Chapter Five


This morning I want to speak to every Christian who is struggling.

If you struggle with an enormous temptation which has great power in your life, I am sharing with you. If you have a sin which has gained a powerful foothold in your life, a sin with which you must be at war every day of your life, I am sharing with you. If you have an ungodly attitude, an evil emotion that often threatens to control your life, I am sharing with you. If you are struggling with depression and self-contempt, I am sharing with you. If you are struggling in a bad relationship problem which is causing you to act, feel, and behave in ways that you despise, and you are having a terrible time trying to improve things, I am sharing with you.

In short, if you find yourself locked in any kind of struggle which has spiritual consequences, if you are seeking to overcome that struggle, and if you have been fighting the battle as best you know how, but making little if any progress, I have something I want to share with you.

Many of us who seek to be New Testament Christians have created a major spiritual dilemma in our lives. If we are asked if we can save ourselves, we will quickly, adamantly respond that no person can save himself. We stress we don't have the ability, the power, or the wisdom to be our own Savior. Only God can save us through Jesus Christ. However, when we talk about not being able to save ourselves, commonly we are talking about that moment we became Christians, that initial forgiveness of sins we received when we were baptized into Christ.

After we become Christians, after we have been baptized for the remission of our sins, we still say we can't save ourselves, but in effect that is exactly what we try to do. After baptism, suddenly we believe the key to everything is will power. How do I over come a problem sin? How do I deal with a powerful temptation? How do I fight ungodly attitudes, worldly motives, or evil feelings? How do I spiritually overcome when I am in a bad relationship? The common, accepted answer is that we must have will power. Will power is me in action, not God in action. Will power is my strength, not God's strength. Will power says that I must be the solution, not that God is the solution.

Please take care to understand what I am saying. I am not saying that we sit down, do nothing, make no effort, never try, and God just destroys all the evil in our lives. I am saying that the fight against evil in our lives is based on a powerful, living partnership with Christ. I am saying that Christ has to be a living, active partner in that battle, I am saying that too many Christians do not understand Christ's role or Christ's power in that partnership.

This morning I want us to better understand Jesus' role in our fight against sin.

