Our Sympathetic High Priest

“Assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:16-18).

In his letters to Timothy, Paul counseled and encouraged his young associate about many things—his health, his critics, his moral and spiritual warfare. His counsel is well summed up in these words: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David” (2 Tim. 2:8).

Like Timothy, we need to be reminded of Christ’s humanity, especially when life becomes particularly tough. Then we can pray, “Lord, You know what You endured while You were here. I’m going through it now.” We can be sure He knows and will encourage us.

Jesus came not only to save us but also to sympathize with us. He experienced what we experience so He could be a “merciful and faithful high priest.” After all, “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” (Heb. 4:15).

Jesus felt everything we will ever feel—and more. Most of us will never know the full degree of any given temptation because we usually succumb long before we reach it. But since Jesus never sinned, He took the full measure of every temptation.

Ours is not a cosmic God, powerful and holy, but indifferent. He knows when we hurt, where we are weak, and how we are tempted. Jesus is not just our Savior, but our loving Lord who sympathizes with us. Rejoice in the greatness of His love for us.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to remind you of your need of Him at all times, not just when times are tough.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Satan’s Conqueror 

“Since . . . the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14-15).

To be free to live with God and share in all His blessings, someone had to shatter Satan’s death grip on us. Sin is what gives Satan his powerful hold on us, but the power itself is death.

Satan knew that God required death for us because of sin. He knew that all died in Adam—that death became a certain fact of life. And he knew that men, if they remained as they were, would die and go out of God’s presence into hell forever. So he wants to hang onto men until they die because once they are dead, the opportunity for salvation is gone forever.

To wrest the power of death from Satan’s hand, God sent Christ into the world. If you have a greater weapon than your enemy, then his weapon is useless. You can’t fight a machine gun with a bow and arrow. Satan’s weapon is death, but eternal life is God’s weapon, and with it Jesus destroyed death.

How was He able to do it? He rose again, proving He had conquered death. That’s why He said, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). His resurrection provides the believer with eternal life.

Nothing terrifies people more than the fear of death. But when we receive Christ, death in reality holds no more fear for us since it simply releases us into the presence of our Lord. We can say with Paul, “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). Rejoice that you have placed your hand into the hand of the conqueror of death, who will lead you through death and out the other side.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you a greater realization that He has conquered death to help you live life more fully to His glory.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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He Who Sanctifies

“Both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, ‘I will proclaim Thy name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Thy praise.’ And again, ‘I will put My trust in Him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children whom God has given Me'” (Heb. 2:11-13).

From our own perspective and experience, it is difficult to think of ourselves as holy. Sin simply is too much a part of us in this fallen world. In thought and practice we are far from holy, but in Christ we are perfectly holy.

We may not always act holy, but because of our faith in Christ we are perfectly holy in God’s sight. Just as a child may not always act like his father, he is nonetheless still his son. We are holy in the sense that before God, the righteousness of Christ has been applied and imputed on our behalf through faith. We were made holy through His sacrifice and have become “those who are sanctified.”

“By one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (Heb. 10:14). We are as pure as God is pure, righteous as Christ is righteous, and therefore entitled to be called His brothers because we now share in His righteousness.

The Sanctifier and sanctified now have “one Father,” and the Sanctifier “is not ashamed” to call the sanctified His brothers. What an overwhelming truth!

The practical experience of a Christian’s life in this world includes sin, but the positional reality of his or her new nature is holiness. “In Him [we] have been made complete” (Col. 2:10). Yet practically we have a long way to go. So the overriding purpose of our lives is to become in practice what we are in position. Now that we are Christ’s brothers and God’s children, let that be all the motivation we need to live like it.

Suggestion for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His sanctifying work on the cross, which enables you to be holy.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Author of Our Salvation 

“It was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings” (Heb. 2:10).

As we look at what Christ has done, we must never forget that He was fulfilling the sovereign plan of God. The writer of Hebrews tells us it was fitting in God’s sight for Christ to bring many sons to glory. That means everything God did through Christ was consistent with His character.

The cross was a masterpiece of God’s wisdom. It displayed His holiness in His hatred of sin. It was consistent with His power: Christ endured in a few hours what it would take an eternity to expend on sinners. The cross displayed His love for mankind. And Christ’s death on the cross agreed with God’s grace because it was substitutionary.

To bring “many sons to glory,” God had “to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.” The Greek word translated “author” (archēgos) means “pioneer” or “leader.” It was commonly used of a pioneer who blazed a trail for others to follow. The archēgos never stood at the rear giving orders; he was always out front blazing the trail. As the supreme Archēgos, Christ has gone before us—He is our trailblazer.

Life seems most anxious and dreadful when death is near. That’s a trail we cannot travel by ourselves. But the Author of our salvation says, “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). Only the perfect Pioneer could lead us out of the domain of death into the presence of the Father. All you have to do is put your hand in His nail- scarred hand and He will lead you from one side of death to the other. Then you can say with the apostle Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for all His attributes, specifically for each one displayed in Christ’s death for you.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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The Humiliation of Christ

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

Jesus’ death on the cross was not easy or costless—it was a horrific death. It was not calm and peaceful; it was accompanied by outward torture and inward agony. The death He tasted was the curse of sin. In a few hours on that cross, He suffered the total agony of every soul for all eternity. He was guilty of no sin, yet He chose to suffer the weight of all sins committed for all time.

