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Tears of Regret – Esau May 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Forgiveness, Genesis, Hebrews, Holiness, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, Regret, Tears.
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TEARS OF REGRET
Genesis 27 with Hebrews 12:14-17

When I was growing up, there was a Southern gospel song that we used to sing that went something like this:

Part of my life brings tears of regret and part of my life I would rather forget.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.
Yes, part of my life to false idols I bowed and part of my life I just followed the crowd.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.

Freely I drank from life’s glittering cup, so deep in my shame, I could hardly look up.
Tears of regret are the price I must pay but the rest of my life, God can have his own way.

A. Most of us experience tears of regret.
1. Tears of regret result from not foreseeing the consequences of our actions (Heb. 12:16 and Gen. 25:29-34). Patrick Morley in The Man in the Mirror tells how he as a young businessman “made it a habit to always ask older men what their greatest regrets were, hoping [to] glean some wise tips…two [regrets] showed up on virtually every man’s list…” not being financially ready for retirement at the age of fifty and not getting to know their kids before they left home. These men had not seen the consequences of their chosen lifestyle.

2. Tears of regret come when we realize the past cannot be undone (Heb. 12:17 and Gen. 27:30-40). Esau was being a little hard on himself. After all, before he was born God had already denied him the blessing he wept for. He, however, had thought that he and his father could get around God’s will. Esau could have decided to follow God’s plan as Jonathan did when David was chosen by God to be king but instead he chose to work for his own self-interests.

3. Tears of regret can easily become the fuel of bitterness (Heb. 12:15 and Genesis 27:41-28:9). The writer of Hebrews describes the root of bitterness as something more than what the hate of Esau became. It seems to be akin to unbelief, spiritual stubbornness and rebellion. There is emotional bitterness which is painful and hurtful but the greatest danger is when that bitterness results in rejection of Jesus Christ but that often happens.

B. How do we avoid tears of regret?
1. Pursue peace with others and holiness before God (Hebrews 12:14). Thomas Jefferson valued the pursuit of happiness, which in the culture of that day meant the pursuit of property. God values other pursuits. We are to pursue, to chase after, to make peace and holiness priorities in my life.

Pursuing peace: In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Erwin Lutzer in his book, When You’ve Been Wronged, tells of a missionary to Muslims in Egypt. The man received a letter from an angry Muslim that said, “Cursed be you, cursed be your wife, and cursed be your children. Cursed is the home in which you live, cursed is the car that you drive.” Rather than worrying about the letter or ignoring the letter, the man wrote a reply, “This is my prayer for you: blessed be your wife, blessed be your children, blessed be your home, and blessed is the car that you drive.”

How do you pursue peace? Erwin Lutzer suggests the following:
I. Offer a gesture of genuine goodwill. It may be small like a handshake and smile. It may be a gesture of generosity. It may be personal sacrifice. You may not feel like offering goodwill. Your gesture may be regarded with suspicion but that is where you can begin.
II. Humble yourself before God. If you are going to pursue peace with others you must first submit your will to God. Until you are convinced that God wants you to reconcile, to pursue peace, you will almost always find an excuse not to do it.
III. Humble yourself before others. Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” To pursue peace will cost you in pride and dignity and rights. It is the only way, however, to pursue peace. Don’t misunderstand, humbling yourself does not mean you never hold others accountable or set necessary boundaries but as you hold them accountable and as you set up the boundaries, humble yourself before others.

Pursuing holiness: Jerry Bridges in Pursuit of Holiness tells of “Jonathan Edwards, who resolved never to do anything he would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of his life, [he] also made this resolution: ‘Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.’”

How then do you pursue holiness? The context of Hebrews 12 (see verse 10) implies discipline. Hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible is necessary. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible for this purpose (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we learn the Scripture the Spirit brings to our mind and illuminates what we have learned and then we obey it. That, however, takes daily discipline.

2. Pay attention to each other’s spiritual condition (Hebrews 12:15; see also 3:12-14:1; 10:24-27). The book of Hebrews is difficult for us to understand at times because the author does not do what we often do, we compartmentalize our belief and our practice. The writer of Hebrews indicates that if there is a problem with how you live, there may well be a problem with what you believe.

There is another area that makes the book of Hebrews hard for us. The writer is willing to reserve judgment on the spiritual condition of others without shrinking from his responsibility for others. We find this hard to do. We take one of two extremes: either “judge not that you be not judged” or we condemn those who we feel do not meet our standard. Both extremes are irresponsible and wrong. The writer of Hebrews says, “Know each other, become so close to each other in every way so that you will recognize the root of bitterness when it begins to produce a sprout.”

What should you do? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:25, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” God has spoken. Will you do his will?

Next Week’s Sermon: Remember this Place

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What does creation teach us about humankind (Psalm 8)? June 28, 2009

Posted by roberttalley in Creation, Hebrews, Jesus, Messiah, Psalms, Religion, Sermons.
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Lessons From Creation: What Is Man?
(Psalm 8)

THEME: Humankind is the Key Created Element in the Eternal Majesty of God

Introduction: This is a psalm of praise. When someone approaches royalty, they might say, “His Excellency” or “Your Majesty.” This is exactly what this psalm does. David prays to God but He does not say, “My Father” but rather in total submission to God bows before God and worships “His Excellency”, “His Majesty”, “the LORD his Lord.”

