Sermon for Sunday, October 17th, 2021, the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity
The Lessons: Isaiah 53:4-12; Psalm 91; Hebrews 4:12-16; Mark 10:35-45
Text for Sermon: Hebrews 4:12-16
Theme: The searching power of God’s word and the throne of grace
When the modern technology of high-definition television came on the scene, it had an immediate effect on how things were done in the studio. Low-tech television had such poor picture resolution that the visual details of a studio did not show up on the screen. Actors and newscasters wore thick pancake makeup to hide wrinkles, moles, and blemishes, but the makeup was invisible to the relatively crude camera. Fake books rested on shelves, and cardboard backdrops with painted wood grain stood as walls. Still, with low-tech television, the viewer was none the wiser…
But high-definition television, using high-resolution digital technology, changed all that. The studio camera picks up everything from scratches on the desk to blemishes on the skin. That has forced a change in how things are done.
Like television personalities facing an unforgiving high-definition camera, when we come to God, we come to the one who sees us as we really are. We must be completely truthful with him.
(p. 595, 750 Engaging Illustrations for Preachers, Teachers and Writers from Craig Brian Larson & Leadership Journal. Grand Rapids, Michigan: BakerBooks, 2002. Second printing, 2008.)
HEBREWS 4:12-13: THE DISCERNING POWER OF GOD
The Bible is the word of God. It is this word which is “quick,” that is, “living” and “active.” Many scholars have analyzed and interpreted the Bible as a work of literature, although the Church Fathers regarded the Bible as alive and active, speaking to them of God’s will and purpose for their lives and for the Church. Today God speaks through the Bible to all who will read or listen to it. In the Greek of Hebrews 4:12, the word “living” is the first word of the sentence, which shows its importance. It emphasizes the living nature of God’s word. A little earlier in the same chapter, the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews warned his readers not to harden their hearts by disobedience and unbelief as those Israelites did who failed to enter Canaan because they rebelled against God and refused to believe in His protection and provision for their entry into the land.
The word of God, though written thousands of years ago, is alive today, because through it God still brings moral conviction and changes people’s lives. However, the word of God is not only alive, but it is powerful. The Greek word suggests our English word “energy.” The Bible is full of God’s power to convict, discern, save, and heal. Already we have at least two reasons to read the Bible every day: it is alive and powerful. But it is sharper than any two-edged sword. It cuts both ways in our lives. The word of God is called “the sword of the Spirit” in Ephesians 6:17, a necessary part of the whole armor of God which every Christian needs to don every day. Such a sharp sword pierces even to the inner thoughts, feelings, and emotions of every man. The Bible as God’s word is how God exposes and discerns all the motives, intentions, and attitudes of every human being. We see revealed in God’s word his own righteousness and love, his holiness, and his wrath against all sin, as well as the means he has ordained to rescue mankind from sin and death. God’s word can sift the thoughts and intents of the heart. The consequence of this is that there is no creature in the world that is not exposed to his scrutiny, but everything about everyone is known to God. Ps. 139:1-12 testifies to this – the Spirit of God knows everything about the psalmist, and always accompanies him.
Now the fact that the Spirit of God knows each one of us intimately, and clearly discerns all our thoughts, words, and actions, is both a fearful and a wonderful thing. It is a fearful thing if we are living in unbelief and disobedience, or in rebellion against God even in one part of our life. It is a wonderful thing, as the psalmist discovered, and a cause for praising God, since he hears our inmost cries and knows our greatest needs, including any needs we have for healing in any part of our life.
It does mean, though, that we have no excuse for playing the fool with God, or for thinking that we have plenty of time left in life to continue sinning and being disobedient. No Christian has any excuse for this, knowing that Gods sees and knows everything about us, and does not excuse our continuing in any deliberate sinful habit or attitude. For example, we may have been in the habit of mocking people or becoming angry quickly, or neglecting prayer and Bible reading, or continuing in a state of hostility with a family member. There is no excuse for this at all.
JESUS OUR HIGH PRIEST AND THE THRONE OF GRACE
Knowing that God knows our weakness and sinfulness, though, must not make us so discouraged that we lose hope of living the Christian life as we should. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is our great high priest, who gave his life to reconcile the world to God, enable us to be adopted as God’s children and to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit to do God’s will. Since Jesus is interceding for all Christians as their great high priest, we must hold fast to our calling, and be even more resolved to live as Christians. Inspiration for this comes from the Lord Jesus Christ’s resistance to all temptation without sinning (Heb. 4:15). Because he knows what it means to be tempted as a human being, yet resisted all temptation, he can help us resist it too. For this reason, we must come boldly to the throne of grace that we may find mercy and help in our times of need. His love for us and his intimate knowledge of us must not drive us away from Him but draw us to approach Him boldly in prayer to request mercy and forgiveness for past sin and request help in overcoming all our sins.
Where do you stand with respect to the word of God? Is it for you living, powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword? Have you allowed the Bible to be this in your life? Have you let God’s love and knowledge of you draw you into a closer relationship with Him and into the faith and obedience He requires of you?