Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!

Hebrews 11:17-40 – Faith Expressed!
By Pastor Lee Hemen  
December 30, 2012 AM

What kind of heroes do we hold up to be emulated? Columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. writes about the need for heroes: “My middle son, Marlon, complained to me just the other day that his generation is coming of age ‘in a world without heroes.’ . . . His words tugged at me. . . . Our children have learned to wait for the other shoe to drop, for ‘heroes’ to be unmasked and values betrayed.” A survey by Scripps Howard News Service and Ohio University shows that 60 percent of adults have no heroes. It’s an unhealthy trend, according to former U.S. Education Secretary William Bennett, author of the best-seller The Book of Virtues: “It is particularly important for young people to have heroes. This is a way to teach them by moral example, so that we can point to someone as an ideal.” I believe this is why true heroes, heroes of our faith can give us a renewed vigor to live for the Lord.

In a summary, the writer of Hebrews pointed out that people can still be living by faith when they die, even if by that time they have not received what was promised. By faith, the patriarchs and prophets saw the promises from afar but continued in their faith refusing to turn back to the old ways they had left. His listeners should also renounce any opportunity to go back to their ancestral religion. They should persist in longing for a better country promised by Jesus! A Christian’s faith should form their true worldview. The believer’s faith is what life is all about. Hebrews reminds of how those in the past expressed their faith. Let’s discover what that means for us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 11:17-40


Do you express your faith or do you acquiesce your faith? There are those who think that Christianity should evolve and that it should change its core values with the times. This flies in the face of not just tradition, but with actual biblical theology. The same is true for what constitutes faith. We learn that…

I. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

  1. The lives of those the author describes were defined by their faith. We would know nothing of these individuals without faith defining their lives. Abraham could never have offered up his son unless he fully trusted God already! Moses’ parents had faith that God would take care of their infant son cast adrift into an Egyptian pyramid scheme. And God provided every step of the way of Moses’ life! From making him a basket case, to bringing him up in royal court, to having him run for his life because of stupid decisions, and then leading his people to the Promised Land! His life was defined by his faith! Moses “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” We see the Israelite’s faith when they ran through the Red Sea, when Jericho’s walls caved, when “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Her life was totally entrusted to her newfound faith! Because of their faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised… shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword,” their “weakness was turned to strength; and… became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released… Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated -- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground!” Can you imagine living your life in this way? Jesus reminds us that we often cannot do what he asks us to do “Because you have so little faith.” Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20 NIV) The reason that Christianity is not vibrant as it should be is because we do not find faith that moves mountains! Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: Why do you do what you do in life? What makes you get up every day to go to work, clean your home, or simply live your lives? For some it is their children, for others it is their job ethic or education, and still for some, it is because they have nothing better to do! It is laudable to have a goal-oriented life, but what happens when children move away or rebel, what occurs when your job closes down or you retire, what is left at the end of your life when you realize you have lived for nothing? Just as the bedraggled crayon-scrawled signs, rain-drenched candles, and plastic sun-faded flowers left at the makeshift roadside memorials, our lives are not long remembered either. However, go back, look at the great folks of faith, and notice how they are remembered. “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.” What about Paul, Silas, Matthew, Mark, Luke or John or perhaps, the Wesley brothers, John Rogers, C. H. Spurgeon, D. L. Moody or Billy Graham? Maybe you remember Brother McMillan, Pastor Ward Lawrence, Dr. Bill Peters, or Jan Sander. Our lives are to be defined by our faith!

There are those who say they live their faith, but when one takes a closer look at their lives, or especially their families, we find a whole other truth. One of the reasons we have the violence we do in our society today, is we have redefined what constitutes a family. When we look at these verses, we discover that…