I. In his praise of the majestic Lord God, David beautifully points out that the key created element of God’s eternal glory is humankind. This psalm asks and answers the question, “How is it majestic Lord, that you are glorified in the weakness of humankind (verses 1-8)?”
A. You are already universally glorious (verse 1).
1. You, that is, your name, is excellent, is majestic in all the world around us (verse 1a). When God separated the waters on the earth from the sky with a word and gathered the waters into oceans so that dry land would appear, He showed His lordship over the earth. When with a word He caused grass and trees, savannahs and rain forests, gardens and prairies, with that one word He showed His excellency in all the earth. When with a word He put fish in the oceans and birds in the trees and animals on the land, God displayed His majesty and glory.
2. Lord, not only are you majestic in all the world around us but you are glorified in the created universe (verse 1b). Your glory, your majesty, your authority, your beauty is above and beyond the heavens. This universe of ours is beyond measuring, beyond comprehension but God is greater than this universe. It is His created domain to rule and to reign over.
B. God created mankind to create greater glory for Himself. This psalm asks the question, “God, do you need humankind to create greater glory for yourself (verses 2-8)?” Let’s think about this. If God had stopped with the creation of land animals on the sixth day of creation, would this universe be glorious? Absolutely! Would He still reign over His domain? Of course, but God’s creation went beyond creative power and glory but rather centered around humankind. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation.
For example, when God created the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day of creation, for what purpose were they created? To give light to the earth. This is God’s perspective of the universe. It was all created for this seemingly small and insignificant ball of land and water.
For two hundred years, we have been taught differently. We have been taught that our sun is an insignificant star (“rather ordinary” according to Gary Edward Schnittjer in “The Torah Story”) “located in a remote area of the rather unexceptional Milky Way galaxy, which is one of billions of such galaxies.”# Schnittjer quotes one of the lead characters of the 1997 movie to illustrate this point, “If human beings are the only life in the vast universe, then it sure is a waste of space.” This psalm says just the opposite. It is the existence of human beings that give purpose to this universe in that they enhance the glory of God.
1. Silencing God’s enemies enhances His glory. (verse 2).
a. Strength out of weakness silences His enemies (verse 2a). Jesus quotes this verse on the first Palm Sunday when the learned religious rulers of His day wanted the “Hosannah’s” of the children silenced. In the context, David is speaking of humankind in general and the nation of Israel in particular. God has enemies and His enemies are powerful. Satan controls the rulers of this earth. He is called in Ephesians the prince of the power of the air. He is a mighty force. Now God could easily defeat Him with one word but He chooses instead the words of the weak. That is why Satan hates humankind and desires to deceive humankind, because He understands that God will defeat Him through the praise of our lips.
b. The illustration of ordaining strength from babies (verse 2b). When God cursed Eve for her part in their disobedience, He promised her that through her seed, that is, through a man, that Satan would be defeated. How was Satan’s mouth stopped in the book of Job? Through the integrity of one man. How were the Philistines brought to their knees? Through a young boy with a sling whose strength was not his own but the LORD’s. How were the God-hating Pharaohs and the Nebuchadnezzars of this world shown the glory of God? Through weak men made strong by the everlasting arm of God.
2. This is why God gives priority to humankind over the heavenly bodies (verses 3-8). God enemies are defeated through humankinds weakness. An observer would say that we are insignificant in comparison to the universe. It appears obvious yet God gives priority to us over the sun, moon, and stars. He gives us a glory that is above all creation.
a. Humankind’s earthly glory is the result of God’s care for us (verses 4-8). God does not pay attention to the heavenly bodies nor does He concern Himself with the animals and plants except as they relate to humankind. God could have saved the dinosaurs from extinction but He did not. He could have through His power saved hundreds of species of plants and animals from extinction but has not. Why? Because they are not the focus of His plans. Humankind is the focal point of God’s creation which is why we find Him caring so diligently for humankind and specifically for His people.
i. Is humankind worth remembering (verse 4a)?
ii. Is humankind worth tending to (verse 4b)?
iii. The assumed answer is “No”. “What is man that you remember him?” Mark Twain spoke for the modern man when he answered this question by saying that we are robots who simply go through life doing what we must do because we are in some way programmed to do that thing. Some, like the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and New Age adherents try to give us significance by proclaiming us to be gods or godlike in some way. The answer of David is this. When I look at God’s handiwork in the sky, there seems to be no significance in man to justify God’s dealings with him.
b. Humankind’s earthly glory comes from God’s gift to humankind of dominion over creation (verses 5-8).
i. You have made him a little lower than the angels (verse 5a). The angels are higher than us in rank. They are greater than us in power but only we have been given dominion over the earth.
ii. You have crowned him with glory and honor (verse 5b). I suppose it is not bad to be an angel. God created the angels for a great and glorious purpose but without the existence of man, one has to ask one’s self if the angels serve a significant purpose without man. Angels can sin but they will never be forgiven. Angels can do great things but they are never indwelt by the Spirit of God. I think it is likely that even the creation of the angels was directly connected with God’s plans for humankind. They are simply powerful and exalted tools, created as part of God’s redemptive purpose for humankind.
iii. You have given him dominion over your creation (verse 6a). When God created the heavens and the earth, He did not turn it over to an angel or a group of angels but rather to Adam and Eve. Physically and spiritually limited, God gave to them the dominion over the earth and the care of the garden of Eden. An angel was sent to block entrance to the garden and the tree of life to the very people who had been responsible for its welfare. What a glorious privilege they were given.
iv. You have put all animals under his feet (verses 6b-8). God could have named the animals but He gave that job to Adam. God could have tamed the animals but He left that for Adam and his descendants to do. “Under his feet”, however, goes much further than naming and taming animals. First, animals are just one example from creation of those things being subject to man. Secondly, this is the phrase used when one has defeated his enemies and they are submissive to him. Paul quotes this verse in 1 Corinthians 15, speaking of Christ’s victory over death. In the same way that death is submissive to Christ, creation is submissive to mankind.
v. We have not done very well with our responsibility. From Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden to the submission of the heathen to creation; from the unwise uses of our earth to the wicked uses with which man uses creation; in all of these things, we have shown that our sinful nature prevents us from ruling over the earth in wisdom.
II. God’s name is glorified through humankind in the person of Christ (verse 9). One man – Jesus Christ fulfills the expectation of God’s gifts (Hebrews 2:7).
A. His name is glorified despite humankind’s unworthiness. We have proven unworthy but God is worthy. Revelation 5:8-13 describes how the Lamb of God, the seed promised to Eve, the one made a little lower than the angels, when He had by Himself purged us from our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Father, so that all things would be under His feet (See Hebrews 1 and 2 also).
B. His name is glorified despite humankind’s abuse of His gifts. When Jesus was born of a virgin, He became one of those babes and sucklings referred to in verse 2. The world could not realize that the baby born in Bethlehem would be able to fulfill the expectations of God for the human race. Through Him God’s enemies are put to silence. Satan and His demons, death, sin, and hell are all defeated through Jesus Christ. Romans 5 shows us that Jesus Christ is the superior man, much more superior to Adam who gave us death through sin. Jesus, however, gave us righteousness through death, His death.

God created you for His greater glory. Every man, woman, boy, and girl sitting here today was the focal point of God’s creation. He has given us dominion over the earth. We, however, have failed and continue to fail and will continue to fail. There is a man though who descended from heaven to be born of a virgin, to live as a man, to die as a man, to bodily rise from the dead as a man, to ascend into heaven as a man, the Son of Man, the Son of God, God Himself. God’s glory is enhanced through Christ’s redemption of sinful man. He will save you when you put your faith in Him. Do it today!

Paying Attention to Ourselves – Last of the Hebrews New Years Series February 10, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Eternal Security, Hebrews, Religion, Sermons.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO YOURSELVES

Hebrews 4:11-16

The Word of God can be summed up in one person. Jesus Christ, the Word. Jesus is called the Word in several places in the New Testament. Jesus was not sent with a word from God but was sent into the world as the Word of God. It is for this reason that it is absolutely necessary for us to understand that the commands in the book of Hebrews to pay attention to ourselves, to pay attention to our faith, to pay attention to the word of God, etc. are ultimately tied in to the theme of this book, paying attention to Jesus Christ. In other words, to pay attention to myself spiritually means to pay attention to Jesus Christ.

 

THE PROBLEM OF HEBREWS

When we read the book of Hebrews we have a problem. The writer addresses the readers as people who have faith in Christ who are in danger of rejecting Christ.

