Jesus Is Not Only Sympathetic; He Can Change Things

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Jesus is not only sympathetic; he can do something about it.

Before he saved me, I didn’t picture Jesus as having much empathy toward me. I thought of him as distant or indifferent.  After all, he had a universe to run. I didn’t know he cared about me personally, much less loved me. But after he opened my blind eyes, one day I found out he was deeply sympathetic to my struggles.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (HEB 4:15)

When someone’s been through the same thing we have, it’s much more meaningful when they give us their sympathy than someone who’s never experienced it. My wife has endured depression and anxiety in varying degrees, sometimes extreme, for many years, so she’s deeply sympathetic to those who suffer in the same ways. I’ve never suffered that particular way. I believe people are suffering terribly, and I seek to empathize, but I can’t comfort them the way Kristi can. The Bible says we are to put on compassion, so I try to imagine their pain, I try to weep with those who weep, but I have to say at times, “I can’t even imagine how horrible this must be for you.” But Kristi can say, “I know what it’s like. I’ve been there.”

Jesus can sympathize with us completely because no matter what we’re experiencing, he’s been there. First, he is able to sympathize with our WEAKNESSES, for he was weak in his human nature. He got hungry, tired and thirsty. He needed sleep and rest. He knew loneliness. He suffered unbelievable physical pain.

Jesus can also sympathize with us when we are TEMPTED – he is “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He was tempted in EVERY RESPECT by Satan himself, who threw his worst at him. None of us have probably ever known Satan’s worst temptations.  Jesus was tempted to pride, envy, lust, to love the world, to fear man. He was tempted to anger, to laziness, to be impatient with people – you name it. He was tempted to feel sorry for himself when he was lonely. He was tempted to unbelief. He was tempted to give up. Can you imagine how Jesus was tempted when he told his disciples he was going to be betrayed, tortured, mocked, and crucified and they started arguing about who was the greatest?

Jesus not only sympathizes, but he can do something about our situation.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (16)

So often somebody tells me about a hard time they are going through and I may be sympathetic but often I can’t do anything about it. I can pray for them, but I can’t change their situation. I can’t lift their burden or heal them or take their sadness or provide all they need. I might be able to help a little, but I can’t change their whole situation. If I found someone under a massive tree that had fallen in the forest, I’d feel horrible for them, but couldn’t lift it off.  This is why Jesus is a GREAT high priest. He’s not only sympathetic, but he can DO SOMETHING about our situation – he can save, heal, provide and strengthen.

First, look where Jesus is. He is on “the throne of grace.” Charles Spurgeon says:

“It is a throne set up on purpose for the dispensation of grace; a throne from which every utterance is an utterance of grace; the scepter that is stretched out from it is the scepter of grace; the decrees proclaimed from it our purposes of grace; the gifts that are scattered down it’s golden steps are gifts of grace; and he that sits upon the throne is grace itself.”

Jesus, our great high priest, is waiting and longing to help us.

Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you…(Isaiah 30:18 NASB)

What do we receive at his throne? MERCY and GRACE TO HELP in time of need.

Mercy is NOT GETTING what we DO deserve. We should be punished for our sins but at the throne of grace we find mercy. And grace is GETTING what we DON’T deserve – Blessings, strength, power, help, joy. We can be confident Jesus will give us “grace to help in time of need.”

24 hours a day, we can draw run to our great high priest, knowing he’s infinitely sympathetic and infinitely able to do something about our struggles. Jesus has mercy for our failures and grace for our weaknesses and temptations. And he never tires of our requests. We can’t ask too much or too often. So run to your great high priest today. He longs to be gracious to you.

Jesus Never Leaves The Station

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I once heard a well-known national news anchor describe his first job in a radio station.

One of his daily responsibilities was to broadcast a preacher’s message. The message came on a “record.” (Records, the dinosaur ancestors of CDs, were flat, vinyl discs the size of  small pizzas with grooves of microscopic etchings of musical or vocal sounds detected by “needles” on the arms of  “record players”, then transmitted through speakers, which in turn whipped teenagers into a frenzy, causing seizure-like gyrations with names like “The Shing-a-ling,” “The Frug,” “The Philly,” and “The Boogaloo”).

Anyway, it was the young deejay’s habit to introduce the preacher’s message, start the record, then leave the station for a cup of coffee at a nearby diner. One day as he was sipping his Maxwell House, the phone rang.  When the waitress handed it to him, he heard his boss screaming, “Get back to the station NOW!”

Sprinting to his car, he tuned the radio to his station. To his horror the needle had gotten “stuck” on the record and kept replaying the same phrase over and over again — “Go to hell, go to hell, go to hell…”

Sometimes we can feel like the Lord is “out of the station.”  Maybe he stepped out for a minute or dozed off. Maybe he’s forgotten us completely.

The truth is Jesus never takes a break.  He never slumbers nor sleeps but watches over us day and night.  His ears are ever open to our cry.  He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

“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 (Heb 7.24-25).

Jesus has conquered death and is alive forevermore to intercede for his children.  Day and night, he lifts you before the Father, praying almighty, perfect and effective prayers, that he might save you to the uttermost.  He never takes a break, never grows weary, never faints and will never cease to pray for you.

I’d be thrilled to know that a friend was praying for me even once a day.  But to know that Christ himself, the Lord of hosts, is interceding for me every minute of the day gives me incredible confidence, hope and joy.

