29 Nov 2008

Coming before the throne of grace

Submitted by theshovel
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Hi jim, I was thinking about sin. If God is no longer convicting us of our sin, doesn't bring it to our or His mind, then we don't have to bring it to others attention either! We can leave people alone! Hey I was wondering though about the Hebrews scripture that states we "can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy"? Is this something ongoing for a christian? If so , how so? Or is it simply meant to encourage those who have not yet believed to come to Him? Love, A

Hello Adam! :) [Just a note before you continue on. As usual, your questions stir me to take much more than what you've asked into consideration, so that what I end up writing only confirms what you are already convinced of in Christ. So, read this, not as a suggestion that you don't know it, but as me taking what you already know and answering your question within the context of it. :)] Indeed, we have been freed from sin. Our communication with one another comes from another place, a place foreign to the mind of this world. Of course then, we wonder why there seem to be so many references - or reminders - of sin in the writings of the apostles. Now, what has shown itself to me over the years regarding many of the verses and passages thrown in my face (by myself, as well as by others) is how the referencing of sin was not initiated by the writer, but by those to whom he had written. In other words, the sin being addressed seems to have been insisted upon by some among whatever group written to, so that the matter had to be addressed to put sin in its place. Consider how Paul told the Galatians:

Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Galatians 6:1

Considering the placement of this statement - after his famous demand to stand only in Christ - we might even wonder why Paul would even bring up the idea about some being "caught up in any trespass". But then again, who really brought it up? What if Paul merely took the opportunity to address this most prevalent matter among the Galatians? Just because WE might read it as if Paul initiated a discussion about sin, the truth of the matter is that the Galatians had been forcing the issue.

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." But if you bite and devour one another, take care lest you be consumed by one another. Galatians 5:13-15

The Galatians were caught up in the lie that produced the delusion about living in view of sin. They had foolishly/ignorantly heeded the words of deceivers among them, so that living in view of law seemed to be the only real option. This is what turning freedom into an opportunity for the flesh is all about. It is only by ignoring this that it seems Paul may have reverted back to legality in certain circumstances. But in truth, Paul had merely highlighted the delusion so that he could ask how it made any sense in view of Christ. After all, it was freedom in Christ that had put love within them through the Spirit. And it was love that had already fulfilled the whole of law. Because of Christ, their true life was found in the Spirit, and there was no law against the fruit of their new life. In an attempt to reach the supposedly higher will of God (as suggested by those who seemed to have a more legitimate claim to God) they fell back to their formerly familiar life of nit-picking. Their examination of one another took on a whole new slant, as it came with the delusion that the true God of Abraham now became their validation to judge one another in Christ. This reminds me of a question I heard years ago in reference to the early American demand of "no taxation without representation". After the speaker verified among his audience that this was indeed one of our founding American freedoms of which we were quite proud of, he asked: "So how do you like taxation WITH representation?" Somehow, being able to quote the lingo of freedom blinds many to the reality that the old burdens have found a way back in. Anyhow, here's the passage in question:

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16

Now, I have long suspected that Paul wrote the letter to the Hebrews; and the more I read it, the more it seems that way. There is just too much similarity in the approach to the content and flow of the letter. Of course, it may have been another, but either way, the contextual demands are similar to how Paul wrote to the Galatians, as well as in his other letters. From the beginning of the letter, the writer establishes premises that cannot be ignored when considering individual statements. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer compares Christ to the Law in various ways. For the word that came through the Son is far superior to the word that came through angels (and this seems to include any beings through whom God's commands were communicated to his people). Furthermore, as to headship over one's house, Christ is far superior to Moses. And in the matter addressed by your question, regarding high priests, Christ once again surpasses the high priests of the Law.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession. Hebrews 3:1

Do not allow this amazing premise, which is our reality in Christ, to become lost as you consider any individual verses. How can we assume sin within the context of this? Do those who are holy partakers of a heavenly calling approach the throne of grace in view of sin? Is that why they would go there? No, that was the domain of the fleshly high priests of the Law. After all, why would Christ, as high priest, be able to sympathize with the weaknesses of the holy partakers of a heavenly calling when no other high priest could? Are you following me on this one? Wouldn't fleshly high priests be able to sympathize with the weaknesses of sinners? I mean, regardless of the fact that they were under strict requirements because of the Law they would still be able to sympathize, because they of all people understood sin and law. But what they could never sympathize with was temptation and the resultant weaknesses of one who is without sin, as was Christ!

