What does it mean to draw near to God with a true heart? After spending a couple of chapters explaining how the old covenant was unable to actually take away sin, and how Christ has offered Himself as the one true sacrifice for sin, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to draw near to God with a true heart. This idea of truth in our worship is not something unique to the book of Hebrews. We see it mentioned in other passages like John 4:24 where we are told, that “God is spirit, and his worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth,” or Psalm 51:6 which says, “Surely you desire truth in the inner parts.”
When we hear the word “truth” our minds naturally go to the idea of intellectual truth, or to put it another way, that which is the opposite of falsehood. Now clearly that is part of what it means to worship in truth. To worship the wrong God, or even the right God wrongly, not according to His prescribed regulations for worship, is to worship incorrectly. God has revealed Himself to us through His Son in the scriptures. We are called to know Him, and this certainly involves believing the correct things about Him, but to draw near to Him in truth involves another aspect also.
John Owen summed it up nicely when he said, “In the mind, truth opposes falsehood; in the affections, truth opposes hypocrisy.” It is truth in the affections that is primarily at the heart of the command to draw near to God with a true heart, and this means to approach Him without hypocrisy. As we gather to worship the Lord, His focus is not on our outward appearance or rituals; His focus is on our heart.
Think about the last time you spent time worshipping the Lord. Where you really there? Was your heart focused on him, or where you just going along with the flow of the Sunday service simply thinking about other things? In other words, in your heart, were you drawing near to him as you worshipped or were you still at a great distance from Him?
If you are like me, questions like this will serve to remind you of how much you fall short even in your worship of our great Savior. Thomas Watson once penned a sentence that virtually knocked the wind out of me regarding this topic, he said, “Jesus Christ went more willingly to the cross than we do to the throne of grace.” Even in our worship we can be great sinners.
The good news about the command to draw near with true hearts, is the context in which it is found. As the author of Hebrews is telling us to draw near to God in truth, he is telling us to do so because there is forgiveness of sin in Christ. In approaching God with true hearts, we do not merit our forgiveness. It is by understanding our forgiveness that our hearts are moved to draw near to Him in worship. This is why the verse continues by saying that we are to draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.
Let the knowledge of forgiveness in Christ’s blood stir your heart with joy. May it pull your attention away from all the fleeting shadows of this world and draw you near to your Savior’s side today. Even if your conscience has been troubled by your many shortcomings this week, do not let it keep you from approaching the throne of grace. An evil conscience is not the reason to stay away from the Savior, it is the very reason we need to draw near to Him with a true heart.