What do we mean by In The Sanctuary, well for me it means entering into the presence of God. The ultimate time when we enter into God’s presence will be when we go to Heaven. And I just want to share a little bit of my testimony regarding that.
I grew up Catholic and from an early age was taught that there was no assurance of going to Heaven. It was very much the case that we thought God was going to weigh up our good deeds and our bad deeds to see if we would be let in. No one I knew had any expectation that Heaven was a guaranteed thing. In fact, my mother tried to teach us to pray when we were very young, and we had set prayers that the Catholics had taught us. But my mother – bless her – encouraged us to say what was in our heart. And we still had no idea what to say. So I still remember her words to this day, that she taught us to say. She said “Dear Lord, please help me and all the people I love to get to Heaven.”
We didn’t know it then, but God was listening. When I was in my late teens my brothers began attending the local Baptist youth group. I was oldest, and loyal to my Dad’s view. He taught us that Catholicism was the “one true religion.”
However, God had other plans. My Dad was an active guy in rugby, and he encouraged us to get involved in different things. So he sent me along to Venturers, which is the next step up from Scouts where I’m from. And then we as Venturers had to go and help out with the Cubs (the littlies). Lo and behold, the assistant leader of the cubs was also the guy who led the youth group my brothers were going to.
So one thing led to another and he began sharing his faith with me. And one day, during our discussions about faith, he said to me, “I know I’m going to Heaven.” I said how can you know, no one knows, God decides if he’s gonna let you in once you get up there. And he said no, God decided 2000 years ago.
Then he asked me if I had a bible. Which of course I didn’t because in the Catholic church you are not encouraged to read the Bible. The Catholic view is that the average person is not equipped to read the Bible themselves and understand it, you have to have attended seven years of seminary before you can know what the Bible says. Which we all know is not true, but that’s why I had never read the bible.
So this guy gave me a Bible. And he also gave me a piece of paper with several scriptures on it that talked about how to be saved. And that was the beginning of my journey to enter into the Sanctuary.
We’ve heard it preached from this pulpit more than once. “Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands.”
So what stops us entering the Sanctuary – from entering into God’s presence?
I want to preface things a little bit by talking about failure. It’s not actually about failure, because we have all failed. The important thing is not what caused us to fail, but what we do after that. Do we get up and continue the race? I remember a quote from the great basketball player Michael Jordan.
I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.
He became such a legend for turning failure into success.
So it’s not about failure, it’s about perseverance. Abraham Lincoln said “I am not concerned that you have fallen. I am concerned that you arise.”
1Peter 2:24-25 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Just like the Prodigal Son, we can return to the presence of God in the Sanctuary.
I once heard it said that when we as Christians talk about the grace of God, the word we should really use is Amnesty. What does Amnesty mean? Well the most common example of amnesty in our western society in the last few hundred years has almost always related to guns.
You will all remember the Christchurch mosque shootings a couple of years back. The Government’s initial reaction to this was to make the model of gun the guy used illegal. So as soon as they did that, anyone who owned one of those guns was committing a crime. So the Government held an amnesty. An amnesty means that for a limited time, you can come down to the local police station and surrender your guns, and you will be exempt from prosecution for the crime of owning one of these guns.
So when we talk about the grace of God in that Jesus died for our sins, it’s not just about what Jesus did. It also requires a response from us. It requires us to lay down our guns, so to speak.
That means willingly giving up things we do that offend God, so that we may enter the Sanctuary.
Jesus illustrated this concept of restoration very clearly in his words to Peter before His death. Jesus predicted that Peter would deny Him in Luke 22. He also foretold Peter’s recovery – remember, this is before He died: “When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen and build up the faith of your brothers.”
This teaches us that if we fail, you and I have the full ability to be restored to minister in the Power of Holy Spirit. When what? When we repent and turn to Him again.
Another example of this is one of Paul’s companions known as John Mark. By this time, Paul and Barnabas had reached a lot of people and established several churches, and they had people who travelled with them and assisted them in their work. John Mark was one of them.
36 Some time later Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us go back and visit the believers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, 38 but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. 39 They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the believers to the grace of the Lord. 41 He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
One of the questions people often ask when they read this passage is who was right? Some say that Barnabas should have submitted to Paul’s authority as an apostle. But Barnabas had plenty of authority himself, in fact it was Barnabas who brought Paul into the work when others were still distrustful of him. At the beginning, Barnabas was the teacher and Paul was the student. So who was right? Well the key to answering that is what happened later on.
Just as an aside, we also see the strength of family in this story, because it says later in the Bible that Mark was actually Barnabas’s cousin. So perhaps that is one of the reasons Barnabas was willing to extend more grace to Mark than Paul did?
John Mark had slipped up – but after he was restored, he became one of the most trusted people. This is illustrated by Paul sending greetings in his letters from several people, including Mark, in his letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. Peter refers to him in one of his letters as “my son Mark.” Beautiful.
But the strongest illustration of Mark’s restoration is in the change in Paul’s attitude towards Mark. When Paul wrote the book of 2 Timothy, he was sitting in a dungeon awaiting execution – and we can view this letter as Paul setting his affairs in order when he dies. So we know that this is an important personal moment for Paul, and what he says here is significant.
