Hearts Strengthened By Grace (Hebrews Sermon 71 of 74)

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Hearts Strengthened By Grace (Hebrews Sermon 71 of 74)

July 15, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Hebrews 13:9-14
Running the Race

Where Does the Strength to Run Come From?

Recently, I had the opportunity to show one of my favorite movies of all time to my two younger kids, and one of them thought she had seen it before. Chariots of Fire came out in 1981. I love that movie. Its about Eric Liddell, a Scottish missionary, who gave his life for the Lord, died in a Japanese internment camp in 1945. There's a couple of moments in that movie that my logical, exegetical mind has trouble harmonizing. I think the movie is internally inconsistent. But that's okay. There is no promise of inerrancy on movies, so that's all right.

But there is Eric Liddell after running a race and he's having a witnessing opportunity. He's standing to a small crowd that's gathered around the track where he won the race, and he's witnessing to them, which he did frequently, that's true. And as he's sharing, he's talking about the life of faith, and he says he wants to compare the life of faith to running in a race, which the Scripture does multiple times actually. He says, "It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy and soul," he says. And then he asked this question, which is really very powerful and comes up again later in the movie when he's winning the gold medal in the 400 meters, "Where then does the strength come from to see the race through to the end?" And then he says, "It comes from within." And then he quotes the Scripture, "Jesus said, 'Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.'"

Well, the first time I heard that, no big deal. I'm glad he's saying "Jesus." I'm just excited the name "Jesus" is in a film, especially a popular film. But I frankly like better a later moment in the movie that answers the question... I think a little bit differently. Remember the question, "Where then does the strength come from to see the race through to its end?" I think, if you remember that movie, the scene I'm talking about, very powerful. Before he runs in his 400-meter final, at Sunday, he has the opportunity to preach in a church of Scotland there in Paris. And he chooses as his text Isaiah Chapter 40. And it's very, very strong. "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary, and He increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint."

I think that's a better answer to the question. The strength, the power to see the race through to the end does not come from within me, it comes from outside of me. It comes from the eternal God who never gets tired, who never grows weary, this infinite power source that's available for us. And it enabled Eric Liddell to win the gold medal. He was a sprinter, and he had to extend out a greater distance in the 400 meters. It wasn't his natural best race. His natural best race was the 100-meter, but he chose not to participate in that because it was on a Sunday and his convictions wouldn't allow him to run on a Sunday.

The problem is the 400 is an eternity for a sprinter. And he was in the far outside lane, the eighth lane, and so he never saw another runner, which was good because that means he won the gold medal. But he was kind of running scared, and so he went out like a sprinter and ran hard, made the curve, and on the back stretch, he gave everything he had. Well, there's still half a race to go. And you come around the curve and all he could do was just turn to God for every step. And he finished and set a British record in the 400-meter that stood for decades. And if you ask Eric Liddell, "Where did the strength come from to run that last 200 meters?" "It came from God."

Well, in our text today, we have an answer to the question. After talking about false doctrine, which I mentioned in the last message, I want to get to this one phrase that's been much on my mind. "It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace and not by ceremonial foods." So, after an incredible 12-chapter journey in this epistle of grace, the author now, having given us the supremacy of Jesus Christ, how He's superior to everything the Old Covenant had to offer in every way, the eternal Son of God, the radiance of God's glory, the exact representation of His being, the one who sustains all things by His powerful word, this Jesus, this perfect mediator, has brought to us a New Covenant. A New Covenant He bought with His own blood, which He offered once for all time, never again to be repeated, this once for all sacrifice, of the Son of God.

And He, having provided purification for sins, He ascended into Heaven and now sits at the right hand of Almighty God. And there, He ministers on the basis of the finished work that He offered once for all. And so He has brought us a superior covenant. The superior mediator, Jesus Christ, has brought us a superior covenant, a covenant by which our sins are actually forgiven, by which we are actually transformed. He writes His laws on our minds and writes them on our hearts, and we're given a whole new nature, the heart of stone taken out, a heart of flesh put in. And we are adopted as sons and daughters of the living God, and we will live with Him forever and ever on the basis of that New Covenant. Having given us that New Covenant, it then results in a superior life, which we've been looking at, the life of faith from Hebrews 11.

