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Jack Graham - The Great Divide

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    Jack Graham - The Great Divide
TOPICS: Going the Distance, Division, Sin

Hebrews chapter 4, verses 14-16. Three of the most important verses in all of the Bible! This is the core of the Christian faith! The message is called "The Great Divide". We know in our nation there is a political divide, economic divide. So much divisions that create so much chaos and separation, hate in our land. And, of course, that divide reaches to the ends of the earth. Division between nations. There's great division in our nation. But having said that, the greatest divide is not a political divide or socio-economic divide, or even a racial divide. But the greatest divide is the divide between holy God and sinful humanity, the separation that exists between God and man.

What are we to do about this seemingly impossible situation: that God who is great and holy and mighty and powerful could somehow connect with us; that we could somehow relate to Him? Verse 14, "Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need". The great divide between God and man. Hebrews, of course, is all about how God solved this problem, and how God has come to us in the person of Jesus Christ who is our superior and superlative Savior, our Sovereign Lord, and given us access to Him. He is described here in this passage as "the great high priest".

Now most of us don't relate to this passage of Scripture, as important as it may be, because we don't have maybe a basic understanding of the role and the function of the priest in the Old Testament. We know a priest in our generation, in our day in various churches. But this priest, this high and Holy Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ, is reflective of the priests of the Old Testament and the role of the priest, of course, is to represent God to man and to represent man to God. That's what a priest does. In Latin the word for priest is pontifex which actually means bridge builder; a builder of bridges- pontifex. This is the role and the responsibility of the priest who helped connect God and man.

That was the role of the Old Testament priest, as the priest would go in to the Holy Place, the holiest place of all, the inner sanctum, and there on one day of the year, praying that he would not die in that he was in the presence of holy God, would make sacrifices for sin. He would never sit in that place but would walk in that place with holy fear, knowing that he was representing man and sinful humanity there in the holy presence of God. So the priest in effect is a mediator. The priest is an intercessor, a powerful presence in God's holy place. That's the role of the priest. And here we are told that Jesus is the perfect priest. He is the Great High and Holy Priest. And with that said, He does two things primarily: He intercedes for us. That is, He prays with us and for us, and He invites us into His presence. That's the take-away.

Our Great High Priest intercedes for us and He invites us into the very presence of God. He is the ultimate prayer warrior. He is your ultimate prayer partner. This passage tells us that Jesus ascended into the heavens; passed our atmosphere, through stellar space and into the heaven of heaven; into the very holy place, the throne of God, the presence of God Almighty. That "He ever lives (according to the Scripture) to make intercession for the saints"! He lives today to pray for you. This intercession that takes place, this intersection between holy God and sinful man, Jesus built a bridge. He is our Priest; He is our Pontifex.

1 Timothy 2:5, "There is one Mediator," Paul said to Timothy, "between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus". And could I just say, as I noted earlier in Hebrews, that He is the Man Christ Jesus, our Man in heaven. He still bears His scars. He still bears, though in a glorified body, a risen body, He is still Man! He is the one who came to earth and is now in heaven, and that's very important because if you want to identify with God, for God to bridge the great divide, that takes not only the Son of God, but the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ! And what happened in Christ is God has taken, He took the hand of Holy God with one hand, and the hand of sinful humanity, men and women, and He brought us together! In Christ at the cross! That's the act of reconciliation: when the great divide, the big gap between God and mankind was covered by the grace of God. That's salvation. That's what happened. We cannot approach or come into the presence of a Holy God without Jesus.

There is no way without, John 14:6, "the way, and truth and life" who is the Lord Jesus Christ. And you may recall when Jesus died on the cross there were miracles that took place surrounding the darkness of that hour, but miracles that took place in Jerusalem, including the ripping of the thick veil of the temple into the holy place of God from top to bottom. Not from bottom to top as though man had done it! But from top to bottom! The writer of Hebrews talks about "He went inside the veil", what veil? The veil that separated man from God. As our High Priest, He ripped down the curtain that separated us! He tore the temple veil in two not to let God out, but to let us in! And therefore, as our Priest He made it possible. This is the faith that I'm talking about, that the writer's talking about. "Hold on to this faith"! He calls it "the confession" or the profession of faith. He says, "Hold fast to your confession".

