I want you to turn with me to the book of Hebrews please, the book of Hebrews chapter 7. I only want to read two verses really, I want to take as a heading tonight: 'Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior'. We're reading Hebrews 7 verses 25 and 26: "Wherefore he", that is, the Lord, "is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens".
We'll our end reading there, let's pray together, and let's just quieten our hearts in the Lord's presence. I want you to pray now for yourself, please, that the Lord might attune your ear and your spirit to receive what He has to say. Let's come and just quieten ourselves and get into the attitude of reception. We want to receive from the Lord now, so let's come and - with open hands and with open heart - let's seek His face: Heavenly Father, we come to You in the name of the Lord Jesus. We thank You for the new and living way which He has made through His flesh - the shed-blood pathway right into Your immediate presence. We thank You for the blood. We thank You for the victory of our Lord Jesus at the cross over sin, over Satan, over death. We praise You, Lord, that that victory is the same today as it ever has been. Lord, we want to, now, invoke the presence and power of the Lord Jesus Christ. We know that You are here, Father, we know that the Lord Jesus Christ is here, we know that the Holy Spirit is here - but, Lord, we want to become real to Your presence. We ask now that a real awareness that we are in the midst of God Himself might descend upon our consciousness, that we might be aware that we are having an encounter with the Living, Great 'I AM'. So, Lord, we now recognise that fact - that You are here, You are with us. We are also conscious, Lord, that there are forces of darkness and wickedness that seek to thwart Your influence upon our lives. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we now come against all those powers in Jesus' name, all those ungodly and wicked spirits that would seek to cause doubt and unbelief and confusion in our minds and hearts. Every wicked, ungodly, satanic spirit we rebuke in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we command to be silent and to be bound in this place tonight. By the power of the Gospel, and the name of the Lord Jesus, we ask that the power of Christ may be released in all our lives, in our families, and in this fellowship. For Jesus' sake we pray, Amen.
'Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior' - one of the basic principles of pastoral care is that you never ever say to someone: 'I know exactly how you're feeling', or 'I know exactly what you're going through'. There are at least two reasons for that - some of you might be able to give me more afterwards, but there's at least two that I know of. The first is: you are not them, so you cannot know what someone else is going through, because you're not that individual. Everyone experiences circumstances differently according to their own personality types, their temperament, their life experience in their past - so you cannot say to someone: 'I know exactly what you're going through', because you are not them. A second reason why you can't say that is: no two circumstances are identical. So whilst you may have gone through a similar circumstance, no two circumstances are identical - so you can't say: 'I know exactly what you're going through'.
Now, on those two counts at least - one: you're not those people, so you can't say you know what they're going through; and two: because no two circumstances are identical - I have come to the conclusion that human empathy is impossible in a complete and perfect sense. Now, let there be no misunderstanding. I'm not saying that we cannot empathise with people, we cannot sympathise with people, or we cannot - whenever we have gone through similar circumstances - try to help people. In fact, Scripture bears out that we often go through traumatic circumstances in order that we may comfort others with the comfort wherewith we have been comforted. What I am saying is that perfect and complete human empathy does not exist.
Have you ever felt: 'No one knows what I'm going through'? Have you ever said: 'Nobody understands where I am and what I'm experiencing'? Well, here we have another unique aspect of the Christian faith. We find it in Hebrews 4 as well: '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. 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. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need'. Jesus knows, and Jesus understands completely. He empathises perfectly. He is the only one who can, and He is the only one who does. So I want to present to you tonight: 'Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior'.
There are three things I want to share with you about Him. The first is: He is human. Now we must always exercise caution when we consider the two natures of our Lord - that He is both divine and He is human. It has often correctly been said that it is a bit like looking into the Ark of the Covenant, which was forbidden in the Old Testament, and of course was a type of the Lord Jesus, we ought not to look into the two natures of Christ in too much depth - other than that which has been revealed to us in Scripture. As Paul said to Timothy: 'Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh'. However, it is revealed in Scripture that He was fully man. As such, it has been said, He was as much man as if He were not God, and yet as much God as if He were not man. In other words, He was absolutely both. His natures were not mixed, they were distinct but together in one Person.
Yet I would say to you tonight that, historically, the church has underplayed Christ's humanity and overplayed His deity. Now let me be clear: it is heresy to deny either - to deny that He was man, or to deny that He was God. But what we often fail to realise is that it is also very dangerous to overemphasise one of Christ's natures over and above the other. When we overemphasise His deity, as I think we often do, at the expense of His humanity, we actually rob ourselves of that central element of our faith that causes us to overcome. Let me repeat that: when we overemphasise His deity at the expense of His humanity, we rob ourselves of something that is central to our faith and causes us to overcome. He is human, absolutely and completely such. Yes, He is God, but He is completely man.
