Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:25-26
My wife’s sister and her husband moved to a small town in Kansas this past summer. The seven hours between us and the fact I work every weekend means our trip to visit them for Thanksgiving was our first time visiting their new home. Roughly two-thirds of the trip I could navigate from memory. Most of it is the path I have taken to visit my in-laws for the past 23 years. Despite my familiarity with much of the route, I fired up the GPS app on my phone as soon as we got into the car after the Thanksgiving church service.
I enjoy what the GPS app offers. Even when I know where I am going it provides useful information for me. A small speed limit sign informs me of how fast I can drive in that specific location. It provides a very accurate arrival time to give me a good answer when my children ask “How much longer?”. It can also route me around busy traffic if I am driving in a congested area.
All of these are great features but a GPS app has one feature central to its existence. It has to get me to my destination.
After seven hours in the car this past Thanksgiving, the GPS app failed to do that for me. We arrived in the small Kansas town our family lives in and the app informed us we were at our destination. It was on our left but the only thing on our left was a street to turn down. Like many small, rural town streets this street was not well lit. At all. While the light level of the street was above normal because of the Christmas lights that were put up early, it was still very dark. We had trouble seeing house numbers, but we discovered the street name did not match with the street address my sister-in-law had given me.
We changed course and returned to the correct street. Appropriate to the day on which we were travelling, we were thankful we had seen pictures of the home we were looking for. Through the darkness we could identify not only the home we were looking for, but also the vehicles matching the ones our family owned. The generality of the directions provided to us by the GPS was good enough to get us close but we needed specificity to get to our destination.
The seven-hour return trip home offered me the opportunity to think about what we had experienced. This caused me to reflect on the truth of who God is. We often hear people talking about God and often the description of who God is gets us close to who he is. There is an understanding of God’s nature and we see he is a good and loving God. There is also often a good understanding of God’s law and what he requires of us. These are all good things but many times these descriptions of God do not get us to our destination. They do not get us to Jesus Christ and his saving work through his perfect life, death, resurrection, and ascension on our behalf. Talk about God, if it does not lead us to the saving work of Christ, does not get us where we need to be.
This distinction is important because it is how we are saved. Salvation is delivered to us by grace alone through faith alone on account of Christ alone. It is the work of Jesus for us that informs us of God’s nature. Can we understand the law of God without the cross? It is there where we see just how serious God is about his law. Breaking it requires a price be paid. At the cross we see this price is paid for us by the wrath of God being poured out on someone who did not violate the law. Jesus did this for you.
We also truly understand the love of God at the cross. The price paid for our sin at the cross was not merely done to satisfy the anger and wrath of God. It was also to show his love for his people. We trust in this good news and we are saved. It is a sure and certain promise. We are brought to faith through our hearing of the gospel by the power of God the Holy Spirit. This faith is our destination, and it is this gospel of Jesus Christ directing us to exactly where we need to be.
The Word of God is not vague like the directions I received from my GPS app on the evening of Thanksgiving. When it speaks about who God is it does not lead you down darkly lit streets wondering which place is the correct one. All of scripture points to salvation through Jesus Christ and this is why we are faithful to proclaim Christ and him crucified. It leads us to the God who is. The God who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit does not lead us to a vague destination. His Word leads us to himself.
Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:22-23
Last month I shared that I had been experiencing some television nostalgia by watching the Andy Griffith show. Enjoying stepping back into the past inspired me to watch another show that I watched as a child. When I was younger there was nothing more exciting than Friday evening at 7:00 PM. This was when "The Dukes of Hazzard" would come through the airwaves to channel 11 on our TV set. The show had cars flying through the air and arrows with sticks of dynamite attached to them. What's not to love?
As I was feeling the nostalgia and laughing at how corny the show is, one scene jumped out at me. One of the more popular characters in the series was Deputy Enos Strate. He was notorious for being an all around good guy. During the episode I was viewing, the Duke boys and Enos are riding in a car. As so often happens on the show the brakes of their car fail. The car careens down a mountain road and extreme measures need to be taken. The old wreck they are driving plows through a fence and splashes into a pond. As the camera angle moves us to a view inside the car we see the virtuous Enos with his eyes closed. He tells his companions that he fears opening his eyes. He says "What do you see out there? A bunch of naked babies with harps and wings or a bunch of red fellers with horns and pitchforks?"
