By: Stephen McAlpine
I now have access to the coveted Gold Lounge. I’m sitting here in the Gold Lounge at the Auckland airport, heading home from a conference, and it’s all hors d’oeuvres, funky drinks, comfy chairs, free everything, and peacefully quiet. Far from the madding airport crowd.
Gold Lounge access. Finally! I checked in on my iPhone this morning and the boarding pass came up gold for the first time. I may have shed a little tear of joy. Or perhaps that was just my eyes watering due to five hour time differences, six talks in a couple of days., and impending jet lag.
My new job this year working for a national evangelistic organisation has meant a lot of flights, a lot of cramped seats and a lot of pushing my way into a crowded cafe and paying criminally for a coffee and a baguette. Now? Access! And it feels great. Especially since this is an international flight (No, New Zealand is not part of Australia), and it also means express service at security. It’s good.
And yet, I gotta confess, with the imposter syndrome that comes with being of working class stock growing up, parents always doing the hard scrabble thing, wearing hand-me-downs from other church families growing up, and a slight suspicion that luxury was of the devil, I felt kinda guilty handing over my gold pass. I felt guilty heading up that escalator to those glass doors and the pretence – cos let’s face it, it is a pretence, of luxury on the other side.
Guilty and slightly nervous. Why nervous? What if the pass didn’t get me in? What if they looked at me and laughed, seeing through my nervousness and said “As if?” What if I’d gotten it wrong? What if that pass didn’t give the level of access that I was hoping for?
Even now sitting here, I’m waiting for security to come along. Well that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I still feel out of place. Over against that is the realisation that I have earned this access because of the number of air miles I’ve flown this year.
Perhaps for you this sounds stupid, as you’ve had lounge access for years. You know you have access and you bowl right in there and enjoy the privilege. But here’s the thing. Your lack of nerves don’t give you better access than I have. Your longevity in the gold pass program doesn’t count for more than my recently won right to the same access. It’s a level playing field.
Access. It’s a key word in the Bible. It’s a key concept in the Bible. And centrally, access to God, the wonderful and loving Creator of humanity. And the Bible story starts with access to God, in the Garden, where humans enjoy the platinum pass of those who, not having earned this access, have been granted it nonetheless.
Access is not the rare treat for humanity at this point. It’s the everyday gift. Until, of course, humanity decides it wants to set the terms of the relationship with their Creator, and access to his Wonder and all his wonderful benefits, is denied. Humans are cast from the Garden, demoted to “cattle class” if you like, even though they are the high point of creation, worth so much more than cattle.
Yet God, in his love and mercy, and indeed his desire to live with his creatures, knowing that their access to Him and His glory is their fullest joy, provides a way to access Him again. Only it’s restricted access. It’s mediated through priests, and blood and curtains and temples and ritual. God indeed dwells in the midst of His people, first in a tent surrounded by tribes, then in a temple in the midst of a city, but it’s not quite the same.
And it’s not without nerves. It’s not full access, and you could get found out. You could find that access is denied for a variety of reasons. And God’s security services would never be fooled, and the punishment for unauthorised access was severe.
Of course that’s not the end of the story. For in Jesus access to God is restored. Jesus is God with us. Jesus is the glory of God himself, seen, touched, heard, felt, kissed. And then in his sacrificial death, access to God is restored. And the promise is given, as the story of the Bible ends, that access restored will be accessed complete when we, his redeemed people, see him face to face.
Romans 5:2 tells us “we have we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.”
And the whole book of Hebrews is designed to show how the access to God that the finished work of Jesus has given us is in every way superior to that granted by God to his Old Testament people through ritual and blood. And the Holy Spirit is God’s sealed promise that one day that this restored access will one day be completed access.
And yet, and yet, if you’re anything like me, you can feel nervous. It can feel like you’re going up those escalators in Auckland Airport asking yourself:
“Will I really be allowed access? Won’t my hopes get dashed when I come to God? I feel like an imposter. What if God is not all that keen or willing to grant me access, despite my best efforts?”
Let me encourage you today as I sit in the Gold Lounge here at the airport. The little sliver of access to glory that I earned by the number of flights I have taken this year, is but a pale, pale imitation, an all-smoke-and-mirrors version, of the glorious access we have to our heavenly Father even now, and nought of it is from anything we have earned.
We have been gifted access to the very throne room of heaven. Gifted access here and now to the very throne room of heaven. There is no need to be nervous that you don’t belong. There is no need to be fearful that you will be rejected. Access is open to you and God delights in you taking full advantage of it.
Hebrews 4:16 beckons us:
“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I would be silly to ignore my Gold Pass from now on. I would be foolish to spend my money on sandwiches and drinks in a cafe when it’s all laid on for free upstairs. With such unfettered access why would I not avail myself of the privilege every single flight?
How much more then, with full access to God, should we avail ourselves of the privilege. How surprising when we don’t. How foolish it would be to pass up the daily opportunity to approach the throne of grace in our time of need, either because we are too nervous or too fearful.
We have access to a Glory far beyond the glories this earth and its trappings can effect. Let’s joyfully, and confidently take advantage every day of the free, but costly access to God won for us by Christ.
Article supplied with thanks to Stephen McAlpine
About the Author: Stephen has been reading, writing and reflecting ever since he can remember. He is the lead pastor of Providence Church Midland, and in his writing dabbles in a number of fields, notably theology and culture. Stephen and his family live in Perth’s eastern suburbs, where his wife Jill runs a clinical psychology practice.