Jack Graham - Our Incomparable Savior
I'm very excited about this brand new series called GOING THE DISTANCE: developing a muscular faith. And it's all taken from the book of Hebrews. So I ask that you begin finding in your Bibles, Hebrews chapter 1. It sounds like an Old Testament book, doesn't it, Hebrews, but it's a New Testament book written originally to Jewish Christians, Jewish believers and followers of Yehoshua, the Messiah. And the struggle they were facing now in the second generation of the Christian faith, after the apostles and disciples, this now the second generation of believers, many were facing persecution and trials and difficulties and just the challenges of life, and some wanted, some were turning back; going back to their old life, going back to their old religion, going backwards instead of forwards. The Christian life is always onward and upward.
The book of Hebrews is all about maturing and growing and going forward. Not ever going backwards, because the Christian life, as I said, is always onward and upward. It is a race. And we didn't get in this race just to start the race; we're in it to finish the race, right? We want to finish the race. And we want to take our faith throughout our lives and grow our faith, and have a muscular faith. In times like these we need a tough faith. People talk about being mentally tough. Well, that's important at many different levels, but more important is to be spiritually tough, to be strong in these days of unbelief. And there's a great deal of unbelief today. And I know you're being challenged in your faith, and getting your faith from where you are to where God wants it be, that's the call to every Christian.
I sat down with a young teenager this week. He's just fourteen years of age. And I was talking to him about taking his faith from his childhood, and now making sure, and your parents, and making sure that it's your own faith, that you're going forward with your faith, that you don't leave your faith back in your childhood. Unfortunately that happens some. Somebody makes a decision in children's ministry or vacation Bible school, they go to camp. It's all exciting, but they never get their faith forward out of their childhood into mature and maturing faith. Or sometimes we go away to college and our faith is challenged. For some, the very first time. We challenged as to what we believe, and why we believe what we believe. And doubts and missiles of unbelief are hurled at us.
We begin sometimes to question what we believe, question the Bible and our faith which could be weak if we didn't strengthen it along the way. It just collapses in the face of all these doubts and all these accusations regarding our faith. And there are statistics on this, they grow up in church, they go away to university or college or into life and they leave their faith behind, and they never come back. Hebrews is written so that that won't happen to you, don't let this happen to you. Or in young adulthood, you get to midlife and life hasn't turned out the way you had expected and there have been disappointments and you haven't had the achievements.
Maybe it's relational difficulties, problems in your life and you're at the middle of the race, and you're just thinking, "It's just not worth it to go on! I can't do this anymore. I can't keep going forward", because life hurts too much or there are obstacles thrown in your way and difficulties distracting you, and you're thinking, maybe some of you right now, you're at the midpoint of life, though you don't know where the midpoint actually is, but you know, you're at midlife. Some people have a quote midlife crisis there because there's such a crisis of being and identity. So some want to go back, or just quit altogether. I see it happen with empty nesters. You get the kids raised, the family's gone, really there's no need, we think, "I don't need church anymore; the kids are raised. We need to travel more. We need to do more. I don't need church". And then you're just thinking, "Anyway, was it really that valuable? Did I really grow"?
You get to the empty nest and you're looking at a wife who may be a stranger to you, or a husband that you don't know that well because you haven't grown your faith and developed your family. You may think, "I'm just going to quit; I'm going to quit on life, I'm going to quit on my marriage, I'm going to quit on my faith, I'm going to quit on my church". We have a lot of quitters today. And then you get to old age, and you know you're playing in the fourth quarter, and you're looking at the future and you're looking at eternity and you're thinking, "Can I do this"? You know, the aches, the pains, the illnesses, the tragedies that happen along the way. "Can I keep going? Can I cross the finish line"? Because if you're a believer, if you have a faith in God, you don't want to just crawl to the finish line; you want to finish well! You want to finish with a burst! And the only way you can do that, the only way you can go the distance is to live the principles of God's Word, and Hebrews talks about this, starting with the first and foremost foundational truth that will keep you going in life and in faith, and it's found in the first eight verses of Hebrews, chapter 1. Are you ready?
"Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days (in the last days of today) he has spoken to us by his Son (Jesus), whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also (watch this) created the world. He's the Christ of the cosmos! Jesus is the God of the galaxies! He is the radiance of the glory of God". Beautiful word there! Radiance. A resplendent, glory of God, shining like a light in the universe in the world! The radiance of the glory of God, the beauty of God, "and the exact imprint of His nature". He is exactly and perfectly God! The nature of God is imprinted and demonstrated, expressed in the person of Christ. "And he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty of high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs".
Mark that in the Bible. His name is a more excellent name! Sin has a name but His name is greater than our sin. Sorrow has a name, sickness has a name, cancer, heart disease, a name. But His name is superior to any name! To anything you face. His name is above every name. And verse 5: "To which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you?'" And verse 6 says: "Let all God's angels worship Him". He's above the angels. Now I've written a book about angels, I've studied the angels, and we'll bring a message on this. The fact is, He is way, way above the angels! The angels worship Jesus. "And of the angels he says, 'He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.' But of the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God'", this is about Jesus, "'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.'"
This passage, can you image in such a small number of words a more powerful description of the greatness and the glory of Christ, our God, our Savior, our King! This is a power packed passage! And because Jesus came running out of the grave, He now has ascended. He is Almighty God! He is seated at the right hand of God, having completed the work that God the Father had sent Him to do. And in this passage of scripture we have the pre-incarnate glory of Christ, we have His incarnation, that is His birth, we have His life, we have His miracles, we have His deeds, we have His resurrection, His cross, His ascension, His return, it's all in this passage because this book as introduced here is all about the personal work of Jesus in your life. And Jesus is what keeps us going. The presence and the power of Jesus in our lives is what keeps us going the distance. He went the distance so that He would enable us to go the distance.
Later on in Hebrews chapter 12 it says, "Let us run the race with endurance, the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith", the founder and the protector of our faith. So as you're running this race, what are you doing? You're leaning into Jesus, you're looking to Jesus, eyes off the obstacles and the problems, and keeping your faith focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. That's where it begins; that's where it ends. This is how we go the distance, and you have to start with Jesus before you can finish with Jesus. And it's impossible to live the Christian life without Jesus. So you need Jesus in your life. He is a superior Savior; He is a sovereign Savior. This is all about the supremacy and the superiority of Jesus. That there is nothing bigger, nothing better than Him! Sin is not better than Jesus!
Nothing in life, no experience in your life is better than Jesus! Science is not better than Jesus! Philosophy is not better than Jesus! Science is not better than Jesus! Religion is not better than Jesus! He has a better name; a more excellent name, and that name is above every name! So how do we make this claim? Why did we make such a claim? Because God, first and foremost, has spoken to us in Jesus. God is speaking through Jesus. When? Verse 2 says: "In these last days He has spoken to us by His Son". We reflect upon the ways that God has spoken through the ages. He has spoken in creation; we know that. We look up into a starry night and see the beauty and the glory of creation. The psalmist said, "The heavens declare the glory of God, the greatness of God". The glory of God is seen in the heavens, and the firmament is always speaking of God's presence and creation speaks of, the cosmos speaks of order and design and a Creator.
So you look up and only a fool would look at the greatness, whether it's the majesty of mountains or the vastness of the oceans or whether it is the magnificence of the stars or even the beauty in the face of a baby. You look at that and you see the creation, and you know that God is, that God exists. And so God speaks through His creation. God speaks into the soul of a human being. Ecclesiastes 3:11, "He set eternity in our hearts", and animals do not possess that faculty to relate to God. But we have a conscience. Something speaking inside of us, reflecting what is right, what is wrong. There is a normal natural humanness that God created us in His image that enables us to relate to God at some level.
