John Bradshaw - For Us
Really good to be with you today. So glad we could spend this time together gathered around God's Word. My prayer is that you will be blessed. I'm certain I'm going to be blessed as we go to the Word of God together. Let's pray before we begin, and pray expecting that God will bless us. Let's pray now:
Our Father in heaven, we are thankful for Jesus. We are thankful for Your Word. We are thankful that before the foundation of this world, You enacted a plan of salvation for us, so that throughout eternity we could be together with You and not separated. As we come to You now, we ask that Your Spirit would move powerfully among us, that Your Word would be alive, and that through it You would speak to us. If we need to be challenged, challenge us; encouraged, please encourage us; directed, we are open to that. We want to be directed by You. So we ask now that You would do in this time just what You want done. We make ourselves available to You, we offer You our hearts, and we pray gratefully in Jesus' name. Let's say together: amen.
Kim Philby was destined to make his mark in this world. He was the son of a rather brilliant man, educated at the very best schools in England, including Trinity College in Cambridge. You might just say he went to Cambridge University. For 30 years, Kim Philby worked for British intelligence, rising to a very high rank in the British Secret Intelligence Service, what you and I would refer to as MI6. He ran MI6's entire counter-espionage program; that is, he was in charge of stopping spies collecting information on Britain. And he set up the section that spied on the Soviet Union. But what nobody knew was that, while Kim Philby was in charge of an important part of Great Britain's spy program, he himself was, in fact, a double agent.
While supposedly protecting Britain from spies, Philby was a spy himself, working for the Soviet Union. They said it was likely that he was recruited while at Cambridge. He provided a lot of information to the Soviets that led directly to the deaths of a large number of agents, and inflicted real damage on both the American and British intelligence programs. Kim Philby died in Moscow in 1988. A brilliant man. A capable man. But a double agent. Nobody really knew whose side he was on. You know, I've often wondered just how many people know whose side God is on. And why do I say that? God gets blamed for an enormous amount of bad things. In 2005, not long after Hurricane Katrina, Time magazine featured an article that was titled "Where Was God"? It investigated responses from people about what they thought was the cause of the calamity. Seems it was God's judgment for just about everything.
After the Asian tsunami, the archbishop of Canterbury said, "Of course, this makes us doubt God's existence". Insurance companies refer to "acts of God". They are disasters that dramatically affect lives, always negatively, and God gets the credit, or the blame. So very often when personal tragedy strikes, the question asked is, "Why did God allow this"? Now, that's not always a bad question, you know. Even Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me"? But all too often, present in the question is the suggestion that God is a villain. And the question gets murky for some people when we start to wrestle with matters of personal sin. Does God still care for me? Does God still love me? Is God still with me after what I've done? How far does the love and patience and acceptance of a God who abandons His people stretch in the case of sinners committing sin? Serious question. And thankfully, the Bible provides us with serious answers.
Now, you don't have to go too far in the Bible to figure this out. Let's take our Bibles, and we'll turn to John chapter 8 for a brief look at how Jesus handled a broken life and related to a broken person. This is John chapter 8. Now, evidently Jesus had spent the previous night on the Mount of Olives. Jesus went there often, of course; that's where He went the night before He died on the cross. Strengthened by a night of communing with His Father, Jesus is in the temple the next morning. It happens to be the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. You would expect it would have been a very, a very reverent scene in the temple. You would expect it to be quiet there. But suddenly, something happens that shatters the reverence and the silence. The Bible says this; it's John 8 and verse 3: "Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?'"
Now, let's consider the scene. A group of very upstanding men bring a woman to Jesus who had just been caught in the act of immorality. These were angry men. The woman, you'd expect that she was cowering, most likely weeping. There was tension in the air because justice is being demanded. "Moses says this woman should be stoned. What do You say"? Well, what could He say? If she's guilty, she's guilty. Really, that settles it. But aren't you glad that doesn't actually settle it in the mind of God? Not right away. If guilt settled it, our collective goose would have been well and truly cooked a long time ago. The Bible says that all of us "have sinned and come short of the glory of God".
