Christ Our Perfect Priest

March 17, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Hebrews 7 |

Series:

Christ Our Perfect Priest | Hebrews 7
Brian Hedges | March 17, 2024

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Hebrews 7.

Difficult books often yield a greater satisfaction than the easier forms of entertainment that we are accustomed to. You can get a quick dopamine hit by scrolling through your phone or by watching a YouTube video, but if you actually take the time to work through a more difficult piece of literature, it will repay richer rewards over time.

I remember years ago when I read Charles Dickens’ wonderful novel A Tale of Two Cities. Many of you have read this. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,” and so on. Those are the wonderful opening lines of this classic piece of literature.

I read this many years ago, and when I started reading it I didn’t quite understand what was going on. Every chapter seemed to introduce a different plot line, and I didn’t see how they would tie together. It was difficult to read because it’s an older book, written in 1859. The plot was complicated. But about two thirds of the way in, I started to see how all of these different threads begin to weave together into a coherent, connected story. It was like a tapestry was being woven before my eyes, and it was a deeply satisfying experience. It was worth all the effort, all the hours that had gone into reading that book in the weeks and months before, however long it took.

In contrast to that, I’ve experienced lots of entertainment in my life—probably much more than I should have—and most of it I’ve forgotten. I still remember A Tale of Two Cities.

In a similar way, I want to suggest to you that some of the books of the Bible, even though they are very difficult for us to grapple with and understand, they repay this kind of rich, satisfying reward to those who will spend the labor, spend the effort to dig into them. Hebrews is one of those books.

Today in Hebrews 7 we come to one of the most difficult parts of this book, and I want to encourage you to put your thinking caps on this morning and to remember that one of the benefits of working through books of the Bible, through sequential, expository teaching, is that it forces us to look at texts like this, which are texts that you may not spend much time on in your devotional life.

I’m going to acknowledge right now that this is not going to be a simple, easy, felt-need kind of message, with two or three points and two or three stories and easy application. That’s not what this kind of message is. This is the kind of message and the kind of chapter that requires a little more work, a little more effort on each of our parts, but it’s worth the effort. So I want to encourage you to pay attention and listen prayerfully and with your Bibles open as we dig into this wonderful chapter in Hebrews 7.

This really brings us to about the halfway point in the book. We’ll take a break next week as we enter into Holy Week. But today we’re looking at this whole chapter. It has twenty-eight verses, and because it’s so long, the way I want to approach it is this way: I want to give you the structure of the passage and then read through the first twenty-two verses with you, with a little bit of commentary along the way, and then we’re going to focus on the last paragraph.

The passage can be divided into these three sections. It’s all about the priesthood of Christ, and it deals first of all with the pattern of Christ’s priesthood in Hebrews 7:1-10.

(1) The main point is that Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek. Melchizedek is this figure from the Old Testament, from Genesis 14, mentioned only one other time in the Old Testament (Psalm 110), and the author to the Hebrews has already brought Melchizedek up. He’s already said that Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek—twice; once in Hebrews 5, once in Hebrews 6. Now he’s continuing with that thought as he’s giving us something like a theological exposition of the priesthood of Christ, grounded in part in Psalm 110:4. That’s the first thing in this chapter.

(2) Secondly, this chapter is showing us the superiority of Christ’s priesthood in Hebrews 7:11-22. Here the main point is that Jesus’ priesthood is better than the priesthood in the Old Testament. That’s the theme of this letter: Jesus is better. He’s better in every way, and one specific way that the author to the Hebrews really wants to drive home is that he is a better priest.

(3) Thirdly, in the last part of this chapter you have the necessity and the sufficiency of Christ’s priesthood. Here the author is driving home this main point, that Jesus’ priesthood is both necessary and sufficient. As we read in Hebrews 7:26 in the NIV, “Jesus is such a high priest, who truly meets our needs.”

Listen, whether you realize it or not this morning, you need a priest, and you need a priest like Jesus. This chapter is showing you why you need a priest like Jesus and why Jesus is the supreme and better priest, better than any other priest you could ever want.

Now, we’re going to work through the first twenty-two verses, reading with a little bit of commentary as we go, and then focus on that last paragraph. So let’s begin in Hebrews 7:1, and here we’re seeing the pattern of Christ’s priesthood. He is a priest like Melchizedek.