Buist Fanning puts it this way, “The passages [in Hebrews] seem to say that genuine Christians should persevere in faithfulness but may instead repudiate Christ and so fall into eternal condemnation, but Christ’s work in and for them will absolutely not fail to bring them through to eternal salvation! This synthesis is, of course, less than satisfying, and it is not credible that our author’s theology contradicts itself so blatantly within the same passages addressed to the same situation. Our reading of one or more of the elements obviously needs to be adjusted” (page 205 Four Views on the Warning Passages in Hebrews Herbert W. Bateman IV, editor from his introductory sermon to the book of Hebrews).

There are a number of ways in which to deal with this problem. Some deal with it by claiming that you can lose your salvation. The problem is that this does not only seem to be contradictory within the book of Hebrews but to contradict the rest of the New Testament which teaches that we are saved eternally, sealed unto the day of redemption by the Holy Spirit of God. On the other end of the spectrum, we can assume that the awful punishments that are described in the book of Hebrews are not eternal but rather punishments carried out on Christians either here on earth or at the day of accounting. The punishments seem though to be severe beyond our understanding and are consistent with what we know from the book of Revelation as eternal punishment in the lake of fire.

When you read the book of Hebrews there is something that jumps out at you. It seems that the writer himself is certain that many, perhaps even most of his readers are believers in Christ but he fears for some of them. There were some to which the letter was written that the author was not certain whether they were saved or not.

Now this is not unusual. Sometimes we look at people’s lives and we find it hard to determine if they have trusted Christ. This book was written for such a situation. What we should do with this book is examine our own lives. Yes, we are to look at each other and encourage one another to stay in the faith. That is commanded in this book. First and foremost though, we need to evaluate our own faith.

WAYS TO EVALUATE YOUR FAITH 

There are a number of ways to evaluate our faith. We spoke a couple of weeks ago that the spiritual discipline that Christ brings in our lives is proof of the reality of our faith. It is also implied in several places in Hebrews and clearly taught in a number of other places that our love and commitment to our fellow believers is a clear proof of the reality of our faith. The point of Hebrews though is that the ultimate proof of the reality of our faith is the object of our faith, Jesus Christ.

OUR EVALUATION MUST CORRESPOND TO GOD’S EVALUATION OF WHETHER WE HAVE ENTERED HIS REST OR NOT. 

We find in this passage that rest is certain for the people of faith (compare verse 11 with verse 9). What is this rest? Christ is our rest (compare 4:14 with 3:6, 14). How is it obtained? Christ is obtained by grace through faith (compare verses 11 and 16 with 3:18-4:3).

God’s evaluation of the reality of our faith is certain (4:12-15). Nothing is hidden from Christ (4:12-13).

BECAUSE JESUS IS OUR HIGH PRIEST, WE NEED NOT FEAR GOD’S EVALUATION OF OUR FAITH. 

Nothing is beyond Christ’s sympathy (4:14-15). In these two verses we see Jesus presented as our sympathetic High Priest. Now Jesus was not always a High Priest. He became our High Priest to purge or purify us from our sin (5:1-9). Jesus came and became man but He not only became man but became our High Priest by offering as a sacrifice His life, His body, His blood as “…the new covenant, which was given for the remission of sins.” Christ came not to be an example. That is simply a fringe benefit of His coming as we saw a couple of weeks ago in Hebrews 12:1-3. No, Christ came to solve the sin problem. In solving the sin problem He glorified His Father and as God, was glorified which is the ultimate purpose of God’s plan.

Jesus as God in solving the sin problem is a very black and white thinker. He loves what is good and hates lawlessness. His attitude towards everything and everyone: you, me, our neighbor, everything is wrapped up in His love of righteousness and His hatred of evil. If He had not hated evil, totally and completely, there would be no reason for Him to die. But there He was. He desired to lift up goodness and destroy wickedness.

Jesus as a man hated sin and loved righteousness just as much as He hated sin as God but as a man He understood the weakness of the flesh, he understood what it meant to be tempted. He did not give in to the weakness of His human flesh. He was tempted but He did not sin. He sat where we sit and because of that He was qualified to serve as our High Priest.

THE PROPER RESPONSE 

Let’s be a people of faith (verses 11, 14, 16). To be a person of faith demands diligence (verse 11). The word “diligence” implies exertion and intentionality. In this verse, the response is obedience to Jesus Christ, the Faithful and True Word resulting in the rest that only God can and does provide for men who put their faith in Christ.

One thing about a command. You must respond appropriately. If you neglect the command the command of God to trust Christ, if you are careless about it, as it says in this verse, you will fall. It does not matter how spiritual you appear. It does not matter what spiritual and moral advantages you might have, you will fall and great and destructive will be your fall.

To be a person of faith demands endurance (verse 14). Jesus is the anchor that keeps us from drifting away from God. It is our confession of Him that produces endurance in the faith. People sometimes get disillusioned with the church. They get disillusioned with pastors. They get disillusioned with the people of God. They get disillusioned with the circumstances through which they must live. They get disillusioned with the weakness of their sinful flesh. They get disillusioned with the seeming unfairness of this world. It is when you are disillusioned with others, with yourself, with God, it is in those times that the reality of your faith in Christ, that the reality of your confession of Him is shown to be lasting.

To be a person of faith demands confidence (verse 16). You need to understand that Jesus is God’s Word to you. Tim Keller put it this way, “…the gospel [of Jesus Christ] is not just the ABC[s] of the faith, it is the A to Z.” You need to anchor your being to Jesus Christ. You need to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way to purpose in this life and in the life to come. If you are not sure, then you come to me and I and others in the congregation will make it a priority to teach you about Jesus Christ. Be convinced in your mind though that there is no one but Jesus Christ worthy of your devotion and follow Him openly and publicly.

The cleansing that Christ offers is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, our Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself can provide cleansing. He did this by Himself without any help from man or angel. Anchor your soul in Him.

Paying Attention to Christ’s Coming – A Sermon from Hebrews 10 February 3, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Eschatology, Hebrews, Religion, Sermons.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR CHRIST’S COMING

Hebrews 10:19-39

 

As you can see from this passage, it was not easy to be a Christian in the first century. Persecution was an ever present danger. For that reason, it is sometimes difficult for us to really understand the difficulties that these people were facing. We live in a day when the greatest perceived threats to our well-being are an unprecedented housing market collapse. Although it is possible that persecution is in our future as believers in Christ, it does not appear to be imminent. In the New Testament days, the situation was much different. When we read the book of Hebrews, the book of Revelation, the book of 1 Peter, Paul’s epistles, we can recognize that these people did not have religious freedom as we know it. There was no bill of rights. Many of the freedoms that we value did not exist and yet many of them stood for God during that time period. One of the reasons that the second coming of Christ is mentioned so often in the New Testament hinges on the fact that those people, who were living in a very unstable situation where persecution of some type could break out at a moment’s notice, – those people needed both the warning and the hope that the teaching of the second coming of Christ brings.

