It is sad when people need a sanctuary from our closest loved ones. It’s sadder yet when they need refuge from the God they grew up with.
Many forfeit the faith of their youth. They are actually giving up God—the object of faith. It often seems that God isn’t doing His job, living up to His promises. “Ask and it shall be given.” Really?
It’s one thing when we don’t get what feels good. But what about when God doesn’t give us what seems good? Worse, what if God Himself doesn’t seem good? Vindictive, arbitrary, and not so nice?
While many people are running away from church, other people hide from God within the church. There is no jungle to hide from God thicker or more tangled than organized religion, as we mostly see it. People may hide in ceremonies, arguments, doctrines—even Bible truth that we quarantine in our heads to protect our hearts from God.
And why not, if He tortures decent people for eternity? Charles Darwin, father of modern evolutionism, was driven to eventual atheism by the delusion of such a God. Countless others have as well.
Sharing personally now, my childhood religious instruction did not torment me with fear of an eternally burning hell. My church did teach me that a relatively brief hell awaited everyone who failed to achieve sinless perfection when heaven’s sanctuary closed down and no more mercy was left for struggling sinners (who were old enough to know better, which I was always told I was). And so I lived many years afraid that God would sadly but surely consign me to hell for being nothing better than a decent person who may have wanted to be like Jesus but fell short of sinlessness. This book records truth about grace that has not only saved my soul but brings me great joy through the sanctuary doctrine. This is my first degree confession—how a teaching that once terrorized me now brings me hope, delight, and wonder.
Others of my generation may have, or wish to have, a similar experience. You may be among them. Or you may belong to a younger generation who learned of a kinder, gentler gospel—but not much if anything about heaven’s sanctuary.
But somebody is saying, “I don’t need Jesus in heaven’s sanctuary. I just want Him in my heart.”
Actually, the sanctuary is all about Jesus and how he connects and interacts with our hearts and minds. It provides a foundation for organized religion that we can trust. It makes sense out of praying in the name of Jesus. It makes us crave God’s presence because of His throne of grace.
Benefits of heaven’s sanctuary
My goal in these pages is to show how God blesses His people from the sanctuary. From it we receive benefits including but not limited to:
Opportunity for confession
Opportunity for worship
Fellowship with other believers
Purpose in life
Spiritual gifting for ministry
Comfort for our fears
Correction for our stupidities
Healing spiritually, emotionally, physically
Museum of lives transformed and healed
Education about God, life and ourselves
Victory over the devil
Vindication in the judgment
Insight into the history of good and evil
Insight into the resolution of evil
Insight into the future of this world
Shalom (peace and well-being) here and now
Social justice for the world
Solution for pollution and climate change
If I can say this reverently, God’s sanctuary exceeds the upscale quality and dignity of New York’s exclusive Fifth Avenue shops, the round-the-clock variety of your local Wal-Mart Supercenter, and the inclusive acceptance and unlimited consumption offered without charge at a skid row soup kitchen. The sanctuary is our one-stop shopping center for all needs in this life and for eternity.
Speaking of the future . . . in case you are suffering fear about your destiny, take comfort from the following scripture. It’s about how Jesus came to save us from our anxieties about eternity:
“Only in this way (through death) could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying” (Hebrews 2:15, NLT). He does this in His role as “our merciful and faithful high priest” in heaven’s sanctuary (verse 17).
Amazing access to God’s presence
Come with me to the Oval Office, the most powerful place in the world. The year is 1962. Grey suited men solemnly circulate around the room. Polite knocks at the door, and more enter.
They’ve earned their right to be here through decades of distinguished civil service. They revel in their right to (respectfully) address the president: “Mr. President.” “Sir.”
Suddenly the door to the Oval Office bursts open and a happy little boy toddles in. “Daddy, Daddy!” Nobody seems shocked or offended. Obviously this has happened before. President John F. Kennedy grins delightedly as his little son, who bears his name, jumps onto his lap. The business of the world pauses as father and son exchange kisses and embraces. Then John John jumps on the carpet and crawls under the desk to play. The business of the world resumes.
The message of the sanctuary is that all of us enjoy John John access to God through Jesus our high priest.