What does Paul ask for in his final hour? He asks for the things most important to him: He asks to see Timothy, he asks for his cloaks, his books, and his parchments, and what else? He asks for Mark:
2 Timothy 4:11 – Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.
So we know that Paul’s view of Mark changed from his original assessment of him during his argument with Barnabas.
Finally, it was actually Mark who wrote the Gospel of Mark. If you haven’t seen the movie The Case For Christ, I highly recommend it. It chronicles a man’s journey from atheism to faith, and includes his investigation of the historical reliability of the New Testament, particularly the gospels and the Resurrection of Jesus. It illustrates that the gospels have survived the test of time as the most historically reliable books on earth. Personally I think that’s a huge honour and privilege for Mark. I think we can safely assume that God had accepted Mark to grant him such an honour.
So I hope this illustrates to us all that we can still enter the sanctuary.
David – Psalm 32:5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin.
The Scriptures encourage us to treat each other lovingly in such circumstances with a gentle restoration.
Galatians 6:1: Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
So what should our response be? Some of us condemn ourselves when we don’t need to. When God addresses something we need to deal with or work through, we feel like it’s like climbing a slippery slope that we can never get past or through.
But you can. The example of Jesus’ attitude to Peter’s denial is not an isolated incident, it was a hallmark of how Jesus operates. Jesus did not use fear or guilt to motivate his followers. Instead, he made promises of everlasting joy & peace, and with those, Jesus unleashed a movement of radical, loving people who were risk-takers.
Yes there are things we can do to exclude ourselves from Heaven. Scripture lists the acts of the sinful nature for anyone to read, and we should all take warning from those things. But we should never be afraid to surrender ourselves to God again and ask His forgiveness. If you do that on this side of Heaven, then you’ve done it at the right time. The Bible is clear that once the dead have departed, they cannot be contacted and they cannot contact us.
4 Anyone who is among the living has hope—even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!
For the living know that they will die,
but the dead know nothing;
they have no further reward,
and even their name is forgotten.
Their love, their hate
and their jealousy have long since vanished;
never again will they have a part
in anything that happens under the sun.
“Man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. … His sons come to honor, and he does not know it; they are brought low, and he does not perceive it” (Job 14:12, 21).
When it says the dead have no further reward, it means on earth.
I know there are people out there who hold seances and believe they’re speaking to dead people, but there’s a much scarier explanation for what is going on there that I don’t have time to get into now. Don’t fall for that stuff – the Scripture is clear that the dead are gone. But the writer of Ecclesiastes gives us hope, he says make your stand now, while you’re still in your body. Just like the concept of Amnesty, this offer is for a limited time – while we are in the body. Once we have passed on, all bets are off.
That’s what I love about the Word of God, it really is a double-edged sword. We can be cut by the warnings in it, but the Bible always offers us hope as He give us more grace.
So don’t fear
1 John 4:18 says There is no fear in love. In fact perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
So again, the Scripture is clear – it’s not about punishment. There is a way to God’s presence even when we’re not feeling worthy.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13: So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
There is a way through.
What is that way?
1 John 1:9 says if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
“Faithful and just.” That’s real justice. The world demands it’s own justice, which is not the same as God’s justice. God’s justice includes discipline, but it also includes forgiveness.
I’m reminded of this when my kids do something I’m not happy about. They get really grumpy when I address their behaviour, and they don’t like it. But once they’ve done what I asked, or fixed what they broke, or picked up what they knocked over, or whatever it is, then our relationship is restored.
When I was a kid, my Mum told us about this story called Cheaper By The Dozen. Now you may have heard of a movie with the same name, but like every movie Hollywood makes, the book is completely different. Its not even the same story. It’s actually a true story about an American family with twelve children. It’s set in the early part of the 20th century, and the father was an efficiency expert. So he would walk into a factory and say “I can increase your productivity by 25% or something to that effect. The interesting thing about this father – who wasn’t a Christian, by the way – is that he thought he could apply his business techniques to his own children. So one day he needs the kids to paint the fence. And so he sits them all down and he says “I’m going to pay one of you kids to paint the fence.” But the way he did it is that all of the kids had to make a bid for the contract of painting the fence. They put their bids into envelopes so they didn’t know what each other had bid, and the child who made the lowest bid won the contract.
So one of the girls was trying to save up for some roller skates, and she made the lowest bid. Now it turns out she was one of the younger kids – I don’t know hold old exactly – and the mother was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to finish the job. But the father said no – she made a contract, and she needs to see it through. So apparently this poor girl was outside for days, before and after school, painting this fence until it was finished. You’d never get away with it now. But one day she finally finishes, and she stomps inside to tell her Dad, and she says “I hope you’re happy.” And I love this – the father said to her, “I’m very happy darling. Now if you go into your room and look under your pillow, you will see that Daddy loved you all the time.” So the girl goes and looks under her pillow and finds not only the money, but also the pair of roller skates she had been trying to save for.
I just thought that was an amazing illustration of what God is like to us. He takes what we give, and gives us back way more than we could ask or imagine in return.
If that is God’s attitude towards us, then we know we can approach Him with confidence.
Romans 8:1 “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”
The book of Hebrews says God disciplines those he loves. We should also take comfort in that. Walking with Christ is about a journey, not just the destination, but how we walk on the journey is how we lock in our destination. Remember that God is not only ready and willing to grant us forgiveness, He is looking for what our response will be. That’s the key to entering his presence, to entering the Sanctuary.