Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds
Part 86: Strengthen by a Sympathetic High Priest
August 26, 2012
SCRIPTURE READING: Heb. 10:32-26 (Eddie Kelley)
What is it about CAMPING that makes us feel so worn out? We get home take a shower, get to sleep in our own bed. Having a really good weekend can make me feel so WORN OUT on MONDAY.
* I have learned to let those EMOTIONS just WASH over me.
Q But what about when it is NOT just a ROUGH DAY or couple of days? What about when the WEARINESS is your NORMAL?
There is a band I have been getting into recently, DEVOTCHKA, and they have a line in a song, “I am tired, I am weary, I could sleep for a 1,000 years.”
Q Does that feel familiar to anyone?
The book of Hebrews was written an ENTIRE CHURCH feeling that way. They had endured some PERSECUTION and the author of Hebrews knew that they were weary but worse persecution was on the way.
* The entire purpose of Hebrews is to STRENGTHEN and ENCOURAGE a weary and tired church.
OUR OWN PAIN
We can feel a little SHEEPISH about our trials compared to risking life and limb just by being a Christian. On one hand, it is a good reminder not to take ourselves SO SERIOUSLY.
* Sometimes we COMPLAIN too much about too LITTLE.
But on the other hand, “each heart knows its OWN PAIN” (Prov. 14:10). I dislike encouragement that just tries to tell us our problems aren’t that bad.
* We may know that our CHILDREN’S BEE STINGS are not that bad, but we don’t minimize their pain.
Our lives can be hard, we are beset by many PROBLEMS and PAINS. Life gets discouraging.
* We may have FINANCIAL troubles.
* RELATIONSHIP (spouse, children, parents, single).
* GOD may seem distant and uncaring or unloving.
* Feeling SPIRITUALLY DEAD.
The first readers of HEBREWS need to be ENCOURAGED to STICK it out in the midst of DISCOURAGEMENT and FRUSTRATION, things not going the way they thought. We need the same thing.
In the next FOUR WEEKS, we will be strengthened along with them, by four different ways, but the most important is this weeks’ encouragement, which hinges on a well loved passage:
Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
THE SON OF GOD
One of the GREAT MYSTERIES of our faith is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man. More than any other book, Hebrews shows Christ’s divinity and greatest.
Hebrews 1:1-3 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
Yet our passage BEAUTIFULLY BLENDS both sides of Jesus nature. If Jesus was NOT the Son of GOD, powerful and able to save us, it would do us LITTLE good how much he cared.
* Because Jesus is God, he does MORE than CARE, he is able to save.
He is the CREATOR of the universe and SAVIOR of our souls.
WHEN JESUS WAS WEAK
But on the other hand, it is HARD for us to RELATE to him that way. He is way up there, we are way down here. That is why verse 15 is perhaps the MOST FREQUENTLY QUOTED verses in Hebrews:
Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
But I am not sure we REALLY APPRECIATE just how much this means.
* Saturday night we were huddled around Micah’s smart phone to watch a trailer for the remake of “RED DAWN.”
We all know how these movies work: They will kick butt, face massive setbacks, then prevail. I hate that “SETBACKS” part – I just want to see them kick butt without having any good guys die, but I know why they do it.
* They have to STRUGGLE and ALMOST FAIL for us to RELATE to it.
Every movie and every story (that is worth watching) requires that the HERO STRUGGLE against his or her WEAKNESS:
* SUPERMAN is defeated by kryptonite.
* Bruce ALMIGHTY struggle against his selfishness.
* FRODO fights against his physical weakness.
According to Hebrews, Jesus also struggled against his weakness. The Bible is careful to show us that he was not some Stoic Superman:
* He was born a HELPLESS INFANT.
* He CRIED at the death of a friend.
* He was WEARY after long days of WALKING or FRUITLESS MINISTRY.
* He was TERRIFIED and LONELY in the Garden of Gethsemane.
TEMPTATION IS NOT SIN
He wasn’t just PHYSICALLY WEAK; he was TEMPTED by sin, “in every way like us, yet was without sin.”
This teaches us something very important: Being TEMPTED is not SIN. All of us are tempted, that is not our fault. The ENEMY will try to make you feel GUILTY for being tempted.
* You can’t stop the BIRDS from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest there.
Granted, we can put ourselves in PLACES that will make the TEMPTATION WORSE. I don’t know if that is sin per se, but it is STUPIDITY.
TEMPTED LIKE US
We think, “He was God, he wasn’t REALLY TEMPED.” But he had a PHYSICAL BODY and felt it all as much as we do.
In fact, I’d argue he FELT MORE temptation than we ever will, because he never gave in:
Q If TWO PEOPLE are on a DIET, who knows power of temptation: the one who gives in at breakfast or who stays the course?
