’s presence. We can come boldly because we know what we will find there. We will find compassion. Sympathy. Understanding. And mercy.
But we have the tendency to confuse this kind of boldness with flippancy. So great is our arrogance and so quick is our forgetfulness of the price that was paid for our access that we lose the wonder and gratitude that is meant to accompany that boldness.
I remember clearly my parents making a choice when my brothers and I were teenagers that they wanted our home to be a place of welcome for our friends. We hosted New Year’s Day football watching parties, ping pong tournament, and all night gatherings after the prom. Our friends were welcome there, and it got to the point that they would not even ring the doorbell on certain occasions, but would simply walk in and say hello. They had been given access – even a bold kind of access.
And yet there was one occasion in particular that one of my friends not only came in but immediately went to the refrigerator and started pulling food out. He was about halfway through his second plate of leftovers when my dad walked into the kitchen and had a few words about that.
Now you might argue that my parents had brought this on themselves. Perhaps that was partially true. But the counter point to that argument is the fact that the leftover eater in question had corrupted the access he had been given. He had taken generosity and made all kinds of assumptions around it. And perhaps we do the same thing regarding our own divine access.
It is a good thing for us to remember just Who we are dealing with. And it is a good thing for us to recall the price that was paid for us to be near that throne. This is not to make us feel guilty; it is, however, meant to make us recall again and again the glory of the sacrifice of the Son of God.
Perhaps there is another historical lesson that helps us here. The teacher in Ecclesiastes had a word for his audience about how to approach the house of God:
Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Better to approach in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they ignorantly do wrong (Ecc. 5:1).
But for the Israelites, it was not only a word of caution – it was an architecture of caution. If you go to the temple in Israel today you can still see how the builders constructed that temple in order to emphasize it. The original southern steps – the ones that led up to the temple and the ones the worshippers had to ascend before coming into the temple courts – are all irregular in size.
You might find one step that has a depth of one foot. But the next one might be double that. Not only that, but the depth of the steps also vary as you are going up them. A person coming into the temple to worship had to quite literally guard their steps or they would fall on their face. It was a careful kind of approach.
Oh yes, friends – we have been given access to a greater and better temple than that one. And yes, friends, we are meant to come boldly into it time and time again confident in our High Priest. And yes, friends, we would still do well every once in a while to remind ourselves of the reason why we can come there to begin with. The cross of Christ ought to be those same irregular steps that make us pause – not in fear, but in gratitude of what was given for our sake.