Praise him today for his steadfast love and faithfulness!

photo by Roadsidepictures

Don’t Touch the Mountain

Moses probably wouldn’t do so well in my church. We sing cheerful songs and chit-chat in the lobby as we munch on chocolate doughnuts. Sometimes we get distracted. Cell phones create mid-sermon jam sessions. Babies have mid-service freak out sessions. We wonder if the Steelers are going to win the Super Bowl.

But you know what would really shock Moses? The fact that all of us draw near to God. Personally. Intimately. Daily.

Moses’ experience of God was different. Incredibly different. Out of all the Israelites, only one person, Moses himself, was allowed to draw near to God. Anyone else that came remotely close to the presence of God was playing with death.

Exodus 19:9-12 paints a frightening picture.

When Moses told the words of the people to the Lord, the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments and be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot.

Don’t go near the mountain of God. Don’t touch it. Don’t even mess around the edges. You touch the mountain and you get stoned. Why? Because you’re sinful and God is holy. Moses is the mediator between God and Israel. No one else comes near.

So what changed? Why aren’t I engulfed in flames the moment I open my mouth in prayer? Why doesn’t the ground swallow me up when I open my Bible? Why am I allowed to come near when Israel was told to fall back? Because I have an infinitely better mediator. Moses couldn’t bring Israel with him into the presence of God.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 10:16)

What would our lives be like apart from this mediator? What would prayer, Bible reading, and church look like? Jesus brings us up the mountain.

True Love From Flawed Children

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How often I get distracted when I read the Bible, pray or worship.

How frequently I serve God with mixed motives – hoping he gets glory, but also hoping I get some too.  As Jerry Bridges says, our best deeds are stained by sin.  How then can any of our puny, flawed efforts possibly bring pleasure to God?

“You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 PE 2.5)

First of all, believers’ sacrifices are acceptable to God because they are “through Jesus Christ.” Our Mediator washes our sin-stained deeds in his blood and presents them spotless and pleasing to our Father.

Secondly, our sacrifices please God because he’s given us new hearts that love him. Though we love him imperfectly, we love him truly, and this love for God pleases him.  Jerry Bridges illustrates this in The Disciplines of Grace:

My wife and I moved into a house that had an unfinished garage. Every time I went into the garage I saw the bare two-by-four studs and the black feltlike undersiding. After living for 20 years in a house with a finished garage, it was rather depressing to me. Our son came home for a visit and learning of my feelings, volunteered to install insulation and drywall in the garage.

Dan had never worked with drywall before and had to learn by doing. The finished job, though very acceptable was not quite what one would expect from a professional drywall installer. But I am more pleased than if a professional had done the work. Why? Because the job was done out of love. Dan didn’t expect to get anything in return. He wasn’t trying to earn favor or manipulate me. He just wanted to show his love. Now, every time I go into the garage I see the finished walls, but most of all, I see the love that went into them. Dan’s motive was more important to me than his performance.

When a child brings her Mommy the gift of a wilted dandelion, Mommy’s pleased, not because of the gift, but because it’s coming from her child.  It’s similar with our offerings to God.  He certainly doesn’t need our worship or service, yet he looks at our hearts of love for him and he’s delighted.  Because of Christ’s mediation, he only sees the pure part of our love, not the impure parts.

What a wonderful God – he plants a genuine love for himself in our hearts, and then is delighted by our imperfect attempts to show that love.

photo by Tiggywinkle

As Pleasing As A Warthog

2 CO 5.9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.

Growing up Catholic I rarely felt pleasing to God.  As an altar boy I’d try to keep my back rigid and my praying hands perfectly aligned, fingers straight out, thumbs crossed over each other with military precision.  I’d try to say each word of every “Hail Mary” with complete earnestness (try doing that 50 times in a rosary) yet still didn’t feel pleasing to God.   And when I hit my rebellious teens and roaring twenties, my depraved lifestyle left me feeling about as pleasing to God as a warthog.

Then God made it possible for this warthog to please him.  He washed away my sins with Christ’s blood, and counted Christ’s righteousness as mine.  He placed me “in Christ” as his beloved, adopted child.  Through Jesus, transformed rebels and rejects bring pleasure to his heart, just as earthly children bring pleasure to their parents’ hearts.

Not only did God make it possible for me to please him, he injected my heart with a pulsing desire to do so.  I want to glorify him.  I want to make him smile.  Not out of guilt, but love and gratitude.  How can I not want to please the one who saw me from afar, ran to embrace this pig-sty mud-encrusted prodigal,  draped his royal robe on my shoulders and slid his royal ring onto my finger?

But there’s more.  He not only gives the desire, but the power to please him.  He tells me to fly, then supplies me with wings.  He tells me to run, then invigorates my legs.  He fortifies me to drive stakes through the heart of my sins.  He makes me buoyantly bounce back when trials knock me down.

And Jesus, my great Mediator, takes my sin-stained efforts, strains out the dross, and presents them acceptable to his Father.  He washes out the bad motives, and leaves the pure desires that he put there.  He takes my pathetic worship, filters out the unbelief and distraction, and offers it to the Father as sweet incense.

I want to please him whether I’m singing praises or doing dishes, devouring the Bible or decimating a burger.  That’s the aim of this warthog.  How about you?

Photo by Brian Gratwicke