Jesus Invites Us Together

MOTIVATE

I don’t know how long it has been since you were in college. For me, I started college a few years after high school, and after pecking away through community college and eventual transfer was able to graduate in 2002. I’ve also graduated from master’s work and waded into the deep end on the next level. In taking college classes, there is sort of an unofficial rule that if the professor is late 15 minutes then the students can walk out without penalty and excused absence.

The story is told of one college class where the professor was known for his tardiness. The room had a large hand clock that hung on top of a 20’ wall. The students found the minute hand would move forward a minute or so if the clock was bumped. So, many days students would enter the classroom and right at the normal start of class would begin throwing chalkboard erasers at the clock to nudge the minutes forward toward 15 minutes. There were a few days the students succeeded, but most days the professor would arrive in the classroom with erasers scattered across the room.

One day the professor decided to exact some revenge. He scheduled an exam and told the students they had exactly one hour to complete the test and any incomplete tests, regardless of amount left, would have a failing grade… you see where this is going? Upon the clock striking the next hour, the students were to turn in their test. Once the exams were handed out the professor noted the time. He slowly collected the erasers and started repeatedly chucking them at the clock. It took him several rounds, but the professor bumped the clock forward an hour in about 15 minutes time. He collected the tests and left the classroom.

The moral of the story: minutes matter. Our days count and time is short. Time is a limited resource that we can never gain back. What we do on earth will echo in eternity. There should be a priority to how we plan our days and an urgency to how we live. When we live without purpose then we follow the crowds without realization their destiny is headed in the wrong direction.

Today’s text and message helps us to see clearly how to live in light of future days.

Together_Hebrews

EXAMINE           Hebrews 10:19-25    (Resurrection Sunday)

Hebrews 10:19-25
19  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
21  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
24  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

This passage starts with “therefore,” which indicates previous content we must understand. Essentially, the entire book of Hebrews helps us understand the relationship between the OT and NT. The original audience of the book was tempted to think reaching God depended on their good deeds and religious devotion. However, the author writes to clarify our need for God reaching down to us through Jesus Christ with our faith in what Jesus has done rather than in what we can do. So, our confidence is not in our self but in the sacrifice (blood) of Jesus, who has opened a new and living way for us.

The mention of an opened curtain/veil refers to physical material, which divided the OT temple. The temple was divided into three rooms.[1]

  1. Outer Courtyard was for anyone, Jew or Gentile.
  2. Inner Courtyard was for Jews only; separated by a wide and mobile curtain.
  3. The Holy Place was for Jewish priests.
  4. The Most Holy Place was for the Jewish high priest to enter one time a year to offer sacrifices.

Scripture also tells us the temple curtain was torn in two (Lk 23:45; Mt 27:51; Mk 15:38; Heb 10:20). This is no ordinary event, as the temple curtain separated the Most Holy Place where God’s presence dwelled. The elaborately woven fabric was 60’ long x 30’ high x 6” thick and took 300 priests to maneuver. There are legends that horses tied to each end could not tear it apart.[2] Regardless, the splitting of this hefty fabric in rapid and remarkable fashion from top to bottom could only be a supernatural event.[3]

The implication is that now God is accessible. Imagine not being able to access the internet with all its information (good & bad), its inspiration, its entertainment, and its connectiveness. We can access the internet by paying a monthly fee. Now, imagine someone saying they will pay that monthly fee for the rest of your life – and the life of all those who you love. That is similar to the power, times infinity, of what Jesus has done for us in giving us access to God. And we have that access every day and at any moment.

Today’s passage helps us understand 3 ways how to make the most of our time and grow in relationship with God.

#1 We must make the most of our time by drawing near to God in faith.

The first way we must relate to God is by drawing near in faith. The command to “draw near” implies continuous action. Like an ocean current, we are tempted to drift away, but instead we are to draw near.

Before I was married, my relationship with Danielle was long-distance. We wrote letters, made phone calls, sent emails. If we were not consistently drawing near in communication, then our long distance would have made us drift apart. The same is true in our relationship with God.

Our communication with God is based on faith. The writer of Hebrews says, “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (11:6). Faith in God has three components: head (awarness of gospel), heart (arrested by Savior’s love and abandon to Lordship), and hands (faith in action). If any of those parts are missing then faith is incomplete.

