The Christian life, in 3 steps. Seriously. (part 1)
Seems like every other day I see an article telling me that someone has figured out how to boil down a daunting life scenario into simple, easy-to-do steps. We find stories with titles like: “5 steps to a successful marriage” or “8 things that will get you promoted this year” or “10 best vacations on a budget”. When I read the title, I typically roll my eyes, mutter a ‘yeah right’…and then click to see if they really have something useful to say.
But can following Christ really be broken down in to easy-to-do steps? Apparently many Christian authors think so, because their Bible-referenced lists are just as prevalent as anything else online. But do any of them…well…work? Or are they just peddling pop-psychology wrapped in a Bible verse?
While I’m not so sure about the internet, I know I can rely on the Bible. In the later sections of his letter, after the author of Hebrews has fully demonstrated his initial thesis point from Chapter 1 – that Jesus truly is the Greater Messenger of the Greater Covenant – he proceeds with encouragement, a warning, and an example from Old Testament scripture.
First, let’s look at the encouragement:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus – He has inaugurated for us a new and living way through the curtain (that is, through His flesh) – and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,
Because of these three things, which the author previously covered:
· We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place (4:16)
· By Christ’s sacrifice (9:11-12)
· And we have a great high priest (8:1)
From this launching point, we are encouraged to follow through in three ways, and each one begins with the phrase let us. It is in these three steps that we find essence of Christian living.
Here’s the first one:
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.
Since Christ’s sacrifice was so great, He has given us – the muddy, messy, undeserving us – access to God. And not just sneaking-in-the-backdoor access, oh no. Instead, because Jesus identified with us and paid our sin-debt, we can boldly enter into God’s presence at any time and from any place.
When we enter God’s presence, we don’t need to become wallflowers, either. We don’t have to hide or avoid eye contact. Through Christ’s approval, we can draw near to God…we can get up close and personal.
And if our shame has us worried about coming in close to God, remember that our sins aren’t just covered up or glossed over by Jesus’ sacrifice…our sins and their stains have been wiped out, erased, removed. Our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies have been washed in pure water.
If Jesus can cleanse the Heavenly tabernacle, then our individual guilty consciences and physical acts of sin are well within His cleansing ability.
So, our first step in Christian living is to draw near.
But how do we draw near? We need to intentionally spend alone time with God. We’ll get to the ‘with others’ stuff later. The first step is to make sure we each develop our relationship with God. I can’t do it for you, and you can’t do it for me. Drawing near means one-on-one time.
How much time? I suggest we start with just a little more that whatever time we’ve been giving Him. Maybe we go from 0 minutes to 5 minutes, maybe that’s 15 minutes at night before bed. Maybe it’s as simple as shutting off the radio the next time we drive a car so we can talk with Him (trust me, other people won’t think you’re crazy…).
What should we do with that time? Talk to Him. Ask God a question and then be silent, waiting for an answer. Read a psalm. Think about what the psalm tells you about God. Ask Him to show you how and where He’s active in your life.
For the next week, intentionally practice drawing near. Then we’ll be ready for what the author of Hebrews says is our next step.