Gentle and Lowly: Discussion of Chapter 8 — To The Uttermost

Hi @Interested_In_Book_Studies,

This week we will meditate on Hebrews 7:25,

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.

A principal theme of this chapter is how Dane Ortlund compares and contrasts the doctrine of justification with the doctrine of Christ’s intercession. In doing so, he reveals more fully the glory and the joy of both of these biblical teachings.

I particularly appreciated the reminder of Christian faith:

It is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God not once we begin to get our act together but once we collapse into honest acknowledgment that we never will.

For me, this is a wonderful reminder. I can change my thought from, “Darn it! I still don’t have it together, I need to try harder” to “Jesus, I confess again I am not who I should be, thank you for helping me and saving me.”

When these doctrines are not held together, however, we can get the impression that salvation is a past tense, mechanical, and technical affair. A legal matter that some ancient court has resolved and which has unclear relevance to our own lives.

Of course, definitions matter. Ortlund provides us with one:

What is intercession?

In general terms it means that a third party comes between two others and makes a case to one on behalf of the other. Think of a parent interceding to a teacher on behalf of a child or an agent interceding to a sports franchise on behalf of an athlete.

What kind of intercession do we need?

Because we such great sinners, we need constant and complete intercession. And this is what the Bible teaches that Jesus gladly and earnestly provides for us.

Ortlund writes,

But there’s that one deep, dark part of our lives, even our present lives, that seems so intractable, so ugly, so beyond recovery. “To the uttermost” in Hebrews 7:25 means: God’s forgiving, redeeming, restoring touch reaches down into the darkest crevices of our souls, those places where we are most ashamed, most defeated. More than this: those crevices of sin are themselves the places where Christ loves us the most. His heart willingly goes there. His heart is most strongly drawn there. He knows us to the uttermost, and he saves us to the uttermost, because his heart is drawn out to us to the uttermost. We cannot sin our way out of his tender care.

One way to think of Christ’s intercession, then, is simply this: Jesus is praying for you right now.

Discussion questions:

  1. Prior to reading this chapter, in what ways did you suspect that Christ saved you in the past and then left you to work out the rest of your life on your own?

  2. How is your prayer life changed by knowing that Jesus is already and always praying for you?

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Prior to reading this chapter, in what ways did you suspect that Christ saved you in the past and then left you to work out the rest of your life on your own?

There was a period of about 5-6 months in 2014 where I became pretty ill. There were several days during that period where I didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. I could hardly focus on anything else but the constant pain I was having.
A few months prior to that period of illness, I had the sweetest dream. A dream which revealed I would have some serious abdominal pain that would require surgery. In one part of the dream, I was in a hospital bed. I felt the sweetest presence, then saw a figure (which I believe to be Jesus) in my peripheral. I asked “God, is that You?” He said “yes.” I asked “am I dead?”
What happened next is forever etched in my brain. He laughed! He laughed in the most endearing way, like a father would laugh at a child who asked a really cute question. He then responded “no sweetheart, you are not dead, now go to sleep, you are going to be just fine.”

The ironic thing is, even though I had this dream, even though it is etched in my brain, even though I had this confirmation, even though I saw Jesus and felt His endearing love, it was short lived and overshadowed by the pain. Still, that did not negate the fact that I did make it through, I was fine just as God had told me.

This has been the same type of experience with my salvation. I believed it. I felt it, I still believe it but the pain of my sinful nature many times overshadows it and makes me “feel” like I am working it out on my own.

How is your prayer life changed by knowing that Jesus is already and always praying for you?

Honestly, it waivers. It depends on my thought process. If I am focusing on Jesus and expressing gratitude, then my prayer flows with humble adoration and thankfulness. If I am in a negative state, focusing on ME and all my faults, then my prayer is frustrated, aimless, ungrateful and unfruitful. The fact that I am forgiven is again, short lived. When will I “set aside this weight” this ball and chain that “so easily besets me and run the race with endurance?”
Like Ortlund said here, " We say we are totally forgiven. And we sincerely believe our sins are forgiven. Pretty much, anyway. But there’s that one deep, dark part of our lives, even our present lives, that seems so intractable, so ugly, so beyond recovery."

I guess, in a sense, I really think I should have my act together, as if that would make it more true or make me more “worthy.”

