Were you ever asked a question that required a background of information before the answer made sense?For instance, If you asked me whether I preferred tea or Coca Cola as a beverage, I would need to clarify whether we were talking about sweet or unsweetened tea, or black tea or green tea, and whether we were talking about Coke Classic or Coke Zero or Diet Coke. And I probably would want to know what time of the day we are talking about. After I gather all that information, then I could give you an answer—the answer being, “I’m not sure!”
Sometimes it is hard to give a simple yes or no answer.
And do you remember when you were in school and were required to give a Book Report? The book may have been a 400 page novel, but you were supposed to give the basic story line of the book in a paragraph or two.
When we come to the Epistle to the Hebrews, and are asked to give the core message of the Book, it could require a little thought. After all, the first several chapters seem to be an attempt to show that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of God’s Plan, that He is superior to all the rituals that had been required prior to His Life, Death, and Resurrection.
But, after reading all that, just what does the author want to say to the readers of this epistle about what difference all this should make in their lives? And after realizing Who Jesus is and What Jesus has done for us, the answer would have to be that we are to live our lives because of all that has been written up to this point.
And that is where our scripture passage in Hebrews 10 begins. It has been said that these verses (Hebrews 10:19-25) contain the very core, the bottom line, as to what the writer is trying to get across to his audience.
On this day when we are receiving Members into the local church—men and women who are committing themselves to be active in service for Christ through the ministry opportunities available through our organization—it is important that we understand this core message in Hebrews that is for all Christians.
So let’s consider:
I. A CALL TO HIS PRESENCE (Verses 19-22)
a. The writer qualifies his statement about coming into the Presence of God by reminding us of all that had been said up to this point. We can come near to God because of what Jesus has done—His atoning sacrifice –the shedding of His blood to pay the debt we owe because of the guilt of our sins—a sacrifice that ripped the veil of the temple from top to bottom, opening up the Holy Place of God for each of us to enter. And because we have a High Priest—the
Sinless Son of God who continually intercedes for us at the right Hand of God the Father, we can be ushered into God’s very Presence.The English Theologian and Scholar William Barclay gives this illustration—He says a person may inquire directions to Buckingham Palace and a man on the street might give his directions. But just because the man could give directions it did not mean that the man could grant him audience with the Queen. But Jesus, because of Who He is and What He has done, can not only give us directions, but He can also usher us into the very Presence of God. His shed Blood as atonement for our sins has cleansed us from the stain and guilt of sin and has made us fit to enter into The Father’s very Presence.
b. And since Jesus has done all of this for us, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with full assurance of faith…”
c. This is essential in the life of every Christian. In a meeting with some other ministers this week I heard an expression that really captured my attention. The reference pertained to the reality of Christians in general. The term was “Cultural Christian” as compared to “Real Christians. In Israel there are 3 great “world religions that co-exist: The Jews, the Christians, and the Islamic or Muslim Religion. Many who are Jews are Jews nationally (Culturally) even though they don’t practice Orthodox Judaism. And in America there are many who classify themselves as Christians who make no attempt to commit to the teachings of Jesus.
d. This Call to come into the Holy Place, to have an audience with Almighty God, is a call to those who are truly committed to Jesus, who have accepted Him as Savior and Lord, and who are actively seeking to live their lives in a way that honors Him. The verse says to “Draw near…”with sincere faith because we have hearts that are “…sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
e. I am fearful that we have too many “Cultural Church Members”—people who may claim this church as their own, but who have never really surrendered completely to Jesus and who are not attempting to honor Him with their commitment to His Body—the Church. If you claim to be a Christian and a Nazarene, then a person should be able to assume that you are spending time in His Holy Presence. That would mean reading and studying and meditating on His Word. That would mean spending time regularly in prayer, seeking His Will and Direction for your life as well as interceding on the behalf of others. It would mean much more that just agreeing to a set of rules—it would mean having a close, personal, intimate relationship with the Living God!