TWO ASPECTS OF CHRIST’S COMING 

There are two aspects of Christ’s coming that every person should consider (13:25b-39). Although our circumstances are different, we also need the teaching of the second coming of Christ. There are a number of reasons why we need the second coming of Christ but two are emphasized consistently in the Scriptures.

The first is the expectation of vengeance (13:25b-31). The writer here has a particular group of people in view. He is speaking of those who sin willfully. Not out of ignorance nor because of weakness. Now what is this willful sin? In the context of this chapter and the book of Hebrews, this willful sin is a rejection of Jesus Christ. There are those who are in this congregation who the author is afraid that they are not really saved and that they are in danger of turning their back on the truth. They have heard the gospel. They have heard the truth but they reject Jesus Christ as presented, the Son of God who became man to die for our sins and to ascend to heaven as our eternal guarantee of salvation. They hear all this and for some reason turn away from Jesus Christ.

The language here is very strong. Trampling the blood of Jesus Christ, rejecting the very act by which Jesus showed His great love to mankind and their rejection is compared to a rude act of disrespect and rejection.

It should not be surprising how God reacts. We have a picture of the wrath of God. God hates sin, all sin. However, for those who know the truth of Christ and reject Him, the vengeance of God will be a horrible thing.

I know we live in a day when hell is a joke even to many Christians. I understand that the judgment of God seems to be far off. I understand that this is not a subject we enjoy dwelling on but it is essential that you consider the seriousness of rejecting Christ.

This is why many of the cults reject the doctrine of hell. That doctrine is horrible. Charles Russell, the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses began with a rejection of the doctrine of hell. Once he rejected that doctrine, he followed the path on which he had started and eventually rejected Christ as the supreme God, the second person of the Trinity. He heard the truth but he did not remain in the truth and ended up trampling figuratively on the blood of the Son of God. This is what will happen if we do not remain faithful to Christ.

ON THE POSITIVE SIDE… 

The hope of the promise (13:32-37). Verse 34 says that our eternal possessions are far better and enduring than our earthly possessions.

Verse 35 points out that our eternal reward is better than any earthly reward we might receive. In the next chapter (11:24-27) the writer gives us an example of someone who knew this truth. His name is Moses. Moses recognized that the royal family of the greatest kingdom on earth had nothing worthwhile to offer him. Think of all that Moses endured and he endured it because he knew that what God had for him was better.

Verse 36 points out that God’s eternal promises are better than any earthly promises. What does the word have to offer that will last? Nothing. Not houses or lands or bank accounts, not fame nor fortune, neither friends nor family are guaranteed to us for eternity. But are promises are far better. We are heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We will have fame throughout the universe as God points out that He died so that we might live at the throne of God. We will have family and friends forever in that eternal day. No more guilt. No more shame. No more sin. No more sickness. No more death. No more crying. No more fear. No more of the frustrations with this world that we experience every day. We will be with Christ and like Christ and serving Christ for all eternity.

The difference between the two is remaining in the faith (13:38-39). The writer quotes from Habakkuk. Habakkuk was a man who could not see how that God’s work could possibly result in the promises that God had promised but God said to Habakkuk, “Don’t give up. I’m not finished yet. The best is yet to come. The righteous, the just, will live by faith.”

WHO CAN FALL AWAY? 

Now there is a very important question we need to answer. Were these people who are in danger of falling away true believers? Were they people who believed and then became lost again or were they never believers to begin with? The writer of Hebrews seems to send mixed messages. He refers to them as brethren, yet at other times he warns of an evil heart of unbelief. According to verse 26, these people receive the knowledge of the truth. This is the same word that is used in John 1:12 where it says but as many as received him to them gave he power to become the sons of God. In fact the writer of Hebrews uses this same term to refer to those who are saved.

Heb 9:15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive <2983> the promise of the eternal inheritance.

What we have here is a situation similar to what we find in John’s gospel. John speaks of those who believe in Christ as those who have crossed over from death unto life. However, in that same book we find that after Jesus proclaimed Himself the Bread of Life that many of those who believed, followed after him no more.

What we are looking at here is perseverance. The writer of Hebrews explains what is taught elsewhere in the New Testament. If we are really a possessor, then we are going to endure. And if we do not endure, we are just a professor. These people who received the knowledge and perhaps even professed faith as a Christ fall away when difficulties come because they do not really have faith in Christ.

HOW DO WE PAY ATTENTION TO CHRIST’S COMING? 

There are two responses that should intensify in our life as we come closer to the coming of the Lord (13:19-25). The first is confidence in Christ’s sacrifice for our sin (13:19-23). Chapters 7 through 10:18 are the main course of the book of Hebrews. In those chapters, the writer describes how that Jesus is a better high priest than those under the old covenant. Because He is a better high priest, we can have confidence that the sacrifice for our sin is sufficient for all eternity. This confidence is described in two ways.

Draw near with full assurance (13:19-22). It is easy to say, “Well, I am saved forever through Jesus Christ. It does not matter how I live.” That is where we are sadly mistaken. You see salvation is not just an escape from prison with a new set of clothes. It is a release from guilt and a promotion to the highest offices of heaven and we need to live confidently in our faith. That will affect how we pray. I can come before Christ with confidence because I am free from the guilt of my sin.

CONFESSION OF A RIDE ON A ROLLER COASTER 

Hold fast without wavering (13:23). Several years ago our family went to a theme park in Florida. In that park they had several roller coasters. My son was old enough and tall enough to ride them and so I had to go along also. This particular coaster was a double coaster where you had two coasters going simultaneously and they would pass each other in such a way that supposedly it would look like they were about to collide into one another. Now I go on that coaster and rode with Phil on it but I never saw the other coaster. I was preoccupied with other things. I was holding fast without wavering. Now the phrase actually means to hold in possession without giving up it up for one second. One that ride, I decided that those two bars belonged to me and I never for one second even thought about turning loose or even of relaxing my grip on those bars. I was holding fast without wavering. Those bars were mine! That is what faith in Christ is. No matter how rough the ride is, you hold on to Christ. Now I did not do a thing to bring myself in safely off of that ride. Neither did I feel much confidence on that ride. The point here is not that you can save yourself or keep yourself safe. The world is too rough and sin is too alluring and we are too weak and too sinful and too fearful but God gives us those two bars to hold on to. He says, Christ died for you. Hold on without wavering. Never let go of Jesus Christ.

CHRIST’S COMING AND MY FELLOW BELIEVER 

Consideration of each other’s spiritual condition (13:24-25). Compare 10:24-25 with 3:12-15. Again we see the importance of the church in encouraging people to remain in the faith. In what two ways can we do this?

By consistent contact with each other. Now I dwelt on this a lot last week, so I am only going to make a brief comment. Often I have heard people say that it is not the number of times that go to church during the week that prove whether you are spiritual or not. They are absolutely right. What consistent church attendance proves is not directly your spirituality but rather your connection to and with the body of Christ. My church attendance is not about me. In fact, in the context here, the importance of my church attendance and connection with other believers is directly related to reaching those people within the church’s influence with the truth of Christ. If I am involved with my church family, I will have the opportunity through word and deed to keep someone from trampling on the blood of Christ. I may keep someone from receiving the knowledge of Christ and then willfully spurning His sacrifice.

