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Jun 22 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

June 21, 2020


The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:23-25

We all know someone–or we have been that someone–who powers through relationships, dating person after person looking for a perfect match. Not long after moving to Dana Point, I met a young man who fit that exact profile. I could not help but think of him when a few years later, reading St.
Augustine’s Confessions I came across this line, “I searched about for something to love, in love with loving . . . .”
I heard a psychiatrist once say, “Being in love is a powerful drug.” That sounds right to me, because I’m sure some people are addicted to the neurochemicals our brains produce that are associated with being in love.
I think many people do not know the difference between being in love and infatuation. Infatuation can be no more than enchantment with the idea of a person. Frequently, , people are infatuated with a fantasy they’ve created about someone for whom they have sincere admiration. They think they love someone they do not even know as a real person. But if they discover the real person and their fantasy is shattered, there is no problem. They can eventually move on to someone else on whom they can project their fantasy.

– years ago, I interviewed a Christian musician
• she had searched for truth in a number of different religions
• I asked her, “How do you know Christianity isn’t just one more religion on your quest for truth, and that someday you won’t move on to something else?”
◦ she answered, “Because when I found what I was looking for, I stopped looking.”

The writer of Hebrews has introduced us to Melchizedek
– his primary concern is to show us Jesus’ credentials
• in every way, Jesus outshines every other servant of God
• whether leader, prophet, priest, or judge
◦ in fact, Jesus is even better than the angels
– the writer tells us,
• “You may be infatuated with your priest, pastor, or preacher,
◦ but the person you want to fall in love with is Jesus!”
◦ when you’ve found Jesus, you can stop looking for anyone else

The writer continues contrasting Jesus to the Levitical priests

He wants us to know why Jesus is able to do for us,
– what they could not do–and were never meant to do
• there are two contrasts in verses 23-24:
1. first, the many priests who served in temple versus the one priest
2. second, the temporary service of the many, and permanence of the one
• the Greek word translated permanently is found in ancient legal documents
William Barclay translates it “non-transferable”
Timothy Johnson says it means “no going beyond”
◦ there is no priest or priesthood beyond Jesus,
◦ because, as the prophecy in Psalm 110 says, he continues forever

Parish priests and church pastors eventually move on, retire, or die
– their loss can be hard for people to take
(especially for those who love their leaders)
• but it’s not necessarily a bad thing for the church

Look at the situation this way: A pastor has a vision for ministry. That vision becomes the church’s mission, and a generation of church members become devoted to it. When that pastor is gone, usually the question comes up, “Who will take over and carry on the vision for the church?” I have come to believe that is the wrong question. With time culture changes, and as culture changes so do the needs and interests of people within the culture. Those changes require a new vision of ministry.
Besides, the leader who had the vision is the only person who knows it inside and out. When that person is gone, the essence of the vision is lost. The residue of that vision is preserved in values, methods, protocols and policies. So a church can continue doing same things it did when the former visionary was present, but no one remembers why they do those things. Furthermore, questions regarding how to handle new or difficult situations arise for which no one has right answer. The visionary would instinctively know the right answer, but that person is gone.
There is no single vision that covers every need for all time. One season’s of a church’s life may be directed by a vision for cross-cultural missions, another season by evangelism, another for intense (“in depth”) Bible study, and yet another for prayer. We need the multiple visions of Christian leadership, because Christians need to expand their horizon and churches, like their members, need greater depth through spiritual growth.

• what the writer sees clearly–and we need to see clearly:
◦ Jesus Christ is always everything
◦ there never needs to be a “changing of the guard”
◦ the vision Jesus has for his church encompasses everything