And celebrating that life of faith, and the author is giving us now, in Chapter 13, many practicalities, specifics of the Christian life. And the way that the Christian life works is that God speaks words to us, He speaks promises, the promises of God, the promises of the Scripture such as in verse 5 of this chapter, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you." That's a promise. And then in verse 6, "So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'" And again, in verse 8, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." These promises of God, such as, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you," are the basis of our faith, and God works faith in us, the receptor of these promises.

And so we can receive the truth of these promises, and then live accordingly by faith. And so by faith in this promise, such as, "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you," we can, in Verse 1, "Keep on loving each other as brothers." By faith, we can do that. By faith, in the promise, we can love strangers and show them hospitality, in verse 2. By faith, in the promise of God, we can minister to those in prison and not forget them those that are afflicted, verse 3. By faith we can honor marriage and keep the marriage bed free from sexual defilement, in Verse 4. By faith in this promise, we can keep our lives free from the love of money and be content with what we have. All of this, by faith in the promise of God.

And all of this flows the well spring of this pulsating strength for the Christian life, this is the dynamic, the Word of God taken in by faith, renewing and restoring our hearts, and enabling us to live again that life that's glorifying to God, that's the rhythm of the Christian life. That's the foundation of the text we're looking at today. Look at Verse 9, "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings." He says that because it's doctrine, it's good teaching, right teaching, that's going to be the avenue of grace to strengthen your heart. So, "Don't be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace and not by ceremonial foods," the NIV gives us, "which are of no value to those who eat them."

I. What is the Heart?

For me, I'm thinking about this flock that I'm privileged to shepherd, I'm thinking about people in it. I'm thinking about people, I've met with, people I've talked with, situations I know. And I know that there is a need for strengthening among you people today. I know, I feel it. And if you're honest, you feel it regularly, maybe daily, some of you feeling it hourly, "I need to be strengthened by God. I'm under attack, onslaughts going on, I feel weak, I don't know that I can keep making it here. I need you to strengthen me." And so, if we do nothing else today, just ministering strength to weak people who are then renewed in their strength is a good work. Amen? So that you people who have come today, that I also will be strengthened, enabled to resume this Christian race that's set in front of us.

So, I want to take it very, very carefully and look at it and try to understand it. Let's start with the word "heart." It says it's good for our hearts to be strengthened. So, what is the heart? The strength that this passage commands us, heart strength. Not physical strength. We're not talking about physical strength here, although it results in some cases in physical exertions. But what is it? What is the heart? Well, the heart is the inner man, the inner nature, the inner person, the new self which is created to be like God. The key passage for me on the heart is Ephesians 3:16 and 17. There, Paul prays for the Ephesians, Christians, he says, "I pray that out of His [God's] glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith."

That's it. The focus of that prayer is on the inner person, the inner man, the soul, the heart. And he prays, there, the very thing related to this text here, that it may be strengthened by faith through the Spirit, by the power of the Spirit. Strengthen, that's what he prays for. 3:19, "So that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." That means you've been strengthened now. Ephesians 3:19, you now have been strengthened, you are filled to the measure of all the fullness of God, that's what you feel inside. That's the heart, the inner man. Or in Romans 7:22, "For in my inner being I delight in God's law." That's that new nature, that delights in the law of God.

So, the strength we need is the strength of the inner man, the heart, the new nature. The heart is the part of you that thinks, the part of you that feels, the part of you that decides, the part of you that feels, the part of you that trusts. That's the heart biblically. The word "heart" is connected with all those verbs and others. It's a dynamic inner part of you, your heart. And out of that heart, you do everything in your life. As it says in Proverbs 4:23, "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the well spring of life, from it flow the springs of life."