I know that people are so scared of legalism especially in this matter of church attendance. When did it become legalism to love your family and to expect your family to love you. When did it become legalism to care if the people you worship with are going to stay in the faith or not.

IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO ATTEND CHURCH EVERY TIME THE DOORS ARE OPEN. 

By constant exhortation of one another we pay attention to the coming of Christ. You see church attendance without connection with other believers is not enough. The purpose of church attendance, the purpose of prayer groups, the purpose of service within the church, the purpose of worship music, the purpose of youth group, the purpose of Awanas, the purpose of Bible studies, the purpose for our existence is to find ways in which we can encourage one another to remain in the faith.

Why does this matter? The Day is approaching. Jesus Christ is coming. We need to intensify our hold on the faith and the way that we love each other. He could come today. Are you ready?

 

Paying Attention to Your Brethren – A Sermon from Hebrews 12 January 27, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Church Membership, Hebrews, Religion, Sermons.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR CHURCH FAMILY

Hebrews 12:7-17

 

Hebrews teaches us that the foundation of our lives as believers is Jesus Christ. Why then give so much time to the church? The primary reason given in the book of Hebrews is that the church and the individual members have enormous impact on whether the truth about Christ is accepted or not. This is especially important for us to consider in these times when it seems as if the concept of the church is under constant attack. We live in a day when many believers refuse to commit themselves to the church. There are a lot of reasons given and there are at times some reasons why one should not join a particular church.

A GOOD REASON NOT TO JOIN OUR CHURCH 

Let me give you an example of a reason why you should not join this church. This church believes that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. Now if you believe that reaching a certain standard of goodness is sufficient to satisfy God, you should not join this church. You are welcome to worship with us and you can even to a certain extent take part in the life of the church but you should not join this church because what we believe is not only different but is of such importance to us that we have no real foundation for a working relationship.

ARGUMENTS AGAINST CHURCH MEMBERSHIP 

Now there are those who say, “We belong to the whole body of Christ, so we are not going to let ourselves be tied down to commitment to one group within that body.” This attitude is similar to that of a man who marries a woman and then refuses to give up his loyalty to his old family. We often emphasize from God’s command in Genesis that spouses are not to leave each other and that is true. It is also true that they are to cleave each other. My ultimate loyalty in my physical family is to be to my wife. Not to my parents. Not to my siblings. Not even to my children. Are they all part of my family? Absolutely, but my loyalty, my commitment is to be to my wife and that commitment trumps every other family commitment. In the same way, we are a part of a larger body, the body of Christ but we are committed to a specific portion of that body, the Fellowship Bible Church.

There are others who argue that church membership is not found in Scriptures. If what they mean is that there is not an establishment of a list specifically commanded, then they are correct. What we do find in the New Testament is a body of people who are committed to each other and bound to each other in such a way that when someone rejects the truth, or dishonors Christ and His church, or causes constant division in the church, they are by the church body put out officially. In other words, by not joining a church, a believer is avoiding the commitment to other believers that Christ demands from us.

I would like to illustrate this with an example from an earthly family. For a believer to attend a church and not join is comparable to a man and a woman cohabitating with each other without the commitment of a marriage license. There may very well be an emotional commitment on some level but for some reason, the bets have been hedged.

You see, with commitment comes risk. With commitment comes a yielding of the will. With commitment comes demands and responsibility. Of course, commitment also brings with it blessing and privilege.

The passage that we are looking at today explains what this commitment is supposed to accomplish within the church body.

THE NORMAL LOT OF THE CHRISTIAN 

As children of God, we must endure chastening or discipline (12:7 with verses 2-3). We normally think of chastisement as painful and that aspect of chastisement is emphasized in this passage. The writer points out that as children of God we are to endure chastisement. This word is used in verses 2 and 3 of this same chapter.

 

2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.

 

Now these verses point out a characteristic of endurance that we need to remember. Endurance is only needed during times of intense pain. When you are lying under a shade tree soaking in the summer breeze, the great need is for lemonade and not endurance. It is when the storms blow and howl that we need endurance. It was no different for our Savior than it is for us and because He suffered successfully we can have hope that we also will be able to endure the discipline and chastisement that God brings on us.

A TOUGH VERSE 

Chastening means training, correction, learning, discipline (verses 8-10). Now when I was a kid, verse 8 bothered me a lot. On face value, what this verse means is that those who are not chastened are not in God’s family, they are not saved, they are on their way to an eternal hell. I knew that I was saved but I also knew that I sinned much more than I should be which made me wonder whether I was saved or not. I also knew that in spite of my sin, it did not look like God was doing anything about it. I was healthy and my family was healthy. We were not rich and although my parents struggled to make ends meet, I never knew hunger growing up. My grades were up and for the most part it seemed like I had a pretty good life. I began to wonder, maybe the reason God is not punishing me is because I am not really saved. I remember one Sunday night, we were sitting in the car at Mill Creek Baptist Church near Falkville, Alabama. I asked my dad about this verse. He explained to me that chastisement and punishment are not the same. The word means discipline, correction, training, learning. He pointed out that the very fact that the verse bothered me indicated that the Holy Spirit was working in my life to open my eyes to the truth of His Word.

The point is that our Heavenly Father is concerned about making His children into spiritual adults. That is the main concern of a good father. Making his son into a man. Everything he does is concerned with the fact that this child is not going to stay the same. In the same way, the Father’s primary work today is making His children into spiritual adults.

That is why He gave the Bible. 2 Timothy 3 says that all Scripture is given so that we may be mature, capable of doing spiritual works. There is a sense in which the Bible is a training regimen that gives us nourishment. There is no junk food in the Bible. It is all wholesome, full of spiritual vitamins and minerals and energy and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest it and to draw what we need from it.

“TOUGH IS GOOD!” (Comedian Brad Stein) 

Chastening though also means pain (verse 11). If the Bible is our food and the Holy Spirit helps us to digest that spiritual food, then painful chastisement is the exercise that is necessary to turn the protein of the Bible into muscle and not into fat. You can eat well, eat healthy but if you do not exercise, you will not become strong. Certainly not all exercises are painful but to become really strong, to become truly mature, there will be some pain of varying intensities and for various reasons. That is our lot as children of God. The result though is mature fruit that meets His expectations.

WHERE DOES THE CHURCH COME IN? 

As siblings in Christ, we are responsible to facilitate that training, correction, learning, and discipline (12:12-17). You cannot grow as you should in isolation. Ephesians 4 makes it very clear that we as a church are to help each other to grow up together to become one like Christ. The picture here is that when our Father is sending our brother or sister through the ringer, we are to be there for them and the purpose of being there for each other is to help one another to grow.