Now, at the heart of a High Priest's ministry there is the concept of identification. You get this in the Old Testament, that the High Priest identified himself with people, all the priests identified themselves with the people, with people's frailties, weaknesses, and sin. Our Lord Jesus Christ, when He voluntarily took upon Himself our human flesh, He identified with everything it is to be human. Though He did not have a fallen nature, He even identified with our sin - that's incredible! In Hebrews 2 and verse 17 you read: 'Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people'. He had to become flesh and blood in order to identify with us, and identify - imagine! - with our sin and our fallenness.
So He was conceived in a human womb by the Virgin conception, of course, but yet it was human conception. Miraculous - his father was not Joseph, but the Holy Spirit - in that sense, and yet there was an embryo in the womb of the Virgin. It went through the gestation period of nine months, and He exited Mary's body through the normal process of the birth canal. He grew through babyhood, infanthood, childhood, adolescence - in fact, Scripture reveals that He even learned and grew in wisdom. Don't try and understand that, you'll never understand that, but you must believe it. Incarnation, God manifest in flesh, is identification's great act. He came to where we were, and took on our humanity - yes, sinful nature apart, but we've got to feel the import of what it was for the Son of God eternally to identify with us.
But I need to go a step further, because to qualify as a High Priest, He needed to experience the onslaught of sin. Now I know this is perhaps deep stuff for some of you, and difficult to take in, but it's necessary - and I believe it's for your good to understand these things. Our Lord Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for forty day's temptation by the devil himself. I want to say, and declare with complete authority standing upon the Word of God, that His temptation in the wilderness was real - it was real temptation. Now whatever we believe about the possibilities of the wilderness, Scripture is clear that He was tempted in all points as we are, sin apart. Now that has often bamboozled some folk, and they wonder: 'Well, how could Christ have been tempted the same way that I'm tempted?'. Well, it doesn't mean, I think, specifically tempted in the specific ways you are personally tempted, but rather in the general areas that all of us can be tempted, the Lord Jesus was tempted.
Take the wilderness experience, for instance: Satan came to Him and said, 'Turn these stones into bread'. Now you can't tell me that a man who was fasting all those days, at the thought of bread - it says He was hungry, it says He was hungry! The temptation was to turn stones into bread, that was the lust of the flesh, to feed human appetite. Many of you here tonight have a problem with the lust of the flesh - I think, if we are honest, all of us do. Then, you remember, Satan came and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, and said: 'I will give these to You if You worship me' - that was the lust of the eye. He showed Him all the glories of this universe, all the powers in governments and authorities. He gave Him the easy way out: 'You don't have to go to the cross to purchase redemption of creation, I will give it to you' - and it was Satan's to give Him. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, the pride of life was also there - because, you remember, Satan took Him to the pinnacle and told Him to cast Himself off, and the angels, God had given them charge over Him, 'So the angels would come and rescue You'. That is the pride of life, that He could have had that power to throw His life away, almost, and then God come in for Him and rescue Him because of who He was. Pride, of course, is the sin that made the devil the devil - and it's the tyrannical ruler in all of our hearts, that we all struggle with.
What I want you to understand tonight is: to identify with you in your struggles with sin, with the lust of the flesh, with the lust of the eye, with the pride of life, the mother of all sins - to identify with you in your struggles, Jesus Christ became a man. Listen to Hebrews 2 again: 'Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted'. I repeat: it was real temptation.
Not only was Jesus identifying with your sin, He was actually identifying with the whole human race. In fact, the whole race was represented in Christ as He stood before Satan in the wilderness. He stood as the last Adam, and He defeated the enemy in an even more disadvantageous situation than the first Adam faced the enemy. Think about it - have you ever considered and compared the wilderness temptation of the Lord to the fall of Adam in the garden. Adam was in a garden, a beautiful idyllic paradise; and Jesus was in a wilderness, a waste desert. Adam had the companionship of Eve, a helpmeet; but Jesus was alone in the desert. Adam was surrounded by tame, majestic creatures; the Bible says Jesus was surrounded by wild beasts and demonic hordes. Adam was told he could eat of the fruit of any tree of the garden but one; but Jesus was hungry having fasted forty days. Adam faced, in the garden, the contender for dominion over God's holy earth; but Jesus in the wilderness faced the god of this world on his own home territory.