It wasn’t always so. In Old Testament times, one man had access to the inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place—earth’s Oval Office, if you please. He was the high priest, and he had that access just once a year on the Day of Atonement. He came in trembling, lest his own sin cause him to be struck dead.
It’s so different for us. “We who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Hebrews 6:18-19).
We flee—not as Queen Esther, hoping for the golden scepter. The golden scepter was extended to our representative upon His resurrection. Now through Him, God’s scepter is extended to us. We flee like John John, confident and affectionate.
We flee—not from God but from the ravages of a troubled and troublesome world. We could not go to God ourselves, and so He came to us in Christ. So now we flee—not in fear but in anticipation of mercy and help at heaven’s throne of grace.
And once we flee to God in His sanctuary, we don’t have to flee from life anymore. We don’t need those pesky addictions for escape anymore.
I hope in this book to show some of the benefits that are ours in God’s heavenly sanctuary through what Jesus is doing there for us. Each chaplaincy experience that I share will illustrate another aspect of sanctuary teaching. Names have been changed, I’m sure you understand, to protect the privacy and security of those who have suffered emergency situations requiring intervention. Beyond this, I assure you that all stories are true to the best of my memory, and that I experienced them myself as a law enforcement chaplain in western North America between 1999 and 2005.
As we explore together the reality of refuge in Jesus, I trust you will agree that God’s sanctuary is one of the most important and exciting teachings of scripture.
Hastings Street becomes a sanctuary
You may be wondering what happened with my stolen computer. Here’s an update from Hastings Street: The bad news is that I never got my computer back, but my insurance completely covered my loss, and I was able to rewrite my papers quite quickly.
Something even better happened: I saw Hastings Street transformed into a sanctuary. God’s Spirit lured me back and transformed my place of pain into an opportunity for ministry to troubled souls. I carried not a computer case but a shopping bag of granola bars and a bunch of long-stem red carnations. I proceeded to greet the confused and smashed faces of my new partners in grace.
Women got not only granola but a flower. It’s amazing how a simple carnation can humanize the hardened face of a toothless, flea-bitten prostitute who may never have been given a flower in her entire wretched lifetime. Several wanted me to pray so they could escape their life of sin—to Jesus at God’s throne of grace in heaven’s sanctuary.
It felt wonderful to walk up and down Hastings Street as if I owned the place, mingling with the addicts and prostitutes. When I saw a guy connecting with one of the women, I interrupted: “Hey, man, do you know whose daughter she is? She’s a child of God!”
“She is?” the guy said, stepping back from her. “What about me?” And so there was another fine conversation as he abandoned the woman to encounter her Lord.
I became one of the addicts on Hastings Street–hooked on the thrill of ministry there.
People kept asking: “Who are you with? Where are you from?” I told them: “I’m from Jesus. I lost a computer here four days ago–but I’m not here because of that. I’m here because of lost people! Your soul is a lot more precious than a machine.”
Later, as I contentedly leaned against a wall surveying the late afternoon scene, someone approached wearing a backpack stashed no doubt with all manner of unmentionables. “What do you need?” he whispered. I smiled and said: “I need the Lord, man! How about you?” Another conversation. Then a young guy wearing a Cleveland Indians baseball cap asked if I had a Bible, which I pulled out of my own stashed backpack.
When finally my feet got tired and my throat dry, I strolled into a now familiar pool hall and ordered some orange juice. Another refreshing experience, sitting there amid swirling cigarette smoke while relishing all the mission opportunities. No wonder Jesus spent so much of His ministry hanging out with such people.
To summarize the saga of Hastings Street: Out of my pain I received more joy than I could ever find on the white sands of Hawaii. How gratifying to see hunched-backed ladies cradling their carnations, hours after receiving them. Every woman needs a flower–especially those with smashed faces. It’s all about grace—God’s throne of grace in heaven’s sanctuary.
Nothing honors and cheers God more than seeing faces smashed by sin smiling as His sons and daughters, with trembling hands lifted high for His celestial fix from the sanctuary.
(This is the second of two parts in a series of God’s grace in heaven’s sanctuary, adapted from Martin Weber’s recent book, God Was There: True Stories of a Police Chaplain. For part one, click here.)