It's written right here in this book. If our misdeeds settled it, if our sins settled it, none of us would ever have even the slightest hope of going to heaven. And then Jesus writes in the sand, and He makes that famous statement. I'll read it here in John 8 and verse 7: "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first". Now, they were right. She was a sinful woman. She had done wrong. But Jesus challenges these individuals. He tells them to go right ahead, stone the poor creature, as long as they themselves are without sin. You know, when that woman heard Jesus say those words, she no doubt thought she was dead. These holy, righteous men, she thought. They came off as so holy. They'll probably all be throwing rocks at me. It'll be like a blizzard. But they drop their rocks and walk away, leaving Jesus, the perfect, holy, righteous Son of God, God in the flesh He was, alone with this miserable, wicked, corrupt individual who really did deserve to have the book thrown at her.
"Where are your accusers"? He asks her. "Has no man condemned you"? "No," she says, "none". And then Jesus said, remember she's guilty: "Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more". Can you imagine how she felt? Now, consider this: after catching her in her offense, they dragged her out of her home. Do you think they said to her, "Um, we'll wait while you get dressed; just take your time"? No, they didn't say that. They grabbed her, dragged her. So what'd she do? I'm thinking she probably just grabbed a sheet, wrapped it around her, was dragged off to the temple, trying to maintain some semblance of dignity, there in the presence of the holiness, in the presence of perfection, in the presence of these wicked people, with others looking on, trying to...defend her dignity and modesty. She felt hideous. And what did Jesus say? Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you".
Do you know how good you felt when you got pulled up for speeding, and you knew that you'd been speeding, and the police officer just let you off with a warning? This woman escaped with her life. How'd she feel? Why did Jesus do that? I'll tell you why. Because that's whose side Jesus is on. We're in John. We all know John 3:16. I'll tell you what, there's another verse you want to remember. It's John 3:17. It says, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved". God is in the business of saving people. In fact, God gave us an incredible illustration to help us understand just whose side He is on today. Go way back to the beginning. Adam and Eve used to spend time together with God, but sin came. God's Word tells us that sin separates between us and God. So God had His people do something that you might think is strange. They built Him a house, a dwelling place, a sanctuary.
Exodus 25 and verse 8, a little after Adam and Eve, we know: "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them". God wanted to spend time with His people. He made us. When Adam and Eve sinned and ran away, God went right after them to bring them back. The story of the prodigal son, God is pictured as running towards a sinner in love. God wanted to dwell in the midst of His people, so He had them build a sanctuary. It was the earthly dwelling place of the Most High God of heaven. Now, it was mobile; it traveled with the Israelites throughout the wilderness. And it was magnificent. Gold-plated boards and sockets of silver and fine linen and beautiful curtains, and a golden candlestick with seven lamps giving light day and night.
Imagine that light gleaming off the gold-plated walls. Gold-plated furniture, items made from pure gold. Most magnificently, the Shekinah glory was in there, in the most holy place, the presence of God Himself. Now, of course, in time the sanctuary was superseded by the temple. Yet you'll remember that when Jesus died, the veil of the temple was torn in two by an act of God. God was signifying that the temple services were now obsolete. The true Lamb had come and died. As such, it was redundant for God's people to want to offer animal sacrifices. In fact, you could say it was offensive. To have faith in a lamb sacrifice would be to fail to recognize that the true Lamb had died. The temple really had served its purpose.
So, what's the Bible talking about when it talks about a sanctuary today, a sanctuary that is still tremendously important? Let's read together. This would be Hebrews chapter 8 and verse 1. "Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man". We know that the earthly sanctuary was patterned after the heavenly sanctuary. Read that in Exodus 25 and verse 9. Hebrews 9 and verse 24 tells us precisely the same thing. And why is that important? The simple existence of the building itself isn't the item of most major importance. What is most important is what's going on in that sanctuary. What's going on there shows us where God's mind is towards the sinners of this world. It shows us whose side God is on.
