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Moving from the outside in

The Rings of Time
Creative Commons License photo credit: faungg

Hebrews 10:19-25

Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

The thing I like about this passage and the reason why I feel its so relevant is this systemic movement of moving from the outside in.

True, the author is talking about our own relationship with God, but I think if you look a little closer it’s also a great illustration of our own interpersonal relationships.

First, look at the “draw near” passages.

We have Let us “draw near”

Let us spur one another on

and let us not give up meeting together.

Can you see it? It’s this inner core, moving to the outside ring. At first we’re talking about God – drawing near to God. He’s our inside circle and our most deepest relationship, right? Then it moves a little more outside of that and it says let us spur one another on. Well who do you spur on? Spurring on is a familiar term for people who own horses, it’s actually the Greek word paroxysmos and it means to “irritate.” That’s what you do with spurs right? You irritate the horse and you encourage them to go faster, jump higher etc.

Well, who do you spur on? Your close friends, your relatives. And then lastly it says let us not give up meeting together, who is that for? The Church. The entire community. Do you see that? Small circle, bigger circle and even bigger circle.

There is an importance to defining your relationships and keeping them in the right perspective. I want to show you two other places where we see this same thing.

The first is in the example of the temple. In 1 Kings 6 – King Solomon builds the temple of God and I won’t bore you with reading it but basically within the structure there is 3 tiers

  • Outer court
  • Inner Court and then
  • the holy of holies

The outer court was for any Jew – this is where the masses came to worship and to be near God. It was the common area. The inner court was only for the truly committed and the truly devout, this was for the Levites and the Priests. And then finally the Holy of Holies was the inside of the inside and only the high priest could enter, he went in only on Yon Kippur, once a year. It’s the same 3 rings of commitment.

And when we look closely, we can see that even Jesus lived this way. This is the life that he modeled as well.

Jesus had a band of 12 men whom the bible calls apostles. These twelve men went everywhere with him and were largely responsible for helping Jesus with his ministry, but then we also noticed that Jesus had an inner circle of 3, Peter James and John. And often times what we’ll see is Jesus pulling away with these three men only.

And then lastly, we see the intimate relationship Jesus had with His father.

So as you consider this “friendship matrix,” I want you to think right now about your own circles.

You have an outer court don’t you? Today we call it our “contacts” it’s all the people in your address book, all of the people whom you went to school with, worked with, have known and still know. It’s your hundreds of followers on facebook. We used to call these people “acquaintances.” You’d met them, shake your hand and say, “I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

And you have an inner court. These are the people you know, but these people also know you.

Jesus said in John 15:13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

To know and to be known – that is the definition of intimacy. These are your close friends, the people who you don’t mind if they see you in your pajamas, or the people you don’t need to clean the house for. These are the people you can call when something terrible, or something great happens.

C.S. Lewis “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.”

And then last, you have your Holy of Holies, this is your deep and personal relationship with God.

You see each level, each ring is defined and as you draw in, it becomes deeper and more personal and more holy.

Relationships are holy.

But how often do we jumble all of these? How often do we allow our outer court acquaintances to disrupt our lives? How easily can we get wrapped up with people we barely know or even to allow the criticism of complete strangers to wound us. How often can we even become devoted to the lives of celebrities or reality stars or sports figures and we allow their problems to become our own?

And it sadly works both ways,  how often do we take a Holy God who wants intimacy with us, and who wants our utmost devotion and love – how often do we treat God like one of our friends, or worse, like one of our hundreds of email contacts?

That’s not how it’s supposed to work. That’s not how we were designed. You and I, we need good and proper boundaries around our relationships. Our relationships need to be defined and guarded in our hearts.

We flourish and we become the people God wants us to be when we are connected with God and with people.

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