II. Our families are to be managed by our faith!

  1. While there are not always good examples of parenting in the Bible, we do discover godly examples of faithful parents who entrusted their children to the Lord. Abraham “who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son!” Why would he do such a thing? Was he nuts? NO! “Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.” Can you imagine? God asks you to do the unthinkable, but you understand immediately that God has a plan and you must above all trust in God’s plan for your family. All the way up the mountain, searching for wood, answering his son’s incessant questions about the sacrifice, and even while he was plunging the blade into Isaac’s chest, Abraham trusted God! Isaac wasn’t the best dad either, but he knew his sons, by faith he “blessed Jacob and Esau in regard to their future.” And Jacob, the liar, even though his sons had sold his favorite, Joseph, into slavery because of their insane jealousy “when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph's sons”, and by “faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones.” Even “By faith Moses' parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king's edict.” From birth to death these parents, while not the best, had enough sense to trust God with their families! We live in an age where daycare, schools, television, and video games raise many of our children. Single parent homes are becoming the new “normal” with multiple transient hookups. God’s wisdom reminds us to, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6 NIV) and fathers are not to “exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4 NIV) Our families are to be managed by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: Neither Guns nor their availability make people kill one another. Sin does. I remember in High School, during hunting season; it wasn’t unusual for guys to drive to school with gun racks filled with shotguns or rifles. Often, my friends and I went shooting after Friday classes and we had pistols and ammo in the trunks of our vehicles. I even brought my .22 caliber revolver to shop class in order to make new pistol grips! I graduated from a large suburban school, but no one was ever threatened or harmed. The reason: It was unthinkable. Nowadays the moral and social fabric of our society is so corrupted; we no longer see sin as sin. Most school shootings and attacks since the mid 1990s confirm that the perpetrators were on some kind of antidepressant. i CDC data shows that one in 25 children ages 12 to 17 in the U.S. are on antidepressants. ii  Add to this the unmarried birth rate of 41%, where unmarried couples make up 12% of U.S. couples iii, and a divorce rate for first time marriage is 41%, for second marriages, it is 60%, and for third marriages, it is 73%, Houston, we have a problem! iv These statistics are important because research shows that children without a mom and a dad are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, and are twice as likely to drop out of school, commit criminal acts, and engage in premarital sex. I would say that it is time again for families to be managed by faith!

During Christmastime, or when a national tragedy strikes, we find all sorts of folks willing to do good things for others. I am glad we can come together, but this should be more than writing a pity saying on a cup of coffee. Sadly, far too many think that by simply doing good, makes one good, and nothing could be further from the truth. We discover by these verses found in Hebrews that…

III. We are made perfect by our faith!

  1. If holiness were obtainable by simply doing good things, we would never have needed Jesus to die on a cross for us. This is why Hebrews remarks concerning Moses, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” It was “By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.” Unknown to Moses at the time, was the mere fact that by his act of faith he was pointing to a better way, the blood of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ! In conclusion, the writer pointed out that the great heroes of faith he had spoken of had not yet realized the result of their faith concerning the human soul in its relation to death, judgment, heaven, and hell. When we die, we are not eternally judged for the good we did in life, we are first weighed by what we believed in life! Paul, a Jew by birth, knew “that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:15-16 NIV) Like the author of Hebrews, Paul would say, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) This proves that God had planned something far better for them and us. Paul would also write, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (Romans 3:20-22 NIV) You see, Hebrews reminds us that, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect!” We are made perfect by our faith!

  EXAMPLE: When someone says she believes in God, does that make her a Christian? When someone says he believes in Jesus, does that make the person a Christian? The affirmation of faith was important in the ancient world. It showed the world what you trusted in, as James declared, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder.” (James 2:19 NIV) Of course, James also affirmed that his faith was shown by what he did after believing. Do you sometimes doubt your faith? I believe God knows our weakness and this is where faith comes in let me explain: One time Jesus saw a large crowd around some of his disciples and the teachers of the law arguing with them. A man had brought his demon-possessed son to the disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not. The man tells Jesus, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaims, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:16-24 NIV) The boy’s father didn’t claim that he had perfect faith, nor did he walk away in despair. He acknowledged his doubts (unbelief) at the same time that he passionately expressed his desire to believe! Therefore, our faith does not need to be perfect our faith makes us perfect!

Conclusion:
Our lives are to be defined by our faith! Our families are to be managed by our faith! We are made perfect by our faith!
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i http://www.ssristories.com/index.php
ii  http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/02/23/antidepressants-viewed-as-quick-fix/#ixzz2GJi0NgjB
iii http://www.childtrendsdatabank.org/?q=node/196 and http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/census/2011-05-26-census-unmarried-couples_n.htm
iv http://www.divorcerate.org
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!

Hebrews 11:7-16 – What Faith Means!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 16, 2012 AM

In what has occurred in the past few days, people are trying to find meaning out of the violence. Sadly, bad people will do bad things to innocent people. Sin exists. And, this kind of violence has always been with us because we live in a sin-fallen world. Never forget that a madman king tried to wipe out a perceived rival for his throne by killing all the children, ages 2 years and younger, in Bethlehem following the birth of Jesus. When these kinds of horrendous things occur, we need to hide in the loving wings of the One who loves us and sacrificed His son for us. It is time to understand what faith means again.