You know, for a number of years our government was on a mission to find a terrorist mastermind named Osama bin Laden. For the longest time, they simply didn't know where he was. I'll tell you something about many Christians. They have as much idea as to Jesus' whereabouts as most people had regarding Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. Where's bin Laden? He's in the Middle East. Where exactly? Uh, I don't know. What's he doing? Uh, I can't tell you. Ask people where Jesus is. Where is He? Heaven. Yes, but where specifically? Um, not sure. What's He doing? Don't know. Well, today I will tell you, and the answer will incredibly bless you. When Jesus died, we know where He went. I'm going to read Hebrews 4 and verse 14, Hebrews 4:14. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession".
Now, you notice that: Jesus went to heaven. Why? To be our high priest. Hebrews 8:1 and 2, "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens". And notice this: "A Minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man". Jesus has gone to heaven, to the heavenly sanctuary that God made. Why? So He can be our... no, wait a minute, so He can be your High Priest. And now we can think about what that really means for us. The sanctuary service was essentially the gospel in types and shadows. How could God help Israel understand what the plan of salvation was really all about? How? God taught them. "It's like this," God said. "Sin causes death. I want to show you how it will cause the death of my Son, so I will put that in this figure of the death of a lamb". Sin causes the death of a lamb, or, with a big "L," a Lamb. "Because of your sin," God says, "the Lamb dies".
So here's what they would do. The sinner would take a lamb over to the sanctuary, he would confess his sins over the lamb, and the sins would be transferred, figuratively, obviously, transferred to the lamb, or you might say actually, as a matter of fact; there's room for some discussion there. And the blood, the lamb would be killed, and the blood of that lamb would be taken inside the sanctuary. In that way, the sin itself was transferred to the sanctuary, from the sinner to the lamb, from the lamb to the sanctuary. And at the end of the year, the entire sin record would be wiped out on the Day of Atonement. The sanctuary would be cleansed, and the people would rejoice because they stood before God absolutely pure and absolutely clean. Sin record gone.
Does this relate to our situation today? Oh, you can be sure it does. When we need cleansing from sin, we come to Christ. The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin and then prompts us to come to God. We are actually drawn to God by God. Notice that: sinners are drawn to God by God, not pushed away from God. We confess our sins. Who takes our sins? Jesus, the Lamb, big "L". He died on the cross to pay for our sins, to take our sins away forever. So we come to Christ and profess faith in the sacrifice of the Lamb when Jesus died on the cross. God takes our sins away. And back in the Old Testament time, when the sinner confessed, there was a middle man, wasn't there? A priest, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest.
Today, there's a middle man, our High Priest, Jesus. You read this in 1 John 2, verse 1: "My little children, I write these things to you, so that you do not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous". So this is what we see: As our High Priest in heaven, Jesus intercedes for us. We come to Him with our sins. We come to Him repentant. He takes our sins from us, appeals to God in our behalf, and He gives us His own perfect righteousness in place of our sins. Christ our High Priest. Now, I wonder what sort of picture of Jesus this presents. What we can tell the world is that in heaven there is a Savior who invites us to come to Him just as we are, knowing that He will have mercy on us. Back in Hebrews chapter 4, it said, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession".
See, if you're a sinner, and you have faith in Jesus, and you've got your struggles, the answer is, not to let go. The knowledge that a holy, righteous Jesus is your High Priest in heaven absolutely must inspire you to hang on tight. Now, the Greek word that is used there, translated into "hold fast," means to, "to cling to tenaciously". It's like a barnacle clinging to the hull of a ship; you can hardly pry those things off. Now, when you know that Jesus is your lawyer in heaven, your High Priest, your Advocate in heaven, that ought to give you confidence to hang on in such a way that nothing can pry you off. Hebrews 4 and verse 16 says, "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace". Come with confidence. Why? So "that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need". Because Jesus is your High Priest, your intercessor, you can have confidence in Him.
There are a lot of people who don't have confidence in Jesus. We ought to be the most secure, confident people in the world when it comes to our salvation. Now, of course, I'm not suggesting that if you're enjoying a life of sin, and you're wallowing in sin, and your plan is to remain practicing wickedness, I'm not saying you ought to be confident in your salvation, I would say, far from it. But I would say, if that's where you are, you're finding the solution today. If you're reaching out to Jesus in faith, if you've given Him your heart, if you're "pressing towards the mark," like Paul said, if you have surrendered your life to Jesus, you can know for sure that Jesus died to save you, and that by faith, by faith, you possess the gift of everlasting life. I spoke to someone recently who said to me, "I hope I'm good enough to go to heaven".
