When Jesus died, the curtain separating the people from the Presence of God was torn, symbolizing that by the blood of Christ we could now enter into God's presence without the need for intercessors or any further sacrifice. The blood-debt of our sins has been paid in full; the final sacrifice has been made. Yet A.W. Tozer writes that despite that "God wills that we should push into His Presence and live our whole life there," (pg 26) we are content to remain outside the veil. Tozer asks, "why do we consent to abide all our days just outside the Holy of Holies and never enter at all to look upon God?" (pg 31) He concludes that there must be a veil inside of our own hearts that separates us from the divine presence of God.
So what is that veil? Is it things, or a lack of knowledge of God? I could go on and on and speculate, but something hit me as I was praying yesterday. In the Temple, before the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place was an altar on which incense was burned as an act of perpetual worship. What hit me as I was praying was that it is this altar that is keeping me from entering in to God's presence.
Perpetual worship is keeping me from intimacy with God. That doesn't sound right, does it? The problem isn't the worship, but to whom I am worshipping. I realized that I worship myself. This isn't really any new revelation, but the perpetual nature of incense burning before the veil is what convicted me. It is not just that I worship myself- we all do at times- but that this worship is perpetual and all-consuming.
To whom do I turn when things are hard? Me. Who do I talk to during those quiet and still times in my mind? Myself. Who do I seek to satisfy? I. Me, myself, and I. My own holy trinity. I pay God lip service in prayer and I do lift up my voice in praise on Sunday mornings. I reflect on his word daily, but most of the time only to the extent of how I would teach about a particular passage. (I am even guilty of this on Sundays; listening to a sermon I think of the point I would make instead of the actual point being made) My worship is centered around me: what I want, what I think, what I like. And so I perpetually burn incense to myself.
In order to enter in to where God longs for me to be, I need to snuff out the incense and stop worshipping myself. With respect to our own veils that keep us from God Tozer writes, "In human experience that veil is made of living spiritual tissue... To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed." (pg 32)
I need to tear down the altar I have build to myself. I need to tear away my own veil that keeps me from God. This is going to hurt. I cannot do this alone. Praise be to God who sent his only Son to go ahead of me, shedding his blood for my sake. "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" (Hebrews 9:14)
This blog is part of a book club reading The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Please join the discussion here and at our hosts, Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. Need a copy of the book? You can get it for free on Kindle.