Jewish believers were trying to go back to a worldly faith where the emphasis was on their feelings and good works. The author of Hebrews would have none of it and begins the process of defining exactly what faith has meant all along. God rewards those who seek Him and we can only become righteous by our faith. A person’s faith has always defined their character and their quality. Let’s discover from Hebrews what faith means…

READ: Hebrews 11:7-16

I grew up understanding there were certain things that a young gentleman did not do and things that were expected of him. That leadership was not found in consensus, but in those who are willing to take charge and lead. That morality is found in biblical precepts and not in what makes one happy for the moment. Life did not simply revolve around me. My life was founded in devotion as demonstrated in family, community, and nation, practiced through my faith. Perhaps we have forgotten what Hebrews teaches us, that…

I. Faith means obedience! (V. 7)


  1. It is not difficult to see why Noah must have been influenced “by faith.” Everything Noah did before the Flood was done in virtue of his simple belief and trust in what God told him. Noah had such a relationship with the Lord God that when He spoke to Noah, Noah obeyed immediately. Noah did not see the flood coming from a course of outside events that pointed to such a catastrophe happening in the future. He did not lick his finger and test the wind. He did not seek the advice of the world or public consensus. He was told by God and he obeyed. God’s warning was given a hundred and twenty years before the deluge, and such an event had never occurred before. In fact, it had never rained on earth until that time! Noah’s relationship with God was such that he trusted God’s words and advice. While God had become grieved at the rest of mankind, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.” (Genesis 6:8 NIV) It was simply because God had informed Noah and he put unwavering confidence in what God said. Hebrews tells us that, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen” acted on his trust in God. Noah did not need to see what God described to believe it; he just needed God’s assurance it was going to happen. God’s word was enough for Noah. Notice what Noah does next. He simply did not believe he acted on what he heard! The beautiful truth herein is that Noah “in holy fear” obeyed God and “built an ark to save his family!” The result of Noah’s faith is that “he condemned the world” by his actions of following what God told him to do and “became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Faith is not faith until it is obeyed. Faith means obedience!

  EXAMPLE: I sometimes hated the words my father would say to us to make us obedient. He would say, “Because I said so.” While I sometimes hated those words, I learned to trust my father’s words. His promises were real. If he said it was “yes” it was yes, and on the converse his “no” was no! Because of his consistency, I learned to have confidence in my father. I knew he desired the very best for my life. I therefore learned obedience. You know what God is the same way! Faith does not just believe in something, it is placing your trust and confidence in its outcome. You do not simply believe, you walk with God. It is obedience. Hebrews teaches us that faith means obedience.

We live in a day and age whereby we demand everything be given to us without personal sacrifice. The government promises us free handouts, but nothing in life is free. There are hidden costs in welfare, social programs, government grants and giveaways. The path to any worthwhile goal begins with the first step. It means personal sacrifice. Hebrews teaches us that…

II. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives! (Vv. 8-12)


  1. There is no difficulty in determining that Abraham was also influenced by faith in God. The case is even stronger than that of Noah, Genesis 15:6 relates, “Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham acted in obedience as well. Paul wrote concerning Abraham’s faith by stating “the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:5 NIV) “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” Not knowing the outcome involves faith. We cannot know the outcome of where God will take us, but we can trust Him to takes us where He desires. Abraham had been comfortable in Ur but “By faith he made his home in the Promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country” where “he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise.” We can become comfortable in doing things our way. We become comfortable in our ritual. Faith always demands we leave the comfort of our lives; however, there is always a wonderful outcome in doing so! Abraham “was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” God promises us blessing if we follow Him by faith! We all desire our name will live on to future generations. That we be remembered. Abraham desired his family name to live on and be prosperous! So, even though Abraham, by the world’s standard was too old and considered “as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore!” Because Abraham was willing to trust God and leave his comfortable life, we today are the result of Abraham’s faith! Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives!

  EXAMPLE: What one leaves for future generations is a very important question that demands an answer. There are those who could care less what they leave behind, whether it is debt, a path of destruction, or emotional and psychological devastation. One does not have to be an addict, alcoholic, or mass murder to adversely affect the future lives of others. We can neglect our faith. We can turn a deaf ear to the words and warnings of the Lord when He has asked us to go, serve, and tell others about His Son. We can become comfortably complacent. Yet, if we desire to see the great things of God, we must attempt great things for God. It is a matter of faith. Faith means leaving the comfort of our lives.

When we decide to step out in faith like Noah or Abraham, we have to decide to keep on heading in the direction God sends us. It can be scary at first, but when we depend on God, there is freedom that comes from walking with Him. The Jews Hebrews addresses, wanted to go back to their old way not just because it was comfortable, but it was also easy. However, like Noah, Abraham, or later Paul, Silas, or Peter one has to learn that…

III. Faith means not going back! (Vv. 13-16)

  1. Hebrews reminds his listeners that, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” Faith isn’t faith if you can see the outcome. Seeing does not always believe. Jesus told Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) It was no more difficult or dangerous for them to return to their old ways than it was to make the journey in the first place. This shows that their remaining as strangers and sojourners in the land of Canaan was voluntary. In fact, the Israelites preferred it, with all its inconveniences and hardships, rather than return to their native land. The same thing is true of all people of God. If you choose to return to the world, and to engage again in all its ungodly pursuits, there is nothing to hinder you. There are lots of opportunities and abundant enticements. There are frequent frivolous friends who would regard it as a matter of joy and triumph to welcome you back into their sinful circle. Misery loves company. However, “people who say” or admit they are “aliens and strangers on earth… show that they are looking for a country of their own!” One of the mottos of those who left their homes in the east to head west was, “Don’t look back!” If one keeps looking back or remorsefully thinking their old way of life was better, the road backward is easy! The Jews who had trusted Jesus could easily return to their old ways. They needed to learn the lesson of the patriarchs of faith that “If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return”, but they did not! Looking at Abraham and others like him, we realize that “Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” Faith means not going back!

