By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Text: Heb. 4:12-16
12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
14 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. 15 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. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.INTRODUCTION
I hate going to the hospital! I have an associate degree in applied science in operating room technology, and I worked in the O.R. for four years, but I hate to be a patient. And one of the reasons I despise being a patient, is because when you come in, one of the first things they do is they give you a little gown and tell you to take off your clothes and put on the gown.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with this gown, but it doesn’t even come down to your knees, just mid-thigh--so it can't be a Church of God gown. And it doesn’t have a zipper, or even buttons, just three little strings that you have to tie behind your back. And those three little strings just don’t do much to keep the breeze off your back—if you know what I mean.
I think I hate those gowns and I hate being in the hospital because I know that when it comes time for the doctor to do the examination, and when it comes time to go to the operating room, we are going to be exposed. We don’t like that feeling of exposure, of vulnerability.
When Adam and Eve sinned against God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, their eyes were opened and they realized that they were naked. So what did they do? They tried to hide their nakedness by fashioning aprons out of fig leaves. They were ashamed to be in each other’s presence because their sinfulness resulted in the knowledge of their nakedness. They had once been clothed in righteousness, but now they were naked.
Then, when God came looking for them in the cool of the day, they ran and hid from God because they knew they were naked, they knew they had sinned, they knew they would be exposed.
But the truth is that we cannot hide from God. Our lives are open books before Him. Those things done in secret will be shouted from the housetops. Those things we try to conceal are always open to God’s gaze for His review.
The book of Hebrews was written to a Jewish Christian congregation who, in the face of persecution, was contemplating going back to Judaism and forsaking their Christian walk. However, the persecution they were facing was not as severe as it would later be.
The Writer tells them, "You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (12:4). They were facing some social repercussions, their relatives and neighbors were causing them some grief, but they had not yet been asked to lay down their life for their faith, and yet they were ready to retreat and go back to their former religious lifestyle.
The prophet Jeremiah's words are fitting here. Some six hundred years earlier Jeremiah asked this question, "If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses?" (Jer. 12:5). If they were falling away when they were still safe from martyrdom, how could they hope to make it when they would be required to stand in the flames of persecution? Furthermore, the Writer of Hebrews goes to great lengths to explain that there is nothing left to go back too!
The whole emphasis of the book of Hebrews is that Jesus is the Messiah, and the Messiah has fulfilled the Old Covenant. At the cost of His own blood, Jesus has provided a "new covenant" (Heb. 12:24).
This covenant is an "everlasting covenant" (Heb. 13:20), and is a "better covenant" with "better promises" than the Law of Moses had provided (Heb. 8:6). In short, the Writer of Hebrews was telling them—and he's telling us today—that it's Jesus or it's nothing. Peter said. There is "no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Ac. 4:12, NIV).
The Writer doesn't stop there, however, he doesn't just tell them not to go back, he also encourages them to continue to press forward. He says that because of a lack of faith a generation of Jews was lost in the wilderness. A generation failed to enter into their rest.
Press on! There is a rest for the people of God—a rest from trying to earn our salvation; a rest from the power of sin; and a rest from the fear of falling. There is a rest, but it is a rest that can only be entered by faith (Heb. 4:9-11). And not by works of the flesh lest any man should boast (Eph. 2:9). To enter into that place in our relationship with God where we rest in Him takes an ongoing and consistent exercise of faith.
We cannot play games with God and expect to rest in Him. By "rest" I believe the Writer is talking about a relationship with God that is fulfilling, gratifying and rewarding. It is a life lived in love, and perfect love casts out fear (1 Jn. 4:18).
To give God less than total commitment is to live a miserable, lukewarm, guilt ridden, sin riddled life. Verses 12 and 13 of our text, demonstrate that God knows if we are diligent, if we are sincere, or if we are merely drifting along in a sea of religion.
Look at our text:
I. GOD CUTS THROUGH
“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
This verse is telling us that God cannot be fooled. The Word of God searches our heart, the Word of God cuts through the facade, the fake and the false and reveals who we really are.
When I was in California, the first time I ever visited there, my wife—who had lived there for years—took me to various points of interest. One of the places we went was Universal Studios. We rode around in a tourist buggy and got to see many places where famous movies were made. They have a street that looks like a street in New York City. To stand on the street and look down the row of stores and shops you would think that they had brought New York to California. But these shops and storefronts are something called, "facades." They aren't real; they are just a fake front nailed on to supports behind them. They aren't real stores or shops at all.
Sometimes we are guilty of building up facades of religion. On the outside it looks like, sounds like, and smells like Christianity but what if we get behind the Sunday smile and handshake? What if we take a look at what is going on in our heart? What will we find there?
The Writer is telling us that this is what the Word of God does, it gets behind the front and finds what we thought no one would ever see. The Word of God is the scalpel that God uses to do spiritual surgery on our soul
The Word of God is sharp like a sword and it cuts into the core of our being and discerns (or discovers) what our true desires and intentions are.
I am always amazed at how God uses the preached Word to do His work. Time after time I have stood to preach, not knowing what was going on someone’s life, only to have that person come to me and tell me that I read their mail. I didn’t do it. This is the power of the Word of God. God said through the prophet Isaiah:
11So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11, KJV)
We can fool other people. In fact, we can even deceive ourselves; but we cannot fool God. His spiritual scalpel keeps digging until it finds the source of a lack of commitment; it digs past soul and spirit, past bone and morrow until it reaches the very "thoughts and intents of the heart." Our very thoughts, our meditations, and even our intentions are laid bare by the Word of God. He knows our thoughts afar off. He knows what we are thinking, while we are still trying to think it.
