As we live out our Christian lives, we must always remember that this is not something we do detached from God, for God. Rather, we are to live our lives in Christ, and on the basis of what He has done for us. Our central interest is therefore the gospel, and the great truths of the gospel. They are to be our food and nourishment.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need
(Heb. 4: 14-16).
We have already seen that we must persevere to the end. The Jews who fell in the wilderness did not do so. But nevertheless our perseverance is not based upon our performance. The recipients of this letter are urged to hold fast their confession because of what Jesus has done, and because of the office He holds. As we resist the temptations which would turn us aside from the way we must remember that we have a sympathetic High Priest — one who, without sin, knows what temptation is like. On the basis of this, we are told to come before the throne of grace boldly in order to receive forgiveness for our failures, and strength for our trials.
This is what it means to hold fast. When we see Jesus, we hold fast. When we try to look at how we are holding fast, we do not hold fast. We cannot hold fast by looking at our fingers; we must look at Him. We are urged throughout this epistle to see Jesus, to consider Jesus. When we mediate on His person and work, His nature and attributes, we are strengthened to hold fast. When we concentrate on “holding fast” we lose our grip and slip away. We are to have faith in Christ, not faith in our faith. We are to hold to Him, not hold to our holding.
We are told here to hold fast our confession. The object of our faith as Christians is objective and outside ourselves. We do not confess the condition of our hearts; we confess the truth outside our hearts. Because God has been gracious enough to cleanse our hearts, and to show us their true condition, we confess the truth gladly and with a whole heart. But we are saved by looking away, and never by looking in. So look away to the truth, and hold fast.
How are we to live, tempted as we are? Many things distract us from our duty of faithful confession. The world is a sinful and complicated place. How can we maneuver our way to Heaven? The answer given here is that we do not have to figure it out on our own. Christ has gone on before us — and not just from earth to Heaven. He has gone from a condition of temptation and turmoil, just like ours in every respect, to a condition in glory free from the very presence of sin. The only place He differs from us is found in the fact that He has never sinned. But this is not a “deficiency” in His ability to be sympathetic. The fact that He never sinned means that He understands sin better than we do, and He has fully experienced the force of temptation. If a group of ten men were walking along in 70 mph winds, and nine of them blew over right away, and the tenth walked all the way home, which one knows the most about wind? The Lord Jesus knows far more about temptation and sin than we do. We blow over in temptation right away, and then, lying on the ground, we make ourselves out to be wind experts. By the grace of God, repentance from sin can be instructive, but falling into sin never is.
We are summoned to therefore have a crushed boldness. The result of all this is an obligation — we must come before the throne of grace with boldness. Those Christians who neglect the teaching of this epistle fall over on one side or the other. They either crawl and grovel before God because they are such miserable sinners — implying that the blood of Christ cleaned them up inadequately — or they breeze into the throne room of God (in sweats and flip-flops) because they assume they were not all that bad off to begin with. The biblical balance is found by the sinner who has begun to understand the gravity and greatness of his sin, but, through the grace of God, has been given a glimpse of the greatness of his Savior. Remember that we are to approach God, seeing that we have such a great High Priest. Our sin is great, but our High Priest is greater. And there is no way to minimize the nature of our sin without minimizing the office of the Lord Jesus.
When we come before the throne of God in this fashion, we receive mercy for our sins. As you grow in your Christian walk do not expect your awareness of your sinfulness to diminish. It will only diminish if you are hardening your heart and lying to yourself. God was very kind to Paul — he grew in grace so much that by the end of his life he was the “chief of sinners.” Go thou and do likewise. But the other side of the coin is equally important. We receive grace to help us in time of need. If our lives are not truly, objectively changing, by the grace of Christ, it is a bad sign indeed. If we are not growing in practical holiness, we will not see the Lord.