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Fixing Our Thoughts on Christ's Sufficiency

Hebrews 4:14-5:14

Jim Davis

When God's word performs spiritual surgery revealing the darkest secrets of our hearts we need confidence for spiritual survival. What person would enter an operating room for surgery knowing they would not come out alive? What person would be willing to bring his/her life to Christ without confidence of the success of the spiritual surgery? The person must know that God has a solution to sin and failure problems. Sometimes there is a very fine line between revealing the reality of sin and offering a person hope rather than condemnation. God's word is designed to lay our souls bare before God, but it is also designed to give us confidence that we can and will survive the spiritual surgery the living word performs.

The Hebrew writer spoke of the effectiveness of God's word to lay our souls bare.

Hebrews 4:11-13
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. 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. (NIV)

From a human viewpoint it is scary to think that others could know the darkest secrets of our hearts. What happens when we know that God knows those secrets? He not only knows them but he seeks to reveal to each of us things that we do not yet know about ourselves. What he seeks to reveal is not always encouraging, at least initially.

Why are we afraid of the exposure of God's penetrating word? No doubt, one of the major reasons is that the source of our confidence will be destroyed. Sin places confidence in self. Sin persuades us to place confidence in our own way. When God exposes our sin he reveals the condemnation of sin and destroys the source our confidence. The source of our confidence now becomes the source of our condemnation.

When God destroys the source of our self-sufficiency, he does so to point us to the sufficiency of Christ to save us. The Hebrew writer wants us to know that God has saved us from the futility of self-effort through Christ.

Christ Provides Our Confidence

Hebrew 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. 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. 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. (NIV)

Our confidence resides in the person and position of Christ. "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." It is impossible to understand who Christ is without realizing his position before God. He is God's Son and he has gone through the heavens ahead of us as our high priest. Christ's person and position are inseparably connected. All authority has been given to him in heaven and on earth. (Matthew 28:18-19) He is enthroned at the right hand of God. (Acts 2:37; Philippians 2:1-10)

"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them." (Hebrews 7:25 NIV)

Christ the creator was made lower than the angels. (2:9) He became flesh and blood with us. (2:14) Christ became one of us so that he could destroy Satan's power of death. He came to deliver us from the fearful bondage of physical and spiritual death. He was made like us in every way, so that he might become our faithful high priest. As our high priest, he not only intercedes for us, but he also made atonement for our sins. This makes Christ highly qualified to become our high priest. His suffering for our sins enables him to help us when we are tempted. (2:17)

Sin has many convinced that Christ came solely to bring condemnation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus did come to condemn sin, but God sent Christ to save the world rather than for the purpose of condemnation. (John 3:16-17) God sent Christ to reconcile the world to himself. (2 Corinthians 5:19) Christ stepped out of eternity as a just person willing to die for the unjust. (1 Peter 3:18) He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:24) He came to bare the condemnation of our sin. God has sought to reconcile us to himself through Christ while we were alienated from him as his enemies. (Romans 5:10) The beauty of this is that Christ has not saved us because of what we have done or haven't done. He saves us despite either.

Christ's suffering without sin provides our confidence. "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." We expect others to succeed at what we succeed at. Often when we experience success in things that others have experienced failure in, we have no sympathy. We figure if we were able to succeed, others should be able to succeed in the same endeavors.

Christ didn't come to show us up. He didn't come to bring that kind of condemnation. Christ came to experience what we experience, so that he could understand our needs. Although he created us, there was no way he could truly understand our position until he experienced it in the flesh.

Hebrews 5:1-3
Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. (NIV)

Christ through his incarnation defeated Satan's powers. Christ hasn't just passed through the heavens he has passed through our earthly existence. He has not only fought Satan in heaven, but he has fought him in the realm of our existence. He continues to fight Satan on our behalf. He knows what it is to have your most vulnerable weakness attacked. He has been there and he has survived. He knows your greatest needs for survival. He is more than willing to provide those needs.

Only the incarnate God can provide what you need to defeat Satan. Christ knows you cannot win on your own. He didn't come to make you feel condemned because of his perfect obedience. He rendered perfect obedience because he knew your salvation depended on it. His perfect obedience provided for your atonement.

Christ's throne of grace provides our confidence. "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." What do you find at the throne of grace? You find mercy and grace to help in time of need. In times of failure, I need something more than the forgiveness that mercy provides. I need help! Grace provides help. Grace goes beyond not getting what we deserve. Grace enables us to discover God's power in times of temptation.

When Paul struggled with his thorn in the flesh, God told him that divine grace was sufficient. Grace was sufficient to atone for his weakness and it also gave him strength as he struggled with his weakness. Grace empowered him to live above the condemnation of his weakness.

God's grace helps us by giving us divine protection when we are tempted. Grace will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Grace provides divine strength.

Romans 8:13-14
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (NIV)

Philippians 1:4-6
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Philippians 4:13
I can do everything through him who gives me strength. (NIV)

God's purpose in Christ provides our confidence. The superiority of Christ is not designed to make us feel inferior. Christ doesn’t sit on his throne in scowling condescension. The superiority of Christ should help us realize our superior standing before God. God assigned Christ's superior position to him on our behalf.

Hebrews 5:4-6
No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (NIV)

If Christ's position was made possible through the sacrifice of God, you can rest assured that you can approach Christ's throne of grace with confidence. God has appointed Christ to the throne of grace as our high priest. Christ’s position wasn’t just a position created to exalt God’s Son. It is was a position designed to exalt us. God has made the greatest sacrifice of all time to provide a throne of grace for our salvation. In doing so, God has provided the confidence you need to approach heaven's throne through Christ. You can rest assured that the One on the throne understands your dilemma.