  EXAMPLE: What was wrong with the Jews during the days of Hebrews? Why did they have such trouble trusting God? In Hebrews 3, we’re reminded that the Israelites heard God’s promise yet refused to believe. I think I know why—we have the same problem today. Instead of looking back and recalling that God could be trusted, they looked ahead and saw nothing but the possibility of a tough future. Their trust was blocked by a fear of the future when it could’ve been solidified with a simple look back at God’s deliverance; instead, they looked back for the wrong reasons. They looked back to Egypt and they wanted to return to slavery! Likewise, when our obstacles appear huge, we should not go back to slavery. We need to reassure ourselves by recalling what God has already done on our behalf. Not going back can give us forward confidence. Faith means not going back!

Conclusion:
Faith means obedience, faith means leaving the comfort of our lives, and faith means not going back!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?

Hebrews 11:1-6 – What Is Faith?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December  9, 2012 AM

What is faith? Is it a feeling, an emotional response, or the intellectual exercise of one’s will to decide to believe in something based on the evidence no matter what others say? Webster’s Dictionary states that it is defined as, “allegiance to duty or a person, loyalty, fidelity to one's promises, sincerity of intentions, firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust, something that is believed especially with strong conviction, or belief and trust in and loyalty to God.”

The author of Hebrews gives us a definition of what faith is and then he spends the rest of this chapter in giving us examples of what faith meant for specific people. As we look at what he wrote and why, it should make us think about what our faith means to us.

READ: Hebrews 11:1-6

What in life are you certain of, that you know without a doubt you can depend upon? We can absolutely depend in life upon very few people let alone things. Human nature predisposes that at some point we will let one another down in some way. And material things in life are not made to last. In fact, many things are made with built in obsolescence. The Book of Hebrews gives us a wonderful promise then when he writes that…

I. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see! (Vv. 1-3)

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

  1. The author had just concluded the previous section by reminding us that God states, “But my righteous one will live by faith.” So, this section is a call for those “righteous ones” to live by faith and he defines this faith. If we are to live by faith, what is this faith he desires we live by? He shares three fundamental ideals concerning faith: It is “being sure of what we hope for,” it is being “certain of what we do not see,” and it is “what the ancients were commended for”! Faith is not some societal definition of moral virtue, it is not something you can necessarily see, nor can it always be grasped intellectually or physically. It is not defined by a person’s acts of will, but a person will definitely act on their faith! We cannot see God’s grace but we can experience it for ourselves. The sacrificial act of trusting our lives to God’s promise through his Son, Jesus Christ, assures us peace with him and eternal life. (John 1:12-13, 3:16) When we trust God, whom we cannot see, he promises us eternity! Jesus gave us his life as atonement for our sin, and we give back to him our lives by faith in his sacrifice! The ancients could not see the outcome of their faith, just as often we cannot either, but we like them can live by our trust in what God has promised! In fact, we see the outcome of God’s plan in the creation all around us, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” This is why the apostle Paul would dramatically write, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20 NIV) We may not be sure of nor perhaps understand how all things were made, but we can certainly be certain that they were indeed made by the hand of God, if we do not we are without excuse! Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

  EXAMPLE: We cannot actually see the love someone has for us, but we can experience it. We experience their love for us as they demonstrate it to us through their lives. This is why Paul would write, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 NIV) I will never forget how one Christmas I wanted a Lionel train set. It was way more than my father could afford and I did not really expect one. Imagine my surprise when I went out to the tree that year on Christmas Day and there set up around the tree was the Lionel train chugging around the tree! However, more than the train set, I will always remember the look on my father’s face when he saw how excited and incredulous I was that the train was really mine. All I can say is, he radiated his love for me that day, I knew without a doubt he loved me. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see!

