Heb 4:15-16 Draw Near!

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:00
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Hebrews 4:14–16 ESV
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Last time we were studying v 14 and the commandment to hold fast our confession. We were reminded of the truth that Jesus is our great perfect high priest. And though this truth is so familiar we cannot lose sight of this amazing truth. We have Jesus, who is God, as our high priest! Because of this we need to hold fast to our confession. From here the author of Hebrews continues expounding on what kind of high priest Jesus is. It says:
Hebrews 4:15 ESV
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
In the previous verse, God told us we have a GREAT high priest. Now in v15 the author expands this view of Christ as fully God and fully man, which are the attributes of the perfect high priest because Jesus can take our sins, as only a man can. Furthermore, He can atone for our sin as only God can.
However, v15 gives us this encouragement in a double negative form. It says “we do not have”, then “who is unable”. The reason for this double negative in the original language likely is to make the point in a compelling manner so that we will never forget what kind of High Priest Jesus is, even if we have heard it for the hundredth time. Moreover, using this double negative is implying that this Great Perfect High Priest is God. Because He is so far greater than any created being, we should expect Him not to be able to identify with weak and tempted sinners.
We were astonished when Jesus called us brothers and sisters in Heb 2:11-12, now Jesus’ sympathy for us should also astonish us. The God who created all things, who is ruling all, who created us, who is far above all creation. The only triune God, Jesus Christ the Son… He is our High Priest. There is no one else higher or greater than He, and He is our high priest! Furthermore, He sympathizes with our weaknesses, what an amazing God we serve! This is almost too much to believe. How can a perfect, sinless, holy God even begin to sympathize with us?
Sympathize according to the dictionary means “to feel or express sympathy.” Sympathy is “understanding between people; common feeling” When we sympathize with someone “we attempt to identify emotionally with their distress”. However, Jesus’ sympathy is greater than just the emotional identification with someone. He experienced suffering, not because He did anything wrong, but because He wanted to be associated with us, which cost Him a lot. He took our sin. When it says that Jesus sympathizes with our weakness, it means He has sympathy and feels our pain. But even more so, it means He suffered for us. When Jesus sympathizes with us, it is not just the emotional identification, He physically suffered in our place because He cared for us, because He loved us.
No one else in the whole universe will ever have the same sympathy for you, as Jesus does. No one in the universe loves you as Jesus loves you and sympathizes with us. He understands exactly how we feel as we go through this life and as we face many trials and temptations.
That means we don’t need to pretend to be strong or have it all together. We don’t need to be the ones in our families that are the rock for everyone else. We need to draw near to Jesus because He is our rock, and if others are relying on us as their rock, we need to point out that we are strong only because of Jesus. If they depend on us, we, at some point, are going to disappoint them. If we allow them to rely on us as their rock, we are ultimately preventing them from growing in their own faith. From trust in the only rock that will never disappoint and never fail … Jesus Christ. He is far greater and far better than anyone else in all of creation. It removes the pressure from us and allows us to shepherd them and point them to the one that will remain after we leave this earth.
Talking about Jesus the author of Hebrews says in the second part of v15 “but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
The author of Hebrews already told us before 2:14,17-18 that Jesus became fully human, with flesh and blood, “like his brothers in every respect” that He suffered when tempted and he is able to help those being tempted. Now in v15 God is reminding us that Jesus has been tempted as we are, but Jesus unlike us never sinned.
That means when we are tempted, we shouldn’t run away from Jesus out of shame or guilt or feeling incompetent, but rather we need to run toward Jesus. We need to stop believing the lie that we can face temptation on our own, and that God doesn’t know what is like to be tempted. He was tempted in every respect as we are. God not only knows what is happening outside of us, but He knows our hearts exactly as we go through this life. He wants and expects us to run to Him for His help when faced with sin.
Therefore, in the moments when we think that we are going to face any temptation, we run to Him crying out for His help, to give us the strength and the endurance to remain completely faithful to God. How do you think God will answer such a prayer? He will always give us what we need to endure each day. He will not give us today what we will need a week from today, but He provides for us each day so that we rely upon and trust Him each day, each step of the way.
