14 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, 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 empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4: 14-16
I love the above verses. For me, they are some of the most encouraging words in the entire Bible. The “therefore” links us back to the previous verses where we discovered that the true rest for a Christian isn’t found in the sacrificial system since its function was to point forward to the true sacrifice—Jesus. The High Priest had to make continual offerings, but now we have the true High Priest who has made the offering once for all.
Once again the writer of Hebrews (v. 14) encourages them to hold on to the faith that they proclaim. Remember, this was an urban, persecuted church and it was through their faithfulness to God throughout their persecution that revealed their profession of faith.
But, it is verse 15 where we begin to feel the bite of what is being revealed in this short series of verses. Our High Priest, Jesus, is able to empathize with our weaknesses for two important reasons. First of all, He was tempted “in every way” as we are and second He never surrendered to those temptations. To face temptation, as we all know, is not easy and the desire to surrender to temptation comes all too easily. I wonder if some of the same wars raged within the mind and heart of Jesus regarding temptation as they do with us?
Yet, for all the temptations that came His way He was without sin. That alone makes Him unique from any other person who ever lived. Jesus, our great High Priest, knows our hearts, our fears, our discouragements, our loneliness, and our pain because He has experienced it on a much higher level than we can ever imagine. When was the last time you were ever tempted to call legions of Angels down from Heaven to destroy Roman soldiers who were torturing you?
Here’s the point I want to make; Jesus, our High Priest, is in Heaven and our hearts, through the Spirit, making intercession for us. He is on our side. But then again the Father is also on our side and the Holy Spirit is on our side and the Angels are on our side. When God promises, in His faithfulness to us, that we are saved by faith and we accept that gift there is no power in the world or in the heavens that can separate us from the fulfillment of that promise.
Jesus is not sitting in Heaven keeping score of every little sin you commit in order to keep you out. Salvation is not about how good we are, how much repentance we fit into our lives; it is about what God has done. He has saved us with an outstretched hand and brought us out of exile and slavery and delivered us into freedom and peace.
My mother was an amazing Christian woman. She didn’t know much theology and couldn’t proof text complicated doctrines but she knew how to pray for her family and lead us to Christ. She didn’t always have an easy life, spiritually but I never saw her discouraged or want to give up. Right up to the day before she had a stroke, in church telling a children’s story, she would kneel by my father’s chair and pray for him. As she lay in a nursing home just before she passed away she said to me, “Ladd ‘I hope I am going to heaven.’”
It broke my heart. I wanted to scream, throw chairs, trash the room I was so frustrated and angry. I couldn’t grasp the pain my mom felt because she thought she might not be accepted by Christ. Where do such thoughts come from? I will tell you. They come from terrible theology that gets preached from the pulpit that makes Christians think that God is legalistic and petty. They steal our security and our trust in the grace and love of Jesus and make us think we have to perform up to expectations in order to please Him. They make us believe every little sin is held against us and God is exacting every failure, writing it down in order to zap us with them come judgment day.
Really! Is this our view of God? Did Jesus die for nothing? Are we not free through His sacrifice from the power of sin, death, and Satan? Were our chains not torn off and cast aside at the cross? Are we not free men and women to live in the Spirit as full brothers and sisters in the security of the promise of redemption?
The writer of Hebrews believed Jesus was our mediator, High Priest, friend, savior, substitute, and victorious champion. No wonder he admonishes us to come “boldly before the throne of grace with confidence.” Remember, the old sanctuary system where the priest entered into the Most Holy Place but once a year absolutely no one else could ever enter that room because of the holiness of God. The priest mediated on behalf of the people for the forgiveness of sins.
Now we can come directly, through Jesus our true High Priest, to God with boldness and courage. No, mom, we don’t have to wonder because Jesus loves us. My mother isn’t accepted into the Kingdom of God because she prayed or did good things (and that she did) or any other reason based upon her life work. She was accepted because God promised to Abraham that through his “seed” a savior would come and redeem us all who believed from the power and grasp of Satan. My mom believed that in her heart, but bad theology that she heard all her life confused her and made her doubt.
My prayer for you, just like with my mom, is that you have confidence and strength in the power of God to see you through every pain and storm in your life. I pray that you don’t doubt God or hold back from coming to the throne of grace with boldness and confidence. Notice what happens when we come before God with confidence, we receive “mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (v. 16)
This is not a promise that you will receive everything that you desire or even pray for. This is a promise that you will receive mercy and grace to help you through the storms of your life. This is talking about your confidence in the saving power of God who bundles you up in His arms and holds you when the world kicks sand in your face. This is the God who promises “I am always with you” and assures us, through the cross, that our lives have purpose and meaning and we are loved. My friend Alan just emailed me a great line, “The work of the High Priest isn’t one of presenting His blood, but presenting His children covered by grace.”
This is the God who promises us upon the faithfulness of Jesus that when we close our eyes for the final time everything is going to be fine.