THE LIFEBOAT ANALOGY 

Often the Christian life has been compared to a lifeboat. “The unredeemed life is as if we were about to perish on a crippled ship threatening to sink as a result of sustaining irreparable damage in a menacing storm. Lifeboats arrive to rescue us and begin the perilous journey to the safety of the shore. Once in the saving vessel, however, the storm rages on. No one is quite sure when the storm may dissipate or when another may erupt on the way to safety. While we may experience smooth sailing for a time, we very well could be smothered with peril again. Reaching the safe confines of the shore is the ultimate goal.”

“Making the exchange from a sinking to a saving vessel is the initiation of salvation, or justification; the voyage in the lifeboat is the working out of our salvation (see Phil 2:12), or sanctification; and reaching the shore is our final arrival in heaven. This is the consummation of salvation, or glorification (Paul Jackson in Mound’s Basics of Biblical Greek, page 278).”

We are not though in the storms of life left alone. God has given us the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us and to strengthen us during our journey through the storm to the shore.

SUPPORTING EACH OTHER IN OUR WEAKNESS 

We support each other when the learning is painful (verse 12-13). This is why it is important to be a part of a church family. There are days when I am limping spiritually. I just cannot take another step. I am learning but it looks like I am going to die before I get the lesson that God wants me to learn. I read the Bible and nothing happens. I listen to the Spirit and silence is all I hear. It is then that I need my local church family.

Now that does not happen if you try to keep yourself away from others. You can join this church and not allow anyone to get close to you and you will limp around, not making progress because you are running the race alone. I know it is hard to trust people and it would be a rare church where every member could be trusted but if you do not allow God’s people to have an impact on you, you might learn a lot of Scripture but you will not mature.

I think of those who I have known in the past whose Bible knowledge was complete but they would not integrate themselves into the life of the church and although I saw evidence of their scriptural knowledge, they did not grow spiritually. They allowed themselves to get spiritually fat and proud and when God started putting them through the paces, they ran to their room, slammed the door, and screamed at His people, “Leave me alone! Stay away! I’ve been hurt! I don’t need you! I’m not going to let a church hurt me again! Let them see if they can do without me!” And they drift, and they drift, and they drift and sometimes…spiritually…they do not come back.

HUNTING PEACE WITH A PASSION 

By pursuing a peace with each other based on our holiness in Christ (verse 14). There are those who believe that Christ is more important than His church. That is not the picture in this verse. We are to pursue peace with one another. We are to give it first priority. Last fall when some of you fellows drove to the Midwest and set up your equipment and got up at three or four in the morning so that you can sit outside in freezing or rainy weather, pursuing that ten pointer. That is exactly how important our brothers and sisters in Christ are supposed to be to us. Sometimes it is possible to put the matter out of view and let it die a slow death but when after a year or two or more it is clear that you need to get your hunting boots on and go to that person and start pursuing peace. It is hard. You are absolutely right but if you are to grow as your Father wants you to and if that person is going to grow as they need to, you are going to have to give peace with other people priority in your life. The importance of Christ’s church (peace) is bundled with pursuing Christ (holiness).

EVERY  CHURCH MEMBER A SHEPHERD 

By watching over each other carefully (verses 15-17). The word hear means “oversee.” A synonym might mean shepherd. Who are you shepherding over in our church?

That’s why our Wednesday night prayer meeting is so important. That is a time that we have specifically set aside to pray for your spiritual growth. Some of you need to be there and help us shepherd those who God is putting through the ringer.

Some of you need to start praying for each other at home. Others of you need to reach out to others during the week to maintain contact with each other. Some of you have been going to church for a year with other people in this church and you have not made the effort once to greet someone other than the people who you greet every week. This is not a social club but a family where every person should be interested in strengthening and helping and shepherding one aother with whatever means the Lord may have given you.

Others of you need to get involved in a small group of some type. We cannot carry this type of healing and peace pursuing and shepherding ministry in our Sunday morning service as effectively as we can when a group of people get together week after week to share with each other and care for each other. It is vital that you get connected with others within the church body. More people leave the church because they do not feel at home than for any other reason. It takes more than a welcome mat and a cup of coffee to make a church a family.

 

THE DANGERS OF IGNORING THE LOCAL CHURCH 

You see, you cannot ignore and neglect the church family. If you do, you will be hampered in your spiritual growth and others will be hampered in their spiritual growth. None of us get to the point where we do not need the help and attention of our spiritual family.

 

What will happen if we do not pay attention to our church family. That is described for us in verses 15-17. Extreme wickedness. My personal feeling (based on my understanding of the book of Hebrews) is that those who are sitting on the fence in their faith will fall off onto the wrong side into a pool of wickedness out of which they will never be able to get out. Do you realize that there may be people here, who are not really saved who could eventually reject Christ based on the fact that the church family did not pay attention? Do you realize that there are people who are not here today that were here a year ago, who found it easy to drop out because they did not feel that they belonged, they did not feel that we were their family? If everyone of us begins to start changing our neglectful ways, we will be able both to bring each other to spiritual growth and to prevent others from turning from Christ to the world and its eternal damnation. What would God have you to change?

 

Paying Attention to the Example of Leaders Whose Faith is in Christ January 20, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Hebrews, Religion, Spiritual Leadership.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO LEADERS

Hebrews 13:1-17

 

We are continuing our series out of Hebrews on “Paying Attention”. We do not want to forget that what we are looking at today and in the future in the book of Hebrews is directly tied in to the fact that we are to pay attention to Jesus, that is, according to Hebrews 12:18-29 we are to receive Him and not refuse Him if we are to keep from drawing back from God (Hebrews 10:38-39). 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.

WE ARE FAMILY. 

As I pointed out last time, what we believe determines how we behave and how we behave indicates what we truly believe. Hebrews 13 like the rest of the book points this out clearly. It begins in verses 1-3 by indicating that our relationship to each other as believers is a family relationship since we as believers are members of the body and that we should act as family. Let me clarify something which is important and foundational for the verses that we are going to look at later. Here and in other places, the New Testament teaches that we are a family, not that we are like a family. If we are like a family, then there are some areas where the two are comparable. That is not what the New Testament teaches. We are the family of God.

Obviously, there are some things that are true of our physical family that are not true of our spiritual family. Verse 4 points that out very clearly. Sex belongs to marriage between a man and woman and there is no other realm in which it is honorable. That does not, however, lower the importance or significance of our spiritual family which is termed in 12:23 as the church of the firstborn ones.

Now in verses 5-6, the writer deals with another area of importance, the love of money. Certainly our relationship to the things of this world tells a lot about our relationship to Christ as verse 6 clearly points out.

TODAY’S FOCUS 

What we want to focus on today is how our relationship to Christ affects the relationship in the church between its leaders and the congregation. Today, we have our annual business meeting and it seems appropriate to lift what might appear to be a mundane business to a higher plain and show how that our faith in Christ should affect our leaders as well as the church as a whole.

The leaders of the church are to be men whose faith in Christ is exemplary just as a father is to be an example to his children (13:7-8). The responsibility of a church elder is the same responsibility as that of an earthly father (Compare Titus 1:9 with 1 Timothy 3:4-5). That is what this passage is about. Church leadership is primarily a parental-type responsibility. This responsibility is carried out effectively when the leaders have certain qualities in their lives.

