John Piper defines this difference:
…the ultimate difference between divine wisdom and human wisdom is this: God’s wisdom has the supremacy of God’s glory as the beginning, middle, and end of it, but man’s wisdom delights in seeing himself as resourceful, self-sufficient, self-determining, and not utterly dependent on God’s free grace. Divine wisdom begins consciously with God (‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,’ Psalm 111:10), is consciously sustained by God, and has the glory of God as its conscious goal. When divine wisdom is revealed to humans, its effect is to humble us and give us the same God-orientation that God himself has. (The Pleasures of God, 278).
Remember that worship song “Take Me Past the Outer Courts”? Not the best worship song in the modern hymn-book. Why? Because it de-values the gospel. I doubt it was intentional, but bad theology nonetheless.
If you are in Christ, free access to the holy place is yours because of Jesus. The writer to the Hebrews unpacks this:
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 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. (Heb. 10:19-22)
New Testament scholar Paul Ellingworth’s comments in The Epistle to the Hebrews on these verses are helpful.
- The access to God which believers have through Christ is no less close than that which Christ himself has attained. (p. 517-518)
- By means of [Christ’s] self-offering, Christ has done perfectly and in reality for us what the levitical high priests did imperfectly and figuratively: he gained access by a new way to the living God, not only for himself, but for all who through him will share God’s life. (p. 521)
- The readers [of the book of Hebrews] are to seize the opportunity of access to God which Christ’s priesthood and sacrifice have been made possible. (p. 522).
You can confidently seize access to God because of what Jesus has done on your behalf.
Your confidence in prayer never should rest on what you have or haven’t done. If it does your confidence before God will either stem from pride in your spiritual achievements or it will wane and you will seize your latest sin as the barrier between you and the Father.
Your pathway to the Father is only paved by Jesus. “Full assurance of faith” doesn’t come from the “size” of your faith, but from resting in the “size” of the object of faith. Jesus is the perfect high priest who has opened the curtain of access to God by the crucifixion of his flesh. He is faith’s object and his work has given you the privilege of unbridled access to your heavenly Father.
If you trust Jesus, you’ve already been “taken past the outer courts into the holy place.” The question is, will you confidently take what is already yours?
Seventeenth-century philosopher Blaise Pascal sums it up:
There are only two kinds of men: the righteous who believe themselves sinners; the rest, sinners, who believe themselves righteous. [Pensees]
There is a first time for everything.
Over the next few days I will give away a copy of Justin & Lindsey Holcomb’s new book Rid of My Disgrace, which was written “for the many victims of sexual assault, both female and male, to offer accessible, gospel-based help, hope, and healing.” (p. 13)
My hope is that the person who receives this book is either a pastor, Christian leader, counselor, victim of sexual assault, or a person close to a victim.
The last paragraph of Justin and Lindsey’s introduction unpack the content of the book:
In Rid of My Disgrace, we address the effects of sexual assault with the biblical message of grace and redemption. Jesus responds to your pain and past. Your story does not end with assault. Your life was intended for more than shame, guilt, despair, pain, and denial. The assault does not define you or have the last word on your identity. Yes, it is part of your story, but not the end of your story.
The message of the gospel redeems what has been destroyed and applies grace to disgrace. (p. 14)
To receive this book, just comment on this particular post by putting your name and email address in the comment. I’ll draw names Friday and ask the winner privately via email for their shipping address.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his magnificent book Spiritual Depression, writes the following in response to Romans 8:15-17,
…our object in living the Christian life is not simply to attain a certain standard, but is rather to please God because He is our Father–‘the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father’. The slave was not allowed to say ‘Abba’ and that slave spirit does not regard God as Father. He has not realized that He is Father, he regards Him still as a Judge who condemns. But that is wrong. As Christian people we must learn to appropriate by faith the fact that God is our Father. Christ taught us to pray ‘Our Father’. This eternal everlasting God has become our Father and the moment we realize that, everything tends to change. He is our Father and He is always caring for us, He loves us with an everlasting love, He so loved us that He sent His only begotten Son into this world and to the Cross to die for our sins. That is our relationship to God and the moment we realize it, it transforms everything. Henceforth my desire is not to keep the law but to please my Father. We know something about that by nature. Filial love, filial reverence, filial fear is so different from that old servile fear. It is based upon the desire to please our father, and the moment we grasp that we lose the spirit of bondage. Our Christian living is not a matter of rules and regulations any longer, but rather our desire to show Him our gratitude for all He has ever done for us. (p. 172)
Justin and Lindsey Holcomb’s book Rid of My Disgrace dispenses grace to the victims of sexual assault through the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some have sought to give hope to the victims of sexual assault by encouraging them to speak positive self-statements about themselves. The Holcomb’s point out how this strategy short-circuits.
The following quote from their recent book holds true, not just for those suffering from having been sexually abused, but for victims in the widest possible sense:
Tragically, positive self-statements “have more impact on people with low-self-esteem than on people with high self-esteem, and the impact on people with low self-esteem is negative.” The consequences are that positive self-statements are likely to backfire and cause harm for the very people they are meant to benefit–people with low self-esteem.
What victims need are not self-produced positive statements but God’s statements about his response to their pain. How can you be rid of these dysfunctional emotions and their effects? How can you be rid of your disgrace? God’s grace to you dismantles the beliefs that give disgrace life. Grace re-creates what violence destroyed. Martin Luther writes that “the love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.” One-way love is the change agent you need. Grace transforms and heals; and healing comes by hearing God’s statements to you, not speaking your own statements to yourself. (p. 45)
God’s word to you is more powerful than any kind of word to yourself. No matter what kind of a victim you are–be it from some kind of abuse or fraud or oppressive sin by another of any kind–God’s gracious word to you in the Scriptures and in His Son is always better than any self-statement you could generate about yourself.
Self-affirmation never goes deep enough to transform. The hope it kindles is too small because it is confined by self. On the other hand, the gift of the God of the universe redeeming you through the work of Jesus and making you his beloved child goes farther than self-affirmation ever would. Being for yourself is one thing, but God being for you is another thing altogether.
God’s revelation is infinitely more liberating than self-pronouncements. If you’re a victim go to the Scriptures and go to Jesus to find the healing that you really need.
Early twentieth-century Scottish preacher and theologian, James Denney, boldly wrote,
…no man will so preach as to leave the impression that he has the Word of God behind him if he is inwardly at war with the idea of atonement, constantly engaged in minimizing it or maintaining an attitude of reserve, or even of self-defence, in relation to it. We may take it or leave it, but it is idle to attempt to propagate Christian religion on the basis and with the authority of the New Testament, unless we have welcomed it with our whole heart. (The Death of Christ, 157-158)