Hebrews 4:14-16 - “Grace Awaits”
Intro: God’s grace. “What is it?”
- Defining God’s grace is like defining God’s love.
- Both are measureless.
- Most nights when Judith puts our little boys to bed, they fall asleep to the hymn, The Love of God.
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell
It goes beyond the highest star
And reaches to the lowest hell
The guilty pair, bowed down with care
God gave His Son to win
His erring child He reconciled
And pardoned from his sin
Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry
Nor could the scroll contain the whole
Though stretched from sky to sky
O love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure
The saints' and angels' song
- We can lay down a quick and raw seminary definition for love, like God’s love is incomprehensible, or for grace, it is “unmerited favor”.
- Both fall very flat when we really need it.
There is the real temptation to isolate grace as a one-time event at conversion.
- In the name of theological precision.
- It is certainly true that we are saved by grace alone.
- The saving grace of God comes once and is only necessary once to save someone.
- However, isolating God’s grace as only saving grace misses grace.
Our passage is about grace that comes throughout our lifetime.
- We are brought to life by grace and then given the clear invitation to live by grace.
- If you don’t think so, then your life has not gotten dark enough.
- This grace is all we have left when everything else in life is stripped away.
- There are very real moments when people who’ve survived on the grace of God have pulled me aside and commissioned me to “Preach Grace!”
- Friend I took through Trusting God
- “Whatever else you preach, preach Grace.”
There’s a reason for that! This GRACE is LIFE!
- Some relegate grace to the New Testament.
- The Law being the Old and the grace of God with the New!
- Truly Jesus is the pinnacle of Grace but the mountain of Grace, leading to the top was always there.
- “Grace, Grace, God’s Grace grace that will pardon and cleanse within!”
This morning’s text offers the bible’s broad definition of “grace.”
- Verse 16 says, uses the word “grace” [Xaritos; Xarpiv] twice and “mercy” once in a handful of words.
- The point is to “go after – look for - find – discover – pursue this grace!”
Grace is the theme of the entire Bible as grace should be theme of Grace of our entire lives.
- Sin entered our perfect world and immediately in Genesis 3:15 there was grace.
- “He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
Defining the rest of the Bible’s story under this header makes grace pop up everywhere!
- 3:15 looks forward from a guilt-ridden garden and world to the cross event.
- Revelation 5:9 looks back to the cross from a perfect world in heaven, singing the worthy song exalting a slain Lamb!
But, everything in between, in the Bible, shouts – fills in - that this Grace is life! What you must have!
- Israel’s redemption, conquering enemies, God sending the Law (the oracles), Prophets, priest’s sacrifices, Kings were grace.
- Adam, Eve, Noah, Abraham, Job, Joseph, Rahab, Ruth, and Esther were pictures of grace!
- David was grace, Daniel was grace, Israel’s return from exile to rebuild was grace.
- Every time the poor was fed when the Law made provision at the Year of Jubilee, and alien found a city of refuge, Israel’s armies conquered, there was grace.
- Grace, is the theme of both testaments – and became a catch phrase and prayer wish for every believer in the early church. “Grace to you!”
- THIS IS WHY! – GRACE is LIFE!
Principle: Grace is always there, so draw near
Prop: How you can know grace is waiting for you
Jesus went to heaven on your behalf (v. 14)
Jesus as “great high priest” refers the grace he gave us at the Cross.
- Jesus as both priest and sacrifice made atonement for our sins.
- Jesus is the exalted Son of God, better than angels, better than Moses, the Son [Revelator].
Now the emphasis is Jesus’ priestly work in contrast to the Levitical high priest.
- Israel’s high priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), passed from the sight of the people into the Holy of Holies bearing the blood of atonement.
- This high priest, representing all of God’s people, entered the Holy of Holies, where he sprinkled blood on the mercy-seat to symbolically atone for all the sins of the people.
- However, before doing so, he had to offer a sacrifice for his own sins.
- In contrast, our Great(er) High priest passed once from sight at His Ascension to the ultimate Holy of Holies, having shed his own blood.
There are three portals to enter the Holy of Holies.
- The outer court, the Holy Place, and through the veil of the Holy of Holies.
- This is symbolized by Christ’s ascension.
- “Heaven” or “the heavens” in the New Testament means both the sky and/or the presence of God.
- Jesus passed through every heaven and into the God’s presence.
- The first heaven (the atmosphere), second heaven (outer space), and the third heaven (before God’s face; 2 Cor. 12:2-4).
The point is that Jesus is a better Priest than any other High Priest!
- This is the language of separation and the language of holiness (cf. Leviticus 16:1-4).
ESV Leviticus 16:1-4 The LORD spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the LORD and died, and the LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. He shall put on the holy linen coat and shall have the linen undergarment on his body, and he shall tie the linen sash around his waist, and wear the linen turban; these are the holy garments. He shall bathe his body in water and then put them on.
Back to Hebrews 4, This is vertical language emphasizing Jesus’ transcendence, his separation from us.
- Removed from us by the sky, in heaven.
- However, this language is flipped on its HEAD – Separation is NOT the end goal -- because of his motivation for going!
He left here for you, to be a bridge of grace back to you and also to bring you there with HIM!
- Jesus went there, so you can go there by faith!
- At salvation, we are “raised up with him, seated with him in heaven!” (Eph. 2:6).
The parallel passage to ours is six chapters later.
ESV Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
Though Jesus is far, he is as NEAR – as NEAR as he can possibly be!
His title? “Jesus, the Son of God.”
- The emphasis of Jesus in heaven is not only his Deity but also his humanity.
- The name “Jesus” – his earthly name - points to his earthly life and humanity.
- Though resurrected, he remains fully human.
He is the Son, what’s been the author’s point through chapters 1, 2, and part of 3.
- Here, there is a shift toward Jesus humanity (cf. Heb. 4:14-10:18).
- The One at the throne is the same substance as his Father but he is also fully a man!
- A man whom we can relate!
- A man who reigns down streams down grace when you ask!
The application? “Let us hold fast our confession” (v. 14).
- Literally, “Let us grasp, seize, or take hold of” – “our confession.”
- Jesus left but he left on your behalf!
- His Cross, sacrifice was accepted by God from your High Priest!
- This Day of Atonement is the final Day.
- And, this High Priest is your Advocate who loves you.
- He went where we could not go, entered where we could not, so that we now can!
- This holy sanctuary has been opened.
“The tabernacle was but a limited copy of the heavenly reality. When Jesus entered into the heavenly Holy of Holies, having accomplished redemption, the earthly facsimile was replaced by the reality of heaven itself. Freed from that which is earthly, the Christian faith is characterized by the heavenly.” Bill Barrick
This is why we cling to our Gospel.
- These early Jewish believers had a NEW “confession.”
- “Confession” – homologew meaning “what we say that we know is true!”
Knowing Jesus is near is why we believe and keep believing!
- You need to know you cannot find grace to forgive and to strengthen you from anywhere else!
- Seeking grace from somewhere else is tragic.
Jesus feels what you presently feel (v. 15)
Verse 15 begins by answering a question, in terms of this High Priest.
- If this high priest ascended this high, to this level, to the right hand of God then:
- HE CANNOT POSSIBLY RELATE TO ME.
- He is perfect, he is God, so he surely cannot relate!
- However, remember the emphasis is on his humanity (cf. 2:5-18; specifically 17-18).
- He is a majestic high priest but he is also tender.
- Jesus is able to sympathize.
- “Sympathy” is not simply Jesus being aware of how you feel.
- This is Jesus connecting with you in your greatest hour of need.
The Christian idea that God is a loving Father is interwoven into the fabric of the Christian experience.
- We get this. The Jews viewed God from a distance.
- Holy, means wholly other – translating to God being incapable of sharing in our human experience (Blasphemy!).
The Greeks introduced pagan stoicism seeing God in terms of “apatheia” – essentially incapable of feeling anything at all.
- Their philosophy said, “If man could affect God’s emotions this would mean a person is higher than God so this is impossible.”
- Epicureans, the other Greek school held that the gods lived in perfect happiness and blessedness in a state called “the intermundia” – the spaces between the worlds, not even aware of the world.
Jews, God is distant/different. Stoics, God is feelingless/impassive. Epicureans, gods were detached/uncaring.
These schools are not really different than today’s religions of naturalism and secular humanism. People are hard hearted and DO NOT want to believe that God cares at all.
This is why Christianity is so revolutionary! You have a God who entered into the human experience and enters into your human experience. He sympathizes with your weaknesses because he walked through all of them as a human.
“Christ was ignorant and was taught. He walked like a baby before he walked like a man. He thought and talked like a baby before he thought and talked like a man.” [Hughes]
“Where I need the most sympathy is with my sin and since Jesus never sinned, how can he really relate to my temptations?”
- First of all, this question may come from the temptation to excuse SIN!
- God’s grace is never meant to be a crutch!
- God’s not an enabler! Sympathy is not a cul-de-sac of sorrows.
- His sympathy is meant to meet you where you are and to lift you back on your feet.
“What about the guilt and shame of my sin?”
- “Jesus never had guilt.”
- He never had to carry his own sin or sin’s guilt but he surely carried your sin and your guilt and shame!
ESV 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Jesus suffered the effects of sin and according to Hebrews 4:15 he suffered the fiercest version of temptation!
- It’s easy to say:
- “The temptations may have come to him from the outside but without a fallen nature his struggle in no way could have been as difficult as mine!”
- “He’s perfect right? This is to say, Jesus’ temptations were like play-acting!”
One of the most meaningful books I ever read on the Christian life was Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.
A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in [obvious reference to WWII]. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means-the only complete realist. [Lewis]
He experienced the full range of temptations.
