He pursues us that we might enter in
My heart skipped a beat. I knew that I was in trouble. I had just received an urgent call from my colleague informing me, “BSM wants to see you in his office. Go now.”
I was the sergeant in-charge of the overall security of my army camp that day. Being summoned to the office of Brigade Sergeant Major (BSM) was no small matter; he was the highest-ranking Warrant Officer in the entire camp.
Fearfully knocking on his door, I was told to enter the office. It was a modest office with numerous awards and accolades on display. He was sitting behind a kempt table with two chairs in front. I quietly took a seat on one of them.
“WHO SAYS YOU CAN SIT DOWN?!” he thundered.
I quickly stood up — ramrod straight — startled by his intensity. He chided me for being unrepentant, that I had the cheek to sit down despite my wrongdoing. He went on to question my character for not following the standing orders. He challenged my integrity in doing a proper job. His accusations were true: I intentionally slacked off during my morning duty.
Standing before this encik, my face flushed florid. I had been caught red-handed and was guilty as charged; my lack of trustworthiness was uncovered. In that moment, I saw how blemished my character was, and it wrecked me. Warm tears started streaming down my face as he continued berating me. I wanted to run away; I wanted to go back in time to right my wrong; I did not want to be enmeshed in this mess — I wanted to hide from my exposed humanity.
Adam and Eve felt the same way after they realised their nakedness and heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden. They hid among the trees in fear and shame. They did not want to connect with a holy God. (Genesis 3:7–8) Isaiah also responded with fear and trepidation when his sin was laid bare before the Almighty God. (Isaiah 6:5) When the Holy Spirit touches on a raw nerve in our conscience, it is a common human response to stow away in shame.
However, God does not want us to be enveloped in shroud of guilt; He wants us to thrive in freedom. One day, as I was thinking about some of my recent sins, I realised the wretchedness of my flesh. I kept giving in to temptation and falling into sin; I was admonishing myself for being trapped in this vicious cycle. I felt the same emotions as I was standing in front of my BSM: I wanted to retreat and avoid confronting myself. It was then that I felt God say to me, “Scarlet.” A quick search turned up this verse:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
they shall become like wool.”
(Isaiah 1:18 ESV)
As I meditated upon these lines with my eyes clenched shut, on the verge of tears, I felt wave upon wave of His grace wash over me. How is it reasonable that God would be willing to make my scarlet-sin as white as snow? How profound and far-reaching this exchange is!
When we find ourselves in the miry trench of sin, it is instinctual to hide in it. Instead, God wants us to come out from concealment and meet Him face-to-face. In the garden of Eden, God surely knew that Adam and Eve were hiding among the trees, yet He called out to them, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9)
God desires for a personal relationship with every one of us. This is true even if we feel like running as far away from God as possible. The entire narrative of the Bible is really about God reconciling man with Himself, about God calling man to come out from their sin-filled environment into His promised life. In the same way God called Adam and Eve out from among the trees, the Israelites out from Egyptian slavery, and the church in Thyatira away from sexual immorality, God calls out to us, “Where are you?” He desires that we step out from self-condemnation and into His loving embrace.
Approaching God is vastly different from approaching an earthly superior; we do not have to stand outside knocking on an office door plagued with dreadful apprehension. Instead, “we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place…let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19–22 NLT).
In His presence, we can be assured that the Lord’s discipline is gentle; it is in His character. After all, God describes Himself as “compassionate and gracious…slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6 NIV). Of course, this is not an excuse to continue living any way we want to; when you encounter His love and grace, it compels and empowers us to repent and greater pursue Him. Repentance involves a commitment to change an old behaviour.
The session with my BSM ended with him sending me away with a stern warning to perform my duties diligently. He did not formally punish me (using military law), but he assured me that I would be closely monitored for further infractions. I think this parallels a spiritual truth: the Lord’s discipline is also firm. He is not a vending machine dispensing cheap grace. We are warned not to insult the mercy of God by treating His blood with contempt (Hebrews 10:29).
Being able to boldly enter beyond the veil starts with a solemn acknowledgement of the power of Jesus’ blood. He has made a way for us to enter in. When we find ourselves entangled in sin, the call to go to God is exceedingly urgent. “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Our strength of resolve will falter again, but God works in us, giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13 NLT).