Therefore, we have plenty of confidence to hold fast to our confession, because we are relying not on our own strength or ability, but we rely on Jesus the sinless Son of God. This is who we have as our high priest, therefore we can trust our lives to Him now and in eternity with Him.
Because of who Jesus is, now God commands us to draw near, this commandment is repeated several times in this letter, But here it says in v16:
Hebrews 4:16 ESV
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Here we are given a commandment to come. Notice first that the author includes himself in this commandment. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
This indicates two things. First the humility of the author. Here is someone speaking with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and he is speaking in a humble manner, not using his authority to push people down, but kindly telling us what God is commanding us to do.
Secondly, the author includes himself in the commandment. We don’t know for sure who the author of Hebrews is, but we are confident that it was someone very close to the apostles or one of them. That means in the matter of authority he is pretty high up, and here he is speaking/writing the very words of God, and he recognizes that “even he” needs to draw near to the throne of grace… that “even he” needs to receive mercy and find grace in time of need.
This means all of us need to submit to God, to the rules and commandments of God. We can not exalt any human being, except Jesus Christ the Son of God, who is fully God and fully man.
As you well know I’m not the Christ. I’m not perfect. One time I was pointing out to Byron that like him I also need Christ, so I asked him, “Do you know that daddy is not perfect?” In his response, he chuckled and firmly said I know daddy.
I’m saying this because it is so easy for churches to build themselves on the personality of the pastor. If we are going to build this church on me, or my personality or anything else we had better close it right now. We will be better off closing the church than having this church completely filled without Christ as the foundation and the focal point of our church.
Let’s be honest I’m not even a good public speaker. I think it is crazy that God called me to this, the only reason I stand up here today is that I believe this is His word, and God uses His word to speak to His people. I can only point you to Jesus. He is the one that we need to build our church. My prayer and desire for our church is that Jesus will be exalted and glorified through our church.
If anyone comes to visit our church, they will experience and know that this place is where Jesus is worshipped. And they will know we are a people that follow Jesus, not the pastor, not a specific doctrine, or the newest trend, but that we love Jesus and follow Him.
Because we love Jesus we confidently draw near to the throne of grace. Not only because we are commanded to do so, but because we love Him and want to spend time in prayer with Him. We want to study His word. We want to hear from Him. We want to worship Him.
But here in v 16, God commands us to draw near to the throne of grace. When it says draw near it brings the image of worshippers approaching the sanctuary and the high priest entering the Holy of Holies on the Day of the Atonement. Now through Christ as our High Priest, we can not only come into the sanctuary but through Jesus, we enter the Holy of Holies, not once a year, but anytime we want! The verb indicates that is an action that continually is happening, we could translate it as let us constantly approach.
We have open unlimited access to God. When Jesus died the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The curtain that divided the holy of holies was torn in two, meaning through Christ we can enter God’s throne, and we can constantly approach God’s throne.
Furthermore, it says confidently draw near to the throne of grace. That means as we approach God’s throne through prayer we come into His presence with anticipation of divine favor. We have our consciences clean because by faith Jesus’ blood covers us. This means that when we come into His throne, we anticipate God’s favor, not His judgment over our sin, because our sins were taken by Christ on the cross. So when God sees us, He sees Jesus’ righteousness.
That is why it describes God’s throne as a throne of grace. We have received God’s grace, so we can approach Him with confidence and assurance of His grace on us. This is an amazing truth, and it is great to hear it, but it will be more beneficial to you if you meditate, and think about it. Therefore, I encourage you to think about this truth this week as you take time to draw near to God’s throne through prayer.
So far we have been encouraged and commanded by God to approach Him through prayer. We do so with great delight and confidence and we do as well because we love Him. But, the author of Hebrews now in the rest of v 16 answers the question of why we should draw near.
Why should we draw near? “that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need”
Here mercy and grace are intertwined in the phrase, but mercy generally refers to forgiveness of sins while grace is the unmerited favor that God uses to strengthen us in the midst of trial or temptation. This help from God is in our time of need.
