Have you looked at the book of Hebrews lately? It’s fascinating on several levels. The purpose of Hebrews, as stated in 13:22 is: “Brothers and sisters, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for in fact I have written to you quite briefly.” In view of God’s desire to urge these Hebrew Christians to continue in faith, we note two specific warnings about things to avoid: 1) Neglect, 2:1-4 and 2) Unbelief, 3:7-19.
We also note two key things for us to keep in mind, with respect to the call to faithfulness which we have in Christ:
(1) Individual Responsibility – Hebrews 3:12 states: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
(2) Corporate Responsibility – Hebrews 3:13 continues with: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 10: 26-31 makes it clear that this sort of lesson is vital for our faith. Here we read:
26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think those deserve to be punished who have trampled the Son of God underfoot, who have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who have insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
As we contemplate this sobering text, we should keep these general biblical themes in mind— God has given each of us free moral agency and, ultimately, requires individual accountability for how we live our lives. These two threads, which run throughout the Bible, seem to be summarized by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:10. Here the Holy Spirit directs Paul to write: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive what is due them for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”
The call to faithfulness to Christ and the reality of judgment to come are emphasized in the New Testament. However, if all that we ever do is look at these general themes it is possible that we will miss some of the most important parts of the New Testament and what it means to live in a vital relationship with Jesus.
I suggest that we consider one a small portion of the Lord’s teaching as we proceed. In Luke 7:11-17, we find these words of Jesus:
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?
With these words of Jesus in mind, let’s look at Hebrews, once again, and notice two additional points from the first four chapters. These, I believe, will help us to realize just exactly how it is that God has come to help His people and what a difference this can and should make in our daily lives.
First, we reflect on Hebrews 2:14-18…
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
The verses make it clear that God has come to help His people deal with temptation! Just look at all the things Jesus did: (1) He shared in our flesh and blood experience so that he might break the devil’s death hold on humanity; (2) He destroyed the original “fear factor”—by freeing us from the fear of death; (3) He became (flesh and blood), in order to become God’s merciful and faithful high priest to once and for all (cf. Hebrews 10:10) make atonement for our sins!
This brings to light several additional thoughts regarding how God helps us deal with temptation:
(a) By modeling an example of “how to” overcome— Matthew 4:1-11.
(b) By warning us that temptation is a real and present danger for all of us— Matthew 6:13.
(c) By providing us with a way of escape— 1 Corinthians 10:13.
(e) By placing us in a family of Christians to encourage us— Hebrews 3:13.
Next, we consider the way in which God has come to help His people in times of need. This is brought to light in Hebrews 4:14-16, which reads:
14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
What kind of help does God provide?
First, there is MERCY, which is ἔλεος in the Greek. Vines tells us that this is “the outward manifestation of pity; it assumes need on the part of him who receives it, and resources adequate to meet the need on the part of him who shows it.” In the real world mercy means not getting what we deserve. Luke 18:13 makes this crystal clear. Here Jesus tells us of the tax collector who “stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
Second, there is GRACE, which is χάρις in the original. Again we look to Vines word studies for a succinct definition. It is technically defined as follows: on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill generally, example: (Acts 7:10); especially with reference to the divine favor or “grace,” example: (Acts 14:26); in this respect there is stress on its freeness and universality, its spontaneous character, as in the case of God’s redemptive mercy, and the pleasure or joy He designs for the recipient…” In the common usage grace is “getting what we need instead of what we deserve.” This is made abundantly clear in Hebrews 2:9! Here we read that Jesus “…suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”
How does God help us in our time of need?
(a) Though we do not deserve the privilege God bestows upon us the favored status which permits us to approach His throne with confidence and assurance that we will be heard.
(b) We do not simply have confidence in getting a hearing in God’s court, be are told that we are permitted to receive (this literally means: get a hold of, to catch) blessings from God, according to His mercy and grace.
(c) Beyond the immediacy of these blessings we are helped in the realization that God, who can look on us with wrath because of our sins, chooses to extend mercy and grace to those who draw near to Him through Jesus, the faith high priest. So, we can stop beating ourselves up over sins we have committed in days gone by. God doesn’t choose to do so. Neither should we!
(d) Additionally, when we find (literally, to get, obtain, perceive or see) grace we are given, freely given, all that we need to start living with a sense of freedom. It is for freedom that Christ sets us free (Galatians 5:1)! This is good news! This is the Gospel Truth! We see, then, the reason we are able to rejoice in the Lord always in spite of life’s circumstances.
So, let us never forget the great themes brought to light in Hebrews. Their importance cannot be minimized! But, let us maximize the reality that we have focused on today! These transcendent truths encapsulate all other truth. Indeed, this one truth surpasses them all— God has come to help His people! In the person of Jesus Christ, God has come to help you and me! He has come to show us the way to victory over temptation, as well as the way to victory in our times of need.
Now, as they say in Branson, Missouri, if that doesn’t stir you soul, then your spoon’s done fell out the bowl!