So our conscience speaks to us. And everyone has a conscience. That conscience can be seared, it can be destroyed, but the fact is God made you with the capability to believe and to trust, and a conscience to know what is right, what is wrong. God speaks; He is not silent. He speaks from day to day. He has spoken from eternity. He speaks by His Spirit. He has spoken to us in various ways. He's spoken to us, of course, in the Bible. He talks here of the patriarchs and the prophets in times passed, way back God spoke to us, and the reference, of course, is to the Old Testament. And we believe all the Bible is God's Word, 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God". The Bible is not a human Book, it's a Holy Book. It's not just a book; it's a Jesus Book. It's not just a good book; it's God's Book! And therefore, when you read the Bible, God speaks. And when the prophets, in the Old Testament God spoke in divergent ways, a diversity of ways, whether it was miracles or great stories.
When I was a little boy, my grandfather would read the Scriptures typically every evening and I just reveled in the adventures of the Bible, those great stories of the Old Testament. And we had a Bible story book called Hurlbut's Story of the Bible and we would read that, and I'd look at the pictures and I'd get so fired up as a little boy just reading these stories of the Bible. But ultimately that's partial. The stories, the history, the greatness, the prophets, the patriarchs, the planets, all of that is partial understanding of who God is! Just concerning nature, creation. A sunrise, a sunset, a beautiful soft falling rain, that says one thing about God. But nature is ambivalent and we live under the curse of sin. And the creation, the globe is groaning under the curse of this sin, and therefore, what does a hurricane say about God? What does a terrible storm that threatens lives and tornadoes and disasters and tsunamis and all the...
So you see if you just had nature, you wouldn't know exactly what God was like. You might understand His greatness and even His glory at some level, but you really wouldn't know from the planets, the planetary system what God is like. And even the patriarchs and the prophets, that's progressive. Revelations, that is not complete until Jesus came. And that's why we read in these verses, "In these last days", and the last days began the moment Jesus was born. We're in the last days. In these days He has spoken to us through His Son. God speaks through His Son. And of all of the planets in the universe, and it's more vast than the human mind can understand. We've made advances looking into the planetary system.
Our little grandsons, two of them, twins, Jake and Zack, and Jake is fascinated, he's just three, but he's fascinated with the planets. He's got them memorized. I actually kind of forgot all the planets, but he can name them and he's getting me to name them again. And he names them off: earth and goes through, and then he gets to Pluto and then he stops and he says, "But Daddy Jack, Pluto's not a planet". I said really? Pluto's not a planet? Cause he's heard somewhere, read somewhere already that Pluto is in question. People are questioning Pluto. Did you know that? Whether it's just a big rock in the sky or whether it's a planet. Now I think they've said it's a planet, but Jake says, "No, it's not a planet".
So right now I'm believing Jake! I actually thought Pluto was a dog. But be that as it may, just our planets in our solar system, God chose earth. God so loved the world and people on Planet Earth that he spoke to us and sent His Son. And in Jesus you have the fullness and the focus and the foreverness of God! He is the Word of God. That's the way John the disciple who looked into His eyes. John wrote in John chapter 1, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God, the same was in the beginning with God and all things were made by Him, and there was not anything made that was made except by Him".
Now I know that there are people who question God today. They tell me there are more atheist today than ever. I don't know if that's true or not. But my friend Jay John sent me this this week and it's so good I just had to share it with you. It's called A Parable of the Concept of God. I'm going to call it The Word from the Womb:
"In a mother's womb were two babies. One asked the other, 'Do you believe in life after delivery?' The other replied, 'Well, of course, there has to be something after delivery. Maybe we are here to prepare ourselves for what will be later.' 'Nonsense!' said the first. 'There is no life after delivery. What kind of life would that be?' And the second said, 'I don't know, but there will be more life than here. Maybe we will walk with our legs and eat from our mouths. Maybe we will have other senses that we can't understand right now.' And the first replied, 'That's absurd! Walking is impossible. Eating with our mouths? Ridiculous! The umbilical cord supplies nutrition and everything we need. But the umbilical cord is so short. Life after delivery is to be logically excluded.' The second insisted, 'Well, I think there's something. And maybe it's different than it is here. Maybe we won't need this physical cord anymore.' The first replied, 'Nonsense! And moreover, it there is life, then why has no one ever comeback from there? Delivery is the end of life, and in the after-delivery there is nothing but darkness and silence and oblivion. It takes us nowhere.' 'Well, I don't know,' said the second. 'But certainly we will meet mother and she will take care of us.' The first replied, 'Mother? You actually believe in mother? That's laughable! If mother exists, then where is she now?' The second said, 'She's all around us. We're surrounded by her. We are of her. It is in her that we live. Without her this world would not and could not exist.' Said the first, 'Well, I don't see her, so it's only logical that she doesn't exist.' To which the second replied, 'Sometimes when you're in silence and you focus and listen, you can perceive her presence. And you can hear her loving voice calling down from above.'"