II. A CALL TO STEADFASTNESS ( Verse 23)
a. Not only should you spend time in the Presence of Almighty God, you should hang on—hold on steadily—stand firmly– upon the Hope that God has given us.What is that Hope? It is God’s Promise that through Jesus Christ we have eternal life. It means that even though we face difficulties in this life, our confidence is that God will see us through. It is by faith trusting God to give us strength and help in our time of trials. It is standing firm on His Promise when we have done all that we can do in our spiritual struggles. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.”I am reminded of the time when Moses had begun leading the Children of Israel out of Egypt. In front of them was the Red Sea. Behind them was the pursuing Egyptian Army. The situation was out of his hands. He had done everything he knew to do and the situation humanly seemed hopeless. But after calling on the Lord, we read in Exodus14:13 & 14, “Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.’”And I can tell you that there are times when you have done all you know to do and the situation seems impossible, when the only thing left to do is what we should have been doing from the beginning: By faith just trust God to take care of things. He is our Hope. He is Faithful. He will not, cannot lie. And to stand firm upon the Hope He has given you is to demonstrate that you fully trust in Him. So, HOLD ON UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS, FOR HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL” (Hebrews 10: 23).
III. A CALL TO DISCIPLE OTHERS (Verse 24)
a. The Bible clearly teaches that we are to do all we can to build up others in their spiritual lives. In 1 Corinthians 12: 7 we are told, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” That means that when God saves us and puts His Spirit within us, and gives us a spiritual gift, He does so that we might contribute to the spiritual life of others. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus admonished us to be “Salt and Light”—influencers in our world for His Name’s sake (see Matthew 5: 13-16).
b. The Mission Statement of our Denomination says that we are “To make Disciples of the Nations.” Each of us should be investing our lives into the lives of others, helping them to grow and mature as Christians. That is what it means when we read in verse 24 that we should “spur one another on toward love and good works. “
IIII. A CALL TO ASSEMBLE TOGETHER (Verse 25)
a. In last week’s sermon we touched on reasons as to why people do not go to church. There are the old classic excuses such as, “Too many hypocrites in the church,” or “I don’t like the preaching or the singing,” or “I got my feeling hurt,” or “They are always asking for money!” But when you read the Bible you will not find any legitimate reason for dropping out of church. Instead, you are taught to love, forgive, pray for one another, confront and rebuke one another when needed. And rather that flee from conflict we are taught to resolve conflict in a way that honors God. “In William Barclay’s commentary on this verse, he quoted Moffat as saying perhaps people had stopped attending church because of fear (what others thought of them); because people were different’ from them (socially, economically, racially, etc.); or because of conceit (a person may think he has all the answers and doesn’t need what the church has to offer). I know of many who just think they are too busy and do not have the time required to attend church. Some claim that that is the only time they have for family things, and in so doing, demonstrate that their family is more important to them than their relationship with God.
b. But, the bottom line is this.”…Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” (Ephesians 5:26). In Matthew 16 Jesus told Peter that on the testimony that Jesus is “The Messiah, the Son of the living God” that He (Jesus) would “…build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (See Matthew 16: 16-19).And in this core passage in Hebrews, the writer includes, “Not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day Approaching’ (Hebrews 10: 25).
c. Friends, listen to me. Everyone who is a born again Believer and Follower of Jesus must make time on a regular basis to get together with other Christians to Worship Together, To Study God’s Word together, to Pray together, and to Bear one another’s burdens. And if your job is so essential that you cannot attend church on Sunday morning, then you must find a time when you can meet with the church. You need to do it for your own benefit.
d. Barclay said, among other reasons for attending church, even if you do not care for the preaching style or the music, is so that the world will know that you have chosen to be counted with God’s people!
Notice that the one of the reasons the writer of Hebrew said all these things are important is, “…all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10: 25b). He was reminding the readers of this Epistle that Jesus is coming back again. And implied in that is that when He returns we will stand before Him and give an account of how we have lived our lives. The first century church lived with that constant expectation of the Return of Christ. And, today, any scholar of prophecy and observer of world conditions will tell you that His Return could be at any time. We are told that, “At such an hour as you think not, so shall the coming of the Son of Man shall be…” (See Matthew 24:44).
So, Seek His Face. Spend time in His Presence. Stand firmly on His Promises. Encourage and build up one another. And Worship with the Body of Christ.
The time is getting shorter Now is the time to devote yourself to the things of God!