Right now, I am focusing on what is said here, " The divine Son never ceases to bring His atoning life, death, and resurrection before His Father in a moment-by-moment way. Christ “turns the Father’s eyes to His own righteousness,” wrote Calvin, “to avert His gaze from our sins.” WOW!

Now, I can adjust my focus from me to Him. Now , I can worship in prayer, with thanksgiving, because HE IS WORTHY! I just have to keep reminding myself of that!

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Thank you @sig for sharing those thoughts and your experience of Jesus’ presence! I loved how you applied it to that of the spiritual life.

I also loved what you said here!

He is so worthy!!

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Thanks @CarsonWeitnauer for this week’s discussion! They have all been so good but this one was fascinating to me in that I’d never really identified “to the uttermost” in such a way that was presented here —

It has taken on a new light of Jesus’ redeeming nature to me. :heart:
I think we could also say that He saves us from the uttermost unto the uppermost.

  1. How is your prayer life changed by knowing that Jesus is already and always praying for you?

It brings an assurance and comfort in my High Priest knowing He is able to put words to my hearts cry that I couldn’t have on my own.

Romans 8:26-27 “Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

He sees the need before I do and He’s the friend that volunteers to go with me to ask the Father for _____ . Because He is accepted of the Father, I too am! We can come boldly before the throne of grace knowing that even though He is already taking care of such-and-such, he still wants to hear our hearts. He goes before us, walks beside us, and watches after us.

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I struggled with this a lot until a few years ago. I spent decades working out my own salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12b), forgetting that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13, ESV). I was very legalistic in my thinking. This not only placed a tremendous burden on myself, but also on others through my attitudes and actions. This is very difficult to grasp even now. I still sin, which frustrates and angers me. I think, however, that I have come to appreciate Jesus’s intercession more. I think this because I have become much more graceful and merciful to others. I am saddened more than angered by others’ sin. I pray for healing and reconciliation more than vengeance. I think that this expresses the intercessory attitude that Jesus has in my behalf.

I guess that I have just answered the second question. The fact that I pray for reconciliation more often than not is probably evidence that Jesus is working in me to help me to understand and accept his intercessory prayer for me. There was a time when I would pray for God to punish evildoers. Now I feel heartbroken over the collapse of public figures, and I fervently pray for their protection when I see signs that they are about to collapse.

This is a strange thing: sometimes I pray that the collapse comes quickly in order to bring the person to repentance more quickly; at other times I pray that God prevents the collapse. I do not know how closely this corresponds to how much I like the person. I do not know how much this is the Spirit’s leading. I just know that my heart’s desire is to see healing and reconciliation. Sometimes I think of some wicked person from history and think how tragically this person’s life turned out. If only he or she had listened to Jesus, how much greater he or she would have been for the good! At any rate, this seems to be an imperfect expression of the prayers that Jesus prays for his brothers and sisters.

I, too, was struck by two things in the theme verse:

  1. He “lives to make intercession…” sounds like an athlete living for the game. Everything he does revolves around the activity. He loves it. It drives him.
  2. He “is able to save to the uttermost” because he is so driven to intercede for his brethren. This is like crossing the goal-line, getting that extra yard, or shaving that extra hundredth of a second for the world record. Only the athletes who work the hardest do these things; only the athletes who love it the most work the hardest.

On a side note, παντελής (pantelēs) is the Greek word for “uttermost” in the ESV. This word is used only one other time in the New Testament:

“And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself.” (Luke 13:11, ESV, emphasis added)

I picture this word, pantelēs, by picturing myself taking the deepest, most satisfying breath that I can. That is what Jesus does when he intercedes–not to oversimplify, of course.

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  1. Prior to reading this chapter, in what ways did you suspect that Christ saved you in the past and then left you to work out the rest of your life on your own?

I honestly knew that Jesus was forgiving and that he is faithful and just to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I knew he loved me. However I did not contemplate a constant intercession. I did feel that sinful choices impacted my life in certain ways. It was me hiding in the woods with fig leaves in what I believed was divine shame. I would steer away from devotion and prayer feeling unworthy even though I knew he would forgive. Sometimes it took awhile for me to gather the humility to ask forgiveness yet AGAIN. But, Jesus was always there. I would come away from prayer and devotion with clean white slate. A fresh start. But, I would soon tarnish the white AGAIN. I think I always believed that sin separated us from God. I felt alone until I confessed and got the reset button pushed. Intercession is a true blessing.

