The "Let Us" Series From The Book Of Hebrews #2
"LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO THE FAITH!"
TEXT: Heb. 4:14-16; Matt. 4:1-11
INTRO: Starting off in faith is a good thing, but staying in faith is a great thing! We need to be cautious that we don't lose a firm grip on our faith, for if we do we will find ourselves really floundering with an unproductive spirituality.
There are two things that can help us hold firmly to the faith:
(1. Christ as our high priest understands our weaknesses and is sympathetic to helping us - we don't have to be alone!
(2. Christ gives us His own example on how to fight the various kinds of temptations that Satan uses to draw us away from keeping our faith focused properly.
If there is one thing the Bible is clear about, it is that faith has to be exercised in order for us to stay firm in it! This will certainly be the case as we come into the last days where the Bible states that many will be deceived, and even the elect of God must be careful that they are not deceived!
The one thing we can be sure of is that we will be tempted! If we yield, we will not have firm faith. We need to understand the nature of HUMAN FLESH, and the nature of HOLY FAITH!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that when we are tempted God is willing to help us, Christ faced temptation and beat it, and what He used is available to us today too – so, "let us hold firmly to the faith!"
I. ENCOURAGEMENT TO KEEP FAITH FIRM! Heb. 4:14-16
A. Deliverance and Sympathy Heb. 4:14-15
1. People quit when they feel they are alone and no one understands!
a. No one likes the feeling that something can't succeed.
b. No one likes facing something that seems overwhelming.
2. So often we feel God doesn't understand the pressures we go through, that in His perfection He couldn't possibly know pain and loneliness.
3. This is where the incarnation comes in! Jesus came in human flesh as God so that there would be a way for Him to "feel" and know our human weaknesses.
4. God did not stay out of harms way, He faced it squarely so He can help us through the storms of life and when we feel our faith is slipping!
ILLUS: Joseph Mallord Turner, English painter, invited Charles Kingsley to his studio to see a picture of a storm at sea. In rapt admiration, Kingsley exclaimed, "It's wonderful! It's so realistic! How did you do it?"
The artist replied, "I went to the
"The storm raged with such fury that at times I longed to be in the bottom of the boat where the waves would blow over me. I could not, however. I was bound to the mast. Not only did I see the storm in its raging fury, I felt it! It blew into me, as it were, until I became a part of it. After this terrible ordeal, I returned to my studio and painted the picture."
It is written of the Savior, "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Heb. 2:18).
5. Christ can understand completely our struggle and pain, He has experienced it all.
a. He both shows us the way to hold on by His example...
b. As well as ministering to us because He also knows our human frame!
c. Christ sympathizes with our struggle and He conquered using the same tool available to us, God's Word!
B. Door of Salvation Heb. 4:16
1. Knowing all this, we can come to the throne of grace with confidence!
a. Where we will find "mercy" and "grace" to help us in our time of need:
(1. "Mercy" is NOT getting what we DO deserve!
(2. "Grace" IS getting what we DON'T deserve!
b. God's desire for those who will come to Him is to help them!
2. The throne of God is available, we can come with “CONFIDENCE” (NIV) or as the KJV has it, “BOLDLY!”
a. We are told we can come boldly or with confidence even when we are struggling!
b. God is our High Priest who is touched by our experiences and struggles to fight against temptation. He died to redeem us, not reject us!
II. EXAMPLE TO KEEP FROM FAILING! Matt. 4:1-11
A. Demand for Security! Matt. 4:1-4
1. The first temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness was the temptation to turn to material things to SATISFY His needs.
a. Ironically, this was basically
2. There certainly wasn't anything wrong with Jesus making a stone into bread to satisfy His natural hunger, but to do it at Satan's request would have been to get sidetracked from the real issue at hand. He was about to begin His earthly ministry, and natural bread was not suppose to be His focus, that is the focus of this world.
a. The temptation here was to lose focus, from a spiritual one to a material one!
b. This will be a constant struggle as we live as God's people in this world!
c. While it might not have seemed like a big thing right at that moment, to start out with a focus on the material would certainly have led Jesus further and further away from His mission which was spiritual in nature!
3. We don't always see the price of yielding to temptation all at once, it is usually a gradual process that takes us from point "a" to point "b" in a process that moves us away from God.
4. Jesus avoids the temptation to start down the road of material appetites, for this would have corrupted His mission in the end!