God sent His Son, and His Son willingly came to die to redeem mankind. Paul writes, “When the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Only by tasting death as a man could He free mankind from death. Historically, kings have had someone taste their food and drink before they consumed it. Christ drained to the dregs the cup of poison rightfully meant for us before it could ever touch our lips. He substituted His death for ours, releasing us from the deadness of sin to life with God.

What moved Jesus to suffer for us? Grace. What we did not deserve (salvation) we received, and what we did deserve (death) we did not receive. Unbounded love prompted Christ’s gracious work on our behalf: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

After He accomplished the work of His substitutionary death, He was “crowned with glory and honor” and exalted to the right hand of the Father, where He will reign forever and ever. He is our great Substitute, whom we can thank and praise throughout all eternity.

Suggestion for Prayer

Ask God to give you opportunities to communicate the gospel to new people, even if you might suffer in the process.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Born To Die

“We . . . see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

At this time of year, it is difficult for us to see Jesus other than as a little baby. We of course know why He came, but we usually focus on His death on the cross at another time of year. But we must never forget that He came to die.

Those soft baby hands fashioned by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb were made to have two great nails hammered through them. Those little chubby feet were to walk up a hill and be nailed to a cross. That sacred head was made to wear a crown of thorns. His tender body wrapped in swaddling clothes would be pierced by a spear to reveal a broken heart. The death of Christ was no accident; He was born to die.

Jesus died to remove the curse so we could regain our dominion. But to do that, He had to come as a man. Even though in doing so He temporarily became lower than the angels, He accomplished something no angel could: our restoration.

The first and foremost reason for the incarnation is that Christ might taste death on behalf of every man and woman. He came to die in our place—to be our substitute. God had two options: Either let us die and pay for our own sins, or allow a substitute to take our punishment and die in our place. He mercifully chose the latter.

It is vital that we affirm the fact of Christ’s substitutionary death because modern liberal theology claims Jesus died merely as an example, like a martyr dying for some cause. But He died as a substitute for you and me. As a result He freed us to live for and with God. Rejoice that the creator of angels, the Lord of hosts, would become lower than His creation for our sakes.

Suggestion for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His willingness to humble Himself to become a man to save you.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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Three Christmas Presents

Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as he is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:7–8)

Ponder this remarkable situation with me. If the Son of God came to help you stop sinning — to destroy the works of the devil — and if he also came to die so that, when you do sin, there is a propitiation, a removal of God’s wrath, then what does this imply for living your life?

Three things. And they are wonderful to have. I give them to you briefly as Christmas presents.

1. A Clear Purpose for Living

It implies that you have a clear purpose for living. Negatively, it is simply this: don’t sin. “I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (2:1). “The Son of God appeared to destroy the works of the devil” (3:8).

If you ask, “Can you give us that positively, instead of negatively?” the answer is: Yes, it’s all summed up in 1 John 3:23. It’s a great summary of what John’s whole letter requires. Notice the singular “commandment” — “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.” These two things are so closely connected for John he calls them one commandment: believe Jesus and love others. That is your purpose. That is the sum of the Christian life. Trusting Jesus, loving people. Trust Jesus, love people. There’s the first gift: a purpose to live.

2. Hope That Our Failures Will Be Forgiven

Now consider the second implication of the twofold truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins. It’s this: We make progress in overcoming our sin when we have hope that our failures will be forgiven. If you don’t have hope that God will forgive your failures, when you start fighting sin, you give up.

Many of you are pondering some changes in the new year, because you have fallen into sinful patterns and want out. You want some new patterns of eating. New patterns for entertainment. New patterns of giving. New patterns of relating to your spouse. New patterns of family devotions. New patterns of sleep and exercise. New patterns of courage in witness. But you are struggling, wondering whether it’s any use. Well here’s your second Christmas present: Christ not only came to destroy the works of the devil — our sinning — he also came to be an advocate for us when we fail in our fight.

So I plead with you, let the freedom to fail give you the hope to fight. But beware! If you turn the grace of God into license, and say, “Well, if I can fail, and it doesn’t matter, then why bother fighting?” — if you say that, and mean it, and go on acting on it, you are probably not born again and should tremble.

But that is not where most of you are. Most of you want to fight sinful patterns in your life. And what God is saying to you is this: let the freedom to fail give you hope to fight. I write this to you that you might not sin, but if you sin you have an advocate, Jesus Christ.

3. Christ Will Help Us

Finally, the third implication of the double truth that Christ came to destroy our sinning and to forgive our sins, is this: Christ will really help us in our fight. He really will help you. He is on your side. He didn’t come to destroy sin because sin is fun. He came to destroy sin because it is fatal. It is a deceptive work of the devil and will destroy us if we don’t fight it. He came to help us, not hurt us.

So here’s your third Christmas gift: Christ will help overcome sin in you. 1 John 4:4 says, “He who is in you is greater than he that is in the world.” Jesus is alive, Jesus is almighty, Jesus lives in us by faith. And Jesus is for us, not against us. He will help you. Trust him.

From “Good News of Great Joy” Daily Readings for Advent © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

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