Justification Gymnastics & The Great High Priest

September 24, 2017

First Christian Church

Combined Service With First Baptist Church

Ordinary Time

Glenwood IA, USA


Hebrews 4:14-16


The Sympathetic High Priest


Welcome In The Name Of The Father, The Son, And The Holy Spirit


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. 

15 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.

16 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.



Outline & Outliers 


Main Idea: Christ’s solidarity with sinful mankind makes Him your intercessor, His work gives you safety and confidence to draw near to the Divine in all His glory.


Main Application: Talk To God. Confess Your Sin God.


  1. 14 Keep The Faith
  2. 15 He Understands
  3. 16 The Practicality Of Grace



We left off last time on Hebrews 4 verse 13, which says:

13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.


In many ways a sermon is what I would have you know, deep down in your soul, if this were the last time I could speak to you, because I want you to know how deep God’s love is for you, and because that is deeply true about every Scripture we talk about, a sermon with about 3 verses has no less depth or value than a sermon covering 13 verses.


Last week we talked about how rest is found in Christ. Verses 14-16 tells us we can have confident access to the throne of grace in times of need because Christ is a great and sympathetic high priest because He has been tempted in everyway yet without sin.


Keep The Faith

Hebrews 4.14 

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. 



Justification Gymnastics


Christian, you do have a great high priest. But you will never see Him as such unless you have wrestled with your sin nature. Many people are wizards at self- justification gymnastics. They are competing every moment of their lives in the self-justification comparison Olympiad, and by their own scorecard they are doing quite well. The problem is your scorecard only matters in your head.


I’ve had many conversations with people wherein I try to point people to Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient source of comfort and strength in the wake of their troubled lives. Most conversations start with the person saying “I’ve done my share of bad things”, or “I’m no saint”, or “I’m a sinner”, which is a good start. Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, as well as worship. Invariably, however, the admission of guilt and sin is followed up by the word, “But”. “I’m a sinner, I’m no saint, I’ve done my share of bad, but, I’ve never done that”. And then they rail on whomsoever is the latest person they are blaming for everything wrong in their lives. Justification gymnastics.


So long as you’re competing in that game, and it is a game that will never save you: you will never see Christ’s greatness as your personal high priest. You’ll never value the power and privilege that the believer has in having access to God Himself any moment, anytime, anywhere for the purpose of saying without qualification:


“I’m wrong.”

“I’m sorry”

“I repent”

“I knew better”

“God have mercy I’m a man of unclean lips”

“I do what I do not want to do who will deliver me from this body of death?”

“Forgive me”

“Restore to me the joy of my salvation, O God”

“Redeem me, O God!”

You’ll never rejoice in Jesus’s greatness as your high priest if you’re still playing the game. You’ll never find rest in the shadow of the almighty if you’re still trying to get Him on your side.


But to love and be loved,

to be vulnerable in the shadow the Almighty’s wings,

and to be nothing and have nothing but confidence in the grace of God, well, that changes everything.


The author of Hebrews goes on describing our King as the one who passed through the heavens.


Jesus often talked about where He came from, and how He and the Father are one. This is often what caused a kerfuffle with the Pharisees and the other powerful hoity toity.


We never get over the incarnation. He took on flesh and dwelt among us. He has access on our behalf to the throne of grace and the true Holy of Holies because He came from there, and His Father is our Judge. That’s why verse 14 says “Son of God”, your advocate is Jesus, and He has the connections, not merely because He is the Son, but also because as Hebrews explains, He was reverent, and learned obedience. This is very good news for sinners like us. Grace is for sinners. We are fearful dust, but Jesus hears and understands, He resurrects sinful and defeated people. He is the Resurrection God. He is a carpenter. He is always building. He makes all things new.

He passed through the heavens. He walked right out of Heaven to redeem you.


Beloved, because these things are true, because Jesus is who He is, and has accomplished what He has accomplished with His death upon the cross and His resurrection from the grave, because He came for you, through the clouds of Heaven itself to redeem you, because He knows your frame is but dust: keep the faith. Hold fast your good confession of faith. Let no one steal your joy, nor your peace, for they are your inheritance from our gentle King.


He Understands

Hebrews 4.15 

15 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.


King David writes in Psalm 103.14

“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”


He understands. Understanding. Compassion. These are some of the most powerful and helpful things we can offer to other human beings. In some ways it is what separates us from animals, and makes us human, although that probably isn’t fair to animal kind as there are many animals who are more compassionate than many a human.