But what was the trial or temptation that the first readers of this letter were facing? Guthrie, a commentator, said “The author may have in mind the trial of persecution being faced by the community, a trial that was tempting them to reject God’s mercy in Christ. The author assures them that if they remain faithful to their confession and approach God through Jesus’ high priestly work, God will come through with help in a timely fashion.”
We draw near to the throne of Grace with great confidence because we love Jesus. After all, God commanded us to do so, and because when we do He will certainly find His grace and mercy and help in the time of need.
However, what is the time of need, is it now or future?
When we studied v14 we were looking at Bonhoeffer whose testimony is an example for us of someone holding their confession until the end. Recently, I was reading through some of the reports of persecuted Christians in the Voice of the Martyrs magazine, which is available in the foyer if you want to read it yourself. One of the stories reports that while a little church was gathered together to worship police officers came and took everyone to the police headquarters, where they were threatened and harassed for their faith. As they were being mistreated all of them were given the option of leaving and going home if they signed a document saying that they denied Jesus and Christianity. That’s all. They just had to sign and they would be free. Many of them did not sign and preferred to suffer for Christ’s sake. However, some did sign the document, and they were released.
The focus of the story was on those that endured suffering for Christ’s sake and how they stayed steadfast. However, my heart was breaking for those that denied Christ and did not suffer. We don’t know how many denied Christ. But some chose the easy and wide path. They were following Christ, even gathering to worship while it was dangerous and against their society's norm, however when it cost them to follow Christ, they took the way out that the enemy provided.
What could be worse than the worst possible suffering? To deny Christ for the sake of our own lives and possessions.
Let’s imagine for a second that what happened to this other church would happen to our church. We are gathering here just like today, then we are taken away and we are harassed and beaten for illegally worshipping Jesus. Which of us is going to deny Christ? You will be tempted to think “just writing my name doesn’t mean anything” or “I can say it but in my heart it is not true”. In the midst of suffering, we can come up with really good excuses to do the wrong thing. To justify our actions for “good causes”… my son/daughter needs me or who will care for my mom, etc.
Why is it a big deal to deny Jesus anyways? While Jesus was talking about persecution, He said in Matt 10
Matt 10:28-33 “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”
We can see that it is a big deal to deny Christ. The enemy knows it, and that is why Christians often will be given the opportunity to forfeit suffering by denying Christ.
We need to be reminded of this now while we are not tempted to deny Christ. We might come to live in a time when this becomes a reality for us, however this is not something that we have to deal with this week or even this month.
More likely what we will face in the next few weeks is to stay quiet and not say anything about Christ. Whether when we have friends or co-workers making fun of Christianity and we feel the pressure of remaining silent. Or when the Holy Spirit prompts us to speak with someone and share the gospel, and we get so nervous and try to rationalize why we can’t do such a thing. Or when a coworker shares something that they are going through and we just say that we are going to pray for them, without telling them anything more. Most people have no idea what we mean when we say we are praying for them. We should at least say something like “I’ll be asking Jesus to help you in the situation you are going through”. Or by asking them if they know Jesus, or sharing how Jesus changed your life and how Jesus is the only hope to this fallen crazy sinful world.
I think often we are afraid to talk about Jesus because we don’t want to be known as the crazy people who follow Jesus. Or we think too much about what others might think of us. Here is how I’m overcoming this fear when I feel this pressure in my mind I tell myself that this person already thinks that I’m this Jesus freak person, so I just act on it and most of the time the other person's reaction is nothing in how I expected they would react.
While the situations I just described are not you publicly denying Christ. We are denying these people the opportunity to hear about Christ. However, if we cannot stand up for Jesus in these little uncomfortable situations, what about when is going to be really hard?
There is no need to fear man or the future or feel like a failure. We all stumble in many ways. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Furthermore, we don’t rely on our own strength, we need His strength, His courage, and boldness. He will help us and keep us, we don’t need to worry about tomorrow or what we are going to do.
What we need to do is with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
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