Reading the Old Testament law can be a difficult journey. Imagine worshiping in those days. God seemed to be about as inaccessible as the President of the United States. Only a high priest could enter the holy place, and that only once a year after being thoroughly cleansed and having offered sacrifices for his sin. That was then. Jesus fulfilled the law’s requirement once and for all. What was once impossible is now made possible through Jesus.
The writer of Hebrew’s observes, “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,” (Hebrews 10:19–20, NASB95) The old way was made up of ritual, observations of days, and limitations. But Jesus has opened up a new and living way. Because of this new access to God the writer of Hebrews expects that followers of Jesus will live and walk in a certain way. “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having 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 stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:22–25, NASB95) Those three “let us” encouragements could be called cross-shaped.
The cross of Christ had a vertical beam and a horizontal beam. I like to think of the vertical beam as being God-focused and symbolic of relationship with God. I like to think of the horizontal beam as symbolic of the relationships we are to have with the others in our world. The cross is the junction where both of those relationships meet. A cross-shaped life will have both focuses, as does the three “let us” statements in the passage from Hebrews.
Let us draw near. God invites us into a relationship with Him. The picture that I see is of us running to God and Him running to us; like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. As we draw near to God, He draws near to us. The writer of Hebrews advises us to draw near with a sincere heart and in faith, with hearts, minds, souls, and bodies that have been made clean. That’s the journey of drawing near to God. As we trust Him more and more, as we are cleansed from sin through the forgiveness of Christ, as our attitudes and actions change we draw nearer and nearer to God – and He draws nearer to us.
Let us hold fast. A common tattoo among tall ship sailors spelled out “hold fast” on their hands. It was a reminder to tightly grasp the rope, to keep it from slipping and thereby endanger the lives of those in the riggings. We too are to hold fast to our confession of hope without wavering. Tightly grasping what Jesus has done in our hearts and hoping for the fulfillment of all that God has promised. Just like the sailors of old we must hold fast in calm seas and when the tempest rocks our world.
Let us consider. Drawing near and holding fast are like the vertical beam of the cross. The third “let us” invites us to deliberately enter into lives of others to give and receive encouragement, grow in love, and perform good deeds. The very wording that is used in Hebrews indicates thoughtfulness – thinking through how we can stimulate love, fellowship, fruitful actions, and encouragement in one another. In other words, how can we make them hungry for more of God? The ways and means are many, but there is one commonality which bears a striking resemblance to Christ’s outstretched arms. Buried in this admonition are the two words “one another”. Not only are we to encourage and stimulate others in their walk, but we are also to receive it as well. Let’s not be like those folks who are quick to stir up others but becomes defensive when someone tries to stir them. Instead, let’s freely give and receive all that Christ has given us. Let’s consider how to make others hungry for more of God.
Draw near to God, hold fast to the faith, consider how to grow and encourage love in others. That is the new and living way which Christ has opened for us. Cherish it. Embrace it. Live it.