  • Headless gospel is no different from any other social club. (Safeway Monopoly Club, Froyo Club, etc.)
  • Heartless gospel is outward assent but lacking inward integrity. (Pharisees / Church people)
  • Handless gospel is religion overcome by traditionalism.
    • Tradition is the living faith of the dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.
  • Capture the moment and trust Jesus today. Trust by turning away from sin and to faith in gospel.
    • Hebrews 10:22 “having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” This implies repentance, forgiveness, and growing in grace.
  • Begin reading the Bible; start in John or any Gospel. I’ll read with you and have virtual study 1 chap/day.
  • Faith is best formed with a church family… let SPBC become that by reaching out and eventually moving from a screen to being seen.

#2 We must make the most of our time by holding fast in hope.

We are never promised a trial-free life, nor are we promised tomorrow. Likewise, the audience of the book of Hebrews were challenged to persevere in Christianity. They were tempted to give up due to persecution from outside the church, and differences inside the church. The writer exhorts the believers with another command, “let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering” (v.23).

Again, the command implies continuous action, specifically holding fast means to retain possession of something. They were to hold fast, without wavering (yielding/bending) the confession of their hope.

  • Christ came into world and entered our experience (cf Heb 10:5).
  • Christ completed the will of God, fulfilling what we fail (cf Heb 10:7).
  • Christ forgives our sin and reigns in heaven at the right hand of God until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet (cf Heb 10:12).

A word picture you can imagine is a scene from climbing a mountain. People who climb mountains are extremely careful where they place their feet and onto what they grab with their hands. If they lose their firm footing or grab onto the wrong spot in the rocks, the consequences could be disastrous or deadly. Likewise, believers must be careful to maintain a firm grasp and hold onto the things of God. Christians must learn to navigate the dangers of life and not grab onto things that would lead to a disastrous fall.

As we experience elevated time in quarantine, we are tempted in several areas

  • Patience fatigue. Our emotions get best of us and we get short with spouse or children.
    • “What is for dinner?” turns into “Why do I have to do everything!?! Why are you helpless!?!”
  • Apathy expansion. We become careless in little tasks; overwhelmed by all that’s wrong; depression rises; social distancing turns into being antisocial.
  • Moral laxity. We become anti-authority to rationalize behaviors as if we are above judgment.
    • Why do we have to stay quarantined? I’ll go out if I want.
    • Why do I need to follow the speed limit if there’s less traffic?
    • Why do I need to limit tp purchases? I’ll just go in multiple times to buy the max.
    • Why do I need to limit screen time? What does my intake of entertainment matter?
    • What’s wrong with escaping the world’s problems with a few extra drinks/smokes?
  • Perseverance breakdown. We begin to consider quitting in various areas… school, jobs, marriage, family, church, faith, life.

Previously, the author uses this same exhortation “hold fast” in other parts of the book.

Heb 3:6 “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.”

Heb 3:14 “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.”

The author’s is that we must not give up hope. My favorite line from movie: “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” When it comes to faith in Jesus, hope is always alive because Jesus is always faithful. If Jesus promises wisdom in problems, comfort in pain, and strength to persevere, then He will provide all those promises. If Jesus rose from the dead, and promises to walk with you in the valley of the shadow of death, then my friend, goodness and mercy shall follow you all the days of your life and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Ps 23).

  • Hope is started through grace. Prioritize your prayer life with Jesus. He’s waiting on you…
  • Hope is stimulated through gratefulness. Learn the art of thanksgiving (Ann Voskamp).
  • Hope is sustained through generosity. Happiness is based on circumstances but joy and hope occurs by putting others first.
  • Hope will be satisfied through the return of Jesus Christ.

#3 We must make the most of our time by encouraging others in love.

The last command and way we make the most of our time is by investing our life in others. In fact, the word used (παροξυσμός) implies provoking or pressuring someone; in this case for good: love and good works, and meeting together.

While many are experiencing quarantine with family members who agitate and annoy them, the same idea is incorporated here but with the opposite purpose. What does it look like to agitate someone toward loved? Another Scripture comes to mine in Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another showing honor.” In other words, make compassion a competition. Who will win the award for being most loving? And no, you cannot just leave this honor to mom each day; everyone must compete! The same goes for every community and network that you exist – neighborhood, school, work, sport teams & leagues, groups & clubs, church, etc. Can you imagine a world where love permeates every geographic locale you place your foot? That is the longing and fulfillment of heaven.

