Come Confident, Come Near, and Come Often
by Joseph Franks
Throughout the scriptures, God and his angels appear to law-breaking people, and because these individuals are unholy and unacceptable in God’s sight, they are naturally filled with horrific terror. These sinful wretches are then commanded to keep their distance; they are not allowed to enjoy intimacy with God in any of his holy habitations. Therefore we see rebels like Adam and Eve are booted from Eden. Hateful murderers like Cain exiled from God’s community. Grumbling idolaters like Israel are commanded not to ascend or even touch God’s holy mountain. And almost no one is allowed to enter God’s Holy of Holies. And all of this pales in comparison in to sinful man’s eternal abode where excommunicated terror is their lot.
However, throughout the scriptures, God and his angels strangely, selectively, and mercifully appear to certain law-breaking people and offer them undeserved peace and proximity. Though they be sinful, they are commanded to not be afraid. This is because “perfect love casts out all fear.” (1 Jn. 4:18) These former sinful wretches are also invited – even commanded – to draw very near to the throne of God where they are expected to enjoy intimate communion with him. Therefore we see graced individuals eating with God in the tent, invited to ascend his mountain, worshiping in his Holy of Holies, dining and dancing in his presence. And in the New Covenant the proximity is even greater as Ceremonial Law restrictions are removed and God’s Spirit moves in and make believers’ hearts his home. And as grand as all this is, it too pales in comparison in to man’s eternal abode. Their peace and proximity are to be enjoyed at the highest level.
Therefore, understanding who we were and who we are now; understanding what we deserved and what we’ve got; how ought we to corporatly worship on the Lord’s Day? How ought grace affected saints properly glorify the Holy, Holy, Holy God? What does obedient, reverent, and regulated New Covenant worship look like? If Sunday morning worship is a foretaste of heaven, how should God be glorified and enjoyed?
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.
Yes, I propose confident, majestic, enjoyable, celebratory, emotive, relational, intimate worship is more fitting with the Gospel. I also contend this sort of worship is that described, desired, and regulated by our holy and reverent God in his scriptures. This is that what’s the Saints are enjoying today. This is also that which we will enjoy when we gather for worship in paradise. Therefore, this is what we should practice in our family assemblies every Lord’s day.
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 holy, gracious, safe, friendly, and intimate. Therefore glorify God and enjoy him in worship. Have fun as you celebrate the holiness of God. Come near, come confidently, and come often. This is our privilege. This is our duty. This is honorable, obedient, and pleasing to our Sacred God, Best Friend, and Intimate Savior.