N.B. – There is a gap of about 35 seconds at the start of the audio.

 

Hebrews 10: 19 – 25

Today we are in Hebrews 10. A very interesting book, scholars are not sure who wrote it, when it was written, or even where it was sent. So, a rather enigmatic book.

First some Background to Hebrews

While there seems some consensus that it was sent to the church in Rome, some argue that it could just as easily have been sent to Christians in Jerusalem. The name of the book, Hebrews, raises a question: “Why is it written to only half of the church – the Jewish half of the church?

One possible explanation holds that the letter was written to the Jewish Christians at the church in Rome approximately between AD55 and AD70. The explanation holds that the Roman emperor at the time, Claudius was anti-Jewish and he expelled all Jews from the city. So, the Christian church in Rome would have become solely Gentile at this time. In AD 54 Claudius died and was replaced by Nero who invited the Jews back as they were good for business. These Jewish Christians returned to find the church being run by their Gentile counterparts, who were not particularly welcoming which created tension. Paul deals with this issue in Romans. However, while the Jews were invited back, the Christians were facing persecution by Nero. We read in Hebrews that the Christians were being persecuted – homes were being vandalised, possessions confiscated and some were in prison. This would place the letter being written in the middle of Nero’s reign, somewhere between 64 and 67 A.D.

Now we can see the answer to our question, why was the letter written to only the Jewish believers in the church? Because, in the face of persecution, they had the option of going back to the synagogue! They had a way of escaping the suffering that was not open to the Gentile believers. So, it is against this backdrop that Hebrews was written to present the Lord Jesus Christ as superior to anything Judaism and the old covenant had to offer.

What there is consensus about, given the content, is that it must have been sent to Jewish Christians who were at risk of going back into Judaism.

The message to the persecuted Jews speaks of the superiority of Christ in 3 ways:

  1. A superior person – better than the angels and the prophets
  2. A superior Priesthood – Jesus represents a superior order; He introduces a superior covenant, He provides a superior sanctuary and He made a superior sacrifice.
  3. A Superior Principle – one of Faith not a complicated legal sacrificial framework.

Our passage this morning comes from Chapter 10 which deals with the sacrifice of Christ and why it is superior to the old complicated legal sacrificial framework.

The Passage: Read the Passage: verses 19-25

Hebrews is quite a practical book. At chapter 10 verse 19, after several chapters of doctrine, the author provides some practical advice. He is showing us a type of cause and effect – because we have this – we need to do that!

He is saying since we have two major benefits in Christ, we need to respond. There is an expectation that we do something with them.

1) “Since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus” and

2) “Since we have a great priest over the house of God.”

 

The writer encourages us to respond in five ways:

  1. Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings verse 22.
  2. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess verse 23.
  3. Let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds Verse 24.
  4. Let us not give up meeting together verse 25.
  5. Let us encourage one another verse 25.

 

I want to look at the passage today under three headings:

  1. Be Confident
  2. Be Faithfull
  3. Be in Community of Believers

 

Be Confident

  1. That Christ’s sacrifice is more effective than the sacrificial system
    • Our big problem is sin! Both by nature and by choice we prove we are sinners. It has been said we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners. The sacrificial system previously in place had to be continually repeated year after year because the blood of animals covered the sin, but did not cleanse of sin. The blood of Christ cleanses from sin and does not have to be repeated.

 

  1. That Christ’s sacrifice is an integral part of God’s Plan
    • God gave the law and sacrificial system as a temporary system that would prepare the way for Christ – a shadow of what was to come. God has always intended that Jesus Christ would be the fulfilment of the Old Covenant sacrifices.

 

  1. That Christ’s sacrifice is the ultimate solution
    • Our acceptance by God does not depend on the performance of rituals but on what Christ has already done, and it is guaranteed as full and final settlement.
    • The Levitical priests stood and performed their duties day after day, but after Jesus made his sacrifice He ascended into heaven where he sits at the right hand of God! He sits – his work is finished until He comes again.

 

  1. To draw near to God:

As I said, our biggest problem in our relationship with God is sin! Way back in the Garden of Eden we have been separated from God by sin.

So how can sinful man approach a sinless God?

The issue is one of Separation versus Accessibility. Under the old covenant God was separated from His people by the thick veil that separated the Holy of Hollies from the Holy place in the tabernacle. The High Priest entered the Holy of Holies only once a year after going through a lengthy cleansing process. Even then he entered with fear and trembling because he could not be sure he would make it out again. If he neglected the smallest detail prescribed by law he could expect nothing but death! See Leviticus 16. They would tie a rope around him so if he did not come out they would pull him out. No one dared go into that place lest he be struck down dead!

The writer reminds us that when Christ was crucified the veil in the temple was torn in two from top to bottom! This symbolises the new and living access we now have to God for all who believe in Jesus.