ILLUS: G.H. Charnley, in The Skylark's Bargain, tells the story of a young skylark who discovered one day a man who would give him worms for a feather. He made a deal – one feather for two worms. The next day the lark was flying high in the sky with his father. The older bird said, "You know, son, we skylarks should be the happiest of all birds. See our brave wings! They lift us high in the air, nearer and nearer to God."
But the young bird did not hear, for all he saw was an old man with worms. Down he flew, plucked two feathers from his wings and had a feast. Day after day this went on. Autumn came and it was time to fly south. But the young skylark couldn't do it. He had exchanged the power of his young wings for worms.
That is our constant temptation in life -- to exchange wings for worms.
5. Notice how Jesus "holds firm to His faith" ... "man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Matt. 4:4
a. Heavenly bread is far more important than physical bread!
c. Jesus never tired of the Word of God, and let us never tire of it either!
6. The church and the christian will always be in trouble when it turns away from the Scriptures, when the Word of God is diminished and the needs of human flesh are the main focus. When this happens we are in trouble!
7. Christ's security was not in physical bread, it was in the Word of God!
a. Since Jesus fought off this first temptation with Scripture and won, we can too since the same thing is still available for us today!
b. You will always do well to win over temptation if you have the Word of God ready at hand!
c. Jesus doesn't use tricks or fancy miracles to beat this temptation, He doesn’t exercise His power as God, He uses the Word of God, and in doing so showed that we have the same power as he did!
d. If Jesus had resisted in any other way He could not have been an example to us, but because He used the same resource available to us we have no excuse.
B. Demand for the Spectacular! Matt. 4:5-7
1. Jesus now faced the second temptation. This is perhaps the greatest temptation for people in the church today, to choose the spectacular rather than the Scripture!
a. It is interesting to see how Jesus used miracles, most of the time He did a miracle He instructed those who received it to “go and tell no one!”
b. Many times Jesus refused to do miracles because the crowd came just for that reason! (see Matt. 12:38 ff.)
(1. In this passage Jesus said it was a "wicked generation that seeks for signs" - and the only sign He would give was the sign of Jonah, the image of 3 days and nights in the bowels of the earth – fulfilled in Christ's death and resurrection!
(2. The main focus of Jesus' ministry was pretty basic: "repent and be saved!" (see Matt. 11:20)
(3. Like a man named Billy Graham who has had no spectacular miracles accredited to his ministry except the millions who have found Christ as savior - he kept the message basic and focused!
c. John the Baptist was said by Jesus in Luke 7:28 to be the greatest man born of woman - yet in John 10:41 it says, "...though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true." (referring to Jesus)
(1. John the Baptist never did perform a single recorded miracle - he only preached the Gospel, and Jesus said “no man was born greater among women than John!” Matt. 11:11 Luke 7:28
(2. It can be easy to lose sight of what is important!
2. Jesus is being asked by Satan to do
some extraordinary miracle that will "wow" the crowds at the
a. Jesus' miracles certainly did attract crowds, but they never kept them for long!
b. While the crowds often followed Jesus excitably after He did a miracle, as soon as He began to teach repentance and faith, to give a glass of cold water, to visit the sick or those in prison, to clothe the naked, to bind up the broken hearted, to forgive others, and yes even to tithe - then we read the crowds left!
c. Remember in John 6 after the crowds were awed by Jesus, Jesus said that they must "eat His flesh and drink His blood" or they could have no part in Him - read John 6:66 "from this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him!"
3. It is also interesting to note that one of the characteristics of the last days will be "signs and wonders" - both from God and from the deceiver!
a. Hence in 1 John 4:1 we are called upon to "test the spirits."
b. The Bible even talks about the elect being led astray if that were possible, simply meaning that this undo emphasis on signs and wonders could even draw aside christians if we don't stay on guard.
c. Jesus even talked about those who will do miracles in His name (Matt. 7:21 ff.) but not necessarily be living for Him, He declares about these miracle workers that "I never knew you!" Miracles done even in Jesus' name don't necessarily indicate the godliness of those who "do them" the message they bring does this!
d. MIRACLES are not a guarantee that something is right - but the MESSAGE OF GOD'S WORD about Jesus Christ is always right!
