After 38 years on this earth, I had never set foot in the first class cabin of an airplane. Then came those magical words from a gate agent at HNL a few years ago: “Mr. Dirks, you’ve been upgraded. Enjoy your flight.” She directed me to the red-carpeted boarding line, and I tried to hide my giddiness as I waltzed past the mob of tired and frustrated travelers in the economy class line.
The flight attendant at the airplane door looked at my ticket, and smiled as she welcomed me and pointed me to the left. I had never turned left before, and I couldn’t remember the last time a flight attendant smiled at me. I quickly found my wide and comfortable seat, and hadn’t been there for more than 15 seconds when another attendant appeared to offer me a pre-takeoff glass of champagne.
I was in.
We all want to be in somewhere. We’re all looking for acceptance. Even Harley-riding rebels who loudly proclaim their fierce independence through the deafening roar of their exhaust pipes still feel the need to wear matching leather vests as their herd makes its way down the highway. It’s a basic human desire that’s hard-wired into us: we need to be accepted.
That’s because God designed us to seek acceptance from him, but for much of history that was a problem. In the Old Testament, God usually told people to stay away from him. Why? His holiness would wipe them off the face of the planet if they got too close. Here’s what he said to Moses:
The Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death” (Ex. 20:11-12).
Anyone who ever caught even just the slightest glimpse of God’s glory in the Old Testament usually ended up a quivering mess on the floor, huddled in the fetal position. After Isaiah saw God in the temple, he said, “Woe is me!” In other words, “Kill me now! I can’t bear to live anymore!” God’s holiness was the opposite end of the magnet to our sinfulness.
But everything changed when God sent his son, Jesus Christ, to take away our sin and give us his righteousness when he died on the cross and rose from the grave. Now, God doesn’t say “stay away” anymore. He says, “Come.”
- “Come all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
- “Come to the wedding feast. I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready.”
- “Come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.”
- “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
God says, come all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
A harbor is a place of refuge where boats can take shelter from the stormy seas. And a harbor is a place of redemption where boats can be restored and made new. Scrape off the barnacles, fix the dings, polish up the chrome. But a harbor isn’t just a place for boats to come and stay. If all the boats in a harbor never leave the harbor, that’s a pretty lame harbor. So a harbor also exists to be a place of resurgence, equipping small little boats to go out and cross big oceans.
We’ve been welcomed by Christ into God’s refuge. We’ve found redemption. We’re in. Now our job is to go back out into the stormy seas, and find more people who need the same thing.