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Paying Attention to Jesus in 2008 (A Sermon Series for the New Year) January 13, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Hebrews, Jesus, Law, Religion, Sermons.


Hebrews 12:18-29


We begin today a series out of Hebrews on “Paying Attention”. There are a number of things that we should pay attention to that are mentioned in this book but the author of this letter makes it clear throughout the whole that we should first and foremost pay attention to Jesus Christ. He begins the book by writing, “God who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a). He is proclaiming a new age and that new age is built on Jesus Christ.

There is a problem though. There are some in the church who seem to be drawing back from their faith in Christ. We do not have a lot of details about this although it seems that part of the evidence of this drawing back from Christ is the way that they live. In other words, the practical areas of life can indicate to a certain extent what it is that is truly believe.

This drawing back from faith in Christ is described in a lot of ways. The writer says that there is a danger of drifting away from Christ (Hebrews 2:1), of neglecting salvation (2:3). He warns of the danger of a heart of unbelief. He writes that the solution is very clear. He says, “I want you to look at Jesus (12:2). I want to clarify to you some things about Him that are of extreme importance. You need to pay attention to Jesus because once you know Jesus, you will find that there is nothing more that you need.”


We should pay attention to Jesus because He is superior in every way (12:18-24). For example, the presentation of God in the person of Jesus Christ is superior than that of God on Mount Sinai (verses 18-21; compare with Exodus 19:12-19; 20:18-19; Deuteronomy 9:19 with context). God through Moses had brought Israel out of Egypt. Three months later he brought them in the middle of the desert to a mountain. He said in three days I am going to come down in a dark cloud and I am going to speak to you, Moses, so that they will know that you are the leader I have chosen. Tell Israel to consecrate themselves, to wash their clothes, to get ready. Moses, I want you to set boundaries at the base of the mountain. If anyone crosses that boundary, man or beast, put them to death but don’t touch them. You stone them or shoot them through with arrows. When they hear a long, loud trumpet sound, then the people can come near to the mountain.

On the morning of that third day it began to thunder and lightning and a dark cloud appeared on the mountain and a trumpet sounded so loudly that it caused the people to tremble. Moses said, “Let’s go, God wants to speak with me.” They got to the bottom of the mountain and God said, “Moses, come up here.” Moses got to the top of the mountain and said, “Get back down there and warn the people not to come up on this mountain. After you’ve warned them come back and bring Aaron with you.” God then gave Moses and Aaron the ten commandments. All the while there is thunder and lightning and this dark cloud and the trumpet sound and the people said to Moses, “Look, you speak to God. We’re going to back off from this mountain.”

So Moses went alone into the dark cloud after that to speak to God. He later went for forty days and while He was there speaking to God, the Israelites built for themselves a golden calf because that is what they imagined their God to look like. As result of this disobedience to the second commandment, many were killed. Moses, when He saw God’s anger with Israel trembled in fear before God.

Can you imagine what it must have been like to see the power, the glory, and the wrath of God up close and personal? However, the writer of Hebrews points out that we who know the message of Jesus Christ have come face to face with an revelation of God that is superior in every way.


Mount Zion is superior because it is where God dwells. God spent a little time on Mount Sinai but once His presence left the mountain, it was just another mountain. Through Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Messiah of God, Mount Zion has become the place where God has placed His name. It is the place where the eternal city, the eternal dwelling place of God is. You might ask, is He talking about a literal city or a spiritual city. It is both. The better way to phrase it is an eternal city. Mount Zion and the city built on it is where God dwells and those who have put their faith in Christ, dwell and will dwell there also. You see, when you trust Christ as Savior, you abide in Him. You don’t visit God, check in with Him to make sure that everything is alright between you and Him. You live with Him and He with you.


The assembly is also superior. Now there were thousand of angels at Mount Sinai according to Moses in Deuteronomy. God’s chosen people, Israel, were also there. In Jesus Christ, the company that we keep is superior. The angels like God just visited Sinai but the holy angels are in His presence for all eternity. In addition, the true church is also superior to the chosen people, Israel. According to Hebrews 4, most of the adults present died in unbelief in the desert but those who have trusted Christ are born of God, heirs with Christ. In other words, not only are we going to be in the presence of God, we are joint owners with Christ of all that belongs to the presence of God.


The justice and the righteousness in Jesus Christ are also superior. The judgment executed in the desert was fearful but it was primarily physical. The judgment executed by God through Jesus Christ is eternal and it is complete. In the same way, the righteousness provided through Jesus Christ is complete. Nothing needs to be added when one has trusted Christ as Savior.

Finally, we come to Christ Himself. The Mediator at Sinai was a man, Moses, who trembled when he saw the wrath of God. The covenant that Moses mediated was confirmed by the blood of animals. Christ as Mediator is God Himself. He is not God going through a man rather He is God becoming a man and confirming the covenant, not through animal sacrifices but through the sacrifice of His own blood sprinkled and splattered and shed and poured out in His death on the cross providing eternal salvation for all who will believe in Him.


According to verse 25, the blood of Jesus speaks better things than that of Abel. Now this may seem like a strange statement. How can blood speak. Look back if you would to 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.” The sacrifice that Abel offered to God simply testified that he was righteous. It did not even make him righteous but rather indicated that He was already righteous. The blood of Jesus Christ, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ is better because it makes men and women and young people who trust in Christ, it makes them righteous.


