Saturday, February 23, 2008

Saturday Sermon: Since We Do, We Can

Hebrews 4:14-16

When we know someone who has traveled somewhere we want or need to go, we often ask them for directions. They might tell us of the potential traffic jams or places to avoid, but they have been there, and so they can tell us the best route to get there, and their example gives us confidence for our journey. They have been there, and it makes a difference.

Joshua had confidence even though he saw giants in the Promised Land. He had remembered the deliverance from Egypt and the promises that God had made. He went and looked at the Promised Land, came back and gave a good report. As we talked of last week, too often we don’t enter in to all God has for us because we fear what lies ahead, instead of having faith in the One who has gone before us, and who promises us that we can take the land.

Hebrews 3:1 – sets the agenda for chapters 3-7 – Jesus is our Apostle and High Priest

Chapters 3-4 – Our Apostle, our ultimate Joshua, leading us to the ultimate Promised Land

Chapters 5-7 – Christ as our High Priest, leading us to the presence of God

We saw that in 4:12-13 it is the Word that reveals our inner person, laying us bare, leading us to repentance. In 4:14-16 it is the person of Christ who is the one that provides what we need, the One who we place our faith in. Repentance and faith (Acts 20) are the heart and soul of the Christian life. This passage leads us to the next section, chapters 5-7, going from explaining Christ as Apostle to Christ as High Priest, but it also concludes this section in chapters 3-4.

The Word of God has exposed our need, and now we must repent, and place our faith in Christ. It is as if He has the knife to our throat, and we either trust Him to operate, we repent of our refusing to let Him operate, and we have faith that He can do the job, or we fail to enter in. The written word exposes us to the living word, and we must have faith that Christ, the living word, can do what he says he can do. Just as last week this is not only about salvation but sanctification, about entering into heaven, but also about entering into holiness.

The author now takes up the main argument of the Epistle, already alluded to in 1:3, 2:17, 3:1. Christ is superior in every way to the Old Covenant. He has already shown Jesus is superior to the prophets (1:1-3), to angels (1:4-2:18), to Moses (3:1-4:13), and now demonstrates that the priestly work of Jesus as superior to that of the Levitical line (4:14-12:3).

The OT had three mediating offices, Prophet Priest and King, three types of persons who stood between man and God.

The Priest was the way to God; they brought sacrifices to him

The Prophet was the truth from God; he expressed God’s revelation to people

The King represents life, he could take or give, pardon or punishment

John 14:6 – 1 Timothy 2:5 – Jesus fulfills all three offices for the NT economy. Look at the last phrase; He is the only way to God. He has made the sacrifice, He speaks to us as God’s Word, and He reigns as King upon the throne of our lives. Jesus Christ is the only way to enter into God’s rest, and the only way to enter into all the rest. He is in the right position.

Vs.14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

Since then means therefore, a conclusion – applying what he is now going to say to what he has already said. Who He is (Son of God, High Priest) and where He is (the heavens). He is the right person, in the right place, for our right now time. That is why we can seize the opportunity for help. We can enter in because He has entered in. He is in the right position, as far as purpose, as far as place, and as far as power.

Purpose – We have a great high priest – Mega – the OT High priest was in symbol the way, but Christ is the real deal. The High Priest of the Tabernacle couldn’t rest in the Most Holy Place, he could go in only once per year, and couldn’t wait around, he had to get the incense in and sprinkle blood on the mercy seat and then leave. He couldn’t stay in the presence of God. Christ is different – Chapter 1:3,13 – Jesus sat down, and He has taken all of us with Him.

Place – Who has passed through the heavens – perfect tense, an event with continuous results, Jesus has taken His place in the throne room. He has passed through the heavens to sit at the right hand of the Father, where He performs as our High Priest. He’s in the right place.

Power – Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into the Most Holy place in heaven and sat down at God’s right hand, He is our High Priest, He is able to do what we need, He is in the right place to do it, and He has unlimited resources. He is the Son of God, the right man for the job.

Now through the word you know what you need but you also need to know who can help you. As it is said, it is not what you know but who you know. You could know you need your roof fixed, but do you know a roofer, etc. You could have a perfect diagnosis as to your illness, but and even know exactly what medicine to take and even have it on your shelf, but if you don’t take it you won’t get cured. You could know all the theology in the Bible but if you don’t place your faith in Jesus it will do you no good. Not just what you know, but who you know.

Yes, we should come to know the things of God revealed in the Bible, we should study it, intensely and continuously. However, some are so fixed on looking at the trees they miss the fact that they are in the forest. The Jews of the day were so fixed on letters and words they missed the bigger picture of Divine intent and meaning (John 5:39-40). In all our studies in the Word of God we must remember that the God of the Word is whom we seek.