Love is linked with good works. You cannot love someone invisibly. Love is heard, seen, felt, sometimes smelt and tasted.

“But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe and shudder… faith is completed by works” (James 2:18-22).

“from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph 4:16).

In sum, we cannot carry out the command to love if we are not connected to others. God challenges us to “not neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some.” When the church assembles it is an act of war against the cultural drift to isolate. God’s people gather not to puff themselves with pride and arrogance but with humility to serve. Disciples of Jesus seek to be equipped how better to bring help to others and hope to the world. To intentionally, or even unintentionally, neglect gathering with fellow Christians is not just a casual choice but a betrayal to all that Christ sacrificed His life.

  • Person, Christ died to show you the depth of His love, and He wants you to experience that tangibly through the touch of others. Connect with your local church, which @spbc would be honored to be.
  • Christian, who is one person as a target for you to love and lead to Jesus Christ?
  • Church family, who are “high five” people @spbc you will contact this week to express love & prayer?
  • Church family, hear the warning of weariness of gathering. As your pastor, my hope for you is not to get better at virtual gathering but to take more seriously your commitment to physical gathering when we do.

 

APPLY/THINK

The author of Hebrews notes we are to make the most of our time with 3 actions: Drawing near in faith, 2) Holding fast in hope, 3) Encouraging others in love. And we are to do these things “all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Note that in most translations the word “Day” is capitalized. The “Day of the Lord” was a common phrase used by OT prophets who spoke of God’s pending judgment for those who rejected Him. In fact, the author of Hebrews describes this in the next passage vv. 26-30, with the concluding statement, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10:30).

There’s a familiar story of a beautiful lady who was made to feel ugly. She lived with her wicked stepmother and two equally wicked step-sisters. The beautiful lady never felt qualified or loved because those in her environment repeatedly spoke words of rage and hate against her. She was quarantined in her circumstances with no way of escape… until one day through a series of outside intervention, she was transformed and taken to a new setting. The experience was beyond her imagination, filled with joyful music, delightful dancing until her feet hurt, and the connection a band of brothers and soul sisters.
Unfortunately, as you know, she could not stay there forever and had to return to her horrible household. Yet, the good news is the prince never forgot her. He overcame every obstacle, conquered every challenge, and defeated every hindrance to finding her. And finally when the prince stood before her, they embraced and she was forever rescued… and as the story says, “they lived happily ever after.”

A lot of us are like Cinderella. We are living as slaves to the world’s values and held hostage from the hope of heaven. But Jesus knows right where you are. Jesus is pursuing you and He will not give up until you stand face to face with Him. Hell wants to keep you chained to your circumstances but Heaven is calling to set you free. Jesus wants to give you a new love, a new life, and a new hope.

Can you imagine Cinderella saying, “Look Prince, I like you and care about you. I would treasure bearing the title “Princess.” I would cherish spending my days in your castle. And I would celebrate every day I get to ride in your chariot along with all the other kind benefits of your kingdom. But, my single issue is that I don’t really want to commit myself to you personally. I love what you can do for me, but I’m not really sure I love you.

The Bible presents God waiting patiently for us to know His heart and character, and to receive His love. God will not force entrance into our life. But there is coming a day when it will be too late. And we will not only miss out on the glories of heaven, the grace of forgiveness of guilt in sin, and freedom from regrets, but we will miss out on the one who gave His all, in love to you.

[1] https://growinggodlygenerations.com/2013/05/03/the-tabernacle-video-pictures/

[2] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Also see https://cbumgardner.wordpress.com/2010/04/06/the-thickness-of-the-temple-veil/.

[3] καταπέτασμα most often refers to the inner curtain; see Exod 26:31–35) rather than the “outer” curtain that covered the entrance to the temple structure itself. The splitting of the curtain ἀπ᾿ ἄνωθεν ἔως κάτω, “from top to bottom,” together with the passive verb ἐσχίσθη, “was split,” implying divine action, points to the event as an act of God… – Donald Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary Matthew 27:51.

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