II. Why Does the Heart Need to be Strengthened?

All right, so that's the heart. Why does it need to be strengthened? That, it needs to be strengthened you all feel acutely. I do. Why? Why does my heart need to be strengthened? Well, I'm going to give you three answers to that question. First is because you're a creature, not the Creator. The big difference, in Isaiah 40, between the Creator and the creature is this issue of strength. Isaiah 40:28 "Do you not know, have you not heard? The Lord, the Creator of the ends of the Earth does not grow tired or weary." You see that? He never gets tired. His arm is infinitely powerful. Whatever His arm is lifting right now, it's not trembling or shaking, it's not soon going to let up that weight. It's just not the way He is. He is omnipotent. He has all power. He is infinite in His majesty. He is a great God, majestic, the Creator of the ends of the earth. And before Him, the nations are as a drop from the bucket and dust on the scales. That's the Creator, that's not you.

Even the young men grow tired and weary. Even the youths stumble and fall. In the movie, they show one of the main figures, Aubrey Montague, who's running the steeplechase, tripping and falling on the barrier, and going down on the ashes. It was an ash track, cinder track, and all muddy because of the water of the steeplechase, and he finishes, not last, but close to last. And he's just the picture of dejection as he sits there in the rain while the scripture is being read. He's a human being. He gets tired, he stumbles, he falls. And so God has ordained it that you need to be renewed and refreshed. He's ordained it so that you don't get arrogant and be independent and think you don't need Him anymore. He has created you to need oxygen. He doesn't need it. He's created you need water. He doesn't need that. You need sunlight. He doesn't need that. You need food. Not as much as you eat, but you need food. He doesn't need that. He doesn't need anything coming from the outside in to keep Him existing. That's because He's the Creator. But He created a dependent universe, that depends on Him for everything, and that includes you.

So, the reason that you need to be renewed in your strength is God has designed it that way so that you do not get arrogant and be independent. "I am the vine," said Jesus, "you are the branches." And "apart from Me, you can do nothing." He can do plenty of things apart from you." That's humbling, isn't it? But it's just the truth. He is the mighty God, and we are dependent. So, you need to be strengthened, the heart needs to be strengthened, because God has ordained it that way.

Strength for the Internal and External Journey

Secondly, the heart needs to be strengthened because the two infinite journeys that are in front of us are so immensely difficult. God has set great challenges before the church, not small ones. The two infinite journeys, in case you haven't been here a lot, we talk about them here, this is how we organize the thinking of what we're trying to do here in ministry. And so we are here for the glory of God. Over everything is the glory of God. How do we glorify God? By making progress in two infinite journeys. What are those two infinite journeys? The internal journey of sanctification of growth in Christ-likeness, of becoming more and more like Jesus. Jesus says in Matthew 5:48 that like your Heavenly Father, you must be perfect. That standard will stand over you the rest of your life. It's relentless. He never accepts anything less than perfection, wherever you have come short of perfection, and you know it, you must confess it as sin. Well, that's relentless. The New Testament is relentless. "Do everything without complaining or arguing." It's relentless. Single verse from an epistle, it's just the way it is. That's the internal journey.

The external journey, there are billions of people who aren't Christians, who haven't heard the Gospel or not within earshot of the Gospel, unread people groups, and that is a relentless upward call for us. God has set before the church immense tasks, not small ones. They're far greater than we can do. As a matter of fact, these things are so difficult, the journey is so difficult that I contend you can't make progress, a single step of progress, apart from His sovereign grace. You must have His grace at every moment. So, you need to be renewed, because just the journey is so hard. This is a hard race we're running here. And it's a long one, too. It's a marathon we're on.

And thirdly, you need to be... The heart needs to be strengthened, because it's under constant assault from enemies. This isn't a peace-time jog. This isn't even an Olympic marathon. It's harder than that. It's harder than that. It lasts longer, it's more arduous, and we're under fire the whole time. I've likened it to an image that's in my mind, World War I, no man's land, with barbed wire on the left and the right, and it goes from the North Sea down to the southern part of Europe for hundreds of miles, and we're called on to run between that and not get killed. We were under assault. The flaming arrows of the evil one are coming at us every day, and frankly, when we don't lift up the shield of faith, and one of those flaming arrows gets through, it weakens you. Doesn't it? Don't you feel weak when you miss one of those and it gets through? It doesn't kill you. It can't kill you, much to his immense frustration. We can't kill him, much to ours.

