Your Advocate Part 2

I’ve been sharing a short series on God’s sanctuary, his beautifully complex theatre of grace. Last week, I wanted to get you thinking about our need for an advocate. How does our need for an advocate connect to the sanctuary?

In the sanctuary, there is an aspect of judgment that becomes most evident during the time of Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement. I don’t have time to do into detail right now but the Bible is clear we are currently in the time of judgment on the eve of Jesus Second Coming; it’s even at the door!  The Bible says his return is certain and when he returns he will have his reward with him. These promises indicated that a judgment will take place on who will be coming home with Jesus and who will not. 

The problem is when we talk about God’s judgment I’ve heard a couple scenarios. Some of these pictures of God that we pick up are dangerous. As CS Lewis once wrote: “Not that I am in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like.” A Grief Observed

Most of the time, judgment is talked about in courtroom language. Let me attempt to diagram with words the judgment scenarios I have heard people talk about:

Scenario #1

Heavenly beings (Jury)

You (guilty party)  –>   Jesus (your advocate) —>   Father (judge)

Like a good advocate, Jesus is pleading with your Father for you. His role is to convince God and the heavenly beings to accept you.  The problem with this scenario is it puts the son against your Father when they are both in the saving business. God (all three members of the trinity) delights in you; he wants you to be in his home. Jesus did not die to change your Father’s mind about you.

Scenario #2 – slight variation of Scenario #1

Heavenly beings (Jury)

You (guilty party)  –>   Jesus (your advocate) —>   Father (judge)

                           Satan (prosecuting attorney)

This is a slight variation on Scenario #1.  Satan is in the mix and he is arguing the case against you. Jesus is still pleading for you as your advocate. Unfortunately, the goal is still to get your heavenly farther to accept you.  

Scenario #3

Heavenly beings (Jury)

You (guilty party)  <—  God  —>    <—— Satan (accuser)

This is the scenario I see in scripture. You are saved by grace. God has done for you what you could not and cannot do for yourself. God desires you in his home; he even has a celebration banquet planned for your arrival. Satan is furious that God would let you into heaven so he goes on the attack. Satan accuses you, points out all your sins and wrongdoings; he says you shouldn’t go to heaven, don’t deserve to go, wouldn’t be safe if you were there. What does God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – do?

Jesus your Advocate, Your Father in heaven, your comforter the Holy Spirit stand up for you; they stand between you and Satan, rebuke him, and claim you as their child!

Can you have faith in a God like that?

Badvocate

When I was in elementary school, a new kid moved into our neighbourhood and we became friends. During the school year, our class went on a camp out. That night, as we were in our bunks and supposed to be going to sleep, some of the kids started picking on the new kid. You see, his skin was darker than ours and he had an accent – he was different.

I was so angry at this bullying, that in the loudest voice I could muster, I shouted at them to leave him alone and to stop picking at him. (Insert applause and pats on the back here.) But wait, there’s a little more to the story. it’s the part that haunts me and I wish I could take back. If I ever remember that new kid’s name I will track him down and apologize.

I shouted at them to leave him alone and then I said, “He can’t help it that he was born that way.”

I still feel the sting of shame when I think about it. Sure, it was grade 5 or 6 and kids in grade 5 and 6 say dumb things. Add in the tension and the potential for an actual fist fight and it’s easy for a person’s mouth to get ahead of their brain.

And yet, the truth of the matter is, I wasn’t a very good advocate for my friend.

Have you ever been picked on or accused of something you didn’t do and you wished you had an advocate; someone who would rise to your defence, stand up for you?
I”ve been sharing some thoughts with you regarding God’s sanctuary. The ultimate purpose of the sanctuary is so that God coud dwell with us; he wants to be the centre of our lives. The ultimate message of the sanctuary is that even while we were far away from God, rebellious, angry, and separated, God was demonstrating his love for us through his self-sacrifice.

Next I want to tell you that the good news of the sanctuary is that you have an advocate who is on your side. I’ll show you how beautiful this truth is about God in my next post.

A Demonstration

In my last post, I shared some thoughts about God’s sanctuary. If you’re not familiar with the sanctuary, it shows up in the book of Exodus, after God rescued the Israelites from Egypt. He instructed the Israelites to build a sanctuary and use it for religious services. While it is layered in meaning and symbolism, it’s primary purpose is described in Exodus 25:8, “And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”  

It’s all about God taking centre stage in our lives and in the places in our heart. 

In the sanctuary, the main services that took place were sacrifices. There were sacrifices when a person became convicted of sin and there were the annual cleansing sacrifices as part of the day of reconciliation. These services were not an end in themselves; the entire structure, its furniture, and the services pointed towards the Rescuer. 

“Through the teachings of the sacrificial service, Christ was to be uplifted before all nations, and all who would look to Him should live. Christ was the foundation of the Jewish economy. The whole system of types and symbols was a compacted prophecy of the gospel, a presentation in which were bound up the promises of redemption.” – {White, Acts of the Apostles, pg 14.1}

Paul said the same thing in Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is a life changing revelation. Dig into it:

Us/We – all humanity.

Sinners – carnal, rebellious, disconnected, angry, broken, incapable of saving ourselves.

