Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV) 14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
The Bible continually urges believers to elevate the fear of the LORD above every other concern in our lives. Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Pr. 1:7) and wisdom (Pr. 9:10). We are to serve and fear only the LORD, clinging to his every word (Deut. 13:4). The LORD revealed himself to his people as “I AM the LORD” (Ex. 6:2), which established a unique and special relationship between He and his people. Only his called ones had access to his presence.
In chapter 4, the author of the book of Hebrews invokes this special relationship, now fully consummated through the ministry of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, to call us to enter God’s throne room with confidence. We foster the fear of the Lord through a lifestyle of worship that is predicated on Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf.
• What do you think it means to live our everyday life with God’s throne in view?
• Are there areas of your life where you need to worship with God-given, God-enabled confidence?
Let’s worship to the song “Yours (Glory and Praise)” (click here), performed by Elevation Worship.
14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.
Let’s watch the video testimony of Jamie Torres (click here).
As we saw in the video, there was a complete transformation from the “old” Jamie to the “new” Jamie. Ironically, it was only in prison that he experienced true freedom! Romans 8:15 says that, through the Holy Spirit, we have been delivered from slavery to fear into adoption to sonship. Can you imagine a more drastic change of identity?
We often find that we allow habits and thought patterns of the “old” way of slavery to motivate our decisions. Sometimes, we might see the old identity in our “mental mirror” and begin to remember fears that were associated with that identity. However, the truth is that those fears have no hold on our lives any longer; we are completely free.
Prayer: “Abba, Father!” Come deliver me again into your freedom – body, mind and soul. Holy Spirit, I invite you to testify in my heart and in my mind that I am a child of God. Today, lead me as a child of God in everything I do. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
1 But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
Isaiah 43:1-2 is spoken to the people of Israel who have experienced exile from the homeland. They now live as aliens and strangers in a foreign land. It is difficult to imagine the kinds of fears and difficulties they must have faced as they tried to remain faithful to the Lord.
Yet what they found was that God was pursuing them the entire time! In fact, he was reminding them of the story of his faithfulness throughout their history – redemption from slavery, crossing the Red Sea into freedom, and much more. But the most important promise the Lord made was that he would be with them through everything.
Have you ever experienced that feeling that you are a “stranger in a foreign land?”
What kinds of thoughts went through your mind?
The amazing truth is that we are protected from the burning fires of this world by the fire of the Lord. Let’s worship to the song “Here Again” (click here), performed by Jesus Culture.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
As Christians, when we begin to live in this joy – because of the nearness of God, and through prayer and thanksgiving; God’s greater plan becomes activated in our lives. Not only do the concerns of our lives no longer become stresses or worries, and not only are we able to deal with those concerns with responsibility, gentleness, flexibility and nobility, this joy overflows to the world around us. This joy – this rejoicing – is not only an inward activity, but it becomes a public declaration.
In rejoicing in the midst of our life concerns, we can become that friend to a brother or sister who is buried under stress. We can be the friend who affirms that God is near, and in doing so we find that we are stepping into God’s greater and grander design. We are stepping into his plans, into His story.
Let’s ask that God’s joy would be put into practice in our lives, and that they would overflow not just so we can navigate the concerns of our life, but that we may be of service to all the people God brings into our lives. May we be as Paul was to the Philippian church.
Let’s worship to the song “Alive In You” (click here) by Jesus Culture and Kim Walker Smith.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Paul encourages us to pray with thanksgiving when faced with stress. In fact, when we are stressed or worried, it’s a signal. When worries appear, it is God’s formal invitation to pray. God is saying: “You and I need to have a talk right now.” Excuse yourself. Take a walk. It is an opportunity to step into conversation with God.
What is your heart response in the midst of all that is happening in your life?
What are practical ways you can respond to God’s invitation to talk while at work or school?
The blueprint for our conversation is one of gratitude. When we come to God with thanksgiving, in the midst of all the concerns of life, we can realize that we have been invited into the greatest joy we can possibly experience: stepping into relationship with Him.
God’s promise to us is that he will be with us – he will protect us and stand guard over us. God doesn’t say that we won’t have concerns. We will. But the promise is that those concerns won’t have us.
Lord, with thanksgiving, we present our requests to you. We won’t be anxious about anything because you promise to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus with the peace only you can give. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Trust In You” (click here) by Lauren Daigle.
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
So often we are too busy to notice that God is right here beside us. Imagine how different we would handle the stresses of our lives if we understood this. Paul is reminding us that the Lord is near even when we’re smothered under the weight of too many tasks, too many expectations, too little finances, too much this, or too little that. The problem isn’t that God isn’t near, it’s that we forget that He is.
