Hebrews 9:1-10:2

I’ve often heard that it’s a privilege to be an American, not a right. Or that it’s a privilege to work at a particular place, not a right.

Defined, a privilege is a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others. Or a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud (Miriam Webster).

Believers also have privileges because of their status. We’ve been adopted into the family of God. Not only are we God’s children, but we are also his friends.

We Can Walk into the Holy of Holies

“Then there was a curtain, and behind the curtain was the second room called the Most Holy Place” (Hebrews 9:3 NLT).

Before the contestants were three doors—or actually curtains: Door #1, Door #2, and Door #3. Which one to choose was the gamble. Monty Hall co-created and co-produced the original television show Let’s Make a Deal. Contestants played various games and were offered chances to trade their winnings for the possibility of something more valuable.

The Big Deal came at the end of each show, and the top winners were offered the chance to trade their prizes for what was behind one of the doors. Those who took the chance could possibly win the Big Deal of the day, which might be a car, boat, vacation, furniture, appliances, or any combination thereof. After the curtains opened, some were pleased with their choice while others wished they had kept their original winnings.

There were two rooms in the tabernacle God instructed Moses to construct after the Israelites left Egyptian slavery: the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. A curtain separated the rooms. Ordinary priests were allowed in the first, but only the high priest could enter the second—and that only once each year. In this sacred room was the Ark of the Covenant, which represented the presence of God. On this sacred day, the High Priest confessed the sins of the people and begged for God’s forgiveness.

Happily, no doors or curtains presently separate me from God. The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom when Jesus died on the cross. My sin debt was paid, thereby removing the barrier between me and God.

Now I—along with all other believers—am a priest in my own right. God gives us the privilege and loving invitation to enter boldly and confidently into his presence as often as we desire. His guidance, love, and listening ear are available regardless of the time or our location. Nothing separates us from his love unless we voluntarily—or rebelliously—erect it.

We Can Live with Clean Consciences

“For the gifts and sacrifices that the priests offer are not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who bring them” (Hebrews 9:9 NLT).

He was the sweetest man in the world when she married him, but that would soon change. Peter and Catrina were high school sweethearts who planned their wedding for the summer after their graduation. Nine months later, Catrina delivered their baby girl. Shortly after Adeline’s birth, life took a downward turn when Peter lost his job.

Desperate, Peter made a decision he wouldn’t have otherwise. He robbed a local store and buried the money in a vacant lot. Sadly, he left evidence behind that led to his arrest and a six-year prison sentence. The money, however, was never recovered. Catrina didn’t feel as if she could give him a second chance. She visited him only once while he was in jail.

Imagine Catrina’s surprise when six years later Peter showed up at a Christmas celebration hosted by the police chief. In his hand was the bag of money which he presented to the police chief. “It’s all there,” he said. Peter had done his time; all he wanted now was a second chance with his wife and daughter. Prison life hadn’t soothed his conscience.

Thousands upon thousands of sacrifices couldn’t pacify the raging consciences of the worshipers who brought them faithfully to the temple. The commands and ceremonies were just a temporary fix until Christ came and paid what only a sinless person could pay.

Cleansed consciences are only possible by accepting and understanding what Christ has done. I could pay for my sins—but it would mean my death and eternal punishment. No one else has offered to and couldn’t if they wanted since they are sinners as well. Only the sinless Son of God could solve my dilemma.

Knowing and believing the above isn’t enough, however, to clear our conscience. We must actually believe our sins are forgiven. If we hang on to past mistakes God has forgiven—as Peter did—we’ll live continuously with false guilt. Satan will capitalize on our misunderstanding of forgiveness and make our lives miserable and useless. What Christ has paid for and we’ve accepted, God will never hold against me again.

We Can Look Forward to a Great Homecoming

“He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:28 NLT).

The celebration was the highlight of the church year, but it took a great deal of preparation. In the lower regions of South Carolina, church homecomings are immaculate celebrations. Normally held in the fall of the year, they are attended by current members, previous members, family members, previous pastors, and anyone wanting a free meal.

Barbeque is often the meal of choice. Churches prepare pounds of meat and hash. Plans are made months in advance. Letters are mailed to former members and pastors. Announcements are placed in local newspapers and on local radio stations. Men stay up all night cooking.

On the day of, churches are packed with worshipers. Some churches host gospel groups to top off the day. After services, congregants gather for the feast, enjoying the company of those they haven’t seen since the previous year’s celebration.

As wonderful as homecomings here are, they’ll never match the ultimate homecoming that will occur when Christ returns. Some will be alive to witness it, while those who have died in Christ will actually return with him. Christ came the first time to pay humanity’s sin debt, but his second coming will put an end to all sin and corruption and usher his followers into a perfect eternity.

Homecomings took months of preparation, and we always knew the date. Jesus says no one except the Father knows the date of the final homecoming. Readying myself for the end-time homecoming requires only one thing: trusting Christ as my Savior. I serve him and others as a result of that decision, but the decision—not the actions, is what prepares me.

When we’ve done this—whether he comes while we’re alive or after we’ve died—we can wipe the sweat of our labor from our brow and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of your Lord.”

We Can Live Without Guilt

“If they could have provided perfect cleansing, the sacrifices would have stopped . . . and their feelings of guilt would have disappeared” (Hebrews 10:2 NLT).

He was a church leader. How could he have done what he did?

Henry grew up in a Christian family and trusted Christ as his Savior when he was ten years old. After graduating high school, he remained in his small town, took a job at a local factory, and married his high school sweetheart. People in his church encouraged him to use his gifts, but there was one thing that held him back.

Henry had a dark secret no one knew about—not even his wife. As a teenager, he had begun to delve into pornography. Before he knew it, he was addicted. He had confessed it and got on with his life, but the guilt still ate at his soul. He simply couldn’t believe God could forgive him. Henry’s guilt led him to turn down every opportunity he was given to use his spiritual gifts.

Under the Old Covenant, sacrifices were unending. Every time a worshiper offered an animal, they were reminded of their sins. The ceremony only temporarily pacified their guilt, but it soon returned. They knew an animal’s blood could never permanently cover their sin.

Satan’s tried the same trick on me as he did Henry. As a saved but rebellious teenager, I have many things in my memory I’m ashamed of. Quite often he’s tried to convince me those sins disqualify me from being effective in God’s work. Only by understanding God’s forgiveness and the types of guilt was I able to thwart his subtle tactics.

False guilt makes us feel miserable over something we’ve already confessed to God. Satan is the source. God only sends the guilt when we need to confess. Additionally, God’s forgiveness takes care of all of our sins. We no longer have to feel guilty over what he’s forgiven.

Living with false quilt will stymie us as it did Henry. Understanding forgiveness frees us to be all God designed us to be and do. Let God remove any false guilt you may be experiencing so you can live an abundant life.