And so here we are, in this incredible battle with the devil, and he's so clever and he's fighting us every step of the way, and he's concocting, crafting special temptations for us, studying our hearts, and coming after us in our weakest spots. And then there's this ingenious world system that's just set up to allure us and entice us. Talked about materialism a few weeks ago, it's just set up to allure us and help us to cause us to love material possessions. It's assaulting us in the lust area, just the world all the time. And then the worst of all, in my opinion, is the flesh, that enemy within, that part of me that opens the door for Satan and lets him into my life. What a wretched man I am. The very thing I hate, I do because I'm insane, the flesh. This is an arduous journey, friends. That's why you need to be renewed. That's why you need to be strengthened. Don't marvel at it, don't wonder why. Because you are a creature, and because you have these two infinite journeys, and because you're under assault as you try to make progress, you will need regularly to be strengthened, rest of your life.

III. What Does it Mean to be Strengthened by Grace?

What does it mean then for the heart to be strengthened by grace? Well, the word "strengthen," in many places, means to establish or confirm. But I think that a better use of the word here is in Colossians 2:6 and 7. "Therefore as you received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him, established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving." So, it's an idea of resources flowing to your soul, to your heart, to strengthen it up in Christ so that you can make progress. It's a spiritual energy, like you'll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you'll be my witnesses. Or think about Samson when a young lion leaped at him, remember, and the spirit of the Lord came upon him powerfully and he ripped that lion apart with his bare hands. Isn't that awesome?

It's a strength and energy that comes, that renews and re-establishes the heart that gives it energy for progress. Maybe a more poignant example is in 1 Samuel 30, where David comes back to find that his wives and the wives of his fellow soldiers had been... There had been a raid by the Amalekites and everything was gone. They're all gone. And they thought they were dead, plundered, gone. And David sat down and wept, and they all wept for their wives and their children. And the men were talking of stoning David, you remember that? It's his fault. There's this little phrase that said, "But David found strength from the Lord his God." That's you, that's me.

I don't know what you're going through. I know some of the things that you folks are going through. You need to do that. Whatever you're going through, do that. Find strength in the Lord your God. Stop. Pray. David wrote a lot of psalms about this. "My soul finds strength in the Lord alone." And so you just go. That's what I think it means to be strengthened, to be renewed. I can keep going now, I got it, I'm back on the journey again, I'm not going to give up, I'm going to be renewed. I'm ready. I can keep going in this internal and external journey.

Well, what does it mean for the heart to be strengthened by grace? Well, grace is that commitment in the eternal mind of God to do you good, when you deserve eternal condemnation. It's his commitment to do you good, and not just a little good, but to do you infinite good, to do you eternal good, to give you every blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to be lavishly generous to you. It's a commitment in the heart of God, that is pulsating commitment inside the soul, the heart, the being, the very center of the being of God, that's what grace is. It's a commitment in God. But grace comes to us through certain pipelines or avenues, what we call means of grace. So, it's in God, those means themselves are displays of God's grace, but they are pipelines or conduits, and grace is just this golden lighted liquid flowing from heaven down into your soul. But it comes along certain pipelines. The greatest and best of these is the Word of God. The ministry of the Word is a pipeline of grace.

I hope it's happening for you right now, that as you hear these words, as you hear the Word of God, your heart gets stronger again for the journey. And this grace just flows in and does you good, and it gives you energy and strength as grace does. And there are different kinds of grace. It depends on the need. Whatever the need is, He gives you different kinds of grace. He gives You more grace, more and more grace. More grace. Do you need that? I need that, I need more grace. I'm not done with grace now. And so wherever I'm at, and I'm weak and I need to be strengthened... There's different ways I could do this, but look at it in a time point of view. As I look back, I need covering grace. And as I look forward, I need what John Piper calls "Future Grace."