Obviously, this statement is to make us laugh but it exposes something in the way in which so many of us view our status before God. In the minds of a lot of people our eternal destiny is up for grabs. We teeter on the brink of either heaven or hell and where we end up is determined by the good or bad that we do in each moment. While this may serve a purpose to cause some people to behave in a more positive way,it isn't the Christian way of viewing salvation.
When we talk about whether or not we are saved we don't speak about the individual deeds that we do piling up on the scales to determine which side is more loaded. We talk about assurance of salvation and a trust in the promise of God to save his people. Our salvation is rooted in the work that Jesus did for us in his life, death, and resurrection. If we have been given the gift of repentance and faith in Christ then we are in him. We don't have to wonder what we will see when we breathe our last. We know that we shall see our Savior face to face. This is because our sin has been atoned for and we have been given the greatest gift of the righteousness of Jesus. We are not teetering between the good place and the bad place. We are right now seen as righteous in God's sight.
This has application for us not only when we think about eternity but in our daily lives too. As we saw in Hebrews 10:22 we can draw near to God in full assurance. We do not think of God in such a way that every move we make is sliding us back and forth between his favor and his wrath. Because we are in Christ we know that we can come before God and serve him in freedom. His promise of salvation is sure because he is faithful. So we have a sure confidence in this life and the next. A confidence rooted in who God is and what he has done for us.
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 (ESV)
So far in 2018, I have been taking time to dig deep into the book of Hebrews. Every weekday morning this year the words "God has spoken in his Son" have greeted me like an old friend. The familiarity I am getting with these two verses has caused me to think deeply about what they mean.
What I am continuing to learn is what good news this is for us. As we look through the history of the Old Testament there were prophets who spoke for God. The people asked for this. As Moses reminds the Israelites in Deuteronomy 18:16, they could not stand to have God come near to them and speak. They wanted a mediator who would be the one who would deliver the message of the LORD to them. For this, God used prophets.
This had two inherent drawbacks. Moses acknowledges this in Deuteronomy 18. The first problem reveals itself in the reason that Moses is speaking to them. He is telling them a new prophet will come after him. He will not be with them forever. A prophet has to be replaced because the prophet will die. The second problem Moses points out is disturbing. There will be those who will claim to speak for the LORD who are not from him. We can see both of these problems in stories we know from the Old Testament. There are many prophets. Death did not escape any of them except Elijah and still, he was taken from the earth and did not prophesy for all time. We also see the dangers of false prophets who lead the people astray and brings death.
We easily understand the problem of deception. In many years of youth ministry, I often used a game called "Two Truths and a Lie" with students. In this game, you come up with three statements about yourself. Two true and one false. Some students are better at this than others. There is always a student that has an obviously false statement. Statements almost as outrageous as "my family vacations on the moon". Other students are more crafty. It doesn't matter how well you know the students they able to shape a statement that is almost impossible to identify as false.
If this is the case with a youth group game, how much truer is this in real life? There are those who are crafty in deceiving in the name of God. The consequences of deception in the name of God is deadly. We dare not be lead astray. This is why we need something better than fallible prophets. We need an infallible prophet who will never fade away.
In his ascension, Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father. The New Testament is clear, he is our mediator. He is the one who goes between us and God on our behalf. Jesus is our eternal prophet. The point of the prophets in the Old Testament was to speak to the people for God but their most important task was to point to one greater than themselves. The purpose of the Old Testament revelation was to show us Christ. Now, we have him. In Jesus, we have a prophet who has spoken to us and he will not die and will not speak falsely. God has spoken in his Son, now and for all time.
This is good news for us because we do not need a new prophet to tell us what God says, we have his Word. This Word testifies to the work of Jesus to save us and it is sufficient for all that we need. We do not need to look to modern day prophets for a word from God. God has spoken in his Son and we have that in his Word. To look anywhere else would be a waste of time.
As you sojourn through this life you can trust the Word of God because it testifies to what Christ has done for you. Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly that you may have confidence that he alone is our eternal prophet.