4. In Matt. 11:20 we read this: "Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles had been performed, BECAUSE THEY DID NOT REPENT." Salvation was Jesus' goal, not performing signs and wonders for the crowds to be awed over.
5. Note how the crowds were not much different for the Apostles: In Acts 14:8-20 we read about Paul and Barnabus having just laid hands on a lame man and he was healed - the crowd went crazy and started to worship Paul and Barnabus as two gods, Zeus and Hermes! The Apostles had a hard time trying to get the crowd to accept them as humans when along came a few Jews that turned the crowds against Paul and Barnabus (Acts 14:19) so quickly that they stoned Paul and left him for dead! How fickle the crowd was, they liked being wowed, but not confronted for their sins!
6. It is so much easier to look for the spectacular and miss the obvious!
ILLUS: A little boy was talking to the girl next door. "I wonder what my mother would like for Mother's Day." The girl answered, "Well, you could promise to keep your room clean, go to bed when you are told, brush your teeth after eating, and quit fighting with your brothers and sister, especially at the dinner table." The boy looked at her and said, "No, I mean something practical!"
7. Jesus was facing a tough hard road, many days of ordinary ministry punctuated by times of great events, how tempting to bypass the every day ordinary stuff by doing something spectacular before the crowd at the Temple, a spectacular miracle would "wow" them right off and save Him lots of time establishing the fact that He was the Messiah!
a. Remember, these threee temptations are taking place just as He is about to start His public ministry!
b. The lure was to avoid the basic stuff, go for the spectacular!
c. Satan will use the "spectacular" in the last days to deceive people, we have got to know the "message!"
8. Jesus once again defeats this temptation with the Word of God: "do not test the Lord your God."
a. In other words, don't even think you can bribe God into avoiding the message of the cross!
b. It is noteworthy also that Satan never did quote the whole verse of Scripture when he attempted to use the Bible to tempt Jesus! He conveniently left a part of the passage out!
c. It is the WHOLE of the Bible we need to adhere to to keep from false doctrine!
C. Demand for Shortcuts! Matt. 4:8-11
1. The final temptation represented the desire for a "shortcut" to the RIGHT goal!
a. Jesus would be Lord over all the kingdoms of this earth!
b. Satan merely states here that since Jesus is going to get them anyway, why not let Satan give them to Him now and avoid the cross altogether!
c. This is the "ends justify the means" problem of our society today! "What difference does it make how we get there as long as the end result is good!"
2. All Jesus had to do was bow “once” and worship Satan!
a. How many bows to Satan does it take to lose? ONE!
b. The temptation here was to avoid all the pain and suffering, all the day by day efforts, all the routine servanthood stuff, just take the kingdoms now!
(1. This is the heart of the world, avoid sacrifice, suffering, serving ... "just give me the reward now!"
(2. The temptation here is to see the "ORDINARY" as somehow not the EXTRAORDINARY ... YET IT IS!
3. This temptation to take a "shortcut" is very real, and many take it today!
a. There are no shortcuts to holy living - it takes effort, daily routine serving, faithfulness, all over protracted periods of time!
b. It takes time and work to build a healthy ministry, to be a healthy christian, to do a fruitful work for God, it doesn't come in an instant like many of the instant things we have in society today!
c. There are "no shortcuts to glory!"
4. Jesus wins the day again through the Scriptures, and so can we!
a. Jesus fought every temptation with the written Word of God - the same source of fighting Satan's temptations is available to us!
b. If Jesus had used some other power to resist Satan besides the Word of God then we could not have seen Him as a High Priest, we would not be able to identify with Him had He used His powers as God, but because He used the Word of God we have the same Word to use today that He used to win!
5. This is how we "HOLD FIRM TO THE FAITH!"
a. In the last days the Bible says, "those things which can be shaken will be shaken" (Heb. 12:27-28) - only those who have a firm grasp on God's Word are going to be able to walk a clear path!
b. If we lay hold of God's Word it will lay hold of us!
c. Avoid the shortcuts, "Let us Hold Firmly to the Faith!"
CONCLUSION: People lose their firm faith when 2 things happen:
(1. They think they are alone without help, and
(2. They lose focus on Christ and His Word!
Christ offers a remedy for both of these problems:
(1. He is able to understand us and offers help,
(2. He shows us by example how to keep the focus!
Are you firm or flimsy in your faith? “LET US HOLD FIRMLY TO THE FAITH!”