“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him [that’s in Genesis 14], and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness [that’s what the name Melchizedek means], and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.”

The main point here is that Jesus is a priest like Melchizedek. Melchizedek resembles the Son of God. They’re not equivalent—Melchizedek is not a preincarnate Christ—but there’s an analogy between the two. Melchizedek was a priest, he was a king, he was a king of peace and righteousness; and his priesthood was not based on being a Levite. There’s no genealogy recorded of Melchizedek. In the same way, now, the author wants to make the point that Jesus is a priest the basis of whose priesthood is not his connection to Levi.

Look at verse 4: “See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!” In the next few verses he’s trying to make this simple point that the priest Melchizedek was greater than the levitical priests, and he does it like this. You can think of it in this diagram.

He’s showing us that Melchizedek was greater than Abraham, seen in the fact that Melchizedek blessed Abraham, and Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. So Melchizedek is greater than Abraham. Abraham, of course, was greater than Levi; Levi is one of the Abraham’s descendants. Abraham is the ancestor, he’s the father of the whole nation. Melchizedek is greater than Abraham, Abraham is greater than Levi, Levi was greater than the Old Testament priests, who were all descendents of him.

The author is essentially saying that through Abraham even the priests paid tithes to Melchizedek. So Melchizedek is the greater priest. That’s the focus of Hebrews 7:5-10. Let’s read it.

“And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers, though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.”

Melchizedek is a greater priest than the Levites.

Then we come to the second section, and now he’s drawing the connections to Christ, showing us that Christ is a greater priest than the Old Testament priests. It’s all about the superiority of Christ’s priesthood. The focus here in Hebrews 7:11-22 is that Jesus is appointed as a better priest who introduced a better hope and is the guarantor of a better covenant. Pick up in verse 11.

“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.”

See the issue here. Jesus was not a Levite; Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, and yet he’s called a priest. So what’s the basis of his priesthood, and why is this priesthood better than the weak and insufficient and temporary priesthood of the Levites?

Hebrews 7:15:

“This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.”

The point here is Jesus was appointed as a better priest, not because of his connection to Levi but because of his indestructible life—probably a reference here to his resurrection from the dead.

Verse 17:

“For it is witnessed of him,

‘You are a priest forever,
after the order of Melchizedek’ [quoting Psalm 110:4].

“For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect).”

Remember, his main point here is to show the superiority of Christ’s priesthood to the priesthood of the old covenant. That’s one reason he underscores the weakness and the imperfection of the law. This is one of the main thrusts of Hebrews. Jesus is better, the new covenant that Jesus brings is better—he’s better than everything that happened in the old.

Verse 19: “(For the law made nothing perfect), but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” He’s a better priest and he introduces a better covenant.

Then the author comes back here to God’s oath. If you were here last week you’ll remember that Hebrews 6 made much of the oath. The promise was given, but the promise is sealed with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things God confirms the promise. The promise and the oath. And now he brings in an oath again to show that the priesthood of Jesus and his appointment to this priesthood was done with an oath. See it in verse 20.

“And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath [that is, the Levites], but this one [Jesus] was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

‘The Lord has sworn
and will not change his mind,
“You are a priest forever.”’”

Again, he’s quoting Psalm 110:4. And here’s the conclusion in verse 22: “This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.”

So, Jesus is a better priest who has introduced a better hope and is the guarantor—a word that appears only here in the New Testament, but it’s a word that carries the idea of someone who stands in, guaranteeing that he’ll cover the legal responsibilities of another. That’s Jesus. He’s the guarantor of a better covenant.

Okay, that’s Hebrews 7:1-22. Take a deep breath. That was a lot. I know that was a lot. Let’s pause for application, because some of you quit listening about halfway through that. Some of you have given up on the Old Testament, and maybe you’ve given up on really studying the Bible for yourself.

It may be that you’ve tried to work on these harder parts of Scripture and you found them too difficult, so you just quit. When we study things like this together as a church, you kind of tune out in those parts, and you’re waiting for the part of the sermon that addresses something you’re already interested in. Essentially, you’re waiting to be spoon-fed instead of actually engaging your mind in digging in and doing the hard mental work that is necessary to understand the word of God. Anytime the sermon gets too teaching-heavy or leans into theology or feels too academic or technical, you’re just checking out, and you’re just waiting for the story, the illustration, or the application point that comes on the screen.

