Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)
In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I have conquered the world. (John 16:33)
It is the “I have conquered the world” which allows “taking heart” and “continued difficulties” to coexist in the same sentence. It is also the “I have conquered the world” which allows us to “take heart” in our “continued difficulties,” making us into the overcomers we are destined to be. What does that mean though, that “Jesus has conquered the world?” How much relief am I to expect as a consequence of His conquest?
Jesus is presented to us in our passage as the great high priest. Why does the author give Him status as “great?” The traditional duty of a high priest was to oversee the sacrifices and to offer up the blood of beasts in behalf of Israel’s sins. This inspired author points to Jesus coming down from His high place in heaven and taking on human flesh so that He could experience our frailty and temptation. He was great because in doing this, He never once sinned. He was also great because He didn’t just oversee the sacrifices. Jesus became the sacrifice, once, for all.
His sinless life qualified Him as a sacrifice which met God’s criteria. His blood as an unblemished substitute purified and secured victory for all who would believe in Him. It was at the cross that He conquered the world. This is what made Jesus a great high priest.
Beyond the gratitude due him, what other application is there, now that we have a fresh reminder of God’s greatness? First: Hold fast to our confession. In Romans 10:9-10, Paul ties our profession to our salvation. I don’t believe he was speaking only of the initial profession of faith our traditions require at baptism or confirmation. I believe Paul was also speaking of a lifestyle of profession in which our union with Jesus is expressed throughout our lives in the midst of continued difficulties.
Second: Draw near to God with confidence. The early part of Hebrews 4 discusses the essential nature of rest in a believer’s life. Resting from our works (that thing in us that says approval from God must be earned) is a primary piece of our weaponry. Resting in God’s work on the cross enables us to come boldly before His throne so that we may find grace in the continued difficulties life in a godless world guarantees. In our rest we are supremely dangerous!
We live within a cosmic war. Our hearts are beachheads into this godless domain where the battle is being waged. As in Normandy, the Lord of Hosts is invading a stronghold of enemy opposition. The domain we relinquish in our own hearts becomes the substance of our stories and the newly taken ground of His kingdom. With these stories, we will mute Satan’s cosmic lies, which often sound like this: “Just look around. You and I both know you’re outgunned. We both know exactly who’s in charge here. The reason this world appears as a godless place is because it is a godless place. Its mine! Hasn’t suffering confirmed to you yet that God is absent and indifferent? Don’t you think that if God were good and all-powerful, as He claims, He would have relieved you of your continued difficulties by now?”
While there is no doubt great spiritual battles are being waged in the heavens, every believer’s heart is the beachhead of this same battle on earth. That is why I remind myself frequently that we must “Watch over our hearts diligently; everything, including this battle, starts there” (my paraphrase of Proverbs 4:23).
Our ongoing difficulties appear to us as blockades when they are really footholds. When we take heart in this reality, we discover just how Jesus is conquering this world. He will take more ground in our hearts as we face off with the satanic lies rooted in our own belief systems. Watching over our own hearts will cause a shift in the tide of this battle. Here is the cosmic irony: the greatest warriors are those who nurture the most rest in their hearts.
In that final battle, I picture Satan’s last accusations—his final condemning and intimidating lies being drowned out by the stories of millions of God’s rescued and resting children. His foul ideas will be silenced by the roar of praise from the multitudes of captives Jesus has set free. The stories of how He sustained us through our continuing difficulties will abound. In us, In Christ, we will have become the overcomers God destined us to be. God will have the final word!
Father, may our hearts adopt Your perspective regarding these continued difficulties of ours. Help us to meet You in the midst of life, facing off with whatever shows up on the battlefield. Show us where to resist enemy attacks. Show us how to advance in our rest. Amen.