The litmus test of our understanding and application of the gospel is in our approach to God. It is only at this point that our true conception of the divine majesty and holiness, our own depravity and uncleanness, of God’s justice in condemning our sin and the sole sufficiency of Christ’s work to save us, is revealed.
A diminished view of any of these truths, along with a diminished effect of them upon our souls, will leave us satisified to approach God on other terms than those of his gospel of free grace in Christ alone.
How we actually answer the following questions reveals a lot about our grasp of the gospel. What do I believe is necessary for God to receive me? For God to hear me? For God to accept me?
Stated positively, only the obedience and blood of Christ, the perfect sacrifice of himself in our place, can satisfy the demands of divine justice and reconcile us to God. Because of his perfect and sufficient sacrifice for sin (which we benefit from by resting and relying on Christ alone), we are assured that all our sins and lawless deeds God will remember no more. Through Christ we have continual access to God, and may approach him with boldness and confidence, with full assurance of faith.
1. Moralism of any kind can never be the right way for sinners like us to approach a holy God. No acts of atonement that we make, no prayers or offerings, no repentance, can remove the guilt of our sin and reconcile us to God. It is Christ’s sacrifice alone that brings us continually to God. In the words of the hymn “my guilty conscience seeks no sacrifice beside/his powerful blood did once atone and now it pleads before the throne”
2. Heightened emotional states are no safe basis for access to God. Music can have a powerful effect on our emotions, but it cannot form any part of our understanding of how we may draw near to God. Loose language about entering God’s presence at this point is deadly. It makes us look to the acts of sinners in conveying the divine presence. If churches only understood the book of Hebrews and how it teaches us to draw near to God I’m sure that these errors would be swept away.
3. Mysticism is also a rival to the high priestly finished work of Christ for us. Mystical experiences are not to form the basis of our approach to God. In this way as techniques are offered for how to pray, the focus falls upon us and our actions and not upon Christ and his work.
The dangers of moralism, emotionalism, and mysticism, vie for our allegiance as the means by which we will approach God. They will always be more attractive and plausible to us in proportion to our own experiential grasp of Christ’s person and work. To the extent that God has exposed to us our true moral guilt before him, and our utter inability to deal with our own sin, we will turn away from all human acts of morality, religion, techniques, feelings, music and mystical experiences as in anyway able to help us. Our only hope will be in Christ our great high priest, and in him we will find a refuge to make our hearts truly rejoice.
(HT: Against Heresies)