The Only Task You Need on Your List!
I’m a list guy. Any spare piece of paper, old envelopes, and even a hand will find scribbled notes of things to do on them. I know technology has changed how we can keep and make lists, but there is something special for me about holding a piece of paper, carrying it around, and then checking things off as they are accomplished. Maybe you’re a list person, too?
What if I gave you one thing to put on your list that would change everything for you—something that would make life this side of heaven a bit more serene, pleasant, and life-giving. Would you be interested? Before I share that one thing, please don’t let me add to your current plans or stress by adding one more thing to your busy life. But I believe this one thing would make a difference in all the other things you do or are planning to do this year.
What if I gave you one thing to put on your list that would change everything for you?
The preacher in the book of Hebrews delivers an appeal to Christians: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22) He is saying, draw near to Jesus, our great High Priest, who made a way through His death and resurrection for us to be able to draw near, so do it! The caveat he places on the drawing near is what forces me to wrestle with it: draw near with a true, pure, or sincere heart.
This plea struck me recently when I read it. Of course, I draw near to Jesus—I’m a pastor for goodness’ sake. I’m in the Bible every day, pray every day, worship every Sunday, and think about, plan, and engage people in spiritual things all the time. Surely this passage doesn’t apply to me…or does it?
When I think about what the Hebrews preacher is saying, and I sincerely examine the duties listed above to justify my obedience to this passage, I realize, many times, that all those activities are not with the true heart that he demands. Then my thoughts turn to those I shepherd and whether the duties they are performing as Christians, when examined sincerely, may also lack the true heart. Regular Sunday worship, a small group, Bible study, and daily devotions are all good things, but do they possess the true heart the message of Hebrews 10:22 is imploring?
I realize, many times, that all those activities are not with the true heart that he demands.
I truly believe the preacher of Hebrews is not discounting those activities you and I perform in our pursuit of Jesus, but is urging the examination of our hearts within those activities. Jesus, whom we are to draw near to, would regularly move away from the crowds, the synagogues, the disciples, the crowds, and the work of the Kingdom to draw near to the Father. Jesus knew that He needed that intimacy with the Father where He could quietly connect His heart to the Father’s. It’s what, I believe, would sustain Him, refresh Him in His humanness, allowing space to process and confess to the Father the rigors of life He was facing.
My mind goes to the evening that Jesus would be arrested and eventually crucified according to eyewitness Luke, and he records in Luke 22:42, “And He (Jesus) came out and went, as was His custom, to the Mount of Olives…” As was His custom, His routine of connecting intimately with the Father. It was in this time of intimacy that Jesus revealed some of His most raw thoughts, “Father, if you are willing to remove this cup from Me”…a tender plea that could only be expressed in the familiar place He shared with the Father, where Jesus’ heart was touching the heart of God. Jesus’ heart was true, sincere, and pure as He drew near to the Father.
It was in this time of intimacy that Jesus revealed some of His most raw thoughts.
Two thoughts come to mind when I step back and think about drawing near to Jesus. The first is exhilaration. Oh, that I could set aside some time to meet with the God of creation, the God of Salvation, and the God of presence in my life, that He would allow me into this sacred space where I can experience that He knows me, loves me and has only good planned for me. That brings exhilaration.
But then the second thought creeps into my mind. That could be terrifying. I’m not used to drawing near to Jesus alone, without a band, a book, or others. It would be just me and Him in total intimacy. What if Jesus sees the real me, my sin, my fears, my worries, my anxieties, the doubts that creep into my mind from time to time? It is much easier to draw near with others on Sunday, with my mind filled with songs, study questions, the book, the group, or mission work for the Kingdom than to imagine walking into the Holy of Holies with the God of this universe, alone, completely exposed, and vulnerable.
What if Jesus sees the real me, my sin, my fears, my worries, my anxieties, the doubts that creep into my mind from time to time?
We forget that the first part of Hebrews 10 says we can have “confidence” to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus. Jesus already knows us and knows all those things; He is simply wanting us to draw near to Him, away from the Sunday crowds, the singing, the studies, and the work of spirituality. He knows we need it. He does not. The devil would enjoy making the second thought more terrifying than the first thought to keep you from that intimate gathering with the One who sprinkled your heart clean from an evil conscience and washed our bodies with pure water.
So, there’s one thing I am putting at the top of my list and I would encourage you to consider. Draw near with a true heart to the One who knows we need it. Find that place, away from everything and everyone, and make a regular routine of drawing near to Jesus. Just you and Him, away from the crowds. My hunch is it will be an exhilarating time of honesty, transparency, nurturing, and refreshment for our souls, which will make everything else on our lists a bit more manageable. Won’t you join me?