  1. From the beginning of Jesus' ministry forward, Jesus has always occupied the role of mediator between God and man.
    1. From the beginning of his ministry, as God's Son, Jesus literally has stood between people and God.
      1. He did not and has not stood between people and God as a barrier.
      2. From the beginning, he has stood between people and God as a bridge.
      3. He has never occupied that position to make it more difficult for us to comprehend or to reach God, but he has always occupied that position to make God more accessible.
    2. In his ministry, one of Jesus' greatest goals was to change Israel's incorrect view and understanding of God.
      1. It is easy to understand why Israel had so many wrong concepts about God.
      2. Because the foundation of God's revelation to Israel was the Mosaical law, for centuries their fundamental view of God was that God was a God who loved law, who could be comprehended through law, and who valued justice above all other things.
      3. As much as God emphasized his love for people in Deuteronomy, Israel still viewed God in terms of love of law rather than love of people.
      4. As a result the common view of God through Israel's ages was this:
        1. The greatest expression of faith in God is legalism.
        2. The greatest interest of God is punishing the evil doer and outlawing sin.
        3. The greatest position of God is the position of a judge who is constantly administering justice.
        4. The greatest responsibility of the Israelite is to keep the letter of the law.
        5. The thing that distinguished the people of Israel from all other people, the thing that proved they were privileged, the thing which proved that God loved them is a special way was that God had given them the law, and that they had built God's temple.
      5. Through the Old Testament prophets God was constantly trying to correct this wrong view, but those prophets had very little success.
        1. Isaiah declared that they did exactly what the law says to do when they offered sacrifices and observed the holy days, but God hated their worship because they did evil instead of good, because they abused their fellow man, and because they did not take care of the poor and underprivileged. (Isaiah 1)
        2. Through Hosea God declared, For I desire goodness, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
        3. The prophets are filled with God's condemnation of their greed; their dishonesty; the oppression of the poor, the widow, and the orphan; their pursuit of pleasure; their unconcern for and insensitivity toward their fellow man.
        4. In many, many instances the Israelites to whom these prophets wrote were technically keeping the law of Moses; they were "doing all the right things."
        5. The prophets made little impression on these people with God's messages and warnings.
        6. One of the major reasons that they did not listen to the prophets was due to the fact that they had the wrong concept of God.
          1. Above all other things, God loved the law.
          2. If they were technically doing what the law said, God would not condemn them.
    3. This very same centuries old concept of God permeated the minds and thinking of the religious leaders in Israel in Jesus' day.
      1. One of the greatest reasons that the Pharisees opposed Jesus with such intensity and hatred was due to the fact that they saw Jesus as opposing the law.
        1. To them, Jesus could not have come from God because Jesus did not agree with them about the law.
        2. The God of the law would not have sent a person like Jesus to this world to speak for him.
        3. They were the experts when it came to the law; their interpretation of the law was official; their understanding of the law was perfect.
        4. Therefore, they were the ones who really knew God, who really understood what God wanted, who really represented God.
      2. Jesus in his actions and his teachings was constantly trying to get these people to see the correct picture of God
        1. God was the father of the prodigal son who welcomed him home with forgiveness, love, and rejoicing.
        2. God was the concerned one who would listen to the cries of the oppressed and the troubled--he was not like the judge the widow had to worry to death to get him to act.
        3. God was the one who was constantly searching for the one who was lost, the one who had strayed away like the shepherd who searched for the lost sheep.
        4. God was the God who would listen mercifully to his sinful child and forgive him, but who was offended by the arrogance of his child who believed in his own goodness, as Jesus showed in the parable of the prayers of the Pharisee and the tax-collector.
        5. God was the God who cared about suffering and human need, so God gave the power to heal the sick even on the Sabbath day.
      3. All this infuriated the religious leaders and the upright Israelites who were very careful to keep the law.
        1. You don't forgive the lawbreaker--you punish him, you drive him away, you banish him from the temple.
        2. God does not listen to the cries of a distressed child who has not kept the law; God listens to the law keeper.
        3. God is not out searching for his lost children; God is taking pride in his law abiding children.
        4. God does not rejoice at the repentance and return of a wicked person; God rejoices in all the law keepers he can count.
        5. God would never forgive a thieving, dishonest Jewish tax collector and reject a law abiding Pharisee.
        6. God would never approve of healing a sick person on the Sabbath day because to God keeping the law was important, not helping a person.
      4. In hundreds of ways, over and over Jesus declared in his teachings, in his life, and in his deeds that they did not correctly understand what God wanted or what God was about.
    4. There are some notable instances in which Jesus specifically mediated for individuals.
      1. Shortly before his death he told Peter that Satan had asked to try Peter and sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31,32)
        1. However, while Satan would surely sift Peter like wheat and bring Peter to his knees, he would not destroy Peter.
        2. Jesus had already served as mediator for Peter: I have made supplication for thee that thy faith fail not.
      2. Even as he hung on the cross, he prayed for his own people who had demanded his death; Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:34)
  2. When Jesus was raised from the dead, and by God was given all spiritual authority being made Lord and Christ, he permanently assumed the role of mediator between God and all who accepted the sacrifice of his death.
    1. There is a basic difference:
      1. While Jesus was on earth performing his earthly ministry, his basic work was directed at mediating between God and man by representing God to Israel.
        1. In his ministry, he was seeking to help Israel more correctly understand God.
        2. He was seeking to be the bridge between Israel and God in redirecting their spiritual lives through a better comprehension of God.
      2. Now that Jesus is the risen Lord and Christ, his basic work as mediator is representing the saved before God.
        1. To the lost, Jesus seeks to be Savior--he wants to rescue the lost from sin and provide them God's perfect forgiveness.
        2. To the saved who have accepted Jesus as Savior and received that forgiveness, Jesus continually serves as their intercessor before God.
      3. It is still true that our best and most powerful insights into God come through Jesus' life and his teachings, and it is true that Jesus as fervently wants us to understand and to correctly view God as he did Israel.