I grew up in a faith where we were taught that we never knew if were good enough to please God with our lives. It was a constant striving for personal perfection and attempting to do just one more thing in order for God to be pleased with our lives. Can you imagine what it meant then when I discovered that God already loved me so much he sent his own son to die for me and that all I needed to do is respond by faith? Hebrews reinforces the fact that…

II. Without faith, it is impossible to please God! (Vv. 4-6)

“By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

  1. How do we know when a person has faith? Can we look them in the eye? Can we see it in the color of their skin, the set of their jib, or in the new way they walk? Sometimes, bringing up the past helps us to see the present better. Now I am not suggesting that we nag one another about things we did in the past, but rather here, the author does so for a purpose. The author proceeds with examples of faith, and begins with Abel. The superiority of Abel's sacrifice to Cain's lay both in the substance and in the style of it; one was offered willingly and the other only for show; one was offered in faith and the other in pride. This is why, “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Cain plotted, schemed, and planned his “sacrifice” and the ultimate murder of his brother Abel! Planning to do “good things” for God in order to be given kudos or be recognized for it is the outcome of personal pride and not an example of faith. Hebrews then moves on to Enoch, who offers us even a better example of faith: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away.” One verse, Genesis 5:24, relates the story of a godly man named Enoch. It is said that, “Enoch walked with God” and then because God loved Enoch’s faith, “he was no more, because God took him away.” It was because of his trust and confidence in God that Enoch walked with God, even before there was the Mosaic Law! “For, before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God.” God cannot be pleased in someone who has no confidence in him! “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” You see, without faith, it is impossible to please God!

  EXAMPLE: The believer’s motto should be the same as Paul’s when he wrote, “Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12, NIV) Paul knew without a doubt that God loved him and was pleased with his life. In a day and age where so many walk around with insecurity problems and have to focus their entire existence on themselves in order to feel good enough about themselves, it is wonderful to realize that God focuses on our faith and not on ourselves! Hebrews related that Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” (Hebrews 7:25 NIV) Today, remember the true meaning of Jesus’ birth, that God so loved us that he sent us his son, that if we simply believed in him we would be saved. God is pleased with our faith and without faith, it is impossible to please God!

Conclusion:
We discovered for ourselves two important truths concerning faith: Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see, and without faith, it is impossible to please God!
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Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Hebrews 10:32-39 – Keep On Keeping On!

Hebrews 10:32-39 – Keep On Keeping On!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
December 2, 2012 AM

Do you remember when you first came to Christ, how you felt, and how others viewed your conversion? Were you excited, were they excited for you, and what about your friends? When I came to faith in Christ, my family was not that thrilled and my friends did not understand. In fact, from both groups I received a certain amount of grief. In fact, my boss bluntly told me that he could not stand Christians and would make my life miserable. How did your salvation change your life and what in your faith makes you want to keep on keeping on in life? These very important questions challenge us to make some thoughtful answers.

The author of Hebrews knew his listeners were confused and wanted the easy way out by going back to what they felt was spiritually comfortable for them. Sin often works that way. Sin usually occurs in our lives not because some dramatically evil thing entices us, but rather because we get lazy or lackadaisical and we feel it is easier for us to sin than not to do so. Spiritual laziness is the root of a lot of sin in our lives. So, then, how do we keep on keeping on in our faith when we have a proclivity to snooze rather than do for our faith? Let’s find out what Hebrews teaches us this morning…

READ: Hebrews 10:32-39

We truly live in an era where everything in our lives must revolve around us. It is all about “me”, so much so that we have regulated our faith into the same myopic gutter. Many have forgotten what salvation truly means and that it spiritually changes a person. Attending Worship is not the same as having a personal relationship with Jesus. When one comes to Christ, they are changed, and the world will no longer like you because of your faith! Hebrews teaches us that we keep on keeping on…

I. By remembering when we first came to Christ! (Vv.32-34)

“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” (Hebrews 10:32-34 NIV)

  1. We know that the very early church was persecuted (Acts 6:9, 12), not by the Roman Government, but rather by their fellow Jews. In fact, Jews followed Paul and Barnabas around in order to stir up persecution for them. (Acts 13:50) So, the author of Hebrews tells his audience, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering.” It is something American believers have little knowledge of or experience with in our day. Yet, it is something we should understand because it could be something we might experience for ourselves in the very near future. Often, the only thing we can hang onto when faced with suffering, is “those earlier days after [we] received the light.” Evidently, the author knew personal stories of those who had faced persecution. He writes about when they “were publicly exposed to insult and persecution” and where “at other times [they] stood side by side with those who were so treated.” Can you imagine being publicly exposed and ridiculed for your faith in Jesus? Those who have come out of other faith practices, who have been told they will be ostracized and there is no hope left for them if they do come to faith in Christ alone, understand. Notice too that these early believers “sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of [their] property.” How miniscule does the misunderstanding or ignorance, most of us face from family and friends compare to this? However, when we are faced with persecution we, like they did, must understand that we have “better and lasting possessions!” We keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ!

  EXAMPLE: What do you do when faced with persecution? When Lewis went on his first mission trip as an adult to Zambia and Kenya, his team visited people suffering with AIDS; many are rejected by their communities because of the stigma associated with the disease. As Lewis talked with the victims, painful memories came flooding back. Troy Lewis was often ridiculed as a young boy for his lack of coordination and constantly being sick. “I knew that look of just being sick and just wishing that you could be like everybody else … it really kind of explained all those years I asked, ‘Why God?’” he said. “… Out of that pain in my life there — it didn’t compare with the pain these people were going through — but it gave me this heart for these people that were rejected, ostracized and sick.” He remembered what he went through and how God loved him. Hebrews says we should keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ.