MEN WITH A PASSION FOR THE GOSPEL, BOTH IN WORD AND DEED 

They are men who actively spread the faith (verse 7a; compare with 1 Thessalonians 2:7-12). These men were passionate about speaking the Word of God to others. In Acts 7 when the apostles were looking for leaders for a benevolence project, we find that they chose men who were passionate about spreading the faith. Stephen died for preaching the faith to those who did not want to hear it. Philip was among the first who took the faith to those were not Jews. Silas, Paul’s companion, first appears as a man given the important job of delivering a message from the church of Jerusalem to the church at Antioch. The rest of the Bible reveals him as a man, along with Paul who was passionate about spreading the faith. Your pastor and your church leaders should be passionate to learn the Word of God, to live the Word of God, to develop themselves spiritually but they must also be men who are passionate about bringing faith in Christ alone to the world.

These are men who actively live the faith (verse 7b). Examples of this conduct or behavior are given in verses 13-16 as well as earlier in chapter 13 and in chapter 12.

  1. A man who actively lives his faith identifies himself closely to Jesus Christ (verse 13).
  2. A man who actively lives his faith has loose ties to this world (verse 14).
  3. A man who actively lives his faith is continually thankful to God (verse 15).
  4. A man who actively lives his faith is good to and shares with others (verse 16).

THEIR FAITH IS IN CHRIST ALONE. 

These are men whose faith is in Jesus Christ alone (verses 8-12). They are men who are convinced that Christ is God (verse 8). These men are opposed to anything and everything that takes away from who Christ is and what He did on the cross of Calvary (verses 9-10). They realize that apart from the death of Christ, all religion is profitless and that all who would worship God are excluded. Those who refuse Christ or receive Christ plus law or works or religion or church or spirituality do not have any right to or part in the forgiveness that Christ provided on the cross.

I feel it is necessary to give an example of what I mean. The example I am choosing I do so because it has come up two or three times during the past year and not everyone understands why I am so adamant against certain false doctrines. There is a group that list four fundamentals that they consider the core of their church’s message. Two of the four I would agree with. Let me read for you what they have to say about the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

“All believers are entitled to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and therefore should expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father, according to the command of our Lord Jesus Christ. This was the normal experience of all believers in the early Christian church. With the experience comes the provision of power for victorious Christian living and productive service. It also provides believers with specific spiritual gifts for more effective ministry. The baptism of Christians in the Holy Spirit is accompanied by the initial physical sign of speaking in other tongues (unlearned languages) as the Spirit of God gives them audible expression.”

Do you understand what that means? That means that if I have never spoken in tongues then I am powerless against sin. It means that I cannot productively serve Jesus Christ. It means that God does gift me for His service unless I speak in tongues. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you but if you look at Hebrews 12:28 then what that means is that if I have not spoken in tongues I have not truly received Jesus Christ. There is no room for compromise. Either Christ saves us by faith or he saves us by faith plus an experience. Either the verses we learned in Romans 6 last summer and the continuation of those thoughts in chapters 7-8 teach us that it is faith in Christ that frees us from sin’s penalty and gives us the possibility of living victoriously against sin or it is an experience evidenced by speaking in tongues. In other words it is Christ or an experience. It cannot be both.

These men understand that it is Christ who sanctifies us by separating us from our sin and making us God’s special people (verses 11-12).

SO PAY ATTENTION TO THEM 

The congregation is to pay attention to them as they would to the husband and the father of a family (13:7 and 17).

  1. By remembering how the leaders have lived and then imitating them (verse 7).
  2. By obeying, that is, having confidence in them (verse 17a).
  3. By submitting to their joyful watch (verse 17b with verse 9).

I have primarily spoken to those who are leaders but I want to ask you a question. Will you follow our example? If you feel we are not good examples, then you need to come to us. If you do not know if we are good examples or not, then you need to come in closer contact with us. If you know that we are men whose faith in Christ makes a difference in how we live, then follow us.

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.
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PAYING ATTENTION TO JESUS

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.”

JESUS IS SUPERIOR TO THE MOSES.

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.

THE TWO MOUNTAINS 

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.

A SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY IS SUPERIOR TO AN EARTHLY ASSEMBLY. 

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.

CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. 

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.

THE SUPERIOR SACRIFICE 

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.

WHEN YOU CHOOSE AN INFERIOR PRODUCT, YOU GET INFERIOR RESULTS. 

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.

WE SHOULD RECEIVE AND NOT REFUSE JESUS CHRIST. 

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.

Links to Sermons from Hebrews 12:18-29 January 9, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Hebrews, Jesus, Religion, Sermons.
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John Piper on the whole passage and on the last five verses.

Spurgeon really loved verse 24:  The Voice of the Blood of Christ; A two-parter on the blood of Christ – Part 1, Part 2; he also preached on verse 25.

Ligon Duncan on the whole passage.

Jesus the Creator October 12, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Colossians, Creation, Hebrews, Jesus, John's Gospel, Religion, Revelation of Jesus Christ.
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Although it is never directly stated in the Old Testament, the New makes it clear that Jesus was and is the creator. The verses below mention this. Naturally, one should look at the context to make sure that I am not just pulling proof texts out to prove my position but that this is actually what the text says.

John 1:3, 10: All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.

Eph 3:9 and to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ;

Col 1:16-17 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Heb 1:2-3 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Heb 1:10 And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.

Heb 3:3-4 For this One [the context is speaking of Jesus] has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God.

Re 4:11 “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.”

Jesus, the most superior revelation of God (last in the series on the Word of God) September 2, 2007

Posted by roberttalley in Bible, Falling Away, Hebrews, Jesus, Religion.
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JESUS, THE WORD

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

We finish today our series on the doctrine of the Word of God. The Word of God can be summed up in one person. Jesus Christ, the Word. Jesus is called the Word in John 1 and Revelation 19:13. Jesus was not sent with a word from God but was sent into the world as the Word of God. This is one of those concepts for which we do not have an adequate word in English to express but we can understand it better through the beginning chapters of the book of Hebrews and we can also understand what it means to you and to me personally.

TO WHOM IS JESUS PRESENTED AS “THE WORD”?

There were some to which the letter was written that the author was not certain whether they were saved or not. Sometimes we look at people’s lives and we find it hard to determine if they have trusted Christ. This book was written for such people.

Another characteristic of these people is that many were disillusioned with Christianity. Some of you are disillusioned with Christianity or at least with the church. You feel you are not being fed, your needs are not being adequately met, your spiritual experience is not full enough. That is what these people were going through.  You are drifting away. Some of you been drifting long for a long time. You have been drift so long that you and others wonder about your salvation.

There are, however, some of you who have just started drifting. Your focus is not on Christ. This book says, “Turn back to Jesus and anchor yourself in Him. If you drift away, there is no escape for you.”