God is speaking. Some of you may have denied Him and said He doesn't exist, that you can't hear from Him. The biggest question in life is how can I know God? Is there a God? And if there is a God, how can I know Him? If He's so great and grand and glorious and big and out there, and runs the universe, how could He possibly care about me and how does He know me, and how can I know Him? There's a name and His name is Jesus. And God saves through Jesus. God speaks through Jesus. He's fully and finally spoken in Christ, who He is and what He has done. The God-Man, infinite, eternal God-Man. This is the incarnation when God became a human being in Christ. He went to the cross, He died on the cross. That's the good news. He died for our sins. So God saves through Jesus. And the Bible says, "There's no other name given among men by which we must be saved". Religion cannot save. Philosophy will not save. Personality change and psychological rearmament, that won't really change you ultimately. Only Jesus can save!
"What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus"! And so the writer says, God says in this Word that after He revealed God He redeemed man. He saved us. He purged us is the old word in the Bible, the King James, and here it speaks of the purification of sin. The Hebrews, the Jewish people talked a lot, thought a lot about forgiveness and how they could be washed clean from their sins. And there were many sacrifices including purification rites and all the rest. And so the writer says to these Christians who were thinking about going back to their old way of life; he said, "Remember, only Jesus purified your sins". One of the things I love about being a pastor. I see all the ways that God brings people to Jesus. There are many ways to Jesus, but Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus is the only way to heaven.
And one final thing and wrapping up. (Told you there was a lot in this.) God speaks through Jesus. God saves through Jesus, purifying our sins. He finished the work and He sustains and secures through Jesus. You see that little phrase there, I believe it's in verse 3 where it says, "He upholds all things by the word of His power."?
You see those verses when it talks about His sovereignty and His majesty and His supremacy and how He holds all things. He upholds all things. Now don't think of Atlas putting the world on his shoulder. Not like that. But the Scriptures tell us in Jesus, Colossians chapter 1, there it is, "all things hold together". "For by Him all things were created in heaven and earth, visible and invisible, where the thrones and dominions are rulers for authority. And all things were created through Him (and watch this) and in Him all things hold together".
What holds the universe together? You say gravity. God holds it together. God set, we call them the laws of nature and the laws of science. There are no laws of nature, only the laws of God that science uncovers. Gravity! That's God holding everything together! If Jesus took His hand off this planet, we would spin into oblivion. He holds everything together. He's got it!
Now, what about you? If you're going to go the distance, you need to be strong at the core and you need to make sure that He's holding you together. Maybe you're wondering, "Why don't things work out for me? Why are things always spinning out of control? Why in the world is my marriage falling apart? Why in the world is my life falling apart? Why isn't my life, why can't I get it together"?
If you don't have Jesus, you never get it together. He holds everything together. He's the core. If you don't have Christ at the core, if you don't have Christ at the center of your life, everything's going to spinning out of control constantly. When you get Christ in your heart, in your soul, in your being, life starts holding together. There's problems, sure. There's difficulties, challenges. But He's there to put us back together, to hold us on so that we can keep going when we feel like giving up; so that we can go the distance and finish the race. His name is Jesus. God speaks through this more excellent name; He saves through this excellent name; and He strengthens, secures and sustains us through this excellent name. Just as He sustains the worlds, He will strengthen and sustain you. That is how you're going to go the distance. Amen?