In the church today, we discover that carrying on often means to carry on in causing problems. There are those who practice the hit-and-run membership tactic. They hit the doors of a church for a few years, wear out their welcome, and run onto their next congregational victim. But persistence in the Lord is not just showing up on Sundays causing problems. We keep on keeping on…

II. When we persevere for the Lord! (Vv. 35-39)

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, "He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him." But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” (Hebrews 10:35-39 NIV)

  1. Immediately the author encourages his listeners by telling them, “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” He is trying to help them to focus on the future and not the sufferings of the here and now. The same is true for us as well. Our reward is not only in knowing where our future is going to be, heaven, but also in knowing we will be rewarded for our perseverance!  Hebrews reminds his listeners, “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” Jesus related a parable whereby faithful servants who invested what was entrusted to them by their master were told, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” (Matthew 25:23 NIV) Too often, we throw away our confidence in Jesus when we are faced with small trials or tribulations. God has promised us blessings if we remain faithful. The author here is not talking about the danger of losing our salvation if we do not remain faithful, but rather reminding us of what God has already done for us and we do not have to throw his blessing away! He goes onto warn and remind, “For in just a very little while, ‘He who is coming will come and will not delay. But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him.’” Interestingly, the author employed Paul’s, who used Habakkuk’s, description of a person who is justified by faith. (Habakkuk 2:4, Romans 1:17)  The idea is that God will not find pleasure or delight in the life of one who “shrinks back.” He leaves his audience with this encouragement, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed.” When one truly believes, God is never displeased with us and we can never be destroyed because we are “those who believe and are saved.” We keep on keeping on when we persevere for the Lord!

  EXAMPLE: Ten years ago, Nigerian Christians could expect a major attack against them about once a year. Then the attacks began to occur monthly. In the past year, attacks have occurred nearly every other week. Today, simply attending church on Sunday puts a believer at risk, and those who actively tell Muslims about Christ are at greater risk. We live in a church era whereby we give away mission trips as vacation prizes. We promote worship attendance as church membership and claiming ten steps to a better life if you know the secret! Is it any wonder then that few folks understand persecution often follows faith? Jesus related, “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” (John 15:19-20 NIV) Perhaps this is why many do not understand why our trials in life are there to mature us. James wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV) Maybe this is why so many lack spiritual maturity? We keep on keeping on when we persevere for the Lord!

Conclusion:
We keep on keeping on by remembering when we first came to Christ, and when we persevere for the Lord!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hebrews 10:26-31 – Apostasy? Me?

Hebrews 10:26-31 – Apostasy? Me?
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 25, 20112 AM

Sometimes the anticipation of something can be far more than the reality. You know what I mean, as children we may have anticipated Christmas, the presents, and then when the actual day arrives, it is not quite what we thought it might be. For the believer however, our anticipation of heaven and eternity does not come close to the reality. Paul wrote, “However, as it is written: ‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him’” How do we know this to be true, Paul continues by telling us that “God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.”(1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NIV) I bring this up in order to say that some of us have a convoluted view of eternity.

There are those who think that heaven is some kind of ethereal place and hell is only what you make of it, neither is true. Heaven is being in the presence of God, hell is not, and both are a reality. Not believing in them is dangerous. This is why the author of Hebrews begins to relate to his audience that if they persist in going back to their old way of the Law, they are in danger of apostasy. Renouncing what they had once believed in and trusted. We reap what we sow in life and there are consequences for our actions. Let’s find out what Hebrews teaches us about apostasy…

READ: Hebrews 10:26-31

It is one thing to disbelieve in something that is truly mythical, like fairies, trolls, goblins or gods who live in the clouds on top of a mountain. However, when you are given historical facts, eyewitness evidence, and the testimony of billions of changed lives then either you are blinded by your own prejudice or simply foolish. Then there are those who know and understand the gospel message, yet disregard both its warning and blessing. For those folks, the author of Hebrews writes that…

I. Unbelief results in judgment! (Vv. 26-27)

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.”

  1. Spiritual defection carries consequences! We reap what we sow! What we have to understand here is that the writer was concerned for those who said they knew God, knew about Jesus, but their actions proved otherwise. He writes, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.” The Old Law was worthless and now they have turned their backs on Christ! What was left for them? The answer is “nothing”, in fact, “only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God!” One plays a very dangerous game when they vociferously profess their faith, but their lifestyle proves otherwise. The author was not saying those who are truly saved could lose their salvation, rather, he was speaking to those who claim faith but did not truly believe what they said. Jesus emphatically taught, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28 NIV) But these folks were false disciples. Peter would say that they “are springs without water and mists driven by a storm!” In fact, he would continue by writing, “If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:20-21 NIV) Wow! Jude, Jesus’ other brother, writes, “They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever” and that they “do not have the Spirit.” (Jude 1:13, 19 NIV) Hebrews says they are “enemies of god” and only “judgment” and a “raging fire” await them! Unbelief results in judgment!

