Roger's Postings

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hebrews 4:12-16. Hold firmly to the faith 11/10/09

(12) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. {13} Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. {14} Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, 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 sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. {16} Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

As we live out our lives every day, we are well aware of a number of difficult issues that are facing us as individuals and as a church. We have all kinds of pressures and temptations coming to bear on us: Too numerous to mention, as each one of us faces different situations. However perhaps the greatest is that subtle, and not so subtle pressure to focus on ourselves and what we do, feel and want. Even in churchly things we are pressured these days to put the focus on ourselves and what we think, do and want. As a result, we are suffering in many ways.

More and more the pressure is put on us to perform, if we are to be happy, fulfilled and even saved. We have to do all the right things if our church is to survive, and must be up with the latest trends if we are to grow. Then also, we need to overlook the truth and be tolerant of all other beliefs so that we can all be one. And I could go on, but we know that there is so much that we face that is not quite right and good; and to stand up in the face of it means we come under pressure and face difficulties. At times it all seems too much; and in the thick of it all, we are tempted to look for a way out, an easy road; or we wonder if we should just give up.

However here in Hebrews we are reminded of a few things that we need to keep in mind, in the midst of all of this. Here I would first like to go back a few verses before this as there is an important point that we continually need to keep in mind.
(Heb 4:9-11) There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.

Here there is an answer for us in the face of unrest. There is rest from the hassles of life: and in fact, it is the very best – it is called, the Sabbath rest: complete rest – a joining with God in his rest, which he entered into after the six days of creation: A rest from the hard work of life and an enjoyment of God's creation. And yes, that is what we are looking for isn't it; here and in eternity. Don't we all long for this? To be freed from the grind of life and the hassles of living in a sinful, selfish world, so that we can enjoy life and creation: so that we can rest easy with our God. In many ways, that is our modern society down to a tee: we look for leisure and recreation, without the demands of work.

What God says to us here is that as we enter God's rest, we can rest from our work. In becoming a part of God's family, we also can have a rest from the grind of having to work our way to heaven; and from being stressed out by the problems and work that have here as his people. This is the freedom that we want, and is there for us at this time, as we make every effort to be a part of the enjoyment and peace that God has for us. But not by looking for the easy way out or taking the easy road. Instead, in the thick of life, with all the hassles associated with it, we make that extra effort to be a part of this rest that is mentioned here, knowing that we have the rest and peace that we long for. Now that sounds a bit odd; but it is for real: particularly as we look around at those who opt out and seek the easy road, or who try to be trendy. They have less rest and peace than those who get on with life and work at being a part of that rest that is there for us courtesy of our Lord Jesus.

So then, we need to look a bit further and deeper; and it is interesting that the writer goes immediately to something which seems to be quite different: he starts speaking about the Word of God. The Word of God, which divides and cuts to the core: the Word which uncovers the real us: which reveals the real us as we stand before the eyes of God, who sees what our attitudes and motivations really are.

So in our attempt to find peace and rest, we are directed toward the Bible – toward Divine Service - which firstly makes life even more uncomfortable for us as it lays down what God has to say and expects of us; and there leaves us without doubt as to what God has in mind for us; and how far short of its ideals we come. It tells us why we have the problems we have and why we are selfish, and where we really stand before God and what is truly needed.

This Word also helps us to see what God sees as important. It helps us to look at all the thinking, pressures and temptations that come our way, with an understanding of what God holds as important. This word penetrates and divides so that everything is uncovered and laid bare. That which is not in accord with his word will receive its due reward.

So in our attempt to find rest and an easy life we are helped to see that all we do, think and say, as important as it may be, and no matter who we may be, leaves us without rest when it is done for and by ourselves; without reference to our Lord. Even our sitting back and wanting to enjoy life, does not satisfy as we would like or need; and we are left longing for more: longing for real help: longing for acceptance, peace and rest with God, forever.

That then is where our reading goes on to remind us that we have only one solution: Jesus Christ. Here he is referred to as ‘the great high priest:’ one who could enter into God's presence in heaven and offer up the sacrifice necessary for all sin, once and for all. He gave himself for all of our failures and shortcomings, so that we can enter God's rest. Jesus doing what is necessary to take care of the failures of everyone by dying on the cross: so that now God can accept us all as his very own. He can guarantee this rest that we so desperately need. He has done that for everyone – for all people in this community and beyond. We have everything necessary for this life and the next; so we can have a sure rest for our souls as we live out our lives every day.

But sadly many do not know of this wonderful Good News, or who are deliberately or wantonly misled, or who have forgotten or turned their backs on what our gracious Lord has done for us; and so lose out on the greatness, peace and rest that he has for us. But that now is why our worship here: our theology: and all the rest is important. That is why these things have to be maintained. That is why God allows us to go through our struggles over these things: So that others can know what is ours through our Lord Jesus Christ. That is why we now don't sit back, trying to take the easy way through life simply for own benefit, letting others go their merry way to Hell.

Meanwhile knowing that through God's Word and our high priest Jesus Christ, we have the assurance of rest and peace, now even in the thick of life; we can give our all to do what God wants. We can take up the challenges and hardships that are before us, for the sake of others: even when it hurts; knowing in Christ that we have that rest which assures us that we are right with God, and that our sufferings and work which is no longer for our own benefit, but for the benefit of others; is not in vain. The Lord has promised to bless that work we do for him and others. So we can go forward and give our all - even if the going is tough.

So that being the case, let us hold firmly to this faith which we profess: Remembering that we have one on our side who understands. In fact, we are told, one who sympathises with us in our weaknesses and who is there at God's side now seeking to do what is necessary for our good and the good of others. Knowing that he has been here in our world as one of us and who was tempted in every way, without sinning; we now can and are encouraged to approach our Lord and seek his help, and find his undeserving love at work in our lives: particularly in these times when we face difficult situations.

Let us now have the confidence to hold firmly to this faith that we have in the Lord Jesus Christ; and to approach him for this help we need as we face the situations that we have before us. And may we receive the mercy and help that he promises and wants to give us at this time. There may we find again his grace: his undeserving love at work in our lives, enabling us to do what is needed for us to go forward as his people in this community. In so doing may we in some way make a difference, so that others can be helped to see and know the Good News that is ours in the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord is a great God - let us hold firmly to him, so that he can bless us and our community. AMEN.

Pastor Roger Atze
Glandore/Underdale Lutheran Parish


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