When we do this, brothers and sisters, we are being spiritually slothful or dull of hearing, which is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews said in Hebrews 5! He said, “I want to get to chapter 7; I want to tell you more about Jesus, who is a priest like Melchizedek. I can’t do it because you’re dull of hearing, so you need milk instead of solid food.”

But here’s the solid food. Hebrews 7 is the solid food. We spent three weeks talking about dealing with the problems of spiritual dullness of hearing and not falling away and laying hold of the hope that’s set before us; but here we are. It’s the solid food. Are you leaving your fork on the table, not giving any effort to cut the steak into a digestible piece so that you can actually eat it? Is that how you engage the word of God?

If so, here’s the exhortation for us. Part of being a disciple is being a learner. That’s what a disciple means. A disciple is a learner; a disciple is a student—a learner of Jesus and a student of the word.

As students—any student knows this—the student does not set the teaching agenda. As students of Jesus and students of the word of God, we don’t set the teaching agenda. The word of God sets the teaching agenda. If we’re not paying attention, we’re not only being spiritually lazy, but we’re missing the very things that the Spirit-inspired author of God’s word knows is going to enrich us and help us grow and give us spiritual strength and fortitude and grace in our lives. He knows these things are important for us. He wants us to know that Jesus is a priest, he’s this kind of priest (a priest like Melchizedek), he’s a better priest, brings a better hope, a better covenant, and this is necessary for us.

We’re going to see why it’s necessary in Hebrews 7:23-28. Here’s the rest of the sermon. I want you to see four reasons why we need Christ’s better priesthood. All of that was just introduction, okay; this is the sermon. There are four reasons why we need Christ’s better priesthood. You need everything that happens in verses 1-22 to get what you get in verses 23-28. We’re going to see four things:

1. Salvation
2. Intercession
3. Communion
4. Perfection

1. Salvation

Look at Hebrews 7:23-25. It says,

“The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but 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.”

Because Jesus is this kind of priest—a priest who lives forever, a priest on the basis of his indestructible, resurrection life—because he’s this kind of priest, he’s able to save to the uttermost. This is what a priest does. A priest brings salvation, Hebrews 5:9. He has become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Why? Because he’s a priest like Melchizedek. You wouldn’t get salvation if Jesus wasn’t a priest like Melchizedek. That’s how important it is. You need this kind of priest if you want salvation.

Notice the way this is described. This isn’t just barely saved; he says he’s able to save to the uttermost. That has to be one of the best phrases in all the Bible, “He’s able to save to the uttermost.” Or NIV, “He’s able to save completely.” Or New Living Translation, “He’s able once and forever to save those who come to God through him.” Or the NRSV, “He’s able to save for all time those who approach God through him.” Those are a couple of different ideas, and they really all belong together.

I’ll let the Puritan John Owen explain. He says, “The word may have a double sense [talking about this word uttermost, it may have a double sense] for it may respect the perfection of the work or its duration.” He essentially says both are included.

“He is able to save completely as to all parts, fully as to all causes, and forever in duration. [Now listen to this.] Whatever hindrances and difficulties lie in the way of the salvation of believers, whatever oppositions rise against it, the Lord Christ is able by virtue and by exercise of his priestly office to carry the work through all difficulties to eternal perfection.”

He doesn’t do 50 percent of the work and then you do the other 50 percent. He doesn’t do 90 percent of the work and then you kick in the last 10 percent. He doesn’t do 99 percent and then you do 1 percent. He doesn’t do 99.9 percent and you do the .1 percent. He does it all. He saves completely. He saves forever. He doesn’t save you and keep you saved for ten thousand years and then you drop into hell. He saves you forever, for eternity. Why, and how does he do it? He does it because he is this kind of priest. This is practical.

Listen, here’s the application. Are you more focused today—right now, this week—are you more focused on your failures than on the finished work of Jesus Christ? Some of you believe Jesus’ perfect, priestly work is what secures your salvation. You believe it, intellectually. But in your emotional, everyday life, you are absorbed and dwelling on your failures and not looking to him. You’re looking at the sins you committed in the last week; you’re looking at your character defects and your weaknesses; you’re constantly focused on yourself; you’re not looking at the priest; you’re not thinking about what Jesus has done and is doing. You’re mostly looking at yourself feeling disappointed in yourself, consumed in yourself, and it’s hindering you in your spiritual life because you don’t really grasp emotionally the significance that Jesus is a priest who saves completely. Listen, brothers and sisters: look to Jesus Christ, the priest who saves to the uttermost.