Our high priest, Christ, is of a totally different nature than those of the Law. We are those who have been made righteous, and being made so, we have been made foreigners to those who minister to the fleshly mind. As to the lack of sympathy, just consider how Jesus received none from the high priests of the Law. So it is with those who are partakers of the heavenly calling. No, the confidence we have before God is found in the reality where there is no sin. And what reality is that? Christ himself, the life of God in him. We have a high priest who understands what we are going through because he has become the way before us. The argument made to the Hebrews demands that they not fall back to that which has been destroyed, lest the illusion made as if real before their eyes continues to dictate their every thought and action. Thoughts? :) Jim

Hi Jim, As I read your letter I realized I should clarify just a tad. The first line about the cross and it's consequences "occurred" to me as I was thinking about about sin being done away with in general in my mind the other day. Jeez between I John and Hebrews it would be hard not to think about "sin"after reading them.[u know what I mean] So anyway I actually had sent that before I left on my trip..or was it late night recently? I'm not sure...the point is I had to cut and paste it to another email to get it to you because I was unable to send it from my Blackberry phone. The points you have raised are wonderful! In there own right they stand alone! I actually added the Hebrews question as a "spoiler" to my initial statement of freedom. I guess I never understood Hebrews all that clearly enough to really see what in fact approaching "God's throne" actually meant. So I was kind of taken back by the verbiage in the passage. It seems to be stating that we approach a "throne" of some sort to get incramental grace "in time of need". The implication that Jesus knows how we are tempted always stood out to me as a sort of "onsey -twosey" type of NEED for grace and sin[s]. that's why I never liked the verse. I know you had done a very thorough read/study on the Shack but I didn't see much of a detour on this verse. It may have never stood out to you the wayu it did me most of my hearing of it.[in the past] I guess I am looking to you in that I know YOU know the context pretty darn well and can at least give me some sort of reasonable idea as to why Paul might be mentioning it "baked" in this way? I mean are we not JOINED with Him? Are we not done serving a throne? Do we not call Him Father..and Friend now?[no need to be called servants] Why would we need a throne to approach "boldly" as it states. Why do we need someone who suffered temptation to sympathize with us? My old way of viewing this has forced me to think of this as describing some sort of sin counting implication. Yuck! My hunch is[as you have stated] that this might be the verbiage that THEY understood as ones who were enthraled with the Law and it's terms. I could be wrong but that's the only way I can see it making any sense. Is it me or have you also seen this as many different ways as I have once seen it and I guess probably still do?[not that I really believe it says what it SAYS by itself but that I haven't thought it through...not in a while] So there, that hopefully clarifies my intent with the bottom question I proposed to you. It seemed like line one and line two were connected but only in a distant way.[at least the way I was thinking about it anyway] your thoughts?

It may have never stood out to you the way it did me most of my hearing of it.[in the past]

Actually, I think I had learned it pretty much as you did. It's just that I began to reevaluate the letter of Hebrews many years back (like in the mid-seventies) so that the context has caused most of those earlier concepts to seem so foreign to me anymore. I do understand how those ideas plague others, but I'd rather deal with what the verses really mean so that others will also come to wonder how they ever saw them in within the previous sin-conscious structure.

I guess I am looking to you in that I know YOU know the context pretty darn well and can at least give me some sort of reasonable idea as to why Paul might be mentioning it "baked" in this way? I mean are we not JOINED with Him? Are we not done serving a throne? Do we not call Him Father..and Friend now?[no need to be called servants] Why would we need a throne to approach "boldly" as it states.