THE PROBLEM…

Ligon Duncan puts it this way, “The author of Hebrews says, ‘Look, if you thought that you tried Jesus, and He wasn’t satisfying, you never knew Jesus. So what we’re going to do is, we’re going to point you right back to Jesus again and ask you to be reintroduced to Him. Because once you know Christ, there is nothing beyond that that you need. There is no more that you need to tack onto the Lord Jesus Christ.’” (from his introductory sermon to the book of Hebrews).

INTRODUCING JESUS

The Position of Christ was Obtained for Our Sakes (1:2-8, 10). Jesus has not always held the same position in God’s kingdom.

He began as God (verse 3a). Actually Jesus did not have a beginning. He is God. He is Jehovah. He is the beginning as well as the end. He is the reflection of the Light that is in the world. He is the spitting image of God the Father because He is God the Son.

He continued as the Creator (compare verse 3b with verse 10). We are also told how He created the world, by the word of His power. It is with that same power that He maintains the world and when the world is burned to dust and ashes, He will remain.

He became man to purge or purify us from our sin (verse 3c). This is what we celebrate during the Lord’s Table. Jesus came and became man to purify us. He said, “This is my blood, the new covenant, which was given for the remission of sins.” Christ came not to be an example but to solve the sin problem. In solving the sin problem, however, He made Himself the greatest example that their could ever be.

He inherited the universe because of His death, resurrection, and ascension (verses 2, 4-8). When Christ became man, He set aside His inheritance and came and earned it. He died to save man and ultimately the universe from sin. He rose to subject sin and death and hell to His will. He ascended to take His place on the throne with His Father, waiting for the day when He returns to claim for His own what is His.

HIS CHARACTER 

The Person of Christ is the Motivation of His Work for Us (1:9; 1:3). Why would Jesus do such a thing? Because of who He is. We sang last Sunday night the song, “Above All”. I love that song because it emphasizes the price that He paid to ransom me from sin but His ultimate motivation was not me but came out of His own character. He saved me from sin, not because of who I was but because of who He is.

His Person is revealed by His attitudes (1:9). Jesus is a very black and white thinker. He loves what is good and hates lawlessness. His attitude towards everything and everyone: you, me, our neighbor, everything is wrapped up in His love of righteousness and His hatred of evil. If He had not hated evil, totally and completely, there would be no reason for Him to die. But there He was. He desired to lift up goodness and destroy wickedness.

His Person is revealed by His actions (1:3cd, 2:1-3a).

Jesus being the Word and bringing cleansing to those who trust Him is an essential in understanding who He really is. If Jesus had not paid the price on the cross, we would never have understood His holiness nor His mercy. Romans 5:8 says that God commended, proved His love in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us.

Cleansing is limited to those who trust in Christ. We were unclean before God because of our sin. That was my situation and that is the situation of every person born, Jew and Gentile. There is, however, hope. Jesus shed His blood to cleanse us from our sin. That is how that Jesus gives purges and purifies us.

TRULY KNOWING JESUS WILL KEEP YOU FROM DRIFTING AWAY 

The Promises of Christ are the Anchor that Keeps us from Drifting Away (1:1-2a, 2:3-4).

The promises of Christ are better than the prophets in material and in manner (1:1-2a). That was a long time ago but now we have a current message from a current messenger, Jesus Christ. That is why this book is so precious. We can hear from Jesus daily. We can meet with Him. We can learn from Him.

They are better than the law given through angels because of the material and of the manner in which they were given (2:1-4). When God gave the law through Moses, we find that angels were also somehow involved in the giving of that law. That is what the writer of Hebrews is referring to. Jesus’ message is more direct, it is more stable. It cannot be improved upon.

They are better because they have been confirmed by eyewitnesses and miracles (2:3-4). We spoke about this two months ago.  We can have confidence because of the eyewitness and miraculous confirming testimony from those times.

They are better because they bring salvation (2:3). The law could never save but Jesus can and does.

CHALLENGE FOR THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR 

Young people, during this next year you are going to face all kinds of challenges to your faith. Some of those challenges will be people: friends, teachers, parents, classmates who like you and classmates who do not. Some of those challenges will come out of the new situations in which you find yourself. Some of you are entering high school, other of you are looking to the near future when you will be out of high school. Some of you are entering middle school and at the beginning stages of puberty. In all of these and other new situations, your faith will be challenged spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in some other way. You need to understand that Jesus is God’s Word to you. Tim Keller put it this way, “…the gospel [of Jesus Christ] is not just the ABC[s] of the faith, it is the A to Z.”

You need to anchor your being to Jesus Christ. You need to be absolutely convinced that Jesus is the only way to purpose in this life and in the life to come. If you are not sure, then you come to me and 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, “I am a Christian! I am a follower of Christ!” You do not need to preach them a sermon. Just saying you are a Christian will scare some of them half to death. 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.

John MacArthur: “I will never forget a particular lady who came into my office and informed me that she was a prostitute. She said, ‘I need help.’ And I said, ‘I guess you do.’ She said, ‘Please, I’m desperate.’ So I presented the claims of Christ to her. Then I said, ‘Would you like to invite Jesus Christ into your life?’ She said yes, so she prayed and evidently invited Christ into her life. I said, ‘Now, I want you to do something. Do you have your book with all your contacts?’ She said she did. I said, ‘Let’s light a match to it and burn it.’ She looked at me and said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘If you want to live for Jesus Christ, and you’ve truly accepted His forgiveness and met Him as your Savior, then you need to prove it.’ She said to me, ‘That book is worth a lot of money. I don’t want to burn it.’ She put it back in her purse and looked me right in the eye and said, ‘I guess I don’t really want Jesus, do I?’ Then she left.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

“GIVE THE MORE EARNEST HEED…LEST YOU DRIFT AWAY”.

Again from John MacArthur: “Explorer William Edward Perry and his crew were exploring the Arctic Ocean. At one point they endeavored to move further north, so they charted their location by the stars and began a difficult and treacherous march north. They walked hour upon hour, and finally, totally exhausted, they stopped. They took their bearings and discovered that they were farther south than they were when they started! They then realized that they had been walking on an ice floe that was travelling south faster than they were walking north. I wonder how many people think their good deeds, their merits, and their religiosity is taking them to God when in fact they’re on an ice floe taking them away from God faster than their own efforts are taking them any closer. They will wake one day to find, like William Perry’s crew did, that they’re in the midst of a disaster.” from “The Tragedy of Neglecting Salvation” by John MacArthur

If Jesus is the Word, as He is, a word requires a listening ear. The phrase, more earnest heed indicates a response. In this verse, the response is anchoring your soul to the Word of God, to Jesus Christ, the Faithful and True Word.

One thing about a promise. You must believe it and respond appropriately. If you neglect the promise, if you are careless about it, as it says in verse 3, there is no escape for you. The cleansing that He offers is yours for all eternity. Only Christ, our Great High Priest who sacrificed Himself can provide cleansing. He did this by Himself without any help from man or angel. Anchor your soul in Him.