Consequently – or, in other words, “here the conclusion we can draw”
able to save – “save” has to do with the whole person, now and for eternity
uttermost – can refer to measurement; totally, completely
◦ but can also refer to time – for all time, forever, to the end of time
◦ I don’t think we miss the point if we take it both ways
• who benefits from the ministry of Jesus?
those who draw near to God through him
Timothy Johnson, “God’s gift to humans comes through Jesus, and likewise their access to God passes through him.”
draw near – in Hebrews, this is the heart of the Christian experience
– the Latin word for priest is pontifex – “bridge-builder”
• Jesus makes certain that God’s door is always open to us
◦ so at any time we can draw near
◦ and Jesus is always keeping the door open
• specifically, he maintains our access to God by intercession
◦ to intercede is to meet up with someone to make a request or petition
◦ and to do this on behalf of someone else
• Paul, in Romans 8 says,
. . . the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Ro. 8:26)
Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us (Ro. 8:34)
• the Spirit intercedes in our own hearts; Jesus intercedes at the right hand of God
◦ so whether it is a matter of God being for us,
◦ or of us not being able to find our way in prayer,
“. . . the believer may know that he [or she] is not left in helpless isolation. There is an [intercessor] for him [and her] which reaches up to the very top.” (TDNT)

Jesus meets our need for a priest, perfectly
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. Hebrews 7:26

I am going to mention something we’re all aware of,
– but I will not overemphasize it
• the Roman Catholic Church is still settling cases in court,
◦ paying millions of dollars in compensation for misconduct of priests
◦ in the Scriptures there are multiple examples of immoral and self-serving priests
• if you were to know all that could be known of any person
◦ you would be disappointed
◦ that is nothing more than our shared human weakness
– although he was also human, Jesus does not disappoint
• it is fitting that we should have a priest like him
Timothy Johnson, fitting does not mean he “is ‘what we have deserved,’ but rather ‘what we truly needed’ . . . .”
holy – Jesus is, by nature, what God is
(he can handle all the operations that requires holiness)
innocent – this may sound crass, no one will ever dig up any dirt on him
unstained – nothing of our wickedness rubbed off on him
separated from sinners – not by “social distance,”
Jesus did not stay clear of sinners! (e.g., Lk. 15:1-2)
but he did not participate in their sinfulness
he did not share that human trait
exalted above the heavens – a status that was his by nature, but also that he earned (Heb. 1:1-3; Php. 2:5-11)
his exaltation is for our benefit
he is where he can do us the most good

What can we say about a person like this?
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever Hebrews 7:27-28

The writer has more contrasts to point out
– first, Jesus does not have to offer sacrifices daily
• he offered a once for all sacrifice
◦ here is a twist the writer will explore further
◦ Jesus is both the priest who makes offering and the sacrifice offered
– second, he doesn’t have to make any sacrifice for his own sin

The next contrast: high priests were men appointed in their weakness
– and their appointment was by the law
– the Son does not have those weaknesses,
• but has been made perfect forever
◦ and he was not appointed by the law, but by the word of the oath (cf. v. 20)
which came later than the law
◦ God’s oath to Abraham came prior to law, indicating it is foundational
◦ God’s oath to the Messiah, came after, indicating a change in the law (v. 12)
– look again, the Son has been made perfect forever
• he does all that is necessary for relationship with God and our wholeness,
• and he does it perfectly

Conclusion: I began this talk with a couple of remarks re: love

Gerald May said, “Falling in love often feels choiceless; it seems to break through our defenses . . . Being in love, however is something we say yes to. It is a willing yielding into love’s presence.”
– being in love generates a wonderful, pleasurable energy
• but again, everything depends on being in love with right person
St. Augustine expressed regret for the years he spent loving the wrong things, “Too late did I love Thee, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love Thee! For behold, Thou wert within, and I without, and there did I seek Thee; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty Thou madest. Thou wert with me, but I was not with Thee.”
– had he fallen in love with God sooner, he could have spared himself
• a lot of nonsense and heartache

God tells us, “I’ve removed every obstacle between us from My side.
Now you remove every obstacle from your side.”
Most of the obstacles I have to overcome
are in my head;
either from the poor instruction I received about God
or from the dark thoughts I invented about myself.
But even that, God helps us with by his Spirit
who sanctifies us (Titus 3:4-5)

The next time you’re outside, look up
and notice how there is nothing between you and the sky.
Then see if you can feel that same closeness to God.
Nothing between you and his presence.
You have the perfect priest, minister,
counselor, pastor, and spiritual director.
Jesus is all this and infinitely more.
Say yes to falling in love with him.

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