In a previous post I attempted to describe the “shine” of redemption, the hope of freedom that draws us near. In this post I examine its “interior,” its underlying reality.
Part 2: The Interior
The shine of redemption draws us near. When we are honest with ourselves we are able to recognize the degree of slavery we are in. We may try to mask it but the fear of death, the shame of past sin, frustration with trying to earn our way to God, and specter of meaninglessness, but they each weigh heavy on our minds. The beautiful crystal shimmering in the blackness of the waves gives us hope, the possibility of freedom.
At this point, if we listen to the Word of God we see that we have reason to fear because our slavery is not some psychological neurosis that we can overcome with therapy and medication, nor are they imposed on us by some outside force that we might defeat, but all spring from the internal sinister reality of sin.
The core problem of the rituals of the first covenant was not that it couldn’t make people feel better (deal with their conscience, remove fear, etc.) but that they couldn’t really do away with sin. “It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin” (10:4). But what the first covenant was unable to do, the new covenant accomplished in full. In place of guilt, Jesus makes us holy.
He makes us holy in two ways: Forgiveness and Sanctification. In forgiveness our sins are remembered no more (8:12), we are set free from the guilt of sin (9:15), and we are “made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ.”
In sanctification we begin a journey whereby we become more and more like Jesus. At the moment of salvation we cease to become slaves to sin, true, but we still need to work with the Holy Spirit to actually experience that freedom. I recently read an article written by a pastor who dealt with depression and addiction in his private life. In describing his journey of sanctification and freedom from addiction he says:
“Further, I saw that recovery from addiction—or any of the compulsions we struggle with—is a subcategory of spiritual transformation. Recovery is spiritual in nature. Christian spiritual practices are necessary tools for recovery.
The goal isn’t a stunning turnaround in behavior or to attain the approval of others. The goal is the genuine integration of God’s presence and ways with a person’s values and behaviors. That integration results in the healing of our soul and life, so that we are increasingly able to reconnect with our self, with our Creator, and with others.
As I’ve ardently pursued this life of dropping shame and cultivating serenity, of partnering with the Spirit and practicing mindfulness, of growing my commitment to being in healthy community and dealing with my difficulties as they are, my progress has not been even. But it’s been noticeable. My life in my head is much different today than it was six years ago. My possibilities for usefulness to others are greater than ever before. My relationships are richer and my marriage healthier and more satisfying than ever.” (http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2013/fall/where-lust-leads.html?visit_source=facebook)
The process of sanctification is hard and uneven, but Christians have at their aid the Holy Spirit, the presence of God, and hearts made soft by the grace of God.
The guilt of our sin separates us from God but, since Jesus took away our guilt, we can now enter into his presence. When Jesus entered into the true sanctuary, the presence of God, he did so on our behalf (9:24) and in doing so he invites us into God’s presence, too. We are invited to “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need” (4:15) and to “draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith” (10:22). The presence of God, the Holy of Holies which was not accessible under the first covenant, is available to us now in Jesus.
But, we rightly long for something more.
We are freed not only from present separation, but from eternal separation.
We fear death for one of two reasons. First, we fear it if we believe it is the end, that our consciousness is wiped out, and that our souls, if ever real, are obliterated into eternal nothingness. The only thing that frees us from this fear is the reality of God’s promise of eternal life and the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
The second reason we fear death is because Satan stands as our accuser. He calls us before God and says, “this person has sinned against you and is deserving of eternal judgment.” And, in fact, Satan is right. Our sin brings guilt and that guilt before a holy God brings judgment. This reality causes us to fear, and rightly so. It is appointed for us each to die and face the judgment (9:27) where we must give an account before the enduring word of God (4:13).
Now we can see how Jesus’ death turns out to be a victory. Instead of us paying the price for our sins, Jesus did, and in doing so he robbed Satan of his accusing power. He defeated the devil through his death, enduring judgment of sin in his very body. So, instead of fearing eternal judgment we wait longingly for Jesus to come again, this time to bring salvation (9:28). We look forward to receiving our eternal inheritance (9:15), to entering God’s eternal rest (4:1-11), to settling in a city whose foundations are established by God (11:10), and to gaining a better resurrection (11:35). Fear is replaced by an enduring peace, having been cast out by a perfect love (1 John 4:18).