(A Series on Hebrews)
Westgate Chapel 2/26/89a.m. Hebrews 4:14-16
PROPOSITION: In the middle of trying circumstances and under the scrutiny of God's Word, instead of running away or hiding, there is the help of the great High Priest to stand firm in the faith, firm in obedience and firm in the time of need.
- THERE was a time, between 1973 and 1975, when Rita and I led a touring musical ministry called Master Design.
- WE were on the road full time with five musicians and a sound engineer, Norm Johnson.
- NORM was a typical young Californian who had been saved during the Jesus Movement in the late 60's.
- HE was short, a little overweight, had hair down to here and a long beard.....which he had all cut off before we set off for the churches of America.
- WELL, in the summer of 1974 we were working on our new music in a recording studio in San Diego, and Norm was in the control booth....on his first date with Roslyn.....a very beautiful, very shy, Christian, Filipino girl.
- ALL Norman had on was an oversized pair of bibbed overalls, beach sandals and no shirt.....Roslyn was quietly sitting off to one side and watching.
- WE were working on a new Andrae Crouch song that was up tempo....and Norman, clowning around like he did a lot, got up in the control booth, put his thumbs under the straps of his loose fitting bibs and started to dance to the music.
- THE pressure of his thumbs unsnapped both buttons of his bibs and they dropped instantly to the floor.........leaving him exposed in a pair of boxer shorts with big red hearts on them.
- NEEDLESS to say we did not do much rehearsing for quite a while....and Norman, who was usually not shaken by anything, turned as red as the hearts on his boxer shorts.
- THE miracle of the story is that that shy, reserved Roslyn ended up marrying Norman...and they have lived happily ever after.
- THE moral of the story?
- NOBODY likes to be exposed....in any measure....whether physically, emotionally or spiritually.
- WE like to stay covered up.
- AND it is very natural for man to find a place to run and hide....quickly......when he is exposed.
- THE passage of Hebrews 4 that we studied together last Sunday, deals with this matter of exposure.
- VERSES 12&13 say,
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
- THIS is what I mean by being exposed.
- SOMETIMES God does it through His Word being preached.....or taught, leaving all our thoughts and motives exposed.....or other times He does it through crisis circumstances that leave us stripped of all pretense, all in us that is phony, all false sense of security and all of our excuses.
- AND when God is done working with us in this way........we are totally exposed in His sight.....and sometimes in front of others as well.
- YOU see, what is exposed and given up to Him, can be healed in our lives, and what we conceal, we are left with.
- BUT a very natural reaction to this kind of exposure is to cut and run.
- THE Hebrews to whom this epistle was written were feeling that very way.
- THEY had been stripped of their homeland, their families, their religious heritage, their security, and even their safety.......and there they stood exposed before God.....and many were running for cover.
- HEBREWS 4:12&13 said it would happen.....that God would allow it to get down to the real you.
- DO any of you know the kind of experiences that I am talking about?
* Where God's Word will crash into your thoughts......and strip away all defenses in one sweep of His sword.
* Or someone close to you dies......and for a long time you feel bare......everything you thought so important gets stripped away.
* Or a special relationship or marriage gets broken........and you want to just crawl away and hide somewhere.
* Or some failure in your life is exposed and everything you have tried to establish in the way of credibility is gone in an instant.
- THIS is the "dividing of the soul and spirit" that verse 12 is speaking about.....and the "uncovered and laid bare" of verse 13.
- WHEN this happens, what are we to do?
- WELL, in verses 14-16, comes one of those "Therefore's" that tell you a solution is on the way.
- THE writer says, when you feel all stripped bare and exposed.........you need a priest, so that instead of running and hiding, you can stand firm and be helped.
ii. stand firm in your faith
- FIRST, in verse 14 the writer says,
"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."
- THE "therefore" ties what is about to follow here, with the previous verses where God and the Word have done their stripping work in our lives.
- WHEN you are all exposed in life....and feel like running and hiding somewhere......you need this Great High Priest....so that you can hold firmly to the faith.
- THE problem with us Westerners is that we have a hard time identifying with what a priest even is.
- REUBEN Welch, in his commentary on Hebrews, says that most of us think of a south sea island.......
* With volcanoes in the background.
* And palm trees waving in the moonlight.
* And people in grass reed skirts singing "Ka--lou--ou--aahh" to the sounds of ukulele's.
* And the high priest gathers the crowd around him, because there is drought in the land.
* And they chose a beautiful maiden, played by Carol Burnette.....and lay her on the altar.
* And the priest takes the ceremonial dagger.....and we cut for a commercial.
- WE have wierd images about priests....even from what we have read in the Old Testament.....with the blood and the fire and smoke
- TO the point that I am not sure we even understand, when God's Word says that we need a priest.
- BUT we really do need a priest.......someone between God and man who completely understands both sides.
- YOU see, you and I cannot handle our relationship with God by ourselves........we just end up laid bare before Him.
* On our own we do not have the holiness to come into His presence.
* We also do not have the ability to eradicate the past.
* And if we could chose holiness, from today onwards, we still could not accumulate enough merit to pay for the sin of our past.
- SO here we stand, condemned before God's throne.....exposed for what we are.
- BUT the writer of Hebrews says that we are not left alone.
- HE says that we have a Great High Priest.....
* .......who has made the payment for our sins because He was completely God (2:17).
* .......who knows what it is like to go through temptation because He was completely man (2:18).
