January 31, 2021

Assurance In Christ

Passage: Hebrews 4:14-16

“Who am I really?”, we all ask from time to time.  The one moment you feel so happy with your “character” as a Christian and the next, you feel like hiding where no one will be able to find you – not even God.  Yes, we can relate to what David expressed in Psalm 139: 7&8, “Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”   But then, my friends, God didn't place us on earth to be on the run because of our sins.  No, He sent His Son to save and restore us.  There was a man who felt he was a miserable failure, because of all of his sins.  He worked as a cleaner in Crystal Palace in London, at the beginning of the 1900’s.  One afternoon the prince of preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, went to the Crystal Palace to test the acoustics, because he was scheduled to preach there the next day.  He walked up to the podium and said in a loud voice, “There is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world.”  Satisfied with the result, Spurgeon went back to the place where he was staying.  What he didn’t know was that the man who felt like a failure was busy polishing the floors on one of the balconies.  The man was at the right place at the right time to have heard those words.  He rushed home and told his wife, “Something remarkable happened!  Spurgeon came to Crystal Palace and spoke words that made me see the Lamb of God walking to me with open arms.  Now I know that He holds my life in His hands.”

Hebrews 4: 14-16 gives us wonderful comfort that Jesus will lead us as conquerors with Him through this life and that we together with Paul will receive the crown of righteousness.  But there is an important condition.  Our Lord and Saviour says, “You have to live your life with full assurance in me.”  You see, it always has to be our decision to walk with Jesus through this life.  You either choose to accept Him or you choose to reject Him.  He's either your Savior you believe in or He is the Savior of others.

The author of Hebrews begins in verse 14 by describing how Jesus is uniquely qualified to serve as our High Priest. “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God...”  The high priest of Israel entered once each year to make sacrifice for the sins of the people.  In order to enter the Most Holy Place where the blood was sprinkled on the altar, the high priest had to pass through three outlying areas.  He took the blood and went through the door into the outer court, through another door into the Holy Place and finally through the veil into the Most Holy Place.  But after the mortal high priest came the Divine High Priest, Jesus Christ.  He qualified to go directly to His Father and now is seated at His right hand.  In Revelation 5 John describes Him as the Lamb Who was slain and made us a priesthood for our Father.

From our passage there are reasons given why we should have assurance in Christ.  First 1 He Can Sympathize With Our Weaknesses.  We read, “For we do not have a High Priest Who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses.”  What does it mean?  Jesus lived life here on earth and He was subjected to every kind of suffering or hardship, far more than any other person can ever endure.  He was weak in the flesh as a human on many occasions, but in particular when He was praying on the Mount of Olives, “Father take away this unbearable cup if it is Your will.”  And when He was nailed to the cross, Jesus was weak and thirsty.  He identified Himself with every physical need we can think of.  When someone is starving from hunger or dying from Covid or is persecuted, Jesus understands.  He went through the worst suffering possible.  Now He is in heaven and can sympathize with our weaknesses.  No other priest of any other religion like Buddhism or Hinduism can ever do what He did or have understanding.  During the Vietnam War US POW's were subjected to inhumane conditions.  One of them was kept in a wire cage in the beating sun, close to the point of death.  One soldier swirled an insult, “I guess Jesus can't help him now.”  Another soldier responded, “You're so wrong, He's right with him, as He was with the world when He perished of thirst on the cross.”

There is a second reason why we can have Assurance In Christ – 2 He Was Tempted As We Are.  The second part of verse 15 says, “We have One Who has been tempted in every way...”  His temptations were more intense because He suffered the full fury of temptation.  Can you recall how Jesus’ ministry started?  Right after His baptism, He was lead by the Spirit into the desert and Satan had everything thrown at Him to make Him quit.  Most of us give in and say yes to sin before Satan has even used all the weapons in his arsenal.  Jesus said no to every single temptation.  It must have been a temptation for Him not to have gone to the cross.  In the film, “The Passion of the Christ”, Mel Gibson portrayed one character, as the devil, who tried to bring Jesus off track.  But he couldn’t succeed.  The last part of verse 15 reads, “Yet, He was without sin.”  When everyone else failed before and after Jesus, He didn't and therefore we can hold unto Him.  The famous writer, C. S. Lewis wrote, “A silly notion is 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 any army by fighting against it, not by giving in.  You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down.  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 one Who knows to the full what temptation means – He the only complete realist.”  This tells us again - Jesus knows about everything we have to face and He can help us, if we only allow Him to help us.

There is a last reason for us to have Assurance In Christ – 3 He Invites Us To Come To Him Without Fear.  Verse 16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence.”  We can and should draw near to God when we feel the burden of guilt, and amazingly enough – we are invited to do so with confidence.  God’s throne isn’t one of condemnation, but one of grace.  Can you recall what the verse right after John 3: 16 says? - “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.”   You see, most people think that God is going to speak a punishment upon them, when He is approached.  That’s why some say, “I just can’t attend church.  It’s too confronting!  God will just expose my guilt and shame!”  No, my friends, our Father has compassion and understanding and He says, “Seek the Lord while He still is to be found!”  You and I can come before God.  He wants to restore us and He wants to lead us.  What is the only assurance we can ever have that our lives are secured?  We have a High Priest Who went through the heavens and He holds our lives steadfast.  Let's put our trust in Him – now and always.

Amen.                                                                                      Rev. Willem H. van de Wall