You know what I told this person? I said, "You will never be good enough to go to heaven. That's why you need Jesus". In fact, let me say this to you: if you're hoping to be good enough...for God to save you, you need to stop hoping that right now. Now, what you mean is that you hope to be ready, or you hope to see Jesus. Okay, I can live with that. But if you're hoping to be good enough to go to heaven, you've got another thing coming. I never taught my children to pray to be good. Let me put that another way. I did teach my children not to pray to be good. I remember when my son was a little boy, around 3, I'm thinking he was younger than 3. If he was 3, he was just over 3. Now, we knelt down by his bed one night. How old was he? He'd graduated to a bed. Yeah, he was getting up toward 3 years old, I think. And I prayed for my boy, and then it was his turn to pray, and I remember my boy saying and praying, "And dear Jesus, please help me to be good".
Oh, I heard him say that, and I thought, no, no, no. And I did something that I ordinarily wouldn't do, and I interrupted him while he was praying. I put my hand down on him. "Son, stop". And he looked up. "What, Daddy"? I said, "Jacob, no. We're not going to pray that way". Now, I had to explain to him that I didn't want him to be bad, I didn't want him to pray to be bad. But I explained. I explained, you know how it is when your children get to that certain age, and you need to have... serious talks with them about various subjects. That time had arrived. He was around 3 years old. The time had arrived for his daddy to have a talk with him on a very serious subject. I said, "Jacob, we don't pray to be good. The Bible says, 'There is none that doeth good; no, not one.' If you pray to be good, you are going to fail". In fact, in fact, Jesus once told a fellow, "There is only one who is good, and that is God".
So, my brother, my sister, if you are praying to be good, then you're actually praying to be God. The person who prays to be good is sooner or later going to figure out that that approach doesn't work. Before long, one of a couple of things is going to happen. You're either going to give up on God, or, maybe even worse, you're going to stay in the church and be miserable and feel condemned and make other people miserable as well. God never asked us to be good. Not once. God asks us to be holy. And where are you going to get holiness from? Now, now, time out, time out. I don't want you misunderstanding me, just in case, you know, what is this brother saying? Not suggesting God wants us to be sinners. But God wants us to have our approach right. He wants us to have our head straight. He says, "Be holy".
All right. Where do you get holiness from? Not from yourself, that's for sure. Instead of praying to be good, pray, as I taught my children, that Jesus would live His life in you, and forgive you and give you a new heart. You see, if you're praying to be good, it doesn't work. If you're praying for Jesus to live in your heart, it'll never fail. When Jesus comes into your life, what does He bring? He brings His goodness, His righteousness, His power, His holiness. And that's what we need. And we can get that. Sinners like you and me can have that: the righteousness of Jesus Christ. We can receive Jesus' holiness freely, when we come confidently to the throne of grace.
So what's the worst thing that can happen if you admit to God that you are a sinner? Do you think God is going to be shocked to find out? When Jesus said, "Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest," He wasn't referring to just the holy folks. If you're burdened, if you are weary, if you're feeling crushed by the weight of the mess of your life, come to Jesus just as you are.
Now, in Hebrews 9 you read something phenomenal. The chapter starts by telling us there was an earthly sanctuary, and it describes the earthly sanctuary. It talks about how that sanctuary and its services couldn't cleanse the consciences of those who came to worship at the sanctuary. Something more powerful than the blood of an animal was needed to take away the sins of people. So the writer says, if the blood of animals did what it did, how much more effective must the blood of Jesus be? The passage says Christ, in a heavenly sanctuary, "not entered into holy places made with hands... figures of the true," He's entered heaven, and He is "now to appear in the presence of God for us". For us.
My friend, I'm not attempting to minimize the seriousness of the spiritual mess we find ourselves in. But I'm telling you, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the wonderful truth that Jesus is in heaven as our High Priest for us. Not against us. For us. The battle that we're in the midst of is the real thing. Paul said, "It isn't flesh and blood we wrestle against. We wrestle against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places".
