Whenever I read Hebrews 10, I think of Seinfeld. Not Jerry, but Kramer – the way he would swing the door open and stride into the room without ceremony, without even a knock (no idea what I’m on about? See here). In (kind of) the same way, “…we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus” (Heb 10:19).
Even if our conscience is guilty, we don’t need to hide our mistakes (I hope Dad doesn’t find out!), instead, we can “go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him” (Heb 10:22). We can run into the Father’s presence, even when we’re feeling like that’s the last place we belong. I love how The Passion Translation expresses Romans 8:15-16,
And you did not receive the “spirit of religious duty,” leading you back into the fear of never being good enough. But you have received the “Spirit of full acceptance,” enfolding you into the family of God. And you will never feel orphaned, for as he rises up within us, our spirits join him in saying the words of tender affection, “Beloved Father!” For the Holy Spirit makes God’s fatherhood real to us as he whispers into our innermost being, “You are God’s beloved child!”
We don’t just enter God’s presence in order to find mercy in a transactional sense. It’s not like we hand over the paperwork and get our account book back with our debt cleared; nor do we hand over our afterlife passport to get our heavenly visa like we’ve entered some kind of spiritual immigration office. What we are able to enter into so boldly is not just an audience with the king; we are invited into intimacy with our God. We are invited into the presence of God in order that we may present to him, and that we may experience his present-ness to us. Just as two people can sit together at a table in a cafe, both sipping their coffees but absorbed in separate phones, we can be in a space where God is, but not be present to him. On the other hand, however, because God is everywhere, the opportunity is always open to us to enter into his presence.
Recently, I went through a fairly rigorous recruitment process for a new job (spoiler alert: I got it). One stage involved giving a simulated classroom lecture, pretty much an audition. Knowing myself, I knew that I needed to be relaxed if I wanted to get into flow and establish rapport with the faux-students. But saying to yourself “just relax!” never works. What does work, however, is a fresh revelation of the love of the Father. The morning beforehand as I sat quietly with God, I felt how deeply contented he is with me. He is fully aware of my “growth points”, but he is no way dissatisfied with me. I understood that I didn’t have to prove a thing, because he has already approved of me. I carried that sense of his contentment into my whole day, and even while I was still trying my best, it allowed me to feel relaxed about the outcome.
Fast forward a week or so and I was on to the next stage of interviewing. I’ll connect into that contentment thing again, I decided. But another morning in his presence, another revelation of his present-ness. This time it was the companionship of the Spirit that was impressed upon me. Too often I think of the Spirit as someone who gives me the instruction manual (guidance), a tool-belt (equipping), and a good breakfast (empowering), and then sends me on my way, watching from a distance until I report back later. But the Spirit is described as the Paraclete in John 14:26, an Advocate, Counsellor, or Friend: one called to your side. His present-ness with us brings comfort, strength, guidance – whatever we need! He does it from a position of intimacy, and not intrusion.
So the invitation to intimate relationship is there. And as with all good invitations, there’s an opportunity to RSVP.
What does that look like? It’s not a one-off, though that initial RSVP is, of course, the start. There’s the cultivation of daily practices that hone your awareness of God’s present-ness with you, and a posture of heart that is open to being present to God. Whatever lies shame may whisper, however noisy our inner and outer worlds may be, we are invited to swing that door wide open and enter in.