2. Intercession

He not only saves, he also intercedes. Point number two is intercession. Here’s the second reason why you need the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Hebrews 7:25, “He always lives to make intercession for them [and for us].”

This is describing for us Jesus’ continuing priestly work. Okay? His priestly work on the cross, offering an atoning sacrifice for our sins, was accomplished in history once and for all. That’s done. But his priestly work isn’t done. His priestly work continues, because he continues to intercede in heaven. He prays. He speaks to the Father on your behalf, and he does it right now.

And this has got to be one of the greatest sources of comfort to a believer—to know that whatever you’re going through, in every moment of every day of your life, Jesus is at the right hand of God interceding for you. We read it already this morning. Romans 8:34, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died; more than that, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Sometimes we sing these words:

“Before the throne of God above
I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great high priest whose name is love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

“My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart.
I know that while in heaven he stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart.”

Let me ask you this morning—does your prayer life reflect the confidence of knowing Jesus prays for you? When you get on your knees to pray, or you walk and pray, or sit in your chair after reading your Bible and you pray, does it ever occur to you, that before you ever say, “Our Father,” Jesus is already there praying for you? And he’s been praying for you every moment since the last time you bowed your head to pray. And that will give you confidence.

What does that look like? It means that it gives us boldness to come to the throne of grace, and to come to the throne of grace even when we feel guilty, or ashamed, or otherwise disinclined to come. And I think, so often, instead of coming with this humble, child-like faith, confidently depending on Christ, our priest, who gives us access to the presence of God, we come instead trying to put on our best, religious, professional face. We think we have to use certain kinds of spiritual-sounding language. We think we’ve got to be in a certain state of mind or heart. And essentially, instead of bringing our real selves into the presence of God, we come with a false self. We come with a mask. Or maybe we should say we come with fig leaves. We’re just repeating Adam and Eve in the garden. We’re trying to cover our shame with our own works, or our own making or doing, instead of depending on the fact that our priest has already done the work and he’s interceding for us right now.

Listen, if Jesus is our intercessor, if as our priest he never stops pleading on our behalf, that means we can come as we really are. We can be honest, we can be vulnerable in our weakness, in our guilt, in our need, and we can do it because we have confidence that we have a friend in heaven who speaks to the Father—the Father who loves us, by the way, and who sent his Son to do his will, to save us from our sins. We have Jesus, we have the Father in heaven, and the Spirit indwelling our hearts, all seeking to bring us into fellowship with him.

3. Communion

That leads us to point three, communion. Here I want you to focus on just these two words in Hebrews 7:25, “draw near.” “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.” It’s recalling verse 19, where the writer says that a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God.

It’s an important word in Hebrews, “draw near.” It’s used six times in this way in the letter. It’s a phrase that describes our communion with God, our relationship with God. Our walk with God should be understood in terms of us drawing near to him and him drawing near to us.

There was a man in the nineteenth century who was a Hungarian Jewish man whose family lived in Budapest, and they were Jewish people. They came to faith in Jesus Christ through the mission of the Free Church of Scotland. Robert Murray M’Cheyne, Andrew Bonar, and some of these guys were connected with that mission. And when they came to Hungary to preach Christ, Adolph Saphir’s father became a Christian, and young Adolph Saphir became a Christian and eventually became a pastor, a commentator—wrote a commentary on Hebrews.

But he wrote a wonderful little book on communion with God. It’s called The Hidden Life: Thoughts on Communion with God, one of the best pieces of devotional literature I’ve ever read. And he talks about this phrase, “drawing near to God,” or “drawing nigh to God” is his language. He says,

“Drawing [near] to God is the most comprehensive expression to describe the soul’s attitude towards God. Prayer is the culminating point of this attitude. Drawing [near] to God describes the character of the Christian life. In the meditation of our hearts, and the desires of our souls, and the activities and enjoyments of our daily path, we approach God, for we wish to live before him, conscious of his presence, in constant dependence and in constant enjoyment of his grace.”