Let us hold fast our confession – this is the exhortation – Christ is the object of our confession. Confession is homologia – to speak the same – keep that Word within us, homogenize, to make us like it. We agree with God, with His word, we have been exposed and we agree, we need a savior, a sanctifier, to be rid of something so as to obtain rest from it, I speak the same thing as God has told me to. The Word abides in me.

Hold fast – krateo – to seize it with strength, present tense (keep on doing it, now), active voice (you take the action, not passive, not to yourself), subjunctive mood (conditional)

Hold fast in 4:14 is different word than 3:6,14 (possessing), there it is holding onto, in 4:14 it is reaching out and getting it, once you have it you hold onto it, but you have to take it first, one means “hold on tight”, the other “get a hold of it quick”, the latter being the meaning here.

Let us seize the opportunities we have to take hold of Christ (Philippians 3:12 different word but it reminds us that Paul said His conversion was the beginning, not the end of the chase). Let us hold fast, grasp it, seize it make it ours and become one with it. Having the written word active in your life, as you are allowing Him to operate on you through it, you are entering in and you can take that word and let it make you more like Christ, you seize the moment.

This is actually basic stuff, but I don’t just want to tell you to do it, I want you to understand it. This is why we explain the text, so that you will have faith. It is like a doctor explaining what is going to happen before he does the surgery, so you will have an idea of what is being done, and have confidence that it is the right thing to do, and that you will know that he knows what he is doing. We have an inside man, we have a connection, and this man is in the right position to help us, that is His purpose, He’s in the right place, and He has the power.

Vs.15 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

For is a connecting word, he is giving an explanation – what He can do for us. Not only is Christ in a position to help you, He is willing and able to help you. We might know someone that could help us, but it doesn’t do any good if he won’t, or if we cannot get a hold of him. It is a tremendous blessing to us that we can get a hold of Christ, and He is willing to help us. The writer is telling us not only why we should but also why we can enter in and hold fast.

Jesus is sympathetic with our cause. We have many weaknesses, and we seem to be able to notice them more as we mature. We might be getting stronger but we see our true helplessness before many things. We aren’t the na├»ve young one any more, then invincible 18 year-old who hasn’t yet learned. We have had episodes that remind us of our overall condition.

We all need help, all the time, we are not God, we have weaknesses, and we have limitations. But we also have sin, and we know we don’t deserve help, especially the help of the one we so often sin against. So we feel like it is hopeless, we have needs, but we don’t deserve all the help we need. So we can try to deny it all and act like we don’t need any help, or try to drown it all and throw our life into a pool of pleasures, or we give way to the darkness of despair. But God has made provision to give us a living hope, our Great High Priest Jesus Christ.

The word for weaknesses is often used in the Gospels for physical illness. Here it means we have no strength, not physical strength but that we have no spiritual strength. Now we may indeed be increasing in spiritual strength as we mature, but we still have weaknesses, and we rely on Jesus more as we see them and repent of trying to do it through our own lack. This is the Christian way; we are actually growing stronger in Him as we realize the weakness in ourselves. Then we receive the strength of Christ. We confess our weakness and repent of trying to do it our way, and then we walk that out as we place faith in Christ as our strength. In order for Christ to give us His strength we have to come to the place where we realize our weakness. We have to admit we are unable to resist, and we repent, and have faith that Jesus can and will operate. He shows us our weakness, and He gives us strength. What will it take for you to realize you can’t handle it? Apart from the grace of God you are without strength.

Now once you do realize your lack of strength you cannot do as those at Kadesh-barnea and simply stay away, go back, fail to enter in. Many have been exposed by the Word, but they then fail to take of hold of Christ and enter in because they think they have to do it in their own strength and they realize they don’t have enough. This is our dilemma with regard to sin in our lives. We have been exposed but we won’t enter into the operating room, we fail to trust God during hard times.

Jesus sympathizes with this, our weakness. This “sympathize” is in the aorist tense, a singular event. Not the present tense where He is always sympathizing, that would make it a general principal, “He knows how you feel”. It is not like He is only saying, “I’ve been there before, and man, and I know how you feel.” No this in the aorist tense, He sympathizes with THAT, in other words not just with the fact that we are weak, but with the actual weaknesses themselves, the actual events. Jesus is not unable; He is able to sympathize with every event we go through. It is like He is saying, “I know how you feel right now, because I feel it right now.” Not just I’ve been where you’ve been, but also I am there with you now.

But one who in every respect has been tempted as we are – 1 John 2:16 – all temptation comes into three categories, pleasures, possessions, and pride. He was tempted with all in the wilderness (Matthew 4 / Luke 4) –

Stones to bread – lust of the flesh (pleasures)

Kingdoms of world – lust of the eyes (possessions)

Top of Temple – pride of life (position).