* .......who has gone past the cross, past the grave, and through the heavens and is, this morning, seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, in all authority and power.
- AND this priest is willing to stand, in your place, before God this morning and stand, for you, as you, there.
- HE is willing to answer the Father on your behalf.....and, as exposed as you are, to satisfy the Father's demands for holiness on your behalf.
- HE is fully qualified to do it for you and me.
- IT is His delight to do it for anyone who will receive Him by faith as their own, Great High Priest.
- BECAUSE of Him you can......STAND FIRMLY TO THE FAITH YOU PROFESS.....DONT RUN!
- DON'T abandon the faith you profess now. This is no time to run and hide. Look at what the great High Priest has done for you.
- IF you have been left exposed, either by God's Word or by circumstances in your life, hold to your faith in this great High Priest......AND STAND FIRM!
- IF you let go....you will be lost forever without God and without hope......that is the message of Hebrews 3, 10 and 12.
- SO hold firmly to the faith you profess.....Count on your Great High Priest at the right hand of God.
iii. stand firm in obedience
- NEXT, in verse 15, the writer says,
"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."
- NOW, here is another aspect of our High Priest's ministry that we need, when we are exposed and temptation comes against us.
- OUR great High Priest has been there....wherever you are this morning.
- AS "great", and "holy", and "exalted" as Jesus is, it would be a serious mistake if any of us thought that somehow He was remote from the "real world" that you and I live in......and did not understand exactly what we were dealing with.
* As if He did not know about or understandwhat you face with heavy metal music.
* Or as if He did not know what it was like to browse a news stand and be tempted to pick up a Penthouse magazine.
* Or go to a new car showroom and not know what it was like to want one.
* Or be in a crowd and not know what it felt like to want to be recognized......appreciated.
- THERE is a real danger that we fall prey to when we think that no one has come under the intensity of temptation that lurks in the shadows of our lives.
- JESUS experienced it all.....your great High Priest.
- YOU see, the temptation is not the sin, temptation is the test.
- IN the early days of His ministry, when everyone loved Him and the miracles and the free food.....the temptation was to take that glory to Himself.
- MARK 15:41 says that there were several women that followed Jesus around and ministered to His needs.......it could quite easily have been that one of them became infatuated with Him and the temptation was there for sin.
- SATAN tempted Jesus directly in the areas of ambition, personal power, self-preoccupation, acclaim.
- IN the garden, He was tempted in the area of self-preservation.
- HEBREWS 4:15 says that He was tempted in every way, just as we are.
- LET'S not water down what the Word says by thinking that there was any way that we have it harder than He did as a man.
- FROM the first to the last, Jesus was in a test.......and our text says that He was "without sin."
- HE proved that human weakness is the opportunity for the power of God to triumph over sin.
- JESUS answers Paul's struggle with temptation, in II Corinthians 12:9, by saying,
"My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness."
- I THINK that may of us have bought the lie of Satan that the temptations of our day are too great and that the believer has little option but to fall.......that is the deception of the pit and flys in the face of the passage I just read to you from II Corinthians.
- WE have a priest who understands everything we face in 1989. (That word "sympathize" is a bad translation. It makes it sound like Jesus feels sorry for the spot we are in. Not at all. It means that He has been there and can identify....But as a victor over temptation on your behalf.)
- SO, stand firm in your obedience to the Word of God. You have a great High Priest who can be victorious, through you, against whatever dart Satan will throw against you.
iv. stand firm in your time of need
- LASTLY, in verse 16, the writer says,
"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."
- IN the Old Testament, it did not matter how badly the people needed to be in God's presence......only the High Priest could go in.....and only once a year....and only with the blood sacrifice......and only after his sins were cleansed.
- YOU could be desperately in need of God's comforting presence, His healing presence, His guidance, His peace, His power, His forgiveness.......But you could not go in. If you tried you would die. Only the High Priest.
- THE people were excluded from the presence of God because of their sin. They could not go into the Holy of Holies.
- BUT Jesus opened the way.
- IN Mark 15:38, when Jesus cried out from the cross, "It is finished!", the curtain in the temple that separated the people from God's presence, was torn from top to bottom.
- NOW the way is open.....right into the throne room of God.
- AND it is not for perfect people to enter.
- VERSE 16 says that it is for those of us who are needy.
- IT says that there we will be able to find mercy and grace....that will help us in our time of need.
- DO we come in on hands and knees?
- WE probably should.
- BUT verse 16 says that the needy can come in with confidence.
- HOW can this be?
- BECAUSE right next to the throne, on the right hand side of the Father, is our Great High Priest, and He is interceding for us.......and when the accuser comes and tries to run us down before the throne, and point up the stains on our garments......he has to wait and watch as the robes of righteousness are brought out and we are covered in mercy and grace.....and he leaves, foiled again.
- IT is the exposed ones who can enter with confidence.
- THE problem for the Hebrews was that the hardships in their lives had stripped them of their faith, their obedience and their hope.....and they were running from God and going into hiding.
- BUT that is not very different from what many of us face.
- THE harder the trial, the harder we run.
- WHEN we need to drawing near to the throne of God......to receive mercy....and grace....and help in the time of need from our great High Priest who stands ready to minister to you right now.
- HE knows exactly what you need. He has exactly what you need.
- AND because you have a great High Priest, you can,
* Stand firm in your faith.
* Stand firm in obedience against temptation.
* Stand firm in God's presence, even when you are in need.
- SO STOP running away. Come with confidence this morning, to His throne.
COME INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES