Hebrews 4:1, 14-16
1Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. 14 Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
This morning, with that worship and the song that we just sang, I want to talk to you from my heart. I have sermon notes prepared but I believe I need to take a different approach this morning. I’m sure everyone here is going through some kind of challenge and need to hear from the Lord in a different way. The worship was powerful and the last song we sang is based on Hebrews 4:16 where we are encouraged to come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Beloved, I want you to make it into heaven. To the young ones, I want you all to make it into heaven. Coming to church, I want you to walk with your Holy Bible. And, I don’t want you to just come to church with a bible in hand; I want you to read the Bible at home and spend time in prayer. It is important for your life and for your future destination.
Now, please turn with me to verse 1. You know, as a result of stubbornness and unbelief, the Israelites lost or missed parts of the promise of the Promised Land, Canaan, thus many of them could not even make it into the Promised Land. Today, the same or a similar thing is happening in our churches where people are in church but their lifestyle and belief systems tell you that they may be in church but are headed for an eternity separated from Christ.
People professing to be Christians are obstinate, filled with unbelief and they have populated several churches, having for themselves equally unbelieving leaders they call pastors. But know what, it doesn’t matter how big or small the congregation is, if the teaching is wrong if there is no teaching, they are headed for hell. So verse 1 is telling us, admonishing us that if we fall into this category, we should be afraid lest we come short of the heavenly rest; and, we will fall through the same cracks as the Israelites. So if you truly are a child of God, then be ready and steady so that you don’t miss the promised future rest that only God can give; this is God’s rest and surely, I want to enter that rest.
Now, since we are not looking at the entire chapter 4, we will fast forward to some key verses. Let us look at verse 12. Are you being persecuted because of your love for the Lord? Are you being attacked under false premises? Let those who are attacking you keep on attacking you. Let those who are backstabbing you keep on backstabbing you. And sadly these days, those who profess to be Christians or followers of Christ are doing bad things against others in the body of Christ, which just makes you wonder where such evil intentions are coming from. But you know, this verse says For the word of God is quick, and powerful, sharper than any two edged-sword and it continues to say it is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
You know, because the Word of God provides comfort and nourishes us, some in the church whom I choose to call false Christians think they can get away with what they do to or against the true believers. But at the same time the Bible is God’s tool for judgment and He will use it to execute not only those who reject His Word but also those who claim to be His but live a questionable life where they perpetrate evil against others in the body. I always tell you that not everyone who’s in the church or who pastors a huge congregation is a believer in the Lord. In fact, some who claim to be Christians are really people who just go through the motions of belonging to Christ. Don’t be one of those who are nothing but just pretenders or are intellectually persuaded in their pursuit of philosophy. God’s Word is a sword that will cut or pierce to the dividing of joints and marrow, separation of soul and spirit or, as we say, heart and soul. Whatever you are, you can’t hide it from God Almighty.
But you and I have a responsibility. No matter what people say or do; no matter how much they test your patience, you have to remember that you ought to fix your eyes on Jesus and not fall into satan’s trap; satan’s working overtime through others to get you to respond or engage in activities that will bring shame to the name of the Lord. That is why Romans 12:18 says 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. If others call themselves children of the Most High but then turn around to distract you in your worship or whatever, you be obedient to the Lord, focus on Him and serve Him faithfully and sincerely; do your best to live peaceably with those around you and in so doing, put satan and his agents to shame.
In verse 14, we are reminded that we have a high priest and that this high priest is none other than Jesus, the Son of God. If so, then let us persevere; let us hold fast. Listen, if others want to fool around, and you know you’ve done all you can to persuade them away from a decision of eternal separation from God, let them go ahead and fool around but you, just hold fast to your profession. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith. Others will tempt you, provoke you, test you, try you and so on but you hold on and don’t give up neither imitate them; otherwise, in responding to them in like manner, what will be the difference between you and them? You will be just like them. I want to see you in heaven, church, I want to see you all in heaven. Let us never deny Him, never be ashamed of Him before men. I am not going to do what others do; I’m not going to water down God’s Word. With the Holy Spirit’s help I will simply teach you the Word of God.
Verse 15 says that For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Look at what Jesus went through, Look at what you are going through then consider again what Jesus went through and you will gladly admit that what you are going through right now pales in comparison to what He went through. Yet in spite of it all, despite what He suffered, He was sinless; He didn’t give in; He didn’t give up; He didn’t take short cuts; He didn’t react in a way that would bring shame to His Father in heaven. Oh my, my, my! And as a result, He has set an example for us and He knows our situation, yours and mine.
The verse says that we have not a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weakness. Be encouraged that we have a God who understands all that we are going through simply because He also went through similar. Listen, He submitted to all the trials and distresses that were thrown His way, and being in all points tempted like as we are, He didn’t consent to sin. As a result, He is able to provide succor to you, to me, to any of His children who are tempted, tested, tried. This is very magnificent.
Let us look at verse 16. It says, Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. I want someone to read this verse again. Now let us look at it. It says, we should be able to approach the throne, the mercy seat with confidence and boldness. Clearly a throne speaks of authority, the kind of authority that you can’t just approach as you wish; yet, you can approach this throne, the Throne of Grace any time. You should be able to approach the Throne of Grace with confidence. The door is wide open and we have full access into God’s holy presence. Don’t we all want mercy and grace? Aren’t these some two very critical things that we all want? Need? Mercy to pardon us for all our sins and grace to wash and cleanse our sin-sick souls; so we need to approach the Throne of Grace and, do so in fervent prayer and joyful praise and, of course, in the committed reading of His precious and holy word.
In ancient times, subjects couldn’t approach a king without his permission; you could only do that on the pain of death. You only approached the king and his throne if you are summoned. I’m not making this up and we do indeed have a very good example in the Book of Esther. Do you remember when Esther was fighting on behalf of her people? Let us look at it; Esther 4 and I think verse 11. It says 11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. Look at that. She is the one crowned queen and yet she couldn’t even approach her husband the king unless she was summoned. Her own husband was unapproachable unless the golden scepter was held up high to indicate that she has been granted permission and so she can or may approach the throne. Even with that permission, she approaches in terror and fright.
But look at the contrast with our God. We are able, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to approach our God anytime, anywhere, whenever. And, we approach His throne of Grace to find grace and mercy, in the Name of Jesus, to help us in time of need. And by “need,” I want to clarify something for you to understand, that you may probably have been praying for months and months for something and you pray and say “Lord, I need it right now.” But then, a minute passes, an hour, days, weeks, months and your “right now” need has still not been met. You see, we define our “need” according to our own sense and probably also to our feelings and we expect God to meet that “need” right now.“ Meanwhile, God is like, “Son/Daughter, that is a want, not a need,” or “Son/Daughter, that is not a need and by the way, you don’t ‘need’ that ‘right now’”. So God waits and you say, “He’s delayed.” If you needed, “right now,” what it was that you were praying for which could have been five, six, seven months ago, aren’t you still around even if that “need” has not been met within the time frame you defined as “right now?” let me show you what I mean. Mary and Martha
Mary and Martha thought they needed Jesus to be in their home “right now” because their brother was sick; and so they sent for Jesus. But Jesus took longer than they wanted Him to. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus was already dead. So their “right now” was useless. You see, their “right now” and your “right now” and my “right now” are not the same as God’s. My “right now” could be 10 years for God. God is not bound by time. He’s been existing all the time and the Bible does tell us that a day is a like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day to Him, (Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). Obviously we need grace so we can face or accept our “right nows” in the way that God sees our so-called “right nows.”
You remember Paul and Silas in prison, in the dungeon, and that is one of my favourite passages in the Bible. Paul and Silas and what happened to them? Acts 16:19- describes their plight thus: 19 And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the marketplace unto the rulers, 20 and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, 21 and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans. 22 And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. 23 And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: 24 who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks.
Look at what they went through. Do you want us to read the passage again? The people rose against them. Their clothes were rented, torn. They were beaten. They were cast into prison. They had armed guards around them. They were thrust into the innermost part of the prison. Their feet were fastened in stocks. And these stocks were not just to hold you but they also kept you in a painful position, your body contorted to some extent.