  1. How is your prayer life changed by knowing that Jesus is already and always praying for you?

I still feel ashamed sometimes when I have said a cruel thing or done something that I regret. But I am reminded over and over again that Jesus is there for me over and over again. Knowing through the groaning of the Holy Sprit and the direct intercession of Jesus that I am loved that much is truly a blessing and reason for praise and worship. Thank you all for your diverse experiences and sharing.

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Gentle & Lowly Chapter 8

Dane Ortlund makes an excellent case for the intersession by Christ for believers in this life. He makes the statement that, “It is the most counterintuitive aspect of Christianity, that we are declared right with God, not once we begin to get our act together, but once we collapse into honest acknowledgment that we never will.” Why are so many Christians living “quiet lives of desperation?” Essentially it boils down to the fact that the “grace message” is not very popular, and in fact it is often maligned. Just this morning I read a piece by actress Jessa Duggar Seewald stating she is suffering spiritual depression due to unrealistic expectations of Christian life. Many in RZIM Connect are struggling with issues of faith. The question begging an answer is: why are many pastors and teachers so threatened by the “grace message?” Our messaging must change because the percentage of people claiming “no religious affiliation” is skyrocketing. The truth is Christ is our intercessor and so much more. Most Christians believe they are obligated to confess every sin, but is that what the bible really says? Please take the time to study 1st John, chapter 1, and pay close attention to verse 7. …The blood of Jesus purifies believers of ALL sin. Who is verse 9 written to? Those addressed in verses 1-6, 8 & 10. This is corroborated in the next chapter, verses 1 and 12, (which we will read next week). In the original writing of this text the verb tense in Hebrews 7:25, and the verses in 1st John is an on-going, continuous action. If your sin is continuously being cleansed by the blood of Jesus why are you struggling with your sinfulness, and the guilt and shame that comes with it? If you will study and meditate on God’s love for you, in time you will fall in love with Jesus. When you do, the last thing you will want to do is sin.

Question 1. This is not an issue because I have spent several years studying the New Covenant and I have come to understand that Jesus in our intercessor, our advocate, our savior, our Lord and so much more. He loves us beyond comprehension, and declares us righteous and blameless in his sight. He gave us his Holy Spirit to help us. I know that he helps me every day. I am rebuilding an old house. I often ask him questions about what is the best way to do something. Invariably he will put thoughts in my head of what to do next. I talk to him throughout my day. We were recently invited to a surprise birthday party for a dear friend. We both felt uneasy about going. It turned one that someone came who tested positive for covid-19 after the party.

I take issue with the quote from Calvin because it seems to be scripturally inaccurate. God poured the sin of all people for all time into Jesus at his crucifixion. In fact, it was so horrible, that the Father had to look away, and Jesus cried out, “Father, Father why have you forsaken me?” The idea that Christ, “turns the Father’s eyes to his own righteousness to avert his gaze from our sins” seems to be in conflict with at least 2 biblical themes. This idea is in conflict with Heb. 8:10 & 10:17: “Our sins and lawless deeds he will remember no more.” Romans 4:8, “Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will NEVER count against them.” Another conflict with Calvin’s statement is that the Father’s eyes are turned to his own righteousness. No! Roman’s 5:1 says, “Our faith in Jesus transfers God’s righteousness to us, and he now declares us flawless in his eyes. This is affirmed in II Cor. 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” We must rejoice in our righteousness. Do not fret over your occasional sin, but rejoice in the fact that the blood of Jesus is continuously washing your sins away. Rejoice often that Jesus is your intercessor and defense attorney before the Father, and that you are deeply loved by your God.

Question 2. My communication with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is a lot about thanks, praise & worship. Everything flows through Jesus. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” Talk to Jesus about your busyness, challenging work issues, people issues—talk to him about everything! Doesn’t his word say, “cast your cares on the Lord because he cares for you?” Just do it! And, don’t forget to often thank him. May you be richly blessed.