You know what? The devil is going to throw everything at you. He's going to tempt you to fall. He's going to play on your fears and your insecurities and your weaknesses. He'll try to take you back to what you were before you were a Christian. He'll try to discourage you. We are in a war down here. But there's something that's got to carry you along, and that's knowing that while we are living our lives here, Jesus is up there, and He is for us. That means He will give you the spiritual help that you need. He will provide you with the emotional support that you need. He will not cast you off the moment you fail. The Christ of the Bible who came to the earth 2,000 years ago has not forgotten you. He is for you.
Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus "ever lives to make intercession" for us. What does that do for your confidence? It ought to do something great. Jesus is on our side down here. He feels our pain and knows our struggles. This is a Christ any one of us can go to at any time with confidence. How is life treating you? Oh, good. I mean, you're here today. That's good. You look good. You're well fed, I'm sure. Found something to wear, something good. Probably going to drive home. You'll go home to somewhere warm and dry. But in our hearts, we know that everything's not...great. We struggle, don't we? We know that we're weak. We know that we have challenges.
If I asked you to think back to the last time you blew it, you probably don't have to think back too far. But I'm glad that God isn't asking us to earn our way to heaven. He hasn't asked us to deserve salvation. We don't, and we cannot. Instead, He's asking us to have faith in His Son, Jesus, to invite Jesus into our lives so He can live in us, and bring into us all of His attributes. It's a troubled world. Uh, the Christian life can feel like being on a plane in turbulence. Because life happens, you know.
I recall once in my home country of New Zealand, flying on a little plane from one place to another. It wasn't a long flight; there are precious few flights in New Zealand that are long flights. This was a short flight. And I got onto a little, small plane. I don't know what kind of plane it was, but I was the only passenger. There weren't many seats. I was the only passenger. And I was seated near the front. And I could see into the cockpit, and I could see the pilot. The weather was terrible.
Now, I was too young to be scared; I was a little bit excited, to be honest with you. I was a young man at the time. But I knew it was serious. While I sat on that plane, I wondered, man, are we going to get there? Am I safe? Is it going to be okay? But I could see right into the cockpit. I wasn't far from the pilot, and I could see the pilot at the steering wheel, or whatever you call it on a plane. And his hands were gripping the controls; his knuckles were white. But I could see that he was working the instrument panel. And he had his headset on and was communicating with people forward in the tower. And he was guiding that plane, and he was hanging on tight. And I thought to myself, that pilot doesn't look worried. He's hanging on tight, and he's earning his paycheck. But he looks confident. He knows what he's doing. He wouldn't have taken off if he thought we weren't going to get back down safely.
I thought in that moment, that man knows what he's doing. If I'm with him, I'm okay. And life is like that. The winds blow, and the rains come down, and you get bounced around from time to time. But look into the cockpit. Who's at the controls of your life? If Jesus is at the controls in your life, then you can say, "I know what He's doing. I trust Him. I know that He knows what He's doing. And I believe He's going to get me safely down to where I need to be". Where's your faith today? Know that right now there is in heaven, in heaven's sanctuary, in the most holy place, a High Priest, your High Priest. And He's not against you. He's in heaven now, and He is for us. Let's pray together now:
Our Father in heaven, we are grateful that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We are thankful that in heaven we have a Savior, who knows all about us and loves us anyway, who knows we are sinners and wants to move into our lives and make us what we cannot make ourselves. Thank you, Father in heaven, that You are for us, that Jesus is for us, that Your Spirit works with us and dwells in us.
Friend, how is it with you? Have you given your heart to Jesus, invited Him to take your life? Where's your confidence? In this stormy world, where's your confidence? Would you say to Jesus today, "My confidence is in You"? Just that: "My confidence is in You". Can you say that to Jesus? If you can, please, would you raise your hand? There's nobody watching. Our heads are bowed; our eyes are closed. But would you say now, "Jesus, my confidence is in You. Father, I trust You. I thank You that You are for us".
God, that's our prayer. That's the cry of our heart. Thank You today that You are for us. We believe it; we rejoice in it. And we pray in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.