 

  1. That you have a new and living High Priest in Jesus:

A living Jesus, our new high priest, ushers us into the very presence of God. Isn’t that amazing!! Very often when we are going through tough times, when things look really bleak, we wonder where is God – it feels as if He has moved away from us. God seems distant. But it is not God who has moved away from us, but us who have moved away from God. We have the confidence and can have the boldness to draw closer to God because we have a new and living high priest interceding for us. Folks, when times are tough, we need to hold fast on to that intimate relationship with Jesus.

Hebrews 4: 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.

Folks, not even the might ALL BLACKS’s can have this degree of confidence of winning when they take to the field! Especially against France!

But we can have that confidence because it relies on the perfect sacrifice of Jesus. Not anything we have done or can do. The sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us so we have the confidence to draw close to God without guilty conscience or condemnation.

Romans 8:1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus

 

Be Faithful

So where does this confidence in our salvation come from?

Verse 22 tells us that when we draw closer to God, we do so “with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings”.

Verse 23 goes on: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”.

Christ is faithful toward us, so we must be faithful toward him, keeping him and His gospel central in our thoughts. It is from this FAITH that we derive our ASSURANCE, our HOPE!

This hope we profess is not a hope like we hope for good weather, or hope the car does not breakdown. Our hope in Christ is a certainty and it is based on His perfect and superior sacrifice.

Faith and our Hope rest on the promises of God – they are not a mindless blind leap in the dark!

Two things about faith:

  1. We are saved through faith. Ephesians 2:8 says For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.
  2. We are to walk by faith. Colossians 2 : 6: So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him.

Do you see that Faith is both a gift from God and our responsibility?

Let me say that again.

Faith is both a gift from God and our responsibility?

Notice the use of the word “unswervingly” in verse 23 – no deviation! Steadfast!

Folks, this message is just as important to us today as it was for those Jews then who were running the risk of falling into error. Furthermore, I believe this message will become more critically relevant in coming days – as the writer says in verse 25 “….. as you see the Day approaching”.

I say this because we need to ensure we do not drift into error which we are warned about.

2 Peter 2: 1-2: But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

 

So we need to be alert, like the Bereans, testing everything we are told making sure that it holds true to scripture. Even what I am saying today – don’t take my word for it – test it for yourselves.

I am very concerned about some of the teaching we find in the church today born out of the perception that there is something wrong in the church. Leaders, particularly in the US, seem to have this expectation that all churches should be mega churches. But they aren’t, in fact given population growth churches are actually shrinking in real terms. This leads some to conclude that we need to make changes to our message and the way we do church.

I want to quote what some leaders/teachers are saying. In doing so Folks, I am not looking to pick a fight with these writers or create division or dissention in the church, so I am not mentioning names. I appreciate taking quotes out of context is problematic, but they do present a snapshot for illustrative purposes. If you want more information, I am more than happy to continue the discussion outside of this service.

What I am referring to is what has become known as the Emerging or Emergent church? Also referred to by some as Postmodernism!

Who is familiar with these terms?

So just quickly, this terminology derives from Philosophical thought or theory and it seeks to analyse the way society organises itself. First you had the hunters and gatherers, then came agrarian or agricultural society, followed by the industrial revolution which ushered in the age of industrialisation. In revolt against the mass production and conveyor belt type mass manufacturing, which was seen as the impoverishment of the human spirit,   Modernism arose. This was a socially progressive trend of thought that emphasises the self and self-awareness and affirms the power of human beings to create, improve and reshape their environment.

Now Postmodernism, encompasses a broad range of ideas so at the risk of over-simplification, I’ll focus only on those that are relevant. Postmodernism is typically defined by an attitude of rejection toward objective notions of reasonhuman naturemoral universalismabsolute truth, and objective reality. Instead, it asserts that claims to knowledge and truth are products of social, historical or political interpretations, and are therefore contextual or socially constructed.

So, in short, there is no right way to reason, no right morality, no right truth or even right reality. These can all be constructed from the context – they are not fixed.

Can you see how this type of thinking, when confronted by biblical truth is going to run into problems!

To quote one writer:

“Theology is not the story of God and it is not our story; rather it is the understanding that allows us to connect the two. When my theology no longer serves that purpose, because either my story has changed or my understanding of God’s story changes, then the right and faithful thing to do is for my theology to change as well”.

Do you see the problem here – the effect of such a belief is that there is no longer absolute truth! Truth becomes subjective – it is whatever you perceive it to be.

When you apply the thinking of postmodern relativity to theology you get theological relativity – this simply means that your understanding of theology determines and defines what theology is. So in effect, you or your culture, get to define your own spiritual reality. Like beauty is in the eye of the beholder!

Another quote:

“I believe we need a far more humane Christianity, not to mention a more feminine Christianity, nurturing, caring, conversational and process-oriented. Our understanding of humanity will shape our understanding of spirituality”.

