Have you been hurt by Church? Me too. Is it a reason to pull away from God? It could be, but it shouldn’t be. You know what Church is? Church is a gathering of totally imperfect people who claim to know they need Jesus. They’re not always going to get it right. They’re not always going to teach it right. And maybe they didn’t treat you right.

I grew up not knowing Jesus because as a little girl, the country church where my family went didn’t quite do things right. My parents were hurt, so they stopped going. When they stopped going, my access to the Bible was cut off. From the time I was 5 to the time I was 15, I heard nothing of God.

Church isn’t always going to be right. One denomination says it has to be this way, while another denomination says it has to be their way. We create division and differences and make our own rules on the path to Jesus. People are hurt in the process. Families walk away. Little girls grow up not knowing about God.

So, what if instead of getting our doctrine from a gathering of imperfect people who need Jesus, or a person who has been hurt by people who need Jesus, or the Google, or any other source of any kind … what if instead we look directly at God’s word for truth today.

What does it take to be saved? What is required to gain salvation? What can we do to gain access to eternity in Heaven with God? What are the steps? What is the right way? How can we be sure? And have you screwed up so much for so long, you’re now out?

We find our answer at the cross. And it’s so simple, so pure, so powerful. For some reason, we’ve spent lifetimes twisting and contorting simple truths into rituals, rules and guidelines which Jesus came to eliminate.

Before Jesus, the way to God was complicated. There were rituals. There were rules. There were people who could talk to God and people who could not. There were certain clothes that had to be worn, sacrifices that had to be made, words that had to be spoken. Within the temple, there was thick curtain that kept ordinary people out of the holy space where God’s Spirit dwelt. Only the high priest could access this space of God’s spirit, and only once per year. A blood sacrifice was required for that yearly entry. So many ceremonial rules and regulations. Then, following God was scary. If you did it wrong, you would be struck dead.

So of course we’re confused on how we could ever be made worthy of access to God. Of course we’re uncertain of our right to approach God with our brokenness. Of course we question if we could ever be good enough to be guaranteed God’s spirit to guide us and God’s forgiveness to cover us for eternity.

But Jesus made everything so simple. We don’t have to complicate this. When Jesus was hanging on the cross, in his final breath, something happened. We often read the story and miss the life altering change that happened in that moment. But today, we’re not going to miss it. We’re going to see it. We’re going to understand it. And we’re going to receive it.

Luke 23, Jesus is hanging on the cross between two criminals. Verses 44-46, “By this time it was about noon, and darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. The light from the sun was gone. And suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle. Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!” And with those words he breathed his last.”

Tucked in between the miracle of the sky going completely dark at 3:00 in the afternoon, and Jesus breathing his last breath, is the sentence that changes everything. “Suddenly, the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn down the middle.” This was the curtain that separated us from God. The curtain that only the high priest was allowed to go behind once a year to gain access to God. This curtain is what kept us out. The curtain was rules and rituals. The curtain was separation and division. And that curtain was torn right down the middle while Jesus was giving his life on the cross.

The fact that this curtain was torn was a miracle in itself. Scripture is very specific that this was a massive curtain that could not be torn. It was 60 feet long, 30 feet wide and it was the thickness of the palm of a hand. The palm of a hand is about 4 inches. Have you ever seen a curtain 4 inches thick? This curtain was so heavy, it took 300 priests to move it. And miraculously, when the sky went dark and Jesus breathed his final breath, that curtain was torn right down the middle! The curtain in the temple. The curtain that separated us from God.

What happened? ACCESS WAS GRANTED. Access for you and I. Rituals and rules were torn down and the way was made for you and I, as messed up and unholy as we are, to approach God.

Everything changed when the curtain was torn. The rules were all broken, demolished, lifted and removed. The rituals were gone. Jesus changed it all. On the other side of the cross where we are now, what do you have to do to receive God’s forgiveness and salvation and be guaranteed an eternity in Heaven with him? Jesus showed us on that cross. He showed us while he hung there suffering and had a conversation with the two criminals who were being crucified with him.

Luke 23: 39-43, “One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!” But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

This criminal hadn’t gone to any classes. He hadn’t joined a church. He hadn’t gone back and corrected any of his wrongs. He hadn’t cleaned himself up and fixed his life. He hadn’t memorized any scriptures. He hadn’t prayed on his knees for 30 consecutive days. He hadn’t stopped drinking or cussing. It doesn’t say he was sorry for the crimes that had brought him to his death. He had done absolutely nothing, other than BELIEVE IN JESUS. It was his belief, and his belief alone, that qualified him to be in paradise with Jesus that very day after he died.

The enemy wants to confuse us and divide us. He wants to keep us feeling like what we can do will never be good enough to qualify us for forgiveness and salvation. And he’s right … nothing we could ever do would be good enough, outside of our faith. What the enemy of your soul doesn’t want you to know is the curtain has been torn. You are not separated from God by any rule or ritual. You have full access because of Jesus. And just like the criminal who had a lifetime of wrongdoing was guaranteed eternity in paradise with Jesus because of his faith, so are you and I.

That’s it, Sis. Your faith. Not your perfect faith. Not your complete understanding. Not the scriptures you can quote or the rules you follow. It’s simply believing in Jesus.

After that, well, Jesus has a way of working in our lives to change how we think and how we live. That happens naturally as a result of God’s spirit dwelling within us through that split curtain. But that’s not the most important thing. Your track record as a Christian isn’t anything God is counting on. He’s not counting up your failures and ready to cancel your admission to paradise. Your faith in Jesus covers you completely.

Being covered changes you. But that’s just icing on the cake, baby! That’s gravy. What matters most is the fact that, just like the criminal hanging on the cross, all we need is to believe in Jesus.

Do you believe? Have you told him you believe in him? You have full access and he accepts you exactly as you are!

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