Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 March 31, 2019
“Let Us Approach Confidently”
Text: Hebrews 4:14-16
Many people, and things in life, appear forbidding. Consider governmental authorities—such as police, judges, and the Internal Revenue Service, to name but three. Their offices and persons can appear forbidding to us—and failure to perform our proper duty unto them can appear fearful. Consider also vocational authorities, such as our immediate superiors at work and those higher in the corporate structure. Approaching them also can be a daunting task. Consider also relational authorities. I wonder how many traditional men—when contemplating approaching him to request his daughter’s hand in marriage—muse over the prospect with ease and lightness. Few can manage this with ease and aplomb; this can be a frightening task for many.
Happily, our ultimate Authority—the risen Lord Jesus Christ—does not present Himself to His own as forbidding. Rather, He bids us come—and He welcomes us with open arms. Hence, let us approach Him with humble confidence—as the Holy Spirit bids us to do in today’s text.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
The unnamed Spirit-led author of Hebrews exhorts us to approach Jesus confidently (literally in courage) for several reasons. First, Jesus is our great High Priest. Those serving the Old Covenant believing households as priests discharged two chief tasks for the people: they interceded for them and they sacrificed for them. Jesus does these fully on our behalf. We learn later in this letter that Jesus ever live to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25). Moreover, we learn that Jesus is our once-for-all sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 8:1-10:18). He sacrificed His life for us—only to take it up again. Jesus, our great High Priest, in accord with today’s text, moves through Heaven as One Who—with the Father and Spirit—owns and rules it.
Second, Jesus is able to sympathize with us in our incapacities (or illnesses, or timidities, sometimes translated weaknesses, Greek astheneia [asqeneia]). We certainly are not omnipotent—for that is an attribute reserved to God alone—and at times we exhibit distressing frailties. Jesus understands these in us far better than we ourselves, and He condemns us not for them. Rather, He encourages us as we endure them and, by His grace, overcome them.
Third, Jesus was tempted (or tested) in every way as we—yet without sin. Scripture declares that Jesus was tempted thrice in the wilderness just before the onset of His public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). Three times Satan enticed Jesus to comply with His request, saying, “If you are the Son of God…” Three times Jesus rebuffed Him, saying each time, “It is written…,” referring to the Word of God—the Old Testament in particular. Scripture also declares that Jesus was tempted from His agony on the cross. Certain bystanders cried up to the suffering Jesus, “Come down from the Cross, and we will believe in You” (Matthew 27:42). If Jesus accedes to their request, then He dies not for our sins—and we remain dead in our sins and of all men most to be pitied (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:19). Happily, Jesus rebuffed that temptation—and in His death, He atones for the sin of every soul that the Father gives Him.
The author of Hebrews then exhorts us to approach Jesus confidently in order that certain results may occur. First, we approach Him in order that we may hold fast our confession. The original readers of this letter—Jewish-background Christians ca. A. D. 65—were tempted to forsake Jesus in favor of a return to the old covenant which Jesus fulfills. This return would result in less opposition and adversity in the short term—though at the danger of eternity apart from God in the long term. We too are tempted to forsake Him for less environmental hassle and harassment. May Jesus empower us to hold fast unto Him—even as He holds us in His unshakable, unbreakable, gracious grip.
Second, we approach Him in order that we may receive mercy. Mercy can be defined as kindness extended to someone who is in serious need. We, apart from saving relationship with Jesus, either stood or stand in serious need—with disastrous results if the need remain unmet. Jesus, in His Person and work, extends mercy sufficient for our need and to spare—both for divine salvation and for every providential difficulty in this life. Jeremiah spoke to God’s mercy in providential difficulty in these memorable words: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). Let us come in courage to Jesus for our share of these mercies.
Third, we approach Jesus in order to /find grace to help in our time of need. As we learned some weeks ago, the New Testament notion of God’s grace (Greek charis [cariV]) has overtones of God’s kindness, gift, good will, and unmerited favor. Indeed we need God’s grace, and indeed in Christ we have it. We need His grace to escape the coming wrath of God, to face every providential hour in life and in eternity, and to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. Again, in Christ we surely have this grace.
So often, even in Christ, we do not approach God. This occurs for several reasons. Either we try to hide from Him, or we try to hide our sin from Him, or we try to do life ourselves, or we think He either cannot or will not do for us. All of these are contrary to our text. God calls us to something better. Therefore, let us approach Him with confidence—in great courage. After all, He has given us every reason to come to Him; some of them we saw here today. He further blesses us in His presence, and He glorifies Himself in our coming. Therefore, once again, let us come to Him—with courage and without hindrance