But what were they doing? Praying and praising! How were they able to do that? Grace! The grace of God was there in abundance, to meet them at their point of need so that they were “oblivious” to what was going on around them. God’s grace sustained them and they were able to focus, not on the pain or what was being done to them but rather, they looked up to Jesus, praying and praising and trusting that He will see them through to the end.
And do you notice something? They did this praying and praising at midnight. Let us read the rest of the verses: 25 And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26 And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27 And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29 Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30 and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32 And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. 34 And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.
Look at the multiple results that came, just because of the grace of our Lord. The early church, and I mean folks like Paul and Silas, Stephen and others like them have learnt to worship God in a way that we are lacking today. They have understood the grace of God in a way that makes our Christianity come into question. They didn’t abuse God’s grace. In fact, they were so into God’s grace and His service that they were able to wish the jailer a “Grace to you” greeting when he jailer, upon seeing the prison doors ajar thought that his prisoners had escaped, which meant death for him. Isn’t that amazing? After all that was done to them, the torture and the starvation, they gracefully gave the jailer a benediction.
We are talking about grace, the Throne of Grace. Now, do you remember our series on Spiritual Gifts? You recall how I told you that whenever you met the charisprobra and you offer them greetings in the name of the Lord, their response is “I’m blessed,” or “I’m favoured”? Do you see how selfish their response is? Sort of designed to make them feel very, very spiritual while making you feel like you have no connection to the Lord. Well, at the Throne of God our Lord atoned for our sins and so from there we obtained grace to help us in time of need. Every believer obtained grace from that majestic and all-powerful Throne. So during that period in time, whenever early believers met and greeted each other, do you know what they said to each other? Grace to you.
Grace to you. It is a very significant greeting; it is not about selfishness; it is not about bragging or boasting. It is about imploring God’s grace on the other. Grace so that you can go on. Grace so that you can carry your burden. Grace so that you will not feel lonely. Grace so that you will know that you are in the prayers of the brother/sister who’s greeting you. Grace to remind you that you are favoured and, or for you to know that there is a request being made to God to impart His grace to you. It is about thinking of the other person, like Paul says in Philippians 2. Our benedictions say what? May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. The grace of God; how we need it!
Finally, when we look at verses 16-18, we learn some very significant things. First, we are put in remembrance that Jesus became human because we needed to be saved from eternal separation and death. Second, He Himself suffered when He was tempted, and so there is nothing that we go through today that He is not conversant with. Really, what is your problem? And, because of what He went through, He is able to help those who are being tempted. So we must boldly, without fear or shyness just come up to this heavenly Throne. And guess what? This implies that we have faith in the efficacy of the sacrifice that Jesus offered up to God on our behalf. It implies that with boldness we must call out loudly to God for His mercy, if we expect Him to come to our assistance.
Recognizing that Jesus went through persecution, insults, backstabbing, and ultimately died on the cross, we know and are sure that since He has done this, we can be very confident that He will help us with whatever situation we face or are going through right now. And, we have the liberty of access and the freedom of speech in His presence, not like Esther who could only approach her king when summoned! No, we are secure and assured of acceptance.
“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 and yet was without sin” (4:15). Jesus knows what it’s like to suffer and to be tempted to give up; but He didn’t quit. He can strengthen us, if we trust Him. There are some times and there are going to be some seasons when we will very well need the mercy and grace of God, and so we should prepare and lay up for ourselves stores of prayers and praises against such times and seasons; such times of temptation which come, either by adversity or prosperity: we have many around us who are dying and every day we should make a petition on their behalf, and for ourselves too. Do you know why? Because we also do need mercy for such times.
Right now, with all that is going on in our individual lives, in our relationships, within our families, at work, in our businesses, in our country and right here in our church, we need rest, and Jesus is offering us true rest. Today, He has spoken His Word and you have heard His word. Take it, believe it, hold fast to your confession and enter His rest.
Shall we pray.