But, understanding is one of the gifts which flow out of grace. Can I leave my perch long enough to see things from another person’s perspective? Can I understand that just because the world looks a certain way to me and people like me that it is possible that the world looks very different to other people, and people like them?


God the Son incarnated, is His sacrificial gift. Jesus sacrificed much more than just His life upon the cross; His very life, from birth to death was His sacrificial gift to people of sin and dust like you and me. He came and dwelt among us, and that is a gift. He died to atone for our sins, and that is a gift. He still serves as our high priest and advocate to this very hour, and that is a gift. Being sinless, and divine, He was never without understanding or compassion, but He lived among humanity to take away any doubt or excuse we might have, and in doing so He demonstrated not only His Lovingkindness, but His understanding compassion toward the way we dustlings are.


The scriptures say He was tempted yet without sin. People argue whether Jesus was able not to sin, or not able to sin. While it is a fun debate for theologians to have over coffee, (and the answer is not able to sin), what we learn from this is how gritty the Lord’s humanity was. He lived in the very same sinful old, tired, worn out, depraved world that you and I live. Nothing is new under the sun. All the same ploys, propositions, offers, and peer pressures which so often entangle us, were used upon Christ. The difference is He didn’t give in, and before you get some kind of huffy inferiority complex, rejoice! For His destiny was always to be the perfect lamb of God, a sacrifice, who takes away the sin of the world. That’s Gospel good news for you.


The Scriptures remind us in 1 Corinthians 10:13


No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.


We learn a great deal about our collective humanity from this verse. Not for nothing but: nothing is new under the sun. You’ve never been tempted with an undeniable sin. Doesn’t happen. Hasn’t happened. God provides a way of escape, even if that escape is the narrow road of suffering, like the one righteous Joseph took when sexually harassed by his boss’s wife. The avenue of escape and righteousness was to literally run away, and suffer lies and slander and prison.


But Jesus was tempted yet without sin. Which will raise the question in our wicked hearts: what do we really value? Comfort or the Cross we were commanded to take up?


The hit broad way musical “Hamilton” is a semi biographical musical about the founding father Alexander Hamilton, who was not as the Bible describes it, “a one woman man”. He was not faithful to his wife. The musical depicts this with Hamilton singing “Lord, I don’t know how to say no to this.” As if his sin was somehow unavoidable.

I think God would tell you the way you say no to it is to start by saying, “no”. It’s a good place to start.

When we do give in to temptation, we have a faithful, and merciful high priest who will receive us and hear our repentance. So many Christians struggle with pride when it comes to repenting. The gift of God is that He allows you to repent, that is to say He actually will hear your repentance. He gives you repentance. He lets you repent, instead of slamming the door in your face, and here we are struggling with the repenting when we should rejoice that God almighty will hear our cry and grant us clemency. Being allowed to repent is the gift. Anyone who has tried to apologize to somebody, only to have the person not accept the apology knows this to be true.

 The Practicality Of Grace

Hebrews 4.16

16 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.



Verse 16 has practicality all over it. It is full of relevance. How does grace affect your life? How does it change your mind, and soften your words? How does the grace of God change how you view and treat your fellow man?


Because Jesus is our sole plea, and because He chose you when you were low and therefore know that you have been saved apart from your works and in totality because of His work alone, you can draw near to the throne of grace, with confidence.


The gospel releases you from the lie of self-reliance, and because your salvation is no longer linked to your performance, you can be free from doubting your salvation. We look to Christ, and He is perfect, and we sing “worthy is the lamb”, He gets the job done! We know He won’t fail! We have confidence in Him that we could never have if salvation was about us, and what we do, and how we obeyed, today and all our yesterdays.


You see, making Christianity about Christ, sets you free from fear. This is freedom that man centered Christianity can never deliver, it is the paradox that self-forgetfulness actually is best for you.


When trouble comes lurking outside your door, or crashing through your wall, you know Jesus understands. He isn’t going anywhere. He loved you deeply in the midst of your ugly. And dare I say it? People may dismiss grace and mercy as pretty concepts of little practical use in the real world when you’re in dire straights, but since humans are not merely physical creatures, nor are we merely utilitarian beings, grace and mercy will go much further in times of trouble than all positive vibes and happy thoughts the world has to offer on Facebook.


When you are stripped down to nothing but your bare humanity before almighty God, Jesus the Son of Man will say, “I understand”. And that will be all that matters.



So say we all.

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