Christ's atonement provides our confidence. God purposed to save each of us through Christ’s atonement. Aaron was assigned as high priest because Israel needed an intercessor. Aaron could only enter into the tabernacle to offer sacrifices for himself and Israel. The tabernacle's Holy Place represented the throne of God's presence. Only the High Priest of Israel could enter the Holy place after offering up sacrifices for himself. He went into the Holy Place once a year to offer a sacrifice for Israel's sin, but he couldn’t go in until he offered a sacrifice for his own sin. This tended to make him empathetic toward those for whom he was offering the sacrifice.

The superiority of Christ priesthood over Aaron's priesthood provides us with a much greater confidence. Christ entered into the tabernacle to offer up himself as our atoning sacrifice. This means he knows the pain of your sacrifice for him; he has made the same sacrifice for you. The veil of the temple was torn in two as he passed through it as a sacrifice for our sins. Now each of us can come boldly to his throne of grace. We need not go through anyone on earth. We can approach God's throne with boldness through confidence in the sacrifice of Christ. God has declared Christ, his Son, as our high priest forever.

Christ’s reverent submission to God’s will provides our confidence. His reverent submission was exemplified through his obedience. Although Christ’s call for us must culminate in personal obedience, it is his obedience that gives us the confidence we need as we approach the throne of his grace. When Jesus said, "It is finished" as he hung on the cross, this was the modern day equivalent of stamping a financial document with "paid in full." Christ’s obedience paid our debt in full.

Hebrews 5:7-10
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (NIV)

Christ’s prayers for us provide our confidence. Christ offered up prayers to God who could save him from death and he was heard because of his reverence for God. Christ not only prayed for his deliverance and sanctification, he prayed for your sanctification also. John reveals the nature of Christ’s prayers on our behalf.

John 17:15-23
My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (NIV)

Christ's prayers of intercession were more than casual prayers. Jesus' prayers were wrung out of him in blood sweating tears. In this prayer Jesus intercedes for us, he prays to his Father for his sanctification so that each of us might be sanctified through him. This prayer gives us a hint of what he is no doubt doing as he occupies the throne of grace as our mediator and high priest. As Jesus intercedes as our high priest today, there is little doubt but what he reminds his Father of the purpose of his own sanctification. Your sanctification was the purpose of his sanctification.

Romans 3:22-26
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (NIV)

We may think Jesus finished his work on the cross and now he has ascended to heaven to retire. Nothing could be further from the truth. He lives to make intercession for us. (Hebrews 7:24; 9:24) He is in heaven advocating our cause. (1 John 2:1-2) He stands in God’s presence interceding for us as he hears our pleas, our petitions and feels our pain. His ears are open. His heart is empathetic. His arms are open wide as he invites us into his presence. "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Christ's authoring our eternal salvation provides our greatest source of confidence. The Eternal One is the Originator and Author of our eternal salvation. Salvation is not some scheme dreamed up by us. Salvation has its beginning and end rooted in the Eternal One. There is no other name that offers such salvation. (Acts 4:12)

The Danger of Losing Our Confidence in Christ

The lack of spiritual growth poses our greatest threat to living with confidence in Christ.

Hebrews 5:11-14
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (NIV)

We lose our confidence in Christ’s sufficiency when we refuse to grow up spiritually. We are born into God's family. Our new birth requires growth. Growth from within does not always match our growth without. There are a lot of gray-headed babies in Florida. Babies are fed, burped, changed and entertained, and that is all some of us want. However, babies must grow up.

1 Corinthians 14:20
Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults. (NIV)

Ephesians 4:14-15
Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. (NIV)

1 Peter 2:1-3
Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. (NIV)

We lose sight of our confidence when we forget our ABC's. "The scene in Hebrews 5 is a tragic one. It looks more like a day-care center than a church--grown men and women sitting around in circles playing with ABC blocks. They ought to know better. They ought to grow up. But there they sit, playing in the nursery school of elementary truths." (Charles Swindoll, The Preeminent Person of Christ, A study of Hebrews 1-10, Word Publishing, 1989. Page 90)

It is sad when we come to a place in life where we ought to be teachers, but we need someone to show us the order in which the ABC blocks go.

We lose our confidence because our lack of spiritual growth dulls our hearing. Learning promotes learning. Ignorance promotes ignorance, especially when it is willful ignorance. I have also realized that ignorance can also be the greatest motivator to learn, when ignorance is used as a signal for our need to learn.

When we willfully neglect knowledge of God's provision for our salvation the darkness of ignorance overwhelms us. The writer wants to lead the Hebrews into a deeper understanding of Christ's priesthood, but their willful ignorance has blinded them.

Hebrews 5:8-11
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. (NIV)

Hebrews 10:26-27
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (NIV)

We lose our confidence when evil dulls our ability to hear. Evil has a way of projecting the cause of our pain on God as it dulls our sense of hearing. Hebrew Christians were being persecuted for their faith. Their pain was dulling their discerning ears. The evils of persecution were about to convince them to give up their faith in Christ.

We lose our confidence when we refuse to exercise our spiritual muscles to discriminate between good and evil. The ability to discern good from evil is a vital part of maintaining our confidence in Christ. It is impossible to stand still as a Christian. We either go forward claiming the promises of God or we go backward and wander about aimlessly.

Conclusion:

One preacher said that most Christians are "betweeners." He said most people are between Egypt and Canaan. They have escaped the dangers of Egypt, but are not enjoying the rest of Canaan. They spend their lives between Good Friday and Easter. They seek forgiveness the cross provides, but do not want to experience the resurrection the new life demands. There is a rest that remains for those who are willing to move forward into it. (Hebrews 4:1)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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