The consequence of refusing Jesus is worse than death (verses 25-26). Death is a horrible thing. As a punishment it is even more horrible. When we practice capital punishment, we are saying, what this person has done is so grave, it is so serious that we are taking away the right of the guilty person to live.

The writer continues to compare Israel under Moses to us who live after the time of Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. When Moses came down from the mountain and saw Israel worshiping the golden calf, he called out, “Who is on the Lord’s side?” (Exodus 32:26). At that time, the tribe of Levi came to Moses’ and he commanded them to take their swords and execute those men who were the leaders and participants in the worship of the golden calf. We don’t know how many Levites there were but it was doubtless several thousand men who went through the camp. Out of the 600,000 men of fighting age in the other tribes, they executed 3,000 men. This was a horrible day. No trial, no opportunity to plead mitigating circumstances. The Scriptures says that they went throughout the camp, looking for and finding those who were worthy of death because they refused to obey the second commandment and in doing that refused God. They did not become atheists nor did they follow other God’s but they refused to submit themselves to God’s way, they thought they knew better how to get close to God and they paid for it with their lives.

The writer of Hebrews says if they did not escape in disobeying the second commandment, how much more will the certainty of punishment be if we refuse Jesus Christ as He revealed Himself to the world, the only Son of God who became man to die for our sins. A couple of chapters earlier (chapter 10), he described it this way:


Heb 10:28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

Heb 10:29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?


If you reject Jesus Christ, there is no hope for you. Your punishment will be worse than death, that is perhaps why it is called the second death. An eternal lake of fire where one is punished before God is too horrible of a consequence for us to even come up with an adequate word or phrase to describe it.


The reception of Jesus demands service (verse 28)…because His kingdom is eternal (verse 27) and His judgment is certain (verse 29).

The writer continues to compare the time of Moses with our present time. God shook the earth in those days, verifying that an earthly kingdom alone is easily shaken but that an eternal spiritual kingdom to which we enter when we trust Christ as Savior cannot be shaken. Because His kingdom is eternal and unshakeable, we should be motivated to serve that kingdom, to live for something that will last.

“Our God is a consuming fire.” The author has made this point already, repeatedly. Why does he write it again? He wanted those hearing and reading this letter to examine themselves. Am I truly in the faith? If I am, then I need have no fear but it is absolutely essential to know if I am in truly in Christ. It is absolutely essential that we get the truth about Christ correct because if we get that wrong, we will go to the lake of fire to be punished forever according to the Scriptures.


You need to anchor your being to Jesus Christ. You need to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way to salvation and purpose in this life and in the life to come. If you are not sure, then you come to me. I and others in the congregation will make it a priority to teach you about Jesus Christ. If you are sure, then you need sometime in the next week to tell those with whom you go to school and with whom you work, “I am a Christian! I am a follower of Christ!” They need to hear about Jesus from someone if they do not hear of Him from you, from whom will they hear of Him. You need though to anchor yourself to Jesus Christ and tell those with whom you have daily contact that you are a follower of Christ. Then you need to invite them to youth group or to Sunday morning church. Stand for Jesus. You will get questions. We will help you with those questions. Be convinced in your mind though that there is no one but Jesus Christ worthy of your devotion and follow Him openly and publicly.


If Jesus is better in every way then He requires a response. There are two possibilities mentioned in this passage, “refuse” or “receive“. How will you respond.

One thing about Jesus. You must receive Him to have hope for this life and the life to come. If you refuse Him there is no escape for you. The blood that He offers for you provides a covenant relationship for you with God for all eternity. Only Christ, our Mediator who sacrificed Himself can provide covenant for you. Receive Him today.



1. Micky - January 18, 2008

Being born again does not mean accepting Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord and asking Him into your heart — although that is important and every believer, Catholic or otherwise, should have Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and a living personal relationship with Him.

What Jesus meant in John 3 when He said that you’ve got to be born again. He turns around and says that you’ve got to be born of water and spirit. In the previous chapters He was just baptized with water and the Spirit descended upon Him.

And as soon as He is done talking to Nicodemus about the need to be born from water and Spirit, the very next verse says that Jesus and the disciples went about baptizing. Being born again is a covenant act, a sacrament, a covenant renewal involving baptism.
MICKY – http://micky-clontarf.blogspot.com/


2. roberttalley - January 18, 2008

Thanks for your comment, Mickey. I do not agree with your interpretation of John’s gospel. Except for John 10 where baptism is mentioned in a non-theological context, there is no mention of baptism after 4:2. In none of the theological discourses of John is baptism directly mentioned and the passage in John 3 is open to a wide number of interpretations. It isn’t wise to base an important doctrine on an unclear passage of Scripture.

In addition, the context of John 3 points clearly to the fact that there is a difference in spiritual birth and physical birth. This actually argues against taking the “water” to be salvation by baptism. Although there are some good arguments for the “water” referring to baptism as a ritual cleansing, these arguments do not necessarily mean that being born again, i.e., regeneration is a result of baptism.

This is a huge subject for which I do not have space in a comment box but your argument as presented does not hold up in my opinion after close examination. I will post today some links addressing this subject more in depth.

3. Links concerning Baptismal Regeneration « Eternally Significant - January 18, 2008

[…] January 18, 2008 Posted by roberttalley in Baptism, Religion, Spurgeon. trackback There is an interesting comment to last Sunday’s sermon to which I gave a short answer. Here are the promised links […]

4. sandrar - September 10, 2009

Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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