Notice what he did not say. He did not say, "hold on or hold firm to your salvation", because if it's up to me to hold on to my salvation, at some point I could let go, I could turn loose. If it's up to me holding firm to the end, holding out faithful to the end, just trying to hang on to get to heaven, That is a fail! So he's not saying, Hold on to your salvation! We are secure in His great grip! First Peter, chapter 1, verse 4 tells us that we have this amazing conversion and imperishable, unfading salvation "kept in heaven for you". It goes on to say, "by the hand of God, by the power of God". We as believers are secure in the omnipotent powerful grip of God! It's not me holding onto Him for salvation; He's holding onto me! Jesus said this as well in John chapter 10. He said, John 10:28, "I give to them eternal life, and they will (what? Read that) never perish, and know one will snatch them from My Father's hand".

So God is not telling us here: "I want you to hold on to salvation". He's holding on to you; He's holding on to your salvation. That belongs to Him. You're in His grip! But we are then to confess our faith. To hold on to the confession of our faith. He's talking about our testimony. We are to continue to testify, to confess, to profess that we are believers in Christ. And we're to hold fast and firm to this! Another time in Scripture the Apostle Paul put it like this, he said, 1 Timothy 6:12, "Lay hold of eternal life". That is, reach forward. He said, Philippians 3:13-14, "I leave the past behind and I press on to the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ".

We're running a race and we're seizing a prize so the idea of holding firm is stretching out there in our faith and trusting God and strengthening our faith in Him. "Lay hold of eternal life". Pursue Him, press on! And the way that we do that in great part is by publicly professing our faith, by continually confessing Jesus Christ. This is your testimony. Hold fast your confession. I wish I had time to say more about that. There is a promise here. Verse 15. Look at it again. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin". Though our Priest is pure and a perfect Priest, He identifies with us in that He sympathizes and suffers with us. A man of sorrows, acquainted with grief.

Here we're told that He was actually tempted in all points, just as we are tempted, though He never sinned. Were these temptations real? Of course, they were real. He was tempted physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually! All sin could come under the cover as described in the Scripture as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life". Even when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, those three came into play in this big cage-fight in the wilderness with the devil. The lust of the flesh (Matthew 4:3) "turn the stones into bread"; the lust of the eye (Matthew 4:9) "bow down and I'll give you all the kingdoms of this world"; the pride of life, "Circumvent the cross, follow me". These were the temptations of Christ in the wilderness. And He was tempted, therefore, like we are tempted. There is no test, no temptation that we experience but that Jesus knew in His humanity!

You say, "Well, okay, but He was the Son of God and He was God and He was pure and He was perfect and I'm not! I'm sinful and temptation is more powerful to me than it was to Jesus"! Nah-uh-uh! Let me quote from C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity. He writes: "A silly idea is current good people do not know what temptation is. 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 a German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people in one sense know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life. How? By giving in! Giving into temptation.

You see that? Christ, because He was the only Man who never yielded to temptation is also the only Man who knows to the full what temptation means"! That's powerful! It is only someone like Jesus who has never been tempted could feel the full force of the power of Satan and temptation. So don't say, "Oh, Jesus was God and His temptations weren't all that real or all that powerful". He was tempted more than you are tempted! And yet without sin! His temptation was greater than yours. Have you ever noticed that when you yield to temptation and you see, temptation is not a sin. If so, Jesus would have been a sinner. Temptation is not a sin. But it is saying "yes" to temptation as to when the temptation becomes sinful behavior or a sinful action. And so here you have someone saying "yes" to sin.

Have you ever noticed when you start saying yes, it becomes easier to say yes? And the temptation really isn't that strong. No real temptation. Once you start saying yes and yes and yes and yes to sin, it's easy to sin. Temptation isn't all that big to people who yield to it constantly. And yet this wonderful promise is that Jesus conquered sin and Satan. You say, "What does that mean"? As our Priest, He understands us. He was wholly separate from sin and yet He knows the thrust of temptation, and He understands it. He knows what you're going through. He knows how difficult it is. And if you will come to Him for strength He will empower you once again to overcome sin in your life.