That’s what it means to draw near to God.

What about you—have you learned to draw near to God like that? Or do you keep him at arm's length? I think many of us, though we intellectually believe in God, emotionally we don’t engage with God the way we do with a close friend. You know, some of you, if you have a very close friend—or you might even think of your spouse if you have a good marriage—there is an inclination in your heart to share yourself, to open your heart, to open yourself up to the other so that there is a free exchange of thoughts and ideas and experiences. There is a shared common language and affection. You’re able to look in the eyes of a friend or a loved one and know that you are unconditionally loved and accepted. You draw close in that relationship, and you’re pained in your heart when there is an estrangement, when you don’t have that, when there’s something between you and your spouse or there’s something between you and your best friend or there’s something between you and a brother or sister in Christ. Your heart is grieved by that, and you want to fix it.

Is there anything corresponding with that in your relationship with God? Or does God seem distant to you? I think the reality is that some of us have set up emotional barriers in our walk with the Lord. And if words like sweet, close, intimate, comforting, tender—if those words don’t describe your relationship with God, it may be because, either your relationship with God is too infrequent—you’re just not spending time with him—or it’s too intellectual and you haven’t really brought your emotions into it. Remember, we’re called to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And the intellect is important. That’s why we do things like this—taking apart Hebrews 7. But it’s not just about the head and the theology and the intellect, it’s also about bringing your heart to the Lord, drawing near to him and loving him with all you are.

And I want you to know, dear friends, that a deep, trusting, soul-satisfying relationship with God is possible for you. It is possible for you. It is possible for your heart to be filled with overflowing joy as you walk away from your prayer time with the Lord and then continue on with the Lord in a prayerful spirit through the day. That’s possible. And some of you know it. Some of you walk in that and have for many years. Some of you have only splashed on the shores of that, you’ve never really dived into the deeps. The priesthood of Christ means that you can draw near to God. You can live in communion and fellowship with God.

Salvation, Intercession, Communion, and then, finally, Perfection.

4. Perfection

Perfection is a theme in Hebrews and it’s a theme in this chapter. Verses 11 and 28 kind of form an inclusio with this word “perfect” or “perfection.” So Hebrews 7:11 says,

“Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there be for another priest to rise after the order of Melchizedek?”

So there’s no perfection in the law, right? But look at Hebrews 7:28, the last verse of this chapter.

“For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.”

The perfection of the priest. This word perfection or perfect really means the idea of complete and sufficient. That’s the idea. Jesus is not only a necessary priest, he is a sufficient priest. He is a complete priest. He's a priest that accomplishes everything we could ever need or want, and you get a summary of that perfection in verses 26 and 27. In Hebrews 7:26 you see his perfect character.

“For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.”

Unlike the priests in the Old Testament that were imperfect, morally flawed, and even in the best cases they died, Jesus is a priest who is absolutely perfect, no moral flaws whatsoever. He is holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and he lives forever. Right? He is exalted to the heavens. He lives forever. Perfect character in a priest. But not only that, he also has offered a perfect sacrifice. Look at Hebrews 7:27.

“He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily.”

This is the deal with the priests in the Old Testament. Every day they have to offer a sacrifice—every day, every morning, every night. And then once a year on the Day of Atonement and many other times with other ceremonies and festivals and so on, it was just constant offering sacrifices. Not for Jesus. For Jesus it was just one time. Verse 27,

“He has no need like those high priests to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”

Hebrews 9 and 10 are really going to expand on this idea. One sacrifice. One time. And it’s done. It’s complete. A perfect sacrifice from the perfect priest, and (get this), that in its application to us makes us a perfect people. Hebrews 10:14,

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

Because Jesus is this priest and because he’s done everything that he has done, if you are connected to him, united to him by faith, you are perfected for all time through Christ.

Brothers and sisters, this can shape the way we think. It can shape the way you think about yourself.

Here’s an application: does your self-talk reflect the twin truths that you are both in the process of being sanctified, and already perfect, or complete, in Christ? When we grasp this it changes the way we think about ourselves.