    2. One of God's great gifts to every Christian is the gift of Jesus Christ as our personal mediator before God.
      1. Paul makes this point powerfully clear in Romans 8
        1. He is specifically talking to struggling Christians.
        2. He notes in verse 18 that the sufferings they must endure are in no way comparable to the incredible glory they will receive when they receive their eternal reward.
        3. He notes in the following verses that the enormous struggle created by the conflict between good and evil was causing both the Christian and God's creation to groan.
        4. He then discusses how God's spirit is living in the life of the Christian to help us with our weakness and to communicate the groaning of the Christian to God.
        5. Paul wants to convince them with absolute, unquestionable assurance that divine help and strength is reality and constantly available to the struggling Christian.
        6. In verses 31-38 he makes these points to the struggling Christian.
          1. Since we belong to God, God is for us--on our side--and there is no force equal to or superior to God which can oppose us.
          2. God's commitment to our spiritual success is unquestionable--if he gave us his son in death to save us, he will do whatever is necessary to enable our spiritual survival.
          3. Since we as Christians exist as God's own people, and since in the blood of Jesus God justifies us (he does not recognize our sins) no one can condemn us.
          4. Jesus himself is at the right hand of God continually making intercession for us--representing us, standing in our stead before God.
          5. As long as we live in Christ, nothing can separate us from God's love.
          6. Because God is for us, because He is committed to our spiritual survival, because he justifies us, because Jesus is our intercessor at his right hand, we are more than conquerors if we remain in the Jesus who loved us.
      2. Paul emphasized the same point to Timothy when he wrote in 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all....
  3. It is absolutely essential, it is critical that every Christian grow to a sound knowledge and understanding of what it means for Jesus Christ to be our mediator and intercessor before God.
    1. Why is that so urgent, so important?
      1. When the Christian understands what it means for Jesus to be our mediator and intercessor, he understands one of the key ways God has provided to spiritually help him continuously every day of his life.
      2. If the Christian understands how Jesus is helping us by being our mediator and intercessor, at any point that Christian begins to struggle, he knows the special help that is constantly available to him through his mediator and intercessor.
        1. When we are struggling, we must know that Jesus is helping.
        2. We must understand how Jesus is helping.
        3. If we do not, we will try to win the struggle alone, and that is deadly!
    2. The key to understanding what Jesus is doing in the role of the mediator and intercessor of the Christian is to understand what Jesus accomplished in his death. To do that, I want to focus your attention on the book of Hebrews.
      1. One of the central purposes of the book of Hebrews is to explain what Jesus is doing right now for every Christian.
        1. It was written to Christians whose struggle was so difficult that they were about to renounce Christ as their Savior.
        2. The writer is explaining that they must never, never do that.c. He explains why they must never do that by explaining what Jesus is doing as our representative before God.
      2. After explaining that Jesus is God's son and has a relationship with God no other has ever had, the writer makes this statement in Hebrews 2:17-18. Read.
        1. Jesus specifically came to this earth and lived a human existence to become perfectly qualified to be our heavenly high priest.
        2. A high priest, who was appointed by God, was the personal, divinely selected representative of God's people before God himself.
          1. He stands directly in the presence of God.
          2. He does that which is necessary to allow God to remove the sin of his people.
          3. The high priest never functions for those people who do not belong to God; he functions for those people who are God's own people, caring for their sins and failures.
        3. Jesus came to qualify as the perfect high priest by experiencing our total, human life experience.
          1. He can be a merciful high priest because he perfectly understands our problems and our struggles.
          2. He can be a faithful high priest because he will never misrepresent us before God.
        4. Jesus is in that role specifically to atone for the sins of Christians.
        5. He seeks to be Savior to the lost; he is high priest for the saved.
        6. Because he suffered in enduring his temptations, he has the certain ability to help Christians who are suffering because of temptations.
      3. In stressing how much confidence any Christian, and most certainly the struggling Christian can place in Jesus, the writer makes this statement in Hebrews 4:14-16. Read.
        1. Because we Christians have this powerful high priest in heaven with God, never, never renounce him.
        2. This perfect high priest is capable of feeling everything we feel--he knows every humans experience, every human weakness, and the power of the fleshly nature struggling against the spiritual nature.
        3. He has faced every form of temptation we have to face, and he won--he did not sin.
          1. We are being represented by a high priest that knows how to win against sin.
          2. He knows how to help us because he defeated sin.
        4. Because they have this perfect high priest representing them to God, the writer tells these struggling Christians who have considered renouncing Christ to come before God's throne of grace with boldness.
        5. Because Jesus is our high priest, God's throne for us Christians is the throne of grace, not the judgment seat.
        6. It is the place we are to go boldly to receive mercy when we are struggling, hurting, weak, and failing.
        7. Because we know Jesus is standing there, even in the midst of our struggle and problems, we go to find grace to help us when we need it.
        8. In the time of need we especially go to God's throne to receive grace and mercy.

I want you to think carefully about what the writer of Hebrews has said. (1) Remember the high priest represents Christians before God, not sinners. (2) Our high priest knows how to help Christians who are suffering and struggling because of temptation. (3) He has experienced the total human experience, he can perfectly represent us before God because be perfectly understands our feeling, our weakness, and our pain as Christians. Because he is our high priest, for the Christian, he transforms God's throne from a throne of judgment into a throne of grace. Because we are God's children and Jesus is our high priest, God wants us to come boldly, without hesitation to his throne when things are going the worst in our lives. He wants us to come in the full confidence we will receive mercy and grace. He wants us to have that mercy and that grace when we need it the most.

That is precisely the opposite of what far too many Christians have believed.

What is it that Jesus is doing for us? How is it possible for him to help us in that manner? What does that help mean to each one of us? I will answer those questions when I finish this lesson tonight. I urge you to come back. What we are going to learn is important to you right now!

Do you want Jesus to be your personal representative before God?

transcribed by Christy Hesslen
Copyright © 1992, David Chadwell
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