One of the obstacles that prevents people from coming to God is the fear that once they become converted theyll never be able to live the Christian life. Most sinners have already discovered the trouble their sin brings and have tried to stop somewhere along the way. In fact, theyve probably tried many times only to find they cant stop. So when someone invites them to be a Christian they think to themselves, Id like to but I know God doesnt approve of what Im doing, and I know I cant stop because Ive tried. So if I become a Christian its only a matter of time before my sin will catch up to me and Ill disappoint God and His people. Christianity is fine for people with small sins or plenty of self-discipline but not for people like me. Im just one of those who can never live like a Christian. And, of course, the devil wants people to think like that. He doesnt want them to believe theres hope for a new life because that hope would send them straight to Christ. But the truth is Jesus is able to free weak people from powerful temptations. He expects us to come to Him with all kinds of twisted thinking, bad habits and crippling addictions. He said He came to save sick people, not healthy ones (Mk 2:15-17). So if Hes going to save people with problems like that then He must have a plan to help them become victorious over those temptations after theyre saved. In our reading today the author of Hebrews will lay for us a foundation of understanding in this matter. We will be shown the amazing process Jesus went through so weak people like us can live holy lives like Him.
A. The Goal (v 10)
From the very beginning it was the Fathers will to have humans become like Him (sons) and fellowship with Him (glory), and though sin initially spoiled His plan, ultimately His will must prevail because all things exist for Him. For this to happen His Son had to become our Savior by suffering and in order to suffer He had to become a human.
1) Many sons to glory: This is the Fathers will
2) Because He is perfect, His will is perfect. Any change in His will is corruption.
3) Ultimately His will must be realized
4) Psalm 8 describes His will (vs 6, 7)
5) Satan apparently stopped Gods plan at the very first person (Adam)
6) But with His Sons cooperation the Father will have human children who love Him and rule over the works of His hands
B. The Price (vs 10, 17): The Son had to be perfected as our high priest through sufferings.
What the author of Hebrews is telling us is unsettling. First of all he made it indisputably clear in the first chapter that Jesus is the divine, eternal Son of God, so before He came to earth He existed as God in a state of perfection and glory (Php 2:6), but now he tells us that for Jesus to become our high priest He had to be perfected
through sufferings. In other words, Jesus had to go through events that would change Him forever in order to save us. You might ask, why would this be necessary? How can you improve on perfect love, power and holiness? Yet, we learn here it was essential that He make choices, experience suffering, temptation and death in order to be who we needed Him to be, and in order for Him to be who the Father needed Him to be.
C. The Question: Why would the perfect son of God need to change?
1) How can you improve on perfection?
2) The word perfect means to rise through developing stages to full maturity
3) Examples: rose, baby
But not even God can know by experience something He has not experienced. He can know all that can be known about it, but for Him to really understand what we suffer and endure when tempted, He must suffer and be tempted like us. (Example: How would you tell someone who never tasted chocolate what chocolate tasted like? The best you could do is try to find something that person had tasted which was similar and try to compare it. Even after much talk, the person still would not know. But one bite would change that.)
D. The Result (vs 17, 18)
Because Jesus suffered what we suffer and experienced our temptations, Jesus can now come to our aid with real practical help when we are tempted, for He truly understands what we endure. Later on (Heb 4:15) Hebrews will say He literally suffers with us, understanding our weakness because He too has been tempted in all the same ways as we have. But there is one difference. Though He became fully human, He did not inherit Adams compulsive, rebellious spirit. When He came, He was like Adam before he sinned. And though He was tempted far more severely than Adam ever was, Jesus never sinned (Heb 4:15). This experience left Him not only feeling mercy toward us when were struggling with temptation, but it also gave Him great practical wisdom about how to overcome it. He knows how to help us gain victory.
1) Hes felt what we feel and will never forget it (John Owen, Hebrews, p. 51)
2) He feels compassion for us, not disgust
3) This compassion moves Him to help us and give us speedy relief when we cry for help
Jesus became the kind of high priest we needed and God needed. He is:
Merciful to us (4:15)
Faithful to God (9:24-28)
Able to help those who are tempted (2:18)
E. How does Jesus help tempted believers?
1) He strengthens: His presence changes our weakness (Ro 8:2-6; Ga 5:1, 16-25)
2) He washes: He buys time for us to change by constantly interceding for us (He 7:25); this prevents condemnation (Ro 8:1)
3) He teaches: He gives us wisdom on how to gain victory
4) He provides escape: He gives us a place to flee (1Co 10:13)
5) He protects: He stops the demonic assault (Eph 6:12, 13)
6) He explains: He gives us discernment to recognize the source of temptation (what comes from me and what comes from the devil). The devil wants us to believe these vile things come from us.
7) He places us in this family: Hes not left us to struggle alone. He has provided people to pray for us and hear our confession (Heb 12:13, 14; Jas 5:16).
F. Some practical advice in dealing with temptation
1) Dont get angry at yourself; punishing yourself is a form of penance
2) Dont ever think God is through with you; keep short accounts, confess quickly
3) Dont live in spiritual isolation; dont battle alone (LTGs)
4) Dont wrestle temptation, flee it
Take steps to avoid temptation
When it comes, run to Jesus
5) Dont pray silly prayers: God, take these temptations away! He didnt do that for His Son.
6) Dont play games:
As long as you lack resolve, the devil will keep trying the door
Get serious about stopping
7) Dont depend on others to carry you
Take responsibility for yourself
Nobody can carry you, youre too heavy. They have their own battles to fight.
8) Dont pretend to be helpless:
The fact that I keep failing reveals that I secretly love what Im doing
Somehow Im giving myself permission
God please show me why this is wrong and help me to hate it
9) Dont expect temptation to stop when you become a Christian
Long-term obedience causes the intensity of some temptations to lessen, but the devil never gives up. He watches for an opportunity. Thats why we stay alert by reading the Word and praying.
1) What practical advice would you give to someone facing temptation?
2) Describe a time when Jesus came to help you when you were facing temptation.