We’ve got the order backwards. We will often say: “I trust God, but these bills are overdue.” “I trust God, but my schoolwork is overwhelming me.” “I trust God, but my child is…” and so on. Instead, we can say: “My bills are overdue, but the Lord is near.” “My manager is treating me badly, but the Lord is near.”
What are the tendencies you have in dealing with life’s surprises and difficulties?
What are some statements that you can re-order in your life?
When we know that the God of the universe, our God, who is our Father, our Creator, is with us, we gain the perspective and courage we need to take on the issues of our life, all with a character that is noble, flexible, and gentle.
Lord we surrender our own programs and tactics, and instead step into Your desires for us – Your joy that produces peace, calm and courage to take on the concerns of our life. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Here I Bow” (click here) by Brian & Jenn Johnson.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
When the Apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church, the church was experiencing severe stress and pressure and needed encouragement to make it through. Paul wrote this from prison, he himself under a tremendous amount of stress. Paul’s first line of advice? He said to “Rejoice! I will say it again: Rejoice!” The first step that Paul advises to overcoming stress is the same words that the prophet Habakkuk spoke. This points to God’s design for us: to worship, to follow, and to be with Him — to find our joy in Him.
Gordon Fee says this:
“Joy,” unmitigated, untrammeled joy, is…the distinctive mark of the believer in Christ Jesus…Christian joy is not the temporal kind, which comes and goes with one’s circumstances; rather, it is predicated altogether on one’s relationship with the Lord, and is thus an abiding, deeply spiritual quality of life. It finds expression in “rejoicing,” which is not a Christian option, but an imperative.
This joy comes from a deep knowledge of how things are ordered –
– How are things ordered in your life? If we are being honest, what is primary? What is secondary?
– This joy is also about a certainty; what was Paul so certain about? Are there certainties in your life?
Lord we declare our desire for You to be primary in our lives – for You to take priority, and for Your design to be the standard of rule. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Not Afraid” (click here) by Jesus Culture.
17 Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
The prophet Habakkuk lived in a time when Israel was rife with violence, idolatry and injustice. Added to that was the looming threat of Babylon. He saw his people affected by so many evils and stresses like slavery, starvation and disease, and it drove him to lament to God with all of these concerns. Yet, in the midst of these excruciatingly stressful moments, he arrives at the conclusion to “rejoice” and be “joyful in God my Savior.”
We too experience intense moments of stress in our lives: whether it comes from work, home, relationships or from within. These concerns have real effect on our mental, physical and emotional well-being.
What is the source of stress and worry in your life?
For Habakkuk, what is the response that turns things around for him? What did that look like?
Lord, may you give us a God-given joy when the stresses of life come. Amen
Let’s worship to the song “Here Again” (click here) by Elevation Worship.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (NIV)
Living then, as every one of you does, in pure grace, it’s important that you not misinterpret yourselves as people who are bringing this goodness to God. No, God brings it all to you. The only accurate way to understand ourselves is by what God is and by what he does for us, not by what we are and what we do for him. (MSG)
What is meant by “sober judgment”?
How are we to understand ourselves?
Paul urges us to be sober minded because transformation, renewal of mind, and living restored to God’s design – it is God who brings it all to us. We are called to live fulfilling God’s purpose. This is only possible because the “all” that God has brought to us is all of Himself – and this is His redemptive love!
When we have God’s mind increasing in us, we can view the world through His perspective of redemptive love and learn how to love, making us more fully human as God designed. How great is His mercy!
Let’s respond by offering all of who we are to God, declaring that He alone is worthy!
Prayer: Lord, thank you for your redemptive love. Help us to live in true freedom – loving you and leading others to your redemptive love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Listen and worship to the song, “Is He Worthy?” (click here)
Romans 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (NIV)
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (MSG)
Titus 3:5 (NIV) He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit…
Building our lives on God’s mercy is about real transformation toward thinking and living in God’s design. It is dependent on whether our minds are engaged in an ongoing process of renewal by the Holy Spirit. God gave us a whole new pattern of life and living, therefore our minds must be renewed and not simply readjusted. We don’t have to yield to or live stuck and defeated by negative thoughts. Our minds can be renewed to think what God wants, producing a transformed life marked by freedom and fruitfulness.
In today’s verses:
What is our part in the renewal process of our mind?
What is God’s part?
Prayer: Lord, thank you! I do not have to live stuck and defeated by negative thoughts. I welcome your Holy Spirit to renew my mind as I fix my thoughts on your Word that leads to life and peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.