 So, looking back, what makes me feel weak is a good estimation of my own sinfulness and my failures and my weaknesses, and I just feel ashamed for those things. And I feel like I've missed opportunities, sins of omission, things I should have done, or things that God forbade and I did them. And I feel ashamed of that, and I look back and I'm just... I need grace for that. And so covering grace comes from Psalm 32 Verse 1 and 2, "Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in his spirit is no deceit." You know where that grace, the covering grace, it flows from what Nathan preached about so beautifully last week, the cross of Jesus Christ. It just flows from the blood of Jesus. The value, the infinite value, the precious blood of Jesus covers all your sins.

And so you are there, don't deny in whose spirit is no deceit, you say, "I have sinned against you, oh, Lord. I have failed you. The very thing you commanded me to not do, I have done. And, Lord, I have failed you. You commanded me to do good to my neighbor, to share the Gospel, or to care for the poor and needy, or to do this or that with my family, and I have not. Oh, God, forgive me. Forgive me." And as you're confessing your sin by faith, and as you're going again back in your heart to the cross, as Nathan preached... Thank you for that last week, it's been ministering to me all week, thank you for that word, Nathan. It just strengthened me. But as we go back to the cross of Jesus Christ, you get strengthened again and you're covered, 100% covered. And having done that, and having learned the lesson that you need to learn, don't do that again, that kind of thing.

There's nothing more to do with the past, friends. Forgetting what lies behind now, it's time to get up and do the things that are ahead. But now we need a different kind of grace. It's daunting, isn't it? It's like, "All right, I know I'm forgiven for that, but I still have that same weak nature. I know I'm still vulnerable in those areas. I know it. Oh, God, how do I know I'm not going to fall in that exact same way the next time temptation comes? I don't even want to move, I'm paralyzed." No, no, no, no. You know how you move? You move by faith in future grace. You move by saying, "Okay, I know that when I get up and I put one foot in front of the other, God will give me the grace I need to keep going. He's going to give it to me."

And I'm not going to keep adding day upon day upon day. Don't do that. That's Satan's trap. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Amen? So, don't stack them up and say, "Oh, the infinite journey is looking really infinite." Well, really infinite. Forget it. You can't say it, it's infinite. It just is. It's going to be in front of you the rest of your life, but don't live it like that. You've got today to live, you don't even know if you'll have tomorrow. Let's live today for the glory of God. And I know that as I get up, God will give me the grace I need to get through this sermon or get through anything I have to do today, He'll give me the energy and the strength I need to serve Him. So, I'm not going to be overwhelmed, I will not be discouraged, I will not be dismayed, because He has promised me, "I will never leave you and I will never forsake you."

What that is, is a promise to give you the grace you need to do the will of God, to do the good works He has for you to do. Is there going to be enough grace for the church to finish these two journeys? Yeah, there is. And it flows from the cross, it flows from Jesus. There's enough grace. We're going to finish. Amen? I wrestled for a long time with the word "infinite." It's not entirely true. We will finish. There's a finish line. I guess it's infinite, because it's only an infinite source of grace will do it. Infinitude of God's grace is sufficient for it. And we will finish.

IV. By Grace, Not by Food

All right. So, it's good for our hearts to be strengthened. It's good. Do you feel the goodness of it? It's good food. Like Kevin said, "It's just the pure milk of the word, it's good to have your heart strengthened." It's good to have your heart strengthened by grace and not by food. Okay, now I'm going to meddle. I'm going to meddle a little bit, because there's just probably too much consumption of comfort foods in this church, and they just don't do much for you spiritually. They don't. Now, I've already said, we've got to have physical food to keep living. You've got to. God created you that way. You can't keep serving him without eating well. Eating nourishing foods. I'll give you a clear picture of this from the Bible, from the case of Elijah. Do you remember how Elijah took on the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel and just an incredible triumph? And then he prays fervently, intensely prayed that it would rain. And it did rain, and the rain came. And then he hit stop his cloak and he runs ahead of a chariot, and all the way, and just... You've never had a day like that. And none of us have ever had a day like that. The energy output was immense.