But Hebrews 13: 8 says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forevermore.” No matter what changes you and I go through, or how cultures evolve, or whatever metamorphosis society may go through the gospel does not change! It is a constant!

What these teachers are advocating is a liberal theology and it is based on a faulty assumption that humanity is intrinsically good.

But Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

This liberal theology flows from the liberal morality pervading every aspect of Western society today.   Look at the issue of gender identity – how did it become so confusing?

Jude tells us that we are to “contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.”

Therefore the truths of Christianity are constant but the methods by which it is articulated and practiced should be culturally appropriate and therefore can change.

  1. If both doctrine and practice are both constant, the result is a dead orthodoxy, which is what the Emerging Church is reacting against.
  2. If both doctrine and practice are constantly changing, the result is a living heresy, which is what the Emergent church is contending for.
  3. But if doctrine is constant and practice constantly changing, the result is living orthodoxy, which is the faithful way Paul is contending for.

If that sounds awfully complicated – let me simplify it like this:

  1. Biblical teaching + Christian method constant = dead truth
  2. Biblical teaching + Christian method constantly changing = living untruth
  3. Biblical teaching constant + Christian method constantly changing = living truth

I do urge you to assess what some teachers in the church are saying these days.

AND we need to stay in community of believers to support one another in the face of persecution. This takes us to our third point.

 

Be in Community (of Believers)

  1. Spur one another on to do good deeds.
  • Notice the focus is on others. It is true that we are also called to do good deeds, but the focus here is on encouraging othersto do good deeds.
  • “Consider” means you have to give some thought to it or it will not happen!
  • Notice the word “SPUR”! Negative connotation – to provoke! But not to anger but to love and good deeds.
  • Provoke to love – Christian love must be worked at – it does not come easily!
  • Sandpaper Christians! It takes deliberate focus and effort to take your eyes off yourself and focus on others.

 

  1. Meeting together

There are many reasons why we need to meet as Christians:

  • In this text, that we may spur one another on to love and good deeds. If you don’t meet with one another, you can’t show love. Isn’t that true?
  • There is a connection between coming together and building the church. How often have you heard someone say “that church is not meeting my needs” or “that church is unfriendly and unloving”, so they look for another church or leave church altogether! When this happens where is their focus? On themselves or on their fellow believer?
  • Also, this ministry of spurring and encouraging implies knowing one another on more than just a superficial level, so there is a need to meet outside of Sunday Our Sunday gatherings are crucial for worship and instruction in God’s word, but it is also of vital importance that you meet with other believers on other occasions so that you can encourage one another in your Christian walk. If you are not in a Home Group, I encourage you to do so.

 

  1. Encouraging one another
  • Mutual encouragement helps everyone stay in the faith.
  • You are your brother/sister’s keeper. It is impossible for the pastor/elders to do all the pastoral work. When we sense one of us is drifting from the Lord we need to consider how we can encourage them.
  • We have a strong encourager in Christ and we are commanded to encourage one another. Just as we receive encouragement from Christ we are to encourage others.
  • This principle also applies to comforting. We are to comfort one another just as God the father comforts us:

2 Corinthians 1 3-7  “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”

If we isolate ourselves from the body, the community of believers, it is only a matter of time before we are picked off by the enemy!!

Analogy from African continent: annual migration across the African plains – Serengeti.

  • let’s take something you are familiar with – the poor old Springbok!
  • Every year, soon after the summer rains start in November herds begin their migration from the southern Serengeti in Tanzania and migrate north to Kenya.
  • BUT the Serengeti is also famous for its abundant large predators. The ecosystem is home to many lions, leopards and hyenas. What a gauntlet to run!
  • But the springboks know to stay in the heard or they will be picked off!

Also – Ensure the herd is moving in the right direction! Not west – desert not new grass!

Stay in the herd! There is protection in the herd.

 

Parliament. Folks, just this past week we saw a bill introduced to remove the person of Jesus Christ from the prayer said by the Speaker at the opening of Parliament. It is still under discussion/consultation, but the Speaker has already started to use the new prayer. There is still reference to god, but not the God of Jesus Christ. It is an ecumenical god based on the untruth that all roads lead to the one same God. We as Christians will find ourselves in the minority and when we insist that only Jesus is the way to the God the Father we are going to be branded as radicals. Because this is the way the world is moving.

We need to be in the herd!

Stay in the herd!

 

Folks, I hope I have not scared you? Well perhaps not too much! The passage we have covered really is a positive passage – it invites and encourages us to draw close to God through the cleansing of the blood of Christ. It assures us of the saving grace we have in Jesus, of His superior sacrifice, of its atoning power and of the sanctuary we have in Him.

Sing Blessed Assurance: after that prayer available in the front here. If you feel Jesus is calling you, if you feel you have drifted away from Jesus and want to draw closer, come forward.

 

Benediction: read 2 Thessalonians 2: 13 – 17 – Stand Firm