Now, I believe that our Lord did not completely bind the strong man until the cross, but I also believe that He began the binding in the wilderness. Satan never encountered a human being like this Man, the Last Adam, and He is your representative. If you're a believer, your victory is in Him tonight. Have you ever pondered this fact: He is human.
Here's the second thing I want to leave with you about 'Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior': He overcame. He is human, and He overcame! Now some of the statements I'm going to make tonight may cause you to think - I hope it does, I hope it doesn't trouble you - but I believe they're important points that I'm making this evening, not least this one. I do not believe that in the wilderness Jesus overcame the devil because He was God. That may have been the reason why it was impossible for Him to be overcome by evil in the wilderness, but He overcame as a Man, completely dependent on God, His Heavenly Father. Indeed, I'll go further: I do not believe that, in all of His earthly life, He once used any of His divine attributes independently of His Father in Heaven. He did only the things that He saw the Father do.
Maybe this is new to some of you, but in fact this is part of His humiliation, this is part of His humbling. He always retained His divine attributes, He is and was God when He walked among men - but, as the Authorised Version says, 'He thought it not robbery to be equal with God', or as a modern translation puts it, 'Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped', or another puts it 'did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage', another rendering says 'He did not take advantage of His equality with God'. Do you understand? He could have flattened Satan in the wilderness using divine attributes, but He was there as a Man for men and women. There is great mystery in this, I don't claim to understand it - praise Him, He was very God of very God, He was God dwelling among men, Immanuel, God with us - but listen: He did not live like God among men. Have you got it? He did not live like God among men, but He lived as a Man completely dependent upon God as His Father. Now you say: 'Why are you talking this way?', maybe it's even troubling you a little, 'Why is this important at all?'. Here's why it's important: because He overcame as a Man to give victory to mankind!
You see, what comfort or help would it be for me to know that Jesus overcame Satan in the wilderness by His divine attributes, when I don't have any? But what strength to know that in the wilderness and, I believe, at Calvary, as my perfect human representative, through absolute dependence on His Heavenly Father, He defeated the enemy and satisfied God. He liberated Adam's race so that I can now live before God as a man through the power of God in Jesus Christ, His Son. Are you starting to see Jesus, your prayer warrior? He is human, and He has overcome.
Here's the third and final thing: He intercedes. He is human, He has overcome, and He intercedes now. Here's the newsflash: He is still a Man. Do you ever think about that? That there is a Man who occupies the throne of God in Heaven! His humiliation is over, and the voluntary relinquishing of the use of His divine attributes independent of His Heavenly Father has ceased. He sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high, a Prince and a Saviour - but He is still a real man! The wonderful thing is: He is still representing you and me, and He is praying for you and for me.
What was our reading tonight? 'He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them'. He always lives to make intercession for them. I was reading a book recently by Leanne Payne entitled 'Listening Prayer', and this is what she says about this very truth: 'It is wonderful to meditate on the fact that Christ's intercessions for us did not end with His death, resurrection, and ascension to heaven at the 'right hand of the Father'. For He is the ultimate Mediator-Priest, and as such 'ever lives to intercede' for us'. Listen: 'Jesus intercedes to the Father for me!' - would you say that with me just now? Say it with me: 'Jesus intercedes to the Father for me'. Say it again: 'Jesus intercedes to the Father for me'. She says: 'That is always my cry when I most desperate. I often wonder why I waited so long to turn to Him as Intercessor'. Do you turn to Him as Intercessor? She goes on: 'What an immense privilege we have. What an infinite conduit of mercy opens to us when we remember to invoke Him in His office of divine Mediator'.
God give me a fresh revelation of that just at the end of August. I jotted down a little prayer in my journal, 28th of August, and this was my prayer - and may it be yours tonight: 'Oh Jesus Christ, the righteous Lord and my Saviour, may I experience the benefit of Your intercession to the Father for me today, and may I truly know that You are praying for me'. Do you know that? How do you relate to Jesus as your prayer warrior? Have you connected with the fact that He is human? Yes, He's divine, and we're not in any way minimising that, and we have to praise Him and glorify Him as God of very God - but let us not lose what He did to identify with us where we are. He is human, He has overcome, and He now intercedes for us - and so there is perfect and complete empathy with our human condition from the very throne of God!