Sometimes this spiritual surgery hurts. But God loves us enough to cut through all the excuses and all the reasons we give until He gets to the source and then He pulls it up before our eyes and says, "This is the problem—lack of devotion, lack of commitment, not willing to sacrifice—this is the problem. Now what do you want to do about it?"
II. GOD SEES THROUGH
Verse 13 says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”
This verse tells us that we cannot escape the issue. We cannot deny the problem or hide it from the eyes of God. No creature is hidden from His sight, "all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account."
The words "naked and open" are used in other Greek writing to describe a man who has been captured in battle and is being paraded through the streets nude. The word "open" literally means, "to seize by the throat," it is from the same root word that we get the word trachea from.
The tendency is for the captured or guilty man to hang his head and refuse to look into the eyes of his captor. So in an attempt to force the conquered enemy to face the victor, and to keep him from looking down or away, the hands of the captive man were bound behind his back and his head was pulled back and tied in such a way that he could not hide his face. He was forced to look into the eyes of those who had captured him.
All too often, when we have failed God, we attempt to hide our failure from God by wrapping ourselves in our works, in our family, or in good deeds. On Judgment Day some will come to Christ and say, "Lord, we healed the sick and cast out demons in your name. We have done many good works and given many day and dollars to the church. We fed the poor, we taught a class, we served on boards and committees!" And yet, if they come with unconfessed sin in their life, the filthy rags of self-righteousness will be ripped away and the fiery gaze of a Holy and Just God will look upon their nakedness. His words will be, "Depart! I never knew you!"
Those who have tried to hide in the church, who have hid behind the hymn book, the check book, or the membership book, will be forced to see themselves as God see them.
I must confess that there have been times in my life when I have failed God so miserably that the only thing I wanted to do was to hide my face. I was afraid to admit my sin, much less ask forgiveness. But then God's Holy Spirit led me back to church somewhere and the preacher would begin to speak. And there I stood, naked before the eyes of Him to whom I must give an account. I was naked before God with my head pulled back and I was forced to look into the eyes of Him whom I had wounded afresh.
Ashamed and naked before God I could only plead for His mercy and His forgiveness. And thank God I found both mercy and forgiveness every time I asked.
III. GOD READS THROUGH
Verse thirteen also contains a bookkeeping metaphor. The words, "with whom we have to do" are translated, "Him to whom we must give an account" in several other versions of the Bible.
The imagery changes, then, to a man whose financial dealings are being investigated and the books are laid open in front of the one to whom we must give an account. Nothing can be hid. God will audit our lives and if we persist in sin and refuse to allow the blood of Christ to purge us afresh, then the verdict will not be, "Paid In Full." Instead, the verdict will be, "Payment due in full!" For the blood of Christ trampled underfoot, "Payment due!" For sin committed and not confessed and forgiven, "Payment due!" For sins of commission, for sins of omission, the verdict for any sin which has not been plunged beneath the crimson flow the verdict will be, "Payment due in full, and the wages of sin is death! Depart! I never knew you!"
If in the process of the probing of the Word, we find ourselves lacking; if, when we have been stripped of pride and religious facades we find a need for a fresh touch, verse 16 says, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need."
IV. GOD REACHES THROUGH
Look at verses 15 and 16: “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need"(KJV).
A minister has not faithfully executed his office if he leaves the patient flayed on the spiritual operating room table. God doesn't just strip us and leave us. When God has finished, if we respond to His Word and to the touch of the Holy Spirit, He will heal us. He will clothe us in robes of righteousness, and He will stamp "Paid in full" across the pages of our life. But this doesn't take place unless we proceed to the throne of grace.
Thank God, He touches us! He reaches through our failures and our fears, and His healing hand tenderly mends the broken hearted. You can never go so far that His hand cannot reach you. He said that His hand is not short, that it cannot save.
His holy nail pierced hand will reach down into the miry clay of your sins and pull you out, pick you up and clean you up. He will plant your feet on the solid foundation, and He will put a new song in your heart that no devil in hell can steal.
I don’t like those little gowns. I don’t like being exposed. But I do like feeling better. I do like it when surgeon reattaches my tendons so that I use my hand again. I do like it when he or she removes the diseased gallbladder and removes the pain in my side. I don’t like the surgery, but I like to feel better, I like be healed. So apparently there is a reason for that little gown, and a reason why we have to face that exposure. It gives the surgeon access to the area that needs attention.
Is there an area in your life today that needs God’s attention? Has God's Word probed your heart today? Has the Word discerned an attitude or intent of the heart that you know is not pleasing to the Lord? Is there something in your life that is causing you pain? We all stand naked before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
We cannot hide from God. We can only look into the face of Lamb who died for us, and is right now alive at the right hand of the Father to intercede for us, and say, “Help me Jesus. I don’t want to hurt anymore.”
Look into the eyes of a loving Father and hear Him call to you, "Come home, come home, you who are weary from trying to hide in the church, you who are weary from religion without relationship, come home and enter into your perfect rest."