Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

“Therefore……let us”

author: Rhegan 

We find in the book of Hebrews numerous times when the author uses the statement “Therefore, let us.” The therefore is always referring to something that the author has been discussing and has finished making his point. The “let us” is what we need to do because of the point that the author has made. In Chapter 4 of Hebrews we find a very significant and encouraging “therefore, let us.”

Hebrews 4:14-16 states, “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. 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. 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” (NIV).

The verses that are preceding the “therefore” say that nothing that we do is hidden from God, and we must give an account to him. The “Word” judges the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts. If this were the end of the book, we may feel a bit discouraged and afraid that all our sins are being judged and there is no hope. But it’s not the end!

It goes on to tell us that Jesus is our High Priest. There are a few important aspects to this. In the old sacrificial system there were certain requirements for a high priest. They had to be a human, God-appointed, represent the people to God, and offer sacrifice for sin. Jesus Christ fulfilled all of these things. This is an important Scripture showing both Jesus’ divinity and humanity. He was human in the fact that he can sympathize with our weaknesses, who has been tempted just like us. The big difference, which also proves his divinity, is the fact that he did not sin. Because of this He is able to be our High Priest and was able to offer himself as a sacrifice once for all time. Knowing that Jesus Christ can sympathize with us and is our representative before God brings us to the “let us” in this passage.

 

Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

Taken at the Chora Church Museum in Istanbul, Turkey

The first “let us” is to hold firmly to the faith we profess. We know without a doubt that Jesus sacrificed himself for us, and we can hold firmly to the faith we profess in Him. We can have faith that He died, rose again and is now advocating for us. And because Jesus has been tempted like us, but did not sin and has become our atonement, we can approach God with confidence.

Jesus Christ is our confidence.

With Him by our side, we know that all that has been laid bare before Him has been forgiven. There is no need to tremble and fear, for He sympathizes with us. And we must approach the throne so that we may receive mercy and grace in our time of need. If we are unable to approach our heavenly father, we will not find the full grace and mercy that He offers.

Thanks be to Christ who became like us, that he may save us from sin and give us the wonderful confidence that allows us to come into the presence of a most holy God. In the Old Testament, High Priests were the only ones allowed to go into the Holy of Holies where God dwelled. And there was much fear. So much so, that they would tie bells and a rope around their ankles so if they stopped jingling because they were dead, the others could pull him out. But because Jesus has made a sacrifice for us we don’t have to be afraid. We can enter the presence of God with confidence and receive the mercy and grace that we are far from deserving.

 

What obstacles keep you from approaching God with confidence??

 

 

Rhegan is a woman on a journey seeking the truth in all things. Check out her personal blog here  where she shares her photography, her life as an adoptee, and what she likes to call “God Talk.”

jerusalem model

Is the Work Completed or Still in Progress?

When I was in high school I had a part time job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. The job wasn’t bad, but it was tiring, and by the time I got off, I would be sore all over, aching, and smelling like an odd mix of soap and oily food residue. Some nights were very busy, some nights were slow, but every night that I worked, I stood the entire time.

Anyone who does dishes or laundry knows this very important fact: the job is never done. No matter how efficient you are with washing dishes, as long as you allow people to eat at your house, dishes will continue to get dirty. You can be a ninja with the family laundry—washing clothes like there’s no tomorrow but as long as you allow people to wear clothes at your house, laundry will continue to pile up.

The Levitical priests in the Old Testament also understood this concept; they had a job which was never done. Their job was to show up at the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, every day, accept the offerings of the people, perform the sacrifices, burn the incense, and petition God on behalf of the nation. Their singular focus was to intercede between the nation of Israel and God. And their job was never done. People continued to sin. Atonement continued to be made.

Hebrews 10:11 gives us a picture of this continual work: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.”

But look at the next verse, “But when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”

Did you catch that? He sat down.

This concept gets lost if you don’t understand that the priests never sat down. There were no chairs in the Tabernacle because the work was never done. It’s significant that when Jesus offers a sacrifice on our behalf, it is the final sacrifice. His sacrifice was enough to atone for every sin ever committed or ever to be committed.

So what does that mean for us? If the work is completed, then what do we do? Do we do anything? Can we do anything?

Yes and no.

No, we can’t do anything to add to the work Jesus did. Our sin is taken care of. The only part we play in salvation is to not reject the free gift of God.

But, yes, we are still expected to act on our faith. James tells us that “faith without works is useless” (James 2:20). He makes a case that works of righteousness flow out of our faith. Abraham and Rahab were considered righteous for their deeds. They didn’t do works to make themselves righteous. Their works that flowed out of their faith. James says your faith can’t be genuine if it doesn’t move you to help in practical ways when people are in need.

Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation” (Philippians 2:12). What does that mean? Earn your own salvation? Not at all. The next verse clearly states that “it is God who works in you.” God does the work in our lives, indeed he has done the work. But we are still in the process of holy living. It means I surrender my struggle to God, but I’m still responsible to stay away from places where I know I will be tempted. It means God gives me the ability to resist temptation, but I still have to choose to resist it.

If we think of the Christian life as a checklist we will fall into one of two errors: either we will continue adding things to our to-do list, making sure we’re following enough rules to keep out of trouble, or we will think that because Jesus did the work, there’s nothing left to do except coast along through the rest of this life.

But the life of faith is not a checklist. It’s not a quota of good deeds or a passing of a certain entry point. The life of faith is a relationship with God. Like any relationship, it requires continual cultivation. Jesus has already done everything necessary for our salvation. But we are still living out life in a process of becoming more like Christ. We are still being shaped into his image, and we are still living out this faith in obedience.

So what is it? Work completed or work in progress? What is our responsibility in salvation? What do you think?