Day 99: April 9, 2014

Today's Reading(s)

Hebrews 4:14-16
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to the confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.



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God Invites Us to a Community of Grace
by Steve Layton, Discipleship Minister, Brentwood Campus

The transcendence, sinlessness, and grace of Christ encourage us to claim his mercy with confidence.

In today’s passage, we’re introduced to the theme of Jesus’ high priesthood. The epilogue for this section appears in Hebrews 10:19–23. In between the superiority of Jesus to the priests of Aaron is explained. Three statements about Christ as our high priest appear in this verse:

  1. Jesus is a great high priest. Perhaps some Jews were claiming that Christianity had no priesthood like that of Aaron. But Jesus was superior to the priests of Aaron. Both His character and His work are important.
  2. Jesus has gone through the heavens. This means that He had entered God’s very presence. The priests of Aaron served in an earthly sanctuary. Jesus went far beyond all limits of time and space and reached into God’s presence, where his work really mattered.
  3. Jesus is called the Son of God. This statement identifies the historical Jesus as our high priest. It also presents Jesus as one who perfectly combined humanity and divinity in his ministry for lost sinners. His human name was Jesus, but in reality he was the Son of God.

Because Jesus is our high priest, we can hold firmly to the faith we profess. Holding to the faith requires some determination on our part. The greatness of Jesus as our High Priest provides us an incentive to make the commitment to draw near to him.

One may ask how can we hold fast to our faith? Has God done anything to make this possible? Our passage answers these questions. The writer of Hebrews had already declared the ability of Jesus to help the tempted (2:18). He now states negatively what he had earlier stated positively. Why would he change from a positive statement to a negative statement?

He may have tried to deal with some people who felt that Jesus Christ was too remote from human need. He stated three facts about Christ that would help readers know that Christ was no stranger in helping struggling human beings:

  1. Jesus is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. Weaknesses are broad enough to include any form of human stumbling or failure. Christ has sympathy for the needy.
  2. Christ has been tempted in every way, just as we are. This statement may mean that He faced the full range of temptations we face. It need not mean that He met each specific type of temptation that we face. A sample of the entire range of options for sinning fell on Jesus.
  3. Christ was without sin. Jesus was completely a human being (Heb. 2:17), for He became like His brothers in every way. Must a person experience sin in order to be human? No! Jesus had no sin or deceit in his life (1 Pet. 2:22).

If Jesus had sinned by surrendering to temptation, he would have needed atonement. He would have been no better than the old priests who first had to offer sacrifice for their own sins (Heb. 7:27). He would have lacked the qualifications to secure redemption for us. Any sin in Jesus’ life would have made his sacrifice unacceptable (1 Pet. 1:19).

Our sinless Savior provided for us a perfect redemption. His victorious experience with temptation provides sympathy, encouragement, and victory for us in our temptation. This victory brings confidence into the life of a Christ follower.

Given the fact that we have a sinless Savior, what can we do? What should be our response?

  1. We must approach. Worshipers used this verb (Heb. 7:25) in describing their movement into God’s presence. We are to come to God with all the reverence and awe that His worship demands.
  2. We come to the throne of grace. This is a reverent reference to God’s presence. It is the place where God gives out his free favor. The term describes an attitude more than a place. The seeking sinner will find this throne of grace (Luke 18:9–14).
  3. We come in an attitude of confidence. Although we must approach God with reverence, we can enter his presence with freedom and without fear. The term describes a boldness based on awareness that God has all the grace we need. It is the attitude of customers coming to a store seeking an important item that they know is plentifully stocked.
  4. We come for the purpose of obtaining mercy and grace. God’s mercy prescribes pardon for our many failures. God’s grace provides strength for the demands of God’s service.[1]

The axiom that environments are more powerful than words (when the two differ) helps us pay attention to a principle of grace that is seldom taught: Grace is a community you enter. If this truth was obvious to the majority of Christians, they’d be looking for a door—and entrance to the realm. But since for most people grace is primarily and experience of salvation or doctrine to be learned, it is pointless to search for a way into such an environment.

Grace is one of the most overused and abused terms in the world. Many of us understand grace as a theological position. And it is that. Undeserved, unending, unearned, unwavering grace is God’s inexhaustible love and absolute acceptance of us, coupled with His unabashed delight in us. Grace brings us adoption into God’s family and a new identity, new life, new power, new capacity, and God’s full protection.

But grace is much more that a theological position. Grace extends a long way beyond the means of our salvation; grace is the very basis for our maturing and our life together. Grace is a realm, a present-tense reality that weaves around and through every moment of even out worst day. God’s gift of grace continuously and always surrounds us.

Grace powerfully informs us about the Trinity and forms us in to the likeness of Christ (see Hebrews 4; Colossians 1). God is not sitting on a throne made of grace. The Trinity actually lives, loves and leads together in a realm of grace, a community of grace where truth and trust are flowing in relationship (Hebrews 4; John 17:20-24).

Hebrews 4:16 is God’s way of inviting His children to love and lead from within that same environment. The Christian faith is a faith of relationship, and the environment of grace is where we learn what those relationships are like.[2] 

Confidence (boldness) is not based on who we are but on whose we are. If we can see ourselves as God sees us and accept the grace that He has already provided for us, we will find mercy and help in our times of need.

Don’t you love the fact our High Priest can sympathize with us. That He is not a distant God who does not understand our hurts, disappointments, frustrations and temptations. That He knows us personally, intimately and invites us to confidently come to Him.

I have personally been on both sides of confidence in Christ. Difficulties have come in my life where my faith has been shaken. In these storms my mind was filled with doubt and I lacked confidence.  But communities of grace stood with me through the storms and soon I regained my confidence in Christ. In Ecclesiastes 4:12 we read, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” We truly are better together and together we find confidence in Him.


[1] Lea, T. D. (1999). Hebrews, James (Vol. 10, pp. 73–75). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[2]   Alan Andrews, Bill Thrall and Bruce McNichol, The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2010), 64-65.  

Praxis

  1. The Christian faith is a faith of relationship lived out in communities of grace. Take time today to consider the following:
    1. Your relationship with God
    2. Your relationships with your family
    3. Your relationships with your those in your church family
    4. Your relationships with those at work
    5. Your relationships with those in need
  2. As you reflect on these relationships are they are they healthy or do they need work? What steps will you take today to make your relationships with God and others right?
  3. The writer of Hebrews instructs us to hold fast to our confessionand to have confidence to enter the holy place (4:14; 10:19-25). Determine today how you will respond when temptation and difficulties come to your life. Write your confession in the margin or on the note pages of your Bible.
  4. Consider your formation in Christ. What is your next step in being formed, conformed and transformed into His image? 

About JourneyOn Today

Today's devotional series accompanies the Spiritual Practices Foundations Curriculum which deals with 24 different spiritual disciplines. We will break for an Advent series in December and continue the second half of Spiritual Practices during the first quarter of 2015.