What is your problem tonight? What is it? Is it sin? Of course it is, that's the problem we all have, if we are honest. Listen to God's Word, 1 John 2:1: 'If any man', or woman for that matter, 'sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous'. Your sin is not a problem to your Prayer Warrior in Heaven - if you repent of it, and you confess it, and you take His cleansing, He will stand for you, He will defend you, He will spread wide open His arms and show the nail prints to Father God for you when the accuser roars of ills that you have done.
Is your problem tonight sickness and sorrow? Oh, listen to Matthew when he says: 'He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses' on the cross. He took not only your sin, but your sorrows. He knows - is that not wonderful tonight? He knows, He understands. Is it sadness? What is the scriptural record of Him? 'A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief'. What are your sorrows tonight? Jesus knows all about your sorrows. Are you experiencing rejection? He was despised and rejected of men. Is your problem tonight temptation? It should be! It should be, because all of us are tempted - and the more we seek to get to know God, and the holier we seek to be in the power of Spirit, the more we will be tempted. But what a joy, in the fiercest crucible of temptation, to know: He was tempted in all points as we are, sin apart - to know that He knows what real temptation is! Yes, He had no sinful nature to be drawn into it, but He was tempted.
You remember when He turned to Simon Peter, and He told him what he was going to do in denying the Lord. Do you remember what the Lord said? 'Simon, Simon, indeed Satan has asked for you' - that's what it means - 'Satan has asked for you, that He may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith should not fail' - wow! You say, 'Well, Satan asked for him? Why would Jesus give him over?'. It wasn't as if Jesus give him over, it was, I believe, Simon gave a right for Satan to ask for him because of Simon's denial - but Jesus prayed for him, isn't that mighty? In fact, if we were to read the rest of the passage, you would find out that Jesus went on to say: 'Now, Simon, let not your heart be troubled'. What? Before he sinned? He knew he was going to sin, and Jesus says to him: 'Let not your heart be troubled'. Is temptation your problem tonight, or having fallen? It's not too big for Jesus, your prayer warrior - it's not a big problem for Him. Your unrepentance might be.
Are you distressed tonight? All of us go through the experiences of being totally and utterly at our wits end, distressed. Listen, it says of Jesus: 'He, being in agony, prayed'. This is the Son of God here. We can't identify with what it is to be the Son of God, can we? But we can identify with what it is to be in agony, praying - not to the extent He was. Have you been misunderstood? Have you been misrepresented? Boy, did He experience that! You remember they accused Him of saying that He would destroy the temple and in three days build it again, He was talking about His body. They even said: 'You were born of fornication', they said all manner of lies about Him. He knows what it is to be misrepresented and misunderstood.
What's your problem tonight? What is it? Sometimes when we do go through difficulties, there might be a man or a woman of God that we've heard of, or someone has told us about, and they will say: 'Go to such and such a prayer warrior, and they might be able to help you'. Now there are people who are gifted before God to help people, I'm not saying that we shouldn't do that - that's body ministry - but what I want you to understand is: Jesus is your prayer warrior, have you been to Him lately? Have you received of His intercession? Robert Murray M'Cheyne, among the very great things that he said in his short life, one of them was this - listen: 'If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies; yet distance makes no difference, He is praying for me'.
All keep quiet, just for a minute, just keep quiet - through there, imagine if Jesus was on His knees, and you heard Him offering prayers for you. What could you not do? As M'Cheyne says, He is, distance makes no difference. He is in heaven praying for you. Wait till I tell you: better than Jesus praying for you in heaven, better than that - He's not just on high, but He is with us. Listen to John 14, listen, Jesus said: 'I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Comforter', Encourager, the word is 'Helper', the Weymouth Translation translates it 'another Advocate', 'I will send you another Advocate'. The word 'another' in the original Greek means 'another of the same kind'. This One that Jesus would send would be like Him, in fact He would be God as well. He goes on to say: 'That He may abide with you forever; the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you'.
Jesus, our prayer warrior, is not a Man who is I don't know how many light years away - if it even is that, or in another dimension or something like that - it's hard to identify with that perhaps, though we must accept it by faith: He is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, but He is with us! He said: 'I will come to you - through this other Advocate I am sending, the Holy Spirit, I myself will come to you'. Now wait till I tell you: it's better than Him praying in heaven for us, but it's even better than Him being with us. Yes, He said 'I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you' - but listen, here's the climax and crescendo of Christian experience, or at least it ought to be: He is in us! Wow! He's praying for us, He's praying with us, but He's praying in us.
