Continued from here.
As we speak about intimacy with God we must never forget the way into divine fellowship. Ever since humanity rejected the LORD Christ and trusted Satan instead, the way back to fellowship has been blocked by fiery judgement (Genesis 3:24). This fallen flesh and blood cannot participate in the life of God (1 Cor 15:50). Only ‘the Man out of the Heavens’ could ever belong in the inner circle of God’s life (1 Cor 15:15:47-49).
Yet, with infinite grace and condescension, this Man came out of the heavens. He took the very flesh and blood of our humanity and He redeemed it. Where we had failed, He succeeded, where we had sinned, He obeyed, where we had fled, He stood tall, where we had hated, He loved, where we had erred, He taught, where we were enslaved, He set free, where we were ashamed, He gave dignity, where we grasped at glory, He gave freely, where we clung to life, He poured it out.
On the cross, God’s Man took on Himself all the sin, guilt and shame of this fallen humanity. He endured the divine fury at sin, passing through that fiery judgement which bars the way into God. And now, in His glorious resurrection body, Christ, the True Man, sits at the Father’s right hand. He is beyond death and judgement. Our Brother is now in the inner circle of the life of God. We, in ourselves, would be swept away by God’s righteous anger at sin. Yet Christ is the Way to the Father and in Him, Who “quenched the wrath of hostile heaven”, we have obtained access.
Why do I recount these gospel truths? A) Because they are glorious! B) Because sometimes people (and I’m sure I’m guilty of this too), manage to speak of “union with Christ” as a warm ‘n’ fuzzy truth. Often the Fatherhood of God, adoption into His family, one-ness with Jesus can be articulated without the blood and fire of the Bible’s presentation. But we desperately need the grit and grime – the sweat and tears – of Christ’s atonement if we’re going to experience true intimacy with God. A toothless, bloodless message about a heavenly Father-figure doesn’t connect with people who live in the midst of suffering and sin. It can’t connect, because the only real point of connection is a Bleeding Sacrifice choking to death on a cross. But He’s who we really need if we want intimacy with God. Because He actually meets us in the godforsakeness of life as we know it.
If all our talk of intimacy with God is not dripping in the blood of Christ we’re just holding out “a nice idea” to people who are burdened by shame and guilt and who will never connect with our words of “divine participation” – no matter how warm or inviting we sound. More than this, if our talk of divine intimacy is not utterly cross-shaped then people will play off “taking up our cross” against enjoying life in God. Which would be absurd – yet it happens all the time! But no, triune glory is cruciform glory. Therefore participating in God means participating in the cross. The way to God is through Christ and Him crucified.
Our Great High Priest, Jesus, does not simply bring God’s life down to us. He also offers our life up to God. He is not just God-for-us, He is also Man-for-God. Thus, from Christ’s representative humanity (for us) there is a presentation to the Father. This is Christ’s Priestly work – again a work done for us.
By the Spirit, Christ has made the perfect offering to the Father:
Christ’s worship constitutes the fullness of all acceptable worship to God. Without participation in His perfect obedience, His perfect sacrifice and His perfect Priesthood, there is no worship worthy of the name. To offer true sacrifice to the Father we must be in Christ. Only then do we have a share in acceptable worship. Yet, in Him, we are pure, spotless and holy – as acceptable as Christ Himself (Colossians 1:22).
What place does our worship have?
If Christ is our Great High Priest, where does my worship fit in?
Worship is the gracious invitation which the LORD makes to us to share in His own worshipping life. Just as Christ is the Righteous One (for us) and yet invites us to share in His holy life, just as Christ is the Great Sufferer (for us) and yet allows us to share in His sufferings, so we, His people are to share in His worship.
Hebrews 8:2 calls Christ our Leitourgos – ‘the leader of our worship’. Calvin, following Psalm 22:22, called Christ ‘the great choirmaster’, tuning our hearts to sing the Father’s praises. Worship is the participation in Christ’s perfect worship. As James Torrance says,
Every act of worship or devotion that we perform is grounded in and surrounded by Christ’s prior and perfect offering. Thus we do not worship as those attempting to gain intimacy with God, but as those who have been gifted it. And the ‘direction’ of the activity is the gracious movement of God coming to us in Christ. Any ‘upward’ movement is that done by Christ and we participate by faith. Thus, the focus of all worship must be on the LORD Jesus. In other words:
I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by me. (John 14:6)