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Why I Believe What I Believe: Hebrews, Orthodoxy and Hope in Christ (Part III)

April 1, 2019

 

 

13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.

14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

-Hebrews 4:13-16 (NLT)

I would like to continue our thoughts from last time.  We will do a quick review of verse thirteen and then forge on…

 13 Nothing is hidden from God; everything is naked and exposed before him Last week I argued that God’s disposition toward us is for our good. God’s commandments and disciplines are for our good; even God’s discipline is for our good. John 3: 17 reads, “God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world but that the world might be saved.”  If you look closely at the term “the world;” it often refers to that which is opposed to the reign and rule of God.  In this light, the scripture reads, “Jesus did not come to condemn those who rage against him; he came to save them.”  And if God’s disposition toward his enemies is filled with grace; how much more will it be so for his friends?  Reading the Bible will often convict us of sin in our lives.  Despite the cultural notion that anything that makes us feel uneasy or give us pause is a bad thing; this is actually a good thing.  The God before whom every thought and action is naked and exposed, desires to forgive our sin and restore us to right relationship with him.  You are known.  You are loved.  Salvation is available to you.

How God Convicts and Forgives

  1. Realization of sin
  2. Conviction of sin
  3. Repentance for sin
  4. Turning from sin
  5. Victory over sin

One of my greatest concerns with modern theology is that it attempts to negate the concept of sin.  This is theologically problematic because until we repent; there is not a thing God can do with us.  Being naked and exposed before God means that we are wrecked; laid bare.  It is in this humbled state, the work of Christ is freed in our lives.

          Jesus is the one to whom we are accountable Hebrews 9: 7 states we get “one life to live and then the judgement.”  When people say, “You are not my judge,” they are most correct.  I am not your judge and you are not mine but that doesn’t mean there will be no judgement.  To the author of Hebrews, the Bible is the law, we are the guilty parties and Jesus is the judge.   He is the one who decides who is saved and he sets the terms of that salvation.  The word “judge” in the New Testament gets us pretty close to a head referee.  The referee does not make the rules but is tasked with enforcing them and making the close calls.  Once the call is made, there are no reviews.  Upon what criteria will we be judged?  To my best reading of the Bible, the sole criteria is what we do with Jesus Christ.  To those who “repent, believe and receive” Christ, one eternal destiny is offered and a very different eternity is promised to those who reject Christ.  And the Christ who makes any chance we will ever have of salvation possible; is the one who casts ultimate judgement.  The umpire is rooting for us!

 14 And since Jesus is our great High Priest The High Priest in the Jerusalem Temple stood between the people and God. In the time of Jesus, the position was politicalized to become a buffer between the Romans and the Jews but that did not change its theological function. The high priest brought God to the people and the people to God.  Once a year on the Day of Atonement, the High Priest went into the most sacred space in the Temple, the Holy of Holies, to offered a sacrifice to reconcile the sins of the people before God.  Not the sins of that day or the sins of one person; but the sins of the whole community over the entire past year.  It was a solemn day of fasting and repentance but it crystalized the brilliance of Judaism.  The people started out the day with a community stained with 365 days of sin and would end the day completely forgiven.  At the end of the transaction, a goat was released into the desert to symbolically carry away the sins of the people.  A scapegoat.  The high priest stood at the intersection of God and the people and stood there alone. 

Jesus is the ultimate High Priest.  Jesus is greater than the greatest high priest who ever lived.  He was both the sacrifice that was offered for the sins of the people and in taking the sin of the world past, present and future upon himself, he was the scapegoat that was released.  On a cross at Calvary, Jesus bore the sins of the world once and for all.  And because he is fully God and fully human; no one could ever be our high priest like Jesus.

          Let us hold firmly to what we believe The author is clearly concerned that his audience is drifting from the true faith.  Historical evidence suggests Roman persecution under the heavy hand of the Emperor Nero may have been causing many to lose their grip on God.  Now persecution was not Empire wide, but it was racking up the martyrs in many parts of the Empire.  It is easy to say you believe but do you still believe when you are mistreated or slandered for standing for truth?  And if you do still believe, do you still believe when it begins to affect your ability to make a living or cost you your financial security?  And if you still believe, do you still believe when it costs you your life?  The author reminds us that because the great High Priest Jesus has a grip on us; we don’t have to worry about losing our grip on him.  So what is it that we believe?

What Do We Believe?

  1. God loves us
  2. We all sin
  3. Jesus paid the price for our sin
  4. We must believe
  5. We must repent
  6. We must receive
  7. We must confess

The text now moves on to presenting an argument concerning Jesus’ unique qualifications to stand between us and God.  

Why is Jesus the perfect High Priest?

  1. Understands our weaknesses Jesus was fully human.
  2. Faced our temptations Satan threw everything he had at Jesus
  3. Did not sin Jesus felt the stress and strain but never “missed the mark” of God’s call or of his purpose.

In a very real sense, Jesus passed the test that humanity failed and his perfect mark became the grade of all who have, do and will believe in him!  We can lean into the spiritual accomplishment of Jesus!

16 So let us come boldly to the throne of God In Christ Jesus, we can go directly to the throne of God. When I was a kid, phones were public space. First of all, we were on a party line.  That meant when you picked up your phone, you could often hear the conversations of others.  Secondly, back in those days, you had to dial O to get an operator if you wanted to make a long distance call.  They called it operator assistance.  I remember the day we got a private line and the day you could dial direct.  Your business was suddenly your business and you could just call who you wanted regardless of where they lived.  For some of you raised in other traditions, I am about to get all Protestant-ly Methodist on you.  We don’t need operator assistance to get to God.  We don’t need saint assistance to get to God.  We don’t need icon assistance to get to God.  We don’t need priest assistance or preacher assistance to get to God.  The only thing we need to get to God is Jesus!  Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can go to God 24/7/365 direct dial.  Game. Set. Match.  Bam!

          There we will receive mercy  I have long said that justice is what we want for others and mercy is what we want for ourselves.  Imagine yourself going way too fast on the highway.  Now everyone else is going way to fast as well and the roads are in good shape but you are going way too fast.  A moment later you see flashing lights in your read view mirror and you pull over to the shoulder.  The patrolman gets out, approaches your car and says, “Do you have any idea how fast you were going?”  You respond, “I was going too fast.  I was dead wrong.”  Now at that moment, you have been both convicted of sin and repented of sin; are you hoping for justice or mercy?  When we go boldly to the throne of God, we will receive mercy…not because we were not speeding but because mercy is in the heart of the one empowered to make the call!

          Find grace to help us when we need it most There is an incredible thing about God; he comes to help us when we most need it, not when it is convenient for him.  Have you ever noticed how many friends you have when you are on top?  When you have the world by the tail, you don’t need friends, they are everywhere!  It is when you are down that you need friends and I have to tell you, they are much harder to find.  One of the things I love about God is that when we can’t buy a friend, God rushes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  You may be hurting right now and feel you are all alone.  Perhaps the people you thought were your friends have let you down and perhaps you have let yourself down.  Hebrews reminds us that when we are right, when we are wrong and when it is just too foggy to tell, God’s grace and forgiveness are just waiting for us to receive it!

The theme of our text today is that Jesus is our advocate.  An advocate is someone who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy or pleads on behalf of someone else.  At the very point Satan thinks he has you and everyone else has abandoned you; Jesus is advocating for you. 

Just tell the truth about your sin and let him do the rest!

And how is this possible?  Because Jesus is greater!

Hebrews (1)

Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.

 

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