  EXAMPLE: My sister had an old hound dog named “Dilbert.” She named him long before the cartoon ever was drawn. He was the stupidest and friendliest animal I have ever seen. He never met a person he did not like to lick or make his buddy immediately. He would have held the door for burglars and greeted strangers with a wag of his tail. Then, he would have gone off somewhere to sleep. Far too many in our day and age give their allegiance away way too easily, just like Dilbert did. Sadly, Dilbert knew who fed him, gave him shelter, and took care of his every need but he did not care. There are those who understand who Jesus is, what he did, and his gospel message yet refuse to give him their faithfulness. All too soon, they will find out that their unbelief results in judgment.

There are folks on the web who spend worthless hours and miniscule intellects going from site to site trying to get others stirred up. They leave outrageous or offensive remarks, then sit back, and watch the online pandemonium that results, they are descriptively called, “Trolls.” They troll the internet looking for whom they can devour with their hit and run tactics. We can insult others, but when we know the truth that God has given us and then we deliberately turn away and try to drag others with us, we may discover that…

II. Insulting God results in judgment! (Vv. 28-29)

“Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?”

  1. You will be judged for your continued insults! Under the Old Covenant, if an Israelite spurned the Mosaic Law and at least two or three witnesses verified his actions, he was put to death. “Anyone who rejected the Law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Now, we have the witnesses of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! Understand that we now enjoy the complete “mercy” of God, his total grace found in Jesus! Also, understand that all sin ultimately leads to death, “For the wages of sin is death!” (Romans 6:23 NIV) John would remind us that, “There is a sin that leads to death.” (1 John 5:16 NIV) What is this “sin”? Is Hebrews referring to this? It is possible, however, if one knew that the Old Law was no longer worthwhile because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, what was left for them now? “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” Jesus taught, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32 NIV) Again, I believe the idea here may be for those who say they profess Christ, but their actions say something else. Jesus was speaking about disdaining the Holy Spirit’s witness concerning the Gospel, rejecting salvation through faith in him alone. The author of Hebrews is not necessarily thinking about hell here, but rather the author’s whole point lies in the seriousness of the act. To treat “the blood of the covenant” (which actually makes believers holy) as though it were an “unholy” (koinon, “common”) thing and then to renounce its worth with one’s words or deeds, is to commit a sin so dreadful as to dwarf the fatal violations under the Old Covenant. Be very careful then how you treat God’s grace in your life and his love for you in Jesus. You will be judged for your insulting lifestyle and you will not like the outcome. Insulting God results in judgment!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever been insulted? We can survive being hurt of offended, but when we insult God’s grace that is a whole different story. God is not some old guy with a pinstriped suit, horned-rimmed glasses, and a cigar. Nor does he wink at our sin and ungodly lifestyles. Psalm 94 reminds us, “Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile.” (Psalms 94:8-11 NIV) This is why Paul would remind us, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NIV) Insulting God results in judgment!

When Jesus related, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1 NIV) he was not saying that we can never be judgmental of someone else’s ungodly actions. Rather, his point was that a person should not be habitually critical of a mere sawdust speck in someone else’s eye when he has a plank sticking out of his own eye! God, however, does judge us. In fact, we learn that…

III. It is a horrible thing to be judged by God! (Vv. 30-31)

“For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

  1. God never makes idle threats! Folks have a tendency to think of God in the same way they view how they would make decisions. When we do, we make some very serious errors. God is totally holy and does not make mistakes, we are not holy and we often make mistakes in our thinking and our lives. Hebrews bluntly reminds us of the biblical fact, “For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’” God reserves the right to himself for final judgment. Paul wrote, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NIV) Jude, again, would relate that Jesus would come “to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done in the ungodly way, and of all the harsh words ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:15 NIV) Jesus promised, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37 NIV) Paul understood this concept of words meaning what you say. He wrote, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:10 NIV) The author of Hebrews wanted his readers to understand completely that “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” It is indeed a horrible thing to be judged by God!

  EXAMPLE: We can fool ourselves, we can fool others, but we can never ever fool God. One of the most startling statements Jesus ever made was when he bluntly told his listeners, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV) The will of Jesus’ Father was that we would come to Jesus as Savior and Lord! Jesus cannot recognize anyone who is just “nice” and does religious things; he only recognizes those who profess faith in him! It will be a horrible thing to be judged by God!

Conclusion:
We learned today that our unbelief results in judgment, that insulting God results in judgment, and it is indeed a horrible thing to be judged by God!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hebrews 10:19-25 – The “Lettuce” Sayings!