All of us have self-talk. You talk to yourself. Maybe not out loud; you might think that’s weird. Or maybe you do talk out loud. I talk out loud to myself. I know it is weird, but I do. You do, maybe not out loud, but internally there’s a monologue going on in your head as you’re saying stuff about yourself to yourself. And you may be saying things like, “You know, that was really stupid. You shouldn’t have done that. You’re such a failure. You’re such a loser. Why can’t you get your act together? Why did you do that again? Oh man, that was dumb. Everybody must think that you are so dumb.” That’s the self-talk. That’s the running monologue going on in some of your heads. Not a healthy way to talk about yourself to yourself.

Some of you are on the other end of the extreme. You do make mistakes and you never acknowledge it to yourself or anybody else. You just kind of live in blissful ignorance as a narcissist, and you think you’re just all that, and you’re not. If you know that Jesus is the kind of priest who’s perfect and has offered a perfect sacrifice and who is making you into the person he wants you to be, you get a healthy balance of honest, optimistic realism in your self-talk. It’s honest and it’s realistic because you see that you’re still in progress. You are able to face your imperfections. You’re able to say, “I’m being sanctified, but I’m not all the way there. I’m forgiven. I’m changed. I’m not what I used to be, but I’m not who I’m going to be in the future. I’m in process.” And you can face up to your sins and to your failures and mistakes. You can be honest.

That’s realism, and that’s good, but you’re not paralyzed by it. Instead there’s an optimism, because you know that you are being sanctified and you’re already perfect in Christ. “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” You see it? I mean, both things are true at the same time. You’re already perfect in Christ and you’re being sanctified. Honest about yourself, optimistic about the future because you know that Jesus is your perfection and he will finish the work that he has begun.

Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is the perfect priest, the perfect priest-king, who, like Melchizedek, was appointed with God’s oath to act on our behalf. His priesthood is superior to that of the old covenant, and he is able to save completely those who draw near to God through him because he always lives to make intercession for us.

Have you drawn near to God through Christ? Have you trusted his salvation? Are you leaning on his intercession? Are you living in communion with God? And are you thinking about yourself and your life within the context of the perfect work of Jesus Christ? Is your relationship with God marked by bold confidence and joy?

I want to just end with Charles Wesley. I’ve been reading eighteenth century stuff because of the church history class tonight. It’s mostly eighteenth century. Charles Wesley, one of the greatest hymn writers of all time wrote this wonderful hymn all about the priestly work of Jesus Christ. These are the words. He says,

“Arise, my soul, arise,
Shake off thy guilty fears.
The bleeding Sacrifice
In my behalf appears.
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

“He ever lives above,
For me to intercede;
His all-redeeming love,
His precious blood to plead,
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

“Five bleeding wounds He bears,
Received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers,
They strongly plead for me.
‘Forgive him, O, forgive,’ they cry,
‘Nor let that ransomed sinner die!’

“The Father hears Him pray,
His dear Anointed One;
He cannot turn away
The presence of His Son.
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

“My God is reconciled,
His pard'ning voice I hear;
He owns me for a child,
I can no longer fear.
With confidence I now draw nigh,
and, ‘Father, Abba, Father,’ cry.”

Let’s pray.

Father God, how we thank you for your mercy and your grace. How we thank you for Jesus, our perfect priest, his perfect life, his perfect sacrifice. How we thank you that Jesus now intercedes for us at your right hand, for the confidence that this can give us in relationship with you to draw close to you, to walk with you, to know you, to live in deep, personal fellowship with you. O Lord, may this be true in our lives this week.

Lord, would you work in our hearts what is necessary for these realities to be experienced? Would you work in our minds and help us repent of our spiritual laziness that keeps us from digging in to the hard truths of Scripture that are there to nourish us like solid food nourishes a mature body? And Lord, would you help us take these truths we’ve thought about this morning, digest them, apply them to our hearts and to our lives so that we will live in these realities?

Lord, there’s no greater time for that heart work to take place than right now as we come to the Lord’s table, as we come to take the bread and the juice, the very emblems of the atoning sacrifice of the priest who’s given himself for us once and for all. As we take the bread and the juice, may we do so with the deep confidence that Christ’s finished work is sufficient for everything, that there is not a temptation, there is not a sin, there’s not a trial, there’s not a weakness, there’s not a moral defect within us that's not covered by the sacrificial work of Christ. And in drawing near to you, Lord, would you draw near to us? Fill us with your Spirit and with the sweet confidence that comes from knowing that we are reconciled to a gracious, loving father. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.