There are two categories in which people might be classified. Theoretically, based upon their personal performance, all people can either be law-breakers or law-keepers.
That being said, there is only one category in which all men and women are actually found. All people are law-breakers. Without exception, no individuals are perfectly holy in their thinking, desires, conduct, and words. All persons commit sins every day, and this is regardless of whether or not they have come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Those perfectionists who pretend they are not enticed to sin by the world, flesh, and devil, they kid themselves. Sin crouches at their door, and they answer more times than they ought.
Therefore, because all are law-breakers, no one has or can earn the right to avoid God’s excommunicative curse and enjoy God’s communal blessings. Based upon personal performance, all deserve wrath, condemnation, excommunication, punishment, and curse every day of their life. None merit the Father’s delight, commendation, communion, reward, and merit any day of their life.
This was the message God continually preached to his Old Covenant Church. Those worshiping under Moses were constantly reminded of God’s sacred standard, their unholy performance, their depraved putridness, and their inability to enjoy intimate communion. These worshipers were consistently required to keep their distance. They were not allowed to look upon his face, enter into his holy chamber, remain in his tent, or dwell on his holy mountain. Sure, they were saved by grace and by faith in the Sacrificial Messiah still to come, and there were days of ascending, dancing, singing, and feasting before the Lord. However, their worship was also characterized by caution, fear, distance, and incompleteness. They were always reminded of their ever-growing list of transgressions and their inability to intimately communion with the Holy God of all the earth.
Thank God for the Law that showed men their sin.
Thank God for the Gospel that rescued men from their sin.
Thank God for the Old Covenant of Grace which led ancient believers in worship.
Thank God for the New Covenant of Grace which leads modern believers in worship.
The New Covenant of Grace is less litigious, ceremonial, bloody, difficult, scary, and distant. The author of Hebrews teaches us, “… Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6, Also 7:18, 22) According to God’s Word, it is newer, more excellent, and better.
Tastes of this are seen throughout the Old Covenant of Grace era as God meets with law-breaking people and commands them not to be afraid.
Tastes of this are also seen in the Old Covenant of Grace era as David comments on the intimacy that God’s sheep can enjoy with God’s Shepherd.
Tastes of this are also seen in the Old Covenant of Grace era as Solomon and other prophets allude to the relationship of the beloved with their Perfect Lover.
Then comes Jesus and his Apostles. Though fear is the “beginning of wisdom,” it is not the end. God-in-the-Flesh communed intimately with his sons and daughters. The temple veil was split in two, and ceremonial obligations flew out the window as the church graduated from the elementary tutorial stages of the Old Covenant of Grace. (Gal. 3:24-25) John comes right out and proclaims, “Perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 Jn. 4:18) And the writer of Hebrews draws the point home:
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 10:21–25 And since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
New Covenant of Grace worshipers are commanded to come with confidence. They are not to come timidly.
New Covenant of Grace worshipers are commanded to draw near to God in full assurance. They are not to maintain doubt and a respectful distance.
New Covenant of Grace worshipers are commanded to draw near, not sparingly or on special occasions, but more and more as the years mount.
And why is this? It is because of the Gospel and the New Covenant of Grace expectations of worship. Despite our continual law-breaking, we are clothed in the perfect holiness of Jesus Christ. Despite our continual law-breaking, we are atoned for by the perfect death of Jesus Christ. Therefore, every single hour of every single day, we who are united with Christ are full of merit, emptied of demerit, declared blameless, and encouraged to draw near with bold confidence and intimately embrace and kiss the One who judges and scares the world.
Because of Christ and his Gospel, consider our position:
- We are declared to be perfect saints.
- We are sheep of the Shepherd.
- We are his temple – his holy of holies.
- We are his family.
- We are his sons and daughters.
- We are his bride.
Therefore beloved of Christ, go intimately love your Groom. Can’t you hear him calling you right now? He is ready to warm you with his embrace. There is no need for you to get right before going to see him. Bring your past, current, and future sins with you. He will remind you how he has already paid all your sin-debt. Find a quiet place. Open your Bible and read of the curses that no longer apply to you in any way, and then read of the promises that are all yours in Christ Jesus. Talk with him about his good Law. Ask him to help you desire holiness from the inside-out. He is in his chamber of love. He is calling for you to boldly enter. Go, love, and be loved by the King of Kings. What a privilege! Why keep him waiting?
And on the Lord’s Day, treat it like an anniversary celebration. It was on a Sunday morning that he expressed his love by means of his resurrection. What a day that was in your relationship with the Savior! Therefore, gather weekly with friends and make a big deal of the Lover of your soul. But when you come together on Sunday, don’t come with trembling, with caution, with sullenness, with stiff propriety, or with ceremonial rigidity. There is no need to damper your emotions. Sure, he is the King of Kings. Sure, he is the most dignified Being in the universe. Sure, he is Holy, Holy, Holy. Sure, those who don’t know him should tremble in fear, for this is the beginning of wisdom. But like Christ ended the Old Covenant of Grace form of worship, so perfect love of Christ casts out all trembling and fear, for there is nothing left to fear. I propose happiness should be more dominant than fear. I propose confidence should be more prevalent than caution. I propose long expressions of Gospel-based joy should overwhelm any of shorter occasions of Law-based weeping. I propose festive celebration should trump formal solemnity. And I propose our worship should look more like confident children leaping into the arms of their accepting fathers, or loving disciples leaning against Jesus’ breast, or adoring wives embracing their beloved husband, or grateful citizens parading their victorious conqueror, and less like a fearful ritual of fear-filled subjects hoping to formally get worship tight enough so they do not displease a distant deity and merit his divine and unpleasant retributions.
Sure, God is always holy, judgmental, dangerous, scary, and separated … towards some.
However this is not how he is towards us. Because of the Gospel, he is only and always holy, gracious, safe, friendly, and intimate. Therefore glorify God and enjoy him in worship. Have fun as you celebrate the holiness of God. According to our Westminster Fathers, it is our glorious duty to glorify and enjoy the Lord your God, and I do think it is true — he who enjoys God most, glorifies God best.* He loves you. He calls you. He invites you. He commands you to come. And he commands you to come very confidently, very near, and very often.
* Stolen from John Piper