And then Jezebel, Queen, finds out about what happened to her prophets, and she's enraged. And she vows to make Elijah's life like one of theirs by tomorrow. Well, he hears, and unlike him... Elijah, where was there ever any fear in him, but he was afraid of Jezebel. And so he ran for his life, it says right there in the text. "Elijah was afraid and ran for his life." It's right in the Bible. And so he's out there in the desert, and he's laying under a broom tree and he can barely move in the desert. And he starts to pray. It's similar prayer to Jonah's, but it's different, it's a different thing. He says, "Take my life now, because I'm not better than my ancestors." I have nothing left to give. I'm done."

And God sends him an angel with a biscuit and a jar of water. "You know what you need? You need a biscuit and a jar of water, and a good sleep." And so he eats and drinks and falls asleep. And then the angel wakes him up again, and gives him another biscuit and another jar of water. And he says, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." Yeah, we need to eat. I don't know if I'm advocating biscuit and jar of water, but whatever it is that gives you physical strength, you need to do that. But the kind of strength the author has in mind here doesn't come from food. It doesn't come from food. As a matter of fact, there's a verse in Corinthians that says, concerning food, "We are no worse off if we don't eat and no better if we do," which bothered me. That verse, I didn't think, had the right parallelism. There should be an advocacy of food on one side and not food on the other. No. Both sides don't advocate food. You're not really helped if you eat, and you're not hindered if you don't, that's what Paul says, both sides of it. Talk about meat sacrifice to idols there.

The strength the author has here doesn't come from food, that's what he's saying. It comes from grace. Now, there's all kinds of diets and convictions on diets, and different things you can do. There's a low-cholesterol diet, and there's the low-fat, low-sugar diet, and the gluten-free diet, and the Miami Beach Diet, and the Maker's Diet, and the vegan diet which basically says if we just go back to the Garden of Eden and stop eating these animals, we'd be fine. We won't have all these health problems. Or, the Maker's Diet, that has similar mentality. I'm not advocating any of these. I think good nutrition is a helpful thing. I personally have never walked into a GNC store. I don't know if any of you have. Health from a big jar that costs $86. I don't know what they cost, but I think you could spend a lot of money in a vitamin store. I don't know that it's a bad thing, but what the author is saying is, the strength he has in mind does not come from eating anything, neither does it come from fasting. It's not about the eating.

Context: Ceremonial Foods Associated with the Sacrificial System

If you look at the context, it says, "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace and not by food, ceremonial foods," the NIV adds the word "ceremonial." "…which are of no value to those who eat them. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat." The author is talking there about the Old Covenant legalists, the priests who never left the Old Covenant sacrificial system, they have unbelief all through their lives they should have known that the time for animal sacrifice was over. Instead they continued to minister at the tabernacle and they, because of their unbelief, have no right to eat at our table. Well, what is our table? What is it? It's the table of grace spread by Jesus Christ. It's a feast of grace. Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we would have a feast, a river of grace. And we can, as Jesus said in John 6, feed on His flesh, eat His body and drink his blood spiritually to get renewed through that. The words he speaks to us is spirit and their life. That's the table Jesus spreads.

V. Jesus Suffered to Spread a Banquet of Grace

Next week, I'm going to talk about where that table is. It's outside the gate. It's outside the camp. That's where He spreads that grace. We're going to talk about that next week, a very important message. I was going to combine it with this, but it's just too important to combine it. We need strength because He's inviting you to leave comfort, inviting you leave the city, and go out where He is. We'll talk about that next week. But Jesus suffered to spread us a banquet of grace.

