I once wrote a 31-day prayer guide for people groups in East Africa. Missionaries who worked among different groups shared prayer requests with me, telling me of the cultures and traditions and beliefs of the people they served. One of the most iconic of these groups believed there was one god whose eye was the sun, and only the religious leader of the tribe could approach him. That person served as a mediator between this god and the people.
The people often lived in fear of this leader and sought to please him in many ways. Of course, even if they were able to appease him today, they had to try again tomorrow.
It was heartbreaking to me and always brought to mind 1 Timothy 2:5, which says:
“For there is one God and one mediator between god and mankind, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”
Those beautiful people had the right idea, but the wrong intercessor.
You see, we do need someone to go before the Lord for us. We’re simply not worthy of doing so ourselves.
In the Old Testament, God’s law established priests who served before him and offered sacrifices on behalf of the people. Daily sacrifices and yearly. Over and over again.
It was a beautiful picture of God’s provision. He wanted a relationship with his people; priests and sacrifices made that relationship possible.
But it wasn’t always close. The people approached their loving God with fear. One man entered his presence one day a year. Often, the people followed the rituals, but their hearts just weren’t in them. They got washed on the outside, but nothing changed on the inside.
So God said, “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah…This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Hebrews 8:8-10)
He had a plan to do things differently.
Oh, the people still needed a sacrifice so God sent a Great High Priest.
Hebrews 7:27 tell us that “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”
Jesus’ sacrifice is all we need. It is sufficient for all our sin.
Just like the other high priests, who offered sacrifices then entered the holy place to serve the Lord, after offering his sacrifice, Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven” and “serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle, set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.” (Hebrews 8:1-2)
So, Christ is there, serving God, but what does that mean to us? What makes him different than any other priest?
3 Characteristics of the Priesthood of Christ
- His Sacrifice is Complete. Did you notice that Christ “sat down” at the right hand of the throne? His work was done. Our sins have been forgiven because of his sacrifice, and “where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Hebrews 10:18) Jesus has already made the only sacrifice we’ll ever need. It is sufficient for all our sins.
- The Great High Priest is Sympathetic. From the moment Jesus took his first breath as a baby boy, he was walking a path that led straight to the cross, but he was walking it. He faced the struggles and temptations of life on earth just like we do, except he never sinned. He knows how we feel because “he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest.” (Hebrews 3:17)
- His Priesthood is Eternal. Throughout the history of Israel, priests came and went. They lived; they died. They couldn’t serve forever because they didn’t live forever. Jesus does, and “because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:24-25)
3 Ways the The Great High Priest Changes Our Lives
Guilt does not govern us.
Hebrews 9:13-14 says, “The blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
I have a friend who often tells me, “Jesus died for your guilt!” It’s her way of reminding me that when Jesus took my sins to the cross, he took my guilt with them. I don’t have to carry it around. The fact my sins are forgiven frees me from the guilt I feel. I can walk in obedience to Christ and serve him because he’s set me free.
But, I don’t always live like it. I don’t imagine I’m the only one. We tend to keep a vice grip on guilt that should be long gone. It keeps us from serving the Lord because we’re “not good enough.” “If people only knew…” the things in our pasts, they would avoid us like the plague.
Do you hear those lies? Don’t listen to them. Step forward in faith because:
Christ gives us confidence.
When we let go of guilt, we can move forward in faith with confidence because of who Christ is and what he did for us. First, we can have confidence in our relationship with him. Hebrews 10:22 says, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
Do you hear that? Because of Christ, we can approach God, and we can do it with confidence. We don’t have to come before him like I imagine Queen Esther approached the king, full of fear that he’d turn her away. We can approach God knowing we are welcome because of Christ.
We can also walk in confidence with each other. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
So often we see other moms, other people, as competition. When we are confident in Christ, we don’t have to compare ourselves to them. We can encourage others because we don’t fear their successes somehow lessen ours. We can also encourage them in hard times because:
In Christ, we have the help we need.
Because of the fact that Jesus knows firsthand what life on earth is like, we can trust him to help us in our times of need. Hebrews 2:18 says, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Often, however, we want to hide when we face temptation. We’re ashamed to admit it…even to God.
The thing is we don’t have to be ashamed because Christ knows exactly how we feel. Of course, he not only faced temptation, he overcame it.
After all, “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have on who has been tempted in every way – just as we are – yet did not sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16)
I don’t know what you need today, but I do know where you can find it. Take your temptations, your trials, your troubles to the one who “always lives to intercede for” us. (Hebrews 7:25)
I hope you’ll join us for Encouraging Word Wednesday by sharing a link or two below! I’d love to read and share your latest faith-filled, encouraging posts!