Love – unconditional acceptance, action based – it’s real and impacts our lives.

Christ died for us – clearly the cross but we must remember that he is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

The deepest message of the sanctuary reveals God’s sacrificial love so that he could draw us to himself.  He was showing that he not only had a way to reconcile our angry and distant hearts he was the only one willing to do what it takes to make it happen. 

Do you truly believe the message that God loves and delights in you? Do you accept his acceptance of you? What are you doing now that comes from not believing this message? If you really believed it – all the time – what difference would it make in your life?

A Dwelling Place

Do you have a treasure box? Perhaps it’s a collection of photos or postcards? Maybe you have some letters in it. Mine has those things and more. To me, these little things are remembrances of things that are important; I call them places in the heart. As I was thinking about such things, my thoughts turned to God’s sanctuary. Have you ever given any thought to God’s sanctuary?

After God rescued his people from Egypt, he gave them construction instructions for a sanctuary and described the services that would be performed there. The two most profound and symbolically rich services performed were the annual Passover and the Day of Atonement; teaching people about redemption and reconciliation.

For those seeking for God, the sanctuary was inspiring. The author of Psalm 77 wrote this:

“I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.
I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds.
Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God?”  (Psalm 77:11-13)

God’s sanctuary, its services and its meaning even for us today is woven through His grand redemption story and it is both beautiful and complex; inspiring and challenging. But I like to keep things simple so I want to draw your attention to a singular purpose for the sanctuary that you can find in Exodus 25:8:

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

It’s been noted that the phrase, “that I may dwell among them” could be translated as “that I may dwell within them.” The point of the sanctuary was to bring God within the hearts of His people. This is God’s eternal plan. On the night before the cross, Jesus made his strongest appeal to experience God’s abundant peace and joy. In John 15:4, Jesus said:

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”

“And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.”

The interesting thing about God’s story is that right after he says this, he generally refers to the sanctuary as his tabernacle – his dwelling place. It’s like he is saying he wants them to build a place for religious purposes but the reason is because he wants to dwell (tabernacle) with them (as opposed to jump through religious hoops). Hence the emphasis on dwelling with his people. We tend to get stuck on the outward forms of religion and miss the true reason for worship.  Even from the beginning, God was telling them to stay focused on him above all else.

Would you be willing to reflect on God’s desire to dwell among and within you? Take a moment and do a searching inventory of yourself. Consider these questions:

Who do you think about throughout the day?

Who do you love to talk about on a regular basis?

Who has your warmest love and your best work?

Is it Christ? Are your kindest thoughts of Him?

Does God reside in the treasured places in your heart?

The Best Location

In my last post, I was thinking about how location matters. In business, it’s been said that the three most important factors to consider are location, location, location. Spiritually speaking, it would have been way better if you had been born on one of the planets that didn’t fall under the influence of the Great Deceiver. Imagine being born into a world without sin?  How would your relationships be different? How would your view of God be different? 

The Bible has two exciting things to tell us. First, as far as God is concerned, sin has been taken care of. Yes, sin still happens and it still affects us but because of Jesus, no one is born lost in sin. Romans 5 announces the Good News this way:

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. Romans 5:18 NRSV

The second exciting thing the Bible tells us is that this sin soaked planet will be redeemed, too. Eden, when everything was good, will be restored, made new again.  Revelation 21 begins by announcing:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. Revelation 21:1 NRSV

What this tells me is that the best location we can be in is the one that puts our lives into the hands of God; into the stream of his love and grace.

Location, Location, Location

There’s a saying that the three most important things in business are location, location, location. Could the same be said about life in general? 

Consider that where (and often when) a person is born opens up or closes opportunities to all sorts of things and those opportunities usually impact the choices and life outcomes of a life. Certainly, there are people who have “overcome all odds” but most of us are deeply affected by many factors that were out of our control. 

How does this work in the area of heavenly things? What if you had been born on any of the other created worlds that had not fallen under the enemy of life’s sway? Let’s say that you’ve never been affected by the lies about God’s love, character, acceptance. How would your life be right now? What choices would have been different?

Benefits of Shacking Up

Shacking up has taken a lot of hits lately. First, there was all the data that shows married couples tend to be healthier, live longer, and report being more happier and contented than shacking up couples. Then it has been revealed couples who live together before engagement have higher divorce rates than those who wait.

However, I believe that all these studies overlook the most important benefit of shacking up. You see, when a couple decides to make a life long commitment to each other, in public, before family and friends, there is accountability. Public declarations put our character and integrity on the line. Marriage reveals whether we are truly a person who keeps promises; who is trustworthy and reliable.

Shacking up lets us avoid all that nonsense, especially when the break up comes. Shacking up gives us the benefit of being able to say, “We wanted to see if we were compatible and we’ve decided to go our separate ways.” We can say it’s not big deal because it’s not like we were married, we were just shacking up. Sure, if we shack up and then split it’s still a little death, still just damaging if kids are involved, still a huge hit financially but we don’t have to acknowledge before family and friends the pain and shame of divorce. We never have to face the reality that one or both partners focused on self gratification rather than surrendered, unconditional love.

Shacking up means never have to put your character on the line; with no accountability there’s not challenge to our integrity.