One final thing, He says, "Dare to draw near". Do you see that there in the last sentence of verse 16: "Let us then", who? Let us. There are some questions I'm going to answer real quickly for you. Ask yourself who? "Let us", because we are believers and followers of Jesus Christ. Let us who know Him, who believe and have received Him, "Let us with confidence". How are we to approach God's throne of grace? How are we to connect with God? "With confidence"! The word there means openness. It's even translated boldness. Not brashness, not irreverence, but with confidence and assurance those of us who are believers and followers of Jesus, we can confidently, fearlessly come into the presence of Almighty God! We are invited there! And that is a confidence that beats any so-called self-esteem that is so often promoted today.

You know everybody wants to talk about self-esteem. I esteem myself, blah, blah, blah, blah. We're not told in the Bible to esteem ourselves! You say, "Well I went to a counselor; I was having some problems, and the counselor told me that I hated myself and I need to start loving myself"! Well now you got more problems because that's 100 percent wrong! You say, "Well, what about that verse: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart.'" And then it says "and love your neighbor as you love yourself". There it is! That does not mean you are to love yourself. You're not to hate yourself but you're not to love yourself! You're not to esteem yourself at all! I am what I am not because of me, but because of the grace of God that is in me!

1 Corinthians 15:10, "I am what I am," the Apostle Paul said, "by the grace of God"! I know that I am loved and I am confident, not because I say I love myself but because I know God said, "I love you"! It is not my self-love that makes me feel better about myself! It is God's love! It is the love of Jesus Christ! So quit running around trying to love yourself or self-esteem! You say, "Well, my kids, they need self-esteem". Your kids need to know Jesus and they'll have the confidence that they need to live life and what could be more confident than invited into the presence of God any hour, any day? Our identity in Christ is our reality. Well, that was a rant. But seriously, I get so tired of this. It's what's wrong with our culture and our society. People running around talking about how they're esteeming themselves! "Oh, I believe in myself". You better believe in God! You better believe in Christ!

Again, to quote C.S. Lewis, he said, "Humility is not thinking lowly of yourself; it is not thinking of yourself". What did Jesus say? "Lose yourself and you will gain everything". So our affirmation, our acceptance, our approval is in the fact that we can draw near with confidence into the throne room of God. You're a VIP. You've been given a pass written in the blood of Jesus Christ. How are we to come there? Let us come with boldness and grace Where are we to go? The throne of grace, we're coming to the throne of grace and remember He is Prophet, He is Priest and He is King who sits on that throne as well. "Thou art coming to a King. Large partitions with Thee bring. There is no grace as much that, He could not satisfy your deepest need".

Let us come boldly to the throne of grace. When? When are we to go there? What does it say? When are we to go to the throne of grace? Come on! In our time of need! That wasn't a hard question. We come to the throne of grace in our hour of need, and there we receive, at the throne of grace what? Mercy and grace. Now I need to get there every day because every day I need mercy, and so do you. Mercy is when God doesn't give us what we deserve. We deserve judgment but He gives us mercy at His throne of grace. It's no longer the throne of judgment for the believer; it's the throne of grace. "Mercy there was great and grace was free".

And so I come to that throne of grace and mercy for pardon and for provision, pardon and for provision what I need. Sometimes when people are going through such tough battles in their lives, when we don't know how to pray for people and we certainly don't understand what their going through, one of the best things you can say, and pray for that person, "God, give mercy. God, we need Your mercy". And the mercy of God shows the heart of God. At the throne of grace we see God's heart with mercy. The grace of God shows us the hand of God that gives us everything that we need. Gives us what we do not deserve. So who can come there? Believers in Christ. How are we to go there? With boldness and confidence. And what do we receive there? Mercy and grace. I don't know about you, but I need to get there as often as possible. What a promise for prayer! What a privilege to be in His presence, Jesus our Great High Priest.
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