Romans 8:26, listen: 'Likewise the Spirit also helps us in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession', there's that word, 'for us with groanings which cannot be uttered' - that is the Spirit of Christ in you. Now, I hope you do have the Spirit of Christ completely indwelling you. I hope you know what it is for the Son of God to pray within you to His Father. There is a wonderful biblical illustration of this that I just want to leave with you as I close, it's probably my most favourite story in the Gospels. It is one that has spoken to me, perhaps, in my individual personal experiences, challenges, and decisions, more than any - but that's by the way. It's found in Matthew 14 and Mark chapter 6, and it's the Lord Jesus Christ - and every little detail is important - He launches the disciples out onto the lake in a boat, He launches them. Then He ascends the mountain to pray, and as He is praying for them, He is watching them from a distance and they are striving and struggling in the storm, rowing - now these are big burly fishermen, some of them, well-seasoned in storms, but they were getting nowhere fast. Everything, the Bible says, was contrary to them: the wind. Jesus is praying for them, and then, all of a sudden, in the midst of their fear, the calamity of that storm, and realising that they are beat, they see something even worse coming towards them: a ghost. There are so many lessons in this: how often we don't recognise the Lord in life's storms when He comes to us. The wonderful thing about it is: He then eventually, though He may pass them by for their own fear, He does speak to them and says, 'Be of good cheer, it is I' - actually, 'It is 'I AM', be not afraid', there is His deity coming forth.
What I want to leave you with tonight is this: I believe that there is a picture there of the way things are today. The Lord Jesus has ascended up on high bodily, and He is interceding for us, and He sees you tonight exactly where you are. He looks down on you where you're at, struggling and striving, maybe with little faith as He said to those disciples. Maybe you feel that the waters are about to come over your head - listen: Jesus left them physically, but He came to them supernaturally, He walked on water. They thought He was a ghost - and was He not, with their hindsight could they not have seen that He was pointing to the fact that 'I will come to you in the Holy Ghost'. That's how He comes to us now. When was the last time you realised Him coming to you by the Holy Spirit? When was the last time you felt His presence rising within you? Maybe 'feeling' is the wrong word: when was the last time you believed, you believed that He was with you, and you recognised that He was in you? Do you remember what Peter did? He stepped out of the boat, God bless him - but like some of you tonight, he began to sink. I love this, he cried: 'Lord, save me!' - and immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him.
Jesus is your prayer warrior. He is the Son of God, but He is human, He overcame, and He intercedes. Close your eyes and listen to the words of this hymn:
'Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.
Come, ye thirsty, come, and welcome,
God's free bounty glorify;
True belief and true repentance,
Every grace that brings you nigh.
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you're better,
You will never come at all.
View Him prostrate in the garden;
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold Him;
Sinner, will this not suffice?
Lo! The incarnate God ascended,
Pleads the merit of His blood:
Venture on Him, venture wholly,
Let no other trust intrude.
Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him'.
Listen to the chorus, and oh to God that you would do this tonight:
'I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Saviour,
O there are ten thousand charms'.
Let us pray. Lord Jesus Christ, we reverence Your presence with us here tonight in this room. We bow before You, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, but we marvel - risen, exalted, glorified, incarnate God - that You became a man, that You walked our road. You partook of flesh and blood as we are flesh and blood, apart from our sin - but, Lord Jesus, that in the wilderness You faced that wicked, evil one, and You faced all that he could in his venom vent at You, and You overcame. Lord Jesus, we thank You, and we thank You that You went on to the cross, Lord - and there You spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them. We thank You that we overcome through the blood of the Lamb, and our confession of that blood, and what it does, and what it means to us. Lord Jesus, we don't get it right - and forgive me if in any way I have said anything that is inaccurate - but, Lord, we thank You that, as that hymn says, 'Jesus knows all about our struggles, He will guide till the day is done; there's not a Friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one'. Lord, sometimes all we need is just somebody to put an arm around us - but there is nobody who could put an arm around us and say, 'I know, and I completely know and understand'. But, Lord Jesus, You have promised to put Your arms around us. You have promised to be with us. You have promised to be in us. Come Lord Jesus, come Lord Jesus, come and minister to souls in this place tonight. Lord Jesus, we hear You saying, 'Come to Me, weak and heavy laden, I will give you rest'. May someone here tonight say: 'I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms; In the arms of my dear Saviour, Lo there are ten thousand charms'. Lord Jesus, whatever happens the rest of this meeting, may we be found in Your arms. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Lifeboat Fellowship in Moy, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Jesus, Our Prayer Warrior" - Transcribed by Preach The Word.
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