We know that Jesus was tempted numerous other times, but here we see that He was indeed tempted in every respect. If you have had cancer you can sympathize with someone else who has it, even if it is in a different body part, it is still the same disease. Jesus was tempted under stress and pressure to abandon the will of God, to use His divine prerogatives and find His own fulfillment through His own way, instead of relying on God for strength, that is what He was tempted with, and that is what we are tempted with, and He can sympathize with us. That is what Jesus was tempted with in the wilderness, that is what the Jews were tempted with in the wilderness, that is what we are tempted with, and the question is will we make it out of the wilderness by entering in? Will we cave in to the pressure, or enter in to the throne room?

Yet without sin – Jesus did not yield under pressure. Now this is saying more than that. He is the Son of God, and is impeccable; He was not able to sin. If He was peccable it would mean He was able to sin, but didn’t. He can’t sin, and He did not know sin but He did know temptation.

C.S. Lewis imagined someone objecting here: "If Jesus never sinned, then he doesn't know what temptation is like. He lived a sheltered life and is out of touch with how strong temptation can be." Here is what Lewis wrote in response to that objection: A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is . . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in . . . Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means—the only complete realist.

Jesus did not have internal temptations to sin as we do, but Jesus had the limits of hunger, thirst, and weariness, and through these the enemy strikes. He sympathizes with the assault of temptation in times of crisis. Jesus knows temptation in a way we don’t, because only the one who never gives into temptation knows the full strength of temptation. The pressure mounted until it reached its peak in the garden of Gethsemane. If it be possible was His cry, yet He also said, not My will but Thine be done. Unlike Christ, we feel the least bit of pressure and we go running back into the wilderness of our own worldliness. It is true that Jesus never faced temptation in an inner sense the way we do, because there was never a sinful nature pulling Him to sin from the inside. But He knew the strength and fury of external temptation in a way, and to a degree, that we can never know. He knows what we go through; He has faced worse.

Vs.16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

We talked at length about this verse a few weeks ago, but lets put this all together now. He is saying therefore again, drawing a conclusion. Let us therefore with assurance keep coming, we are free to speak, we can confidently approach the throne of God in His grace.

We can enter in because He has entered in. Since we do have such a Great High Priest, we can enter into the presence of God and find provision. We can come to Him for strength so that we will not yield under the pressure, and for mercy if and when we do.

That we may receive mercy and find grace – both verbs in the aorist tense, for specific situations, both subjunctive mood, which means it is a contingency; you have to come and get it.

To help = undergird like Acts 27:17 – help in righting the ship.

With Jesus on the throne we can have confidence that we can get the help we need. We can find mercy and grace, mercy to not get what I do deserve, and grace to get what I don’t deserve. Mercy to forgive me for that thing I did, and grace to help me to not do it again. We don't escape the pain, the stress, the disappointments, the suffering, the tragedy, the frustrations and pressures of life in this world. But we do have a place where we can go to find mercy and grace to help us. At that place we have Someone who sympathizes with us, is willing and able to help us, who has no limits to His resources, and we can go to Him anytime, and He will help us right on time.

In time of need – now we are always needy, but this means timely, right on time, in the nick of time, well timed for your situation. He can help us, He is willing to help us, and if we enter in He will help us, and He will do it right on time. We can grab a hold of it and have confidence in it.

This is the big picture of Hebrews 4:11-16: the Bible and prayer. It is about the written Word and the Living Word, about repentance and faith. The Word of God speaks to you, and you speak to the Word of God. You see your need through the Word, you take hold of that Word and bring it to God who is ready, willing and able to help you get the most out of it. The battle is won in prayer. That is how you enter in.

Let’s put it all together from this week and last week. God’s Word reveals to you something He wants to operate on. You pray to Him in faith, repenting and telling Him you will trust Him to operate, to be the Great High Priest, the Great Physician in your life, to stop trying to do it in your own power. Later, when you are up against temptation, right then at that moment, rush in, don’t wait, and don’t cave in to pressure, but enter in to prayer.

When we are faced with difficulty, we either enter in or stay away, we either panic or we pray. The Jews at Kadesh-barnea were facing giants, and they panicked and never entered in. The Jewish converts in this passage were under heavy persecution, they were being publicly scorned, losing property, and being put in prison, and they needed to be warned not to fall back. God was showing them where they were faltering, and they needed to pray for help. Jesus suffered under more pressure than anyone in history, and He knows what you are going through, right when you are going through it. We should follow Him to the Promised Land.

Instead of yielding to temptation, next time enter in and ask for mercy and grace to help you in your time of need. Since we do have Christ as our High Priest, we can enter in to His rest.

“Living For Today With An Eye For Tomorrow”©

1 comment:

Even So... said...

Very long, I know, but again, well worth your can hear this preached by visiting our audio sermon page, from January 20, 2008...