Now, I understand how you have come to view the whole idea of coming before the throne, but let me make a suggestion. Forget the religious implications for a moment and just consider what coming before a throne may have meant to everybody at that time. Sure, as a selective religious reference it may seem to reinforce the contemporary Christian "unworthy servant" scenario, but seen in view of the whole of society it paints a different picture. The throne pictures ultimate authority where judgment is dispensed and not questioned. No one approached the throne on a whim without dire consequences, not even friends or family. Those who did come before the throne had to first get permission or make an appointment, then they had to follow every protocol. Subjects were expected to grovel and beg for any possible requests made before the ultimate ruler. Now, imagine a typical scene in which a line of posturing, "humble" subjects are reverently waiting for hours on end in hopes of being allowed to approach their king ... dreading the possibility that the encounter may well end up costing them everything they own, even their own lives. While they all wait in quiet submission, some little child with a bloody knee comes crying as he runs past them all, in total disregard of any protocol ... and then jumps up in the lap of the king. The king just happens to be daddy, and that is why the child came boldly before the throne.

We are that son, for we are partakers together with Christ, the son. Joint heirs, as Paul terms it in Romans. The backdrop of subjects groveling before a throne only accentuates the boldness the freedom that a son possesses. Keep in mind that the writer of Hebrews had already established the premise of life under Law by a simple contrast to Christ:

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" (Hebrews 2:2-3 NAS77).

While the "how shall we escape if we neglect..." has presented a conundrum to the religious mind (for it only sees comparison to the Law rather than contrast) the writer has actually made it clear that if Christ is not seen for who and what he is, then there is nothing for those under Law but the condemnation of the Law. Remember, the matter being addressed to the Jews at that time centered around how Christ had fulfilled the Law, for there was a mass reversion among Jews who had claimed the name of Jesus. His sacrifice, rather than fulfilling everything regarding Law, seems to have taken back seat in their imaginations. In the same way our Christian heritage has become little more than the leftover form of something once alive, the Hebrews in Jerusalem who had jumped on the bandwagon of freedom in Christ were at the point of letting Christ become merely an important part of something bigger. Instead of seeing Christ as the substance behind the shadow, they were being compelled to fit Christ within the shadow. Christ was being used as God's new reason to revert back to the life of bondage through the Law. Once again, keep the individual aspects brought up in Hebrews with the flow of the overall message to the Hebrews. The approach we have before the Lord of everything continues through the whole letter. The writer's purpose shows as he persists in smashing any and every possible reason to shrink away from our freely bestowed and rightful access to God as sons and heirs together with Christ. It is only through slicing and dicing the letter into little bitty pieces and then expounding upon those separated portions that we come to fear the very reality that the writer demands to be ours.

Why do we need someone who suffered temptation to sympathize with us?

Because he understands what it is to suffer outside the realm of sin. Consider how he told his disciples that they would be persecuted just as he was ... without cause. We know what it is to make our case before those who understand cause and effect, that is, sin and its consequences. However, there is no understanding in the wisdom of man of suffering without cause. We can always blame someone for something, and we can find millions who will counsel us accordingly, but we only have one who truly understands. You see, something within us (which of course is the life of God) knows that no reasoning of the flesh, no logic of man can ever satisfy us. And I do not mean this in an intellectual way, for it is something inherent within us. The mind of man (intellectual and religious) would have us continually looking for REASONS why we suffer so that we can come to some kind of resolution. But in Christ we find that only he can satisfy us where it hurts.

My old way of viewing this has forced me to think of this as describing some sort of sin counting implication. My hunch is [as you have stated] that this might be the verbiage that THEY understood as ones who were enthralled with the Law and it's terms.

According to the Law, there is no other option than to continue seeing everything through the lens of sin. This is the demand being made in the letter. Because our "Christian" upbringing has been so intertwined with the concept of an unfulfilled Law, we keep buying into the imaginations produced under that delusion, including the suggestion that the writers of freedom must have been influenced by future (to them) religious reinterpretations of their writings. I think we have put some incredible expectations upon how we think they should have worded their writings in view of how people might read them hundreds and thousands of years later ... don't you think? LOL Love, Jim

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