- The delights and joys offered by sin were no stranger to Jesus.
- Sin’s attractiveness was real!
- So, again Jesus is not just imagining how you feel (when tempted!), he feels it!
The word for “sympathy” means “to share the experience of another.”
And yet, without sin!
ESV 1 John 3:5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
Jesus is sinless.
- The writer does not say Jesus was identical to fallen humanity so he could save it!
- There is still a trend in the church to see Jesus relating to people as a fellow loser instead of a winner!
- This translates into church “LIFE” in the name of being “Real” or in morbid and unnecessary confessions.
- Twisting biblical confession into a share session in the name of “humility” into group therapy where no one truly repents at all!
- People just want to feel better, relate, and do it again!
- Integrity should always be the goal. Transformation!
Jesus’ sympathy is sincere and Jesus’ sympathy is grace.
- He feels what you feel so you take a step.
- Sympathy means you are never alone in your struggles.
- Jesus felt and feels your pain.
A wise mother encouraged her daughter with these words throughout her life:
“You’re not the first person this has happened to and you won’t be the last!”
The daughter later as an adult looked back on the effect this had -- saying, “Knowing you are not alone welcomes you back into the human family!”
You know you’re not alone.
ESV 1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
What is God like? Different? Unfeeling? Uncaring?
So, what is God like? “God is Christ-like.” [Allister MaGrath].
Jesus invites you draw near (v. 16)
The groundwork has been laid for you to seek grace!
“Grace is Life!”
This VISION of our Lord emboldens believers to with “confidence [to] draw near!”
- “Drawing near” is the exact opposite of shrinking back in fear!
- Holiness means separation!
ESV Exodus 19:12 And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, 'Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death.
- Our “Sin” also means separation!
ESV Hebrews 10:29-31 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people." It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
- Neither barrier applies! Not Law, not Sin!
- This is a “throne of grace!” A majestic throne, Yes! But a “gracious throne!”
We are called to “come boldly” – “come confidently” - “come courageously” – “come joyously” – “come fearlessly!”
This is PRICELESS we have from our God!
The basis of this confidence is that the throne of God is not marked by a naked majesty which overpowers us, but is adorned with a new name, that of grace. This is the name that we ought always to keep in mind when we avoid the sight of God…The glory of God cannot but fill us with despair, such is the awfulness of his throne. Therefore in order to help our lack of confidence, and to free our minds of all fears, the apostle clothes it with grace and gives it a name which will encourage us by its sweetness. It is as if he were saying, Since God has fixed on His throne… a banner of grace and a fatherly love towards us, there is no reason why His majesty should ward us off from approaching Him. [John Calvin]
“Grace” is repeated two times! Mercy is a synonym!
- Grace here is not merely saving grace, it is sustaining grace!
- There is a “time of need” where we desperately need “help!”
“Help” [Bontheiav] is a nautical term used for the support cables on a ship.
- When Paul was being transported by ship as a prisoner to Rome (to stand before Caesar), he traveled by way of the Mediterranean Sea.
- While passing Crete they were met with a life-threatening storm almost running aground they used “supports to undergird the ship!” (Acts 27:17).
ESV Acts 27:17 After hoisting it up, they used supports to undergird the ship. Then, fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear, and thus they were driven along.
When we rush into GOD’S Sanctuary crying out to Someone who knows our “need” before we ask --- and “help” comes as RESCUE in name of a Person!
- Grace floods out!
- And, wraps you in support, to hold you together, while your ship runs aground!
Conclusion: My father has always loved boxing.
- We grew up watching the fights.
- One boxer we followed was Evander Holyfield.
- When I was a freshman in college, my dad and I went to see a local Norfolk, Va fighter, Pernell Sweet Pea Whittaker.
- Holyfield, a friend of Whittaker, and at that time the reigning heavyweight champion.
- My dad who has never met a stranger figured out where the celebration party was being held and posted me a door, saying, “In a few minutes Holyfield will walk right in so get ready to meet him.”
- As we stood there my dad said, “I need to use the restroom and left but said, get ready.”
- Not really wanting to engage anything going on – I had my head down - but sure enough this massive dress shirt was walking right in front of me with a smaller bodyguard!
- Instinctively, I reached up and grabbed Holyfield’s arm. It felt like a led PIPE!
- I was too naïve to realize I was taking my life into my hands! LITERALLY!
- I looked up, he looked down and all I could say is “champ, champ, you’re the champ!”
- This wore off quickly, my dad came up and we Holyfield became human to us – as we stood there and talked.
This is a lighthearted illustration to say, “Don’t miss the ease of grace Jesus offers to you!”
He’s ALWAYS there.
This passage has been called the most comforting verses in the entire bible.
“Does God care?” “Can he do anything to help if he does?”
The answer is here! He cares because He’s felt and feels your pain of life!
He sacrificed himself for you to make you live and meets you where you are to keep you living!
Be confident! Move in Joy toward Jesus – FIND GRACE!