Approaching the Throne

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
    you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart
    you, God, will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

When we come before the Father in our one-on-one time with Him, most of us understand that the weight of sin, shame, and guilt drop off of us. We are washed clean from sin, set free from shame, and no longer carry the guilt we came in with. But those aren’t the only things that we shed in His presence.

A couple years ago, I had this internal vision (a movie that plays in your mind’s eye) while praying. I walked up glass steps and found myself on an elevated platform. It was a long, thin aisle that led to the throne of the Lord. It was crystal clear. There were throngs of angels to my right and left “standing” on a lower level. Imagine a stage at a rock concert that has a runway jutting out into the audience. Now imagine the lead singer out on the runway surrounded by the crowd below him but still elevated on the platform. That’s what it looked like.

As I walked toward the throne on this clear, elevated runway, I could tell that I had “gear” on. Imagine a belt full of weapons and other items that you might see a 17th century Musketeer wear. I had a sword at my side and a scroll tucked in the back part of my belt. I also had two glowing spheres, one blue and one green. And there was a cloak-type-thing on my shoulders.

As I walked to a certain point, I wasn’t allowed to go any farther. An angel informed me that if I wanted to keep approaching the Lord I’d have to take off all the gear. I understood instantly that this gear represented gifts of the Holy Spirit, spiritual weapons, and things I had been given to fight the good fight of faith. It was also the armor of God (Ephesians 6:14-18). Yet, in order to get closer to the Father, I had to shed it. I couldn’t come into His presence with all the gifts and spiritual armor I had been given over the years. I had to come with nothing–just a white robe and nothing else. I had to come simply as a son.

Isaiah 64:6 says, “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” We often think of our sin as filthy rags. But the closer we approach the throne of grace, even our “righteous acts” are like filthy rags. We must unload all of our burdens, including all the good things. When we come before God, we not only unload our sin but also our responsibilities that come from family, work, and church. We unload our gifts and our talents too! We come with nothing to offer but ourselves.

We are striped down until all the things that we identify ourselves with are gone. We are left only with our two core identities. We approach God as a creation of the Creator–a human being–and a re-creation of the Redeemer–a child of the Father.

Are you ashamed of something in your spiritual life? The good news is that you don’t have to carry it with you into God’s presence. He invites you to lay it down.

Are you proud of something in your spiritual life? I’m so glad, but God invites you to lay that down as well. If you want to draw nearer to the throne of God, you must shed all the good things too. The closer you get to God, the less you can take with you.

Higher

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Matthew 16:21-23

Peter was articulating the common expectation of the Messiah. Everyone expected the Messiah to overthrow the oppressive powers of Rome. Peter’s reaction was a logical reaction to the idea that the Messiah would have to suffer and die. Peter had in mind human concerns but he missed God’s plan. God didn’t just want to overthrow Rome, He wanted to overthrow the very power of sin and death itself. God’s vision was much bigger!

Notice that Jesus first rebukes Satan. Jesus can hear in Peter’s voice the accent of the enemy. Jesus understands that the source of Peter’s rational and reasonable thought was Satan himself. Satan often does his best deceiving when he sounds reasonable and rational. This is how the enemy sounded in the Garden of Eden. It’s how he sounded when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4). And here the enemy was doing it again.

This is a stark reminder that just because something sounds rational and reasonable doesn’t mean it is from the Lord. The concerns of God are clearly different than the concerns of humanity. God spoke this truth to the prophet Samuel.

“…The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Samuel 16:7

The prophet Isaiah also gives us a powerful word from the Lord in this regard.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible gives us helpful analogies in our relationship with God so that we can understand how to interact with Him. We have the family analogy where we are sons and daughters of the Father. We have the marriage analogy where the Church is the Bride of Christ. We have the anatomical analogy where the Church is the Body of Christ. We have the friendship analogy where Jesus no longer calls us servants but friends. We have the sibling analogy where Christ, the firstborn from the dead, is our brother. We have the Kingdom analogy where we are a royal priesthood.

All of these analogies and pictures help us understand how to connect with and relate to God. But we should never assume God is just like us. In fact, the goal in the Christian life is to become more and more like Him. This should tells us that our starting line is the truth that we are not exactly like Him. Yet, the fact that were originally created in God’s image, that in Christ we are new creations, and that we have the Spirit of God dwelling in us gives us hope that we can grow to become more and more like Jesus.

God is so loving that He can’t help but want to draw near to us. But He is also completely “other” than us. He thinks differently, acts differently, and feels differently than we do. Our job is to learn His ways so that we can conform our life to His (not to demand that He conform His ways to ours).

Where is God calling you to conform your ways to His, your plans to His, or your thoughts to His?