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10.14.12 Faith in Spite of Despair, Hebrews 4:12-16, Sermon Summary

by on October 16, 2012

Summary Points

  • God’s judging word: the forms it takes and the ways we respond to it
  • What it means that Jesus was “sinless”
  • How Jesus is our “high priest”
  • The boldness we may have in faith

I cannot be as bold as Job. I would never try to chase God down and argue with him about my suffering on the basis of my own righteousness. My sin is too great. I know it because God’s word speaks truth about me. It judges me. The 10 Commandments would be enough to keep me still.

Unlike the man in Mark, who claimed not to have broken any of the “second tablet,” social commandments Jesus enumerated, God’s Word exposes me. It exposes me when I read it in the Bible. But it exposes me especially when I listen to it through quiet practices like Taizé worship and contemplative prayer.

Hebrews 4 gives us a vivid image of God’s Word judging us: it’s of a wrestler “bending back” the neck of his opponent, proving to an audience that he was victorious over his foe. Many English translations soften the image by referring to us as being “laid bare.” The experience Hebrews refers to is like being on the operating table, totally subject to someone else, existentially vulnerable.

But the man in Mark did eventually experience the judgment of God’s Word. It was when Jesus invited the man to follow him. I experience that judgment also. Jesus’ life, when contrasted to my own, serves as a quiet, passive judgment upon me. Jesus calls me, like he did the man in Mark, to follow him. That word, that invitation, proved too much for the man in Mark, and it judges me as well.

The reason scripture and the church call us to follow Jesus is because he was, according to our passage, “without sin.” What does this mean? Jesus’ life demonstrates for us what it means to live in faith, to live trusting God, to live according to God’s will, and not just according to religious dogma. This is what Job was missing. Job said he was without sin, but he didn’t perfectly trust God as Jesus did. The man in Mark said he was without sin, but his sin was exposed when his life was compared to Jesus.

And Jesus teaches that it is impossible for the sinner to enter the kingdom of God. But Jesus also said what is impossible for us, is not impossible for God. Addressing this situation, Psalm 22:11 teaches us to be honest in prayer: “Do not be far from me, for trouble is near, and there is no one to help.” There is no one to help, because only God can do what is impossible for us to do—usher us into the kingdom of God. And the way God helps us is through Jesus.

Jesus lived without sin. He lived with perfect faith in God and obedience to God’s will. He loved God with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. He loved his neighbor as himself. He sacrificed what he had, so that others would no longer be in need. He lived by the creed: “the first will be last, and the last will be first.”

While fasting and being tempted by food, Jesus confessed that, “We don’t live by bread alone, but by the word God speaks to us.” And so Jesus listened to God’s voice throughout his life. He was led by the Spirit. And when he was persecuted for doing right and good, he didn’t resist. He did not try to justify himself as Job did, as the man in Mark did, as I try to do.

Eventually the world could no longer tolerate such faith and goodness, such generosity and grace, such love for God and humankind. And so we had Jesus killed.

But this life—this perfect, faithful, sinless life—was too valuable to God to let it stay bound by death. God resurrected Christ from the dead. God opened the doors to the kingdom by overcoming sin and death. And in this way, Christ has become our high priest, doing for us what is impossible for us to do by ourselves.

This is our faith. This is what we believe. This is our confession. And this is why we are bold to enter God’s presence—to confess our sin, to listen for God’s Word, and to live according to it.

We have Jesus who showed us how to live. He invites us to follow him. He leads us in the way of the kingdom of God. He lives even now. Even now, he is praying for us.

When we approach the throne of grace with this confidence, Hebrews says, we find mercy and grace to help us in our time of need. Psalm 130:3-5 says, “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, who could stand? But with you is forgiveness, therefore we worship you. I wait for the LORD, And in his word, I put my hope.”

Therefore let us be bold in God’s presence—with with our confession, with our complaints, with our concerns, with our challenges. Let us boldly submit our lives to examination by God’s Word. Let us invoke the Spirit’s strength. Let us rely upon God’s grace and mercy in our time of need. And let us follow Christ into the kingdom of God. Amen.

Questions for Discussion or Reflection

  • Think of a time you were “bold” like Job, willing to argue with God that the circumstances of your life could not be justified. If that situation has resolved, how did God deliver you, increase your faith, or change your perspective?
  • Think about your life in comparison and contrast with Jesus’ life? In what ways does your life reflect the faithfulness of Christ’s? In what ways does Christ’s life judge your own?
  • The message describes three ways God’s Word judges us: through the Bible’s words, through the Spirit’s words, and through the Word Incarnate Jesus Christ. Describe the ways you attend to all three, or why you don’t.
  • Would you describe your faith as “bold”? Do you enter God’s presence with the realization that Jesus, resurrected from the dead, is, your “high priest”? With one so cherished by God as Jesus as your advocate, why aren’t you more bold?

 

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