Jesus KNOWS, by EXPERIENCE, what it is like to be tempted to the VERY LIMIT. He was tempted:
* to LIE to save his life,
* to COVET the luxuries of the rich,
* to take REVENGE when mistreated,
* to LUST when Mary wiped his feet with her hair,
* to POUT with self-pity,
* and to GLOAT over his accusers when they couldn’t answer his questions.
Think what this MEANS: Were you a BETTER PARENT until you actually HAD KIDS? You can look at some parents and DESPISE them, until you get there and FIND OUT how hard it is.
Or have you ever caught yourself DESPISING some other weakness:
* Being UNFAITHFUL.
* Being OVERWEIGHT, etc.
But then you GO THROUGH it yourself, or you are TEMPTED to it and you understand how LITTLE of a GAP there is between them and you, and you become SYMPATHETIC.
Because Jesus SUFFERED with the FULL BRUNT of temptation, we know he SYMPATHIZES with us in our temptation:
* Jesus does not DESPISE our WEAKNESS, he understands it.
* He does not despise our FAILURES, he understands it.
* He does not despise US, he understands and loves us.
This statement alone is powerful and we need to stop here and let it SINK IN: Jesus does NOT DESPISE YOU and your failures, he understands and loves you.
* But this sympathy is not simply a “THERE, THERE,” it is more than feeling for you, it is HELPING, as it says:
MOMENTS OF WEAKNESS, TIMES OF NEED
Hebrews 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ADMIT our FAILURES, to admit our mistakes. When confronted by our failures, we can either IGNORE them or give into DESPAIR.
On one hand, we can try to be a SUPERMAN (sans the kryptonite).
Q Have you ever known a person who REFUSES to APOLOGIZE, because they think if they made a mistake, they ARE a MISTAKE?
On the other we can say, “There is NO POINT, why even try?” and just give into sin and DESPAIR.
But, the author of Hebrews says, GIVE INTO Jesus, SURRENDER, CONFESS your failures. BOLDLY APPROACH the throne of grace.
DRAW NEAR BOLDLY
In the OT, the only person who was allowed to APPROACH GOD, was the high priest, and only once a year. But thanks to our high priest, we are able to come to the throne of grace CONTINUALLY.
Not timidly, but “WITH CONFIDENCE.” I think the English misses it a little. The word means “WITH FRANKNESS.” In other words we don’t WHIMPER our way to God but can say, frankly, “God here I am, a SINNER and a FAILURE, but ACCEPTED by you.”
Q Do you remember AGONIZING over asking someone out on a DATE?
Why? Because of FEAR of REJECTION, fear they will turn us down (a well founded fear, in my case). But we come to God, BOLDLY, FRANKLY, knowing he will accept us.
* Because of Christ, we don’t FEAR REJECTION.
THROUGH CHRIST AND ONLY THROUGH CHRIST
“BECAUSE of CHRIST,” is vital: We are NOT CAPABLE on our own. We don’t boldly approach God and say, “I am a PRETTY GOOD guy and you are LUCKY to have me.” Rather, “I NEED YOU, forgive me, take over, be Lord.”
* This is what is meant by becoming a CHRISTIAN; if you are not, I appeal to you, GIVE YOURSELF up to CHRIST.
* Please text “Sunday School Teacher” ; service is almost over
THRONE OF GRACE
But we don’t just go to the THRONE of GRACE to HANG OUT: “So that” we may receive MERCY and GRACE. We think of mercy and grace as SYNONYMOUS, but they are not.
* MERCY is forgiveness of sins, that we are accepted and not rejected.
* GRACE is the full array of God’s gifts and help, not just to survive, but thrive.
We have this MISPERCEPTION that this is talking about HEAVEN, but Hebrews is talking about a very “HERE and NOW” thing: Right now, we boldly come to God and say, “I need your help.”
* I am always STRUGGLING FINICALLY: Please provide, please teach me wisdom, please help me honor you with my money.
* My RELATIONSHIPS are BROKEN: Show me how to raise my kids, to love my spouse, to forgive my relatives.
* I feel WEAK and WEARY: Refresh my spirit, help me draw close to you through this time.
Don’t worry about asking the RIGHT THING in the RIGHT WAY; boldly ask and ask him to refine your desires and answer the deepest prayers of your heart.
DON’T TURN BACK
This is incredibly ENCOURAGING stuff. Yet Hebrews is interwoven with WARNINGS:
Hebrews 3:15-19 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.
This is written about the Israelites who left Egypt in faith, went through the desert in faith, but at the Promised Land gave up.
* You may have gone through so much, DON’T GIVE UP NOW and make a lie of everything you have done up to this point.
Yes life is TOUGH, but don’t GIVE UP now. Lean DEEPER into God, through yourself more FULLY at JESUS’ FEET. Don’t be like the ISRAELITES who traveled through the desert, but gave up in SIGHT of the PROMISED LAND.
Q & A