VI. How Can We Be Strengthened by Grace Every Day?

How then can we be strengthened by grace every day? Well, first, if you have never come to faith in Christ, and you're here as a guest, the strength I'm advocating here is just the strength of life. The Bible says, that apart from Jesus, you are dead in your transgressions and sins while you live. You're alive enough to come here, but not spiritually alive until perhaps this moment. So, hear then the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God sent His son into the world, who shed His blood for sinners like you and me. We have violated the laws of God, but God is willing to forgive if you just repent of your sins and turn in faith to Jesus, all of your sins will be forgiven. And then you'll be alive, born again by the power of the Spirit." Just put your trust in Him. You don't need to move, you just need to trust. Put your trust in Him.

And if you have already trusted in Christ, now you're wondering, "How can my ever-weakening, constantly weakening heart be strengthened by grace? How does that work?" Well, first of all, desire it. I would just simply say it all starts with desiring to be strengthened. Acknowledge, "I am weak right now. I feel my weakness. I feel it in my susceptibility to temptation. I feel it in my discouragement and the fact that the two infinite journeys look like I can't make a single step in either one. Overwhelming. I feel weak." Start there. And then bring that weakness to back to God in prayer. Paul said in 2 Corinthians, "When I am weak," what does he say, "then I'm strong." Why? Because the weakness caused us to go back to the source of our strength and say, "I can't do this." When you're strong, you're weak. Say, "I don't need Jesus. I got this one, Lord. I'm good at that, I can do that." He said don't think like that. So, when you're week you're strong. So, yearn for strengthening.

Then understand the imagery that Jesus, by His death on the cross, has opened for you a doorway, an access way into the throne room of grace. It says in Hebrews 4, "Let us draw near to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need." The time of need is when you are a weak. That's all the time, friends. You're always weak. Always. You are the bruised reed and the smoldering wick. And the amazing thing is God can take weak people like us and make, as He says in Revelation, a pillar of us in the house of his God. We can be made strong by grace. Isn't that awesome? We, who are bruised reeds, can be made pillars in the house of the living God. So, go through that doorway that is Jesus. And you know who you'll find there? You'll find the God of Isaiah 40, the one who sits in throne above the circle of the earth. And you'll find Him there ready to be gracious to you, to give you infinite strength.

Look back for covering grace. Be honest about your sins and ask for forgiveness, confess those things to God. Look ahead for future grace, that God's going to give you what you need to get through your trials. Get your hearts ready for your specific trials, and ask him for specific help. If you're having trouble forgiving someone of their sins against you, then say, "God, I'm feeling very weak as a forgiver. I'm feeling weak. Would you please enable me to forgive so and so? I'm probably going to see him today, I feel a hardness developing in my heart toward that person, will you please enable me to forgive them?"

Or when it comes to witnessing, you just say, "Lord, I'm not much of a witness. I hardly ever say anything that takes any courage for Jesus. I want to be a witness, I want to come outside the gate and bear the approach. I want to be where you are, but I'm just so weak. I'm afraid of what people will think. Will you please strengthen me? Please give me a witnessing opportunity so easy even I could do it?" There's a good prayer. Pray that one and see what God does with it. It's like, "Fine, now we're honest." He'll give you one. One that... Just toss a little toss and you might hit it out of the park. Ask for that little toss. Just, "God help me. Help me in finances. We're struggling financially, we're struggling with anxiety. We're struggling to find a job or to make ends meet. We're struggling. Please help me, I'm weak in this area, would you strengthen me?" Struggling with weight, food... My God... I'm acting like my God is my stomach, too much on the comfort foods. "Would you please help me to be disciplined in what I eat? And give the extra money I've been spending to give it away on missions or to the relief of the poor? God, make me strong. Please strengthen me, and make me a different person."

And then when you've been strengthened, Hebrews, the Book of Hebrew says to strengthen your brothers and sisters. Care about each other, look around, find some other weak people. And the strength, encouragement, you've received from God, use it with someone else. It says in Hebrews 12, "Therefore, strengthen your [and each other's] feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your [each other's] feet, so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed." I know I'm adding the "each other," but that's definitely the mentality the author has. He's thinking corporately about all of them together. Strengthen one another. Close with me in prayer.

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