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I have loved this book, but I think perhaps this is my favorite chapter so far. To think in terms of His uttermost love and forgiveness, His uttermost salvation meeting me at the point of my uttermost sin and brokenness, is truly beautiful to me.

That journey from the head to the heart really is is the longest journey. I have believed the true thing with my head, but this chapter spoke to my heart in a new way.

This truth impacts me relationally with Jesus, because it propells me to Him, all the more, in the midst of my sin and brokenness. Because my heart believes that His salvation is to the uttermost, my response becomes running to Him with my sin, rather than hiding and redoubling my ineffective efforts to address my own sin nature. My prayer becomes more intimate, and my heart reaches for Him more readily.

Thank you, so much, for introducing this book to us, Carson!

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Hi Belle,
“That journey from the head to the heart really is the longest journey.” It truly is. In my case it took decades of study, prayer, counseling, a lot of good teaching etc. to believe deep in my heart that God loves me deeply, and that ALL my sins are removed from His memory bank–Heb. 8:10 & 10:17. It is so freeing to know deep in our heart that we are deeply loved, totally forgiven, and declared righteous in our Father’s eyes. Think about all of the encounters Jesus had with sinners in all 4 gospels. I cannot think of one time that he commanded repentance before unleashing a blessing. No, the blessing came first, and this empowered them to repent, and “go and sin no more.” See the story of Zacchaeus as just one example.
You state, “my response becomes running to Him with my sin.” As a believer you are not under a sin curse–that is O.T. law. Please prayerfully study II Cor. 5:17-21. Verse 17 tells us that those who belong to Christ are a brand new creation and your old life is no more. The middle of verse 19 tells us God is not counting your sins against you, Then verse 21 tells us that, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” These are not my words. These are God’s words to every believer.
When you blow it, as we all do, you can go to Jesus and thank him and praise him that his shed blood has cleansed you, that you are forgiven, and that you are righteous in his eyes. Now read I John 1:7, "But if we keep living in the pure light that surrounds him, we share UNBROKEN fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, CONTINUALLY cleanses us from ALL sin. Now turn to I John 2:1-2. John says, "My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin, but if anybody does sin, we have an advocate (defense attorney) with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He IS the atoning sacrifice for our sin, and not only ours, but also for the sins of the whole world. Your sins were forgiven 2000 years ago on His cross, and now you only need come to him in thanksgiving and praise, and receive his precious forgiveness. Lastly, I John 4:17 says, “By living in God, love has been brought to its full expression in us so that we may FEARLESSLY face the day of judgment, because ALL THAT JESUS NOW IS, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD.”
Some may very well disagree with my post, but it is right out of the Word of God. MANY claim that we all must adhere to I John 1:9. A close examination of I John will clearly show that verse nine is written to those in verses 6, 8 and 10–those who walk in darkness, and those who claim to have no sin. This is confirmed in I John 2:12, "I am writing to you, dear Children, because your sins HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN on account of his name.
I challenge you to embrace this new way of interacting with Jesus, and your Father in Heaven for 30 days. I promise you will find freedom and a deep loving relationship with your Lord that you may have thought was impossible. I also promise you will experience Gal. 5:1, “It was for freedom that Christ has set us free.” May you dwell in His intercession, advocacy, forgiveness, gift of righteousness, acceptance and freedom until you meet him face to face! Blessings to all!

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Thank you for your response, Jim. I can tell you are passionate about the forgiveness Jesus offers. It is wonderful to trust in the finished work of Christ! What our reading did for me this week, was to open up a deeper understanding of the beauty of that grace! Blessings as you ponder His gift!

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[quote="CarsonWeitnauer, post:1, topic:43064

[/1. Prior to reading this chapter, in what ways did you suspect that Christ saved you in the past and then left you to work out the rest of your life on your own?

I don’t think I consciously acknowledged this, but I do believe this is how I actually dealt with my sin and failures. It’s not what I would say to others or even tell myself I believed, but it is most often how I carried out my daily life.

  1. How is your prayer life changed by knowing that Jesus is already and always praying for you?

This reminds me that Jesus is ALWAYS thinking about me, even when I am not thinking of Him, and that His conversation about and with me is continuously happening in the present. That means I can join in any time! It makes Him, and talking to Him, a more present, moment by moment reality.

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