Hebrews 10:19-25 – The “Lettuce” Sayings!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 18, 2012 AM

Integrity is truly an interesting word. It speaks to our core principles, of our steadfastness to hold to high moral standards in spite of the rest of the world. It is our completeness or our undivided attention to what we actually believe and adhere too. And finally, it is found in what makes us whole as a person. Someone of integrity can be counted on, is seen as one who is not only dependable but also upright, and someone who is not ashamed of their actions anywhere with anyone. Integrity should be the hallmark of a Christian’s life.

Do you think many of us might be surprised to know how others view our integrity in the Lord? Perhaps we might also be ashamed at how God sees our lives as well. The author of Hebrews was writing to a group of folks who held themselves in high spiritual and moral regard. But as my Dad would say, “Their salad was just shy a few tomatoes.” Meaning, they were not doing what they said they believed. If a person says they believe in Jesus, and what he has done, then they will live accordingly. It all comes down to what you make your life’s salad out of and so our author gives us his “lettuce” sayings. Let us discover what they are today...

READ: Hebrews 10:19-25

What you make your life out of matters. Notice, I did not say what you make out of life matters. What ingredients you put into your life is what the final product will be. Garbage in, garbage out or Godliness in, godliness out, it all depends on the ingredients we use in life. Hebrews relates that if we have been completely forgiven of our “lawless acts” we should live godly lives…

I. Because, we have all the ingredients we need! (Vv. 19-21)

  1. Notice that the ingredients we have are already purchased for us!
    1) “We have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus!” Integrity is found in lives that are invested in something other than themselves. John would emphatically state, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7 NIV) The blood of Jesus gives us the confidence we need to live a life of integrity! His blood has cleansed us so we can have confidence before God!
    2) We have “a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body!” Jesus would declare, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) In fact, we know that “At that moment” of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split.” (Matthew 27:51 NIV) No one else and no other philosophy of life have done or will do for us what Jesus did! He is the “new and living way” and we dare not go back to our old and dead way of our lives!
    3) “We have a great priest over the house of God!” Remember, Hebrews has already promised us, “We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven!” (8:1) Notice, however, he says Christians are “the house of God.” Jesus refers to Christians as his “church” (Matthew 18:17) and Paul would relate, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV) The word for “church” is ek-klay-see'-ah and means the “called out” or the “assembly” for a specific purpose. In fact, we as members of Jesus’ body we are the ingredients ourselves of Jesus’ body doing his will in the world! (1 Corinthians 12:28) We are the church, the called out to do a specific task for Christ! As such, we have all the ingredients we need!

  EXAMPLE: Have you ever realized that Christians are called by God, to a calling of God, to serve in his called out body of Christ? If not, why not? There is no greater thing to be called to than the body of believers to serve the Living Lord. This is why Peter would write, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV) We have confidence to come to the throne of God because of the new and living way since we are part of the house of God! He has provided all the ingredients we need in life!

Why is it that even though we may have the best ingredients available to us in life as believers, we sometimes do not use them, as we should? Perhaps it is because we know deep down inside that we do not live as we should for the One who has given us everything. The author here begins to share with his audience that they could bring together the ingredients of God and then live for him. It is all about putting together life’s proper salad, so-to-speak, and so he says…

II. Let us! (Vv. 22-25)

  1. Notice what we should do with the ingredients we have!
    1) “Let us draw near to God!” Perhaps he was remembering what God had told the prophet Isaiah so long ago, “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isaiah 29:13 NIV) James, Jesus’ brother was a little more blunt when he wrote, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8 NIV) We can confidently “draw near to God” when we have “a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” When we are right with God, we can draw near to him, and Jesus makes us right with him! Therefore…
    2) “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess!” If we truly have placed our trust in Jesus, we know for a fact that “he who promised is faithful!” If have trusted Christ, we can trust God! Remember, Hebrews has already told us “Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast” (3:6), we have to hold on “unswervingly to the hope” we say we possess! James, again, writes that Christians “must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind!” (James 1:6 NIV) Paul writes, “The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV) We can “hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”!
    3) “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds!” The idea here is to literally keep an eye on each other and to get in one another’s face, if need be, to provoke each other to live for the Lord, just as a parent does with their children. I am reminded of Paul when he wrote the rebellious Corinthian church these “tender” words of encouragement, “Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you… What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a whip, or in love and with a gentle spirit?” (1 Corinthians 4:18, 21 NIV) I guess he was “spurring” them on a bit. John would write, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:18 NIV) It is easy for us to say we love fellow believers; it is far tougher to display our “love and good deeds” with our time, talent, or treasure!
    4) And finally, “Let us not give up meeting together!” Here is where the rubber meets the road so-to-speak. Why do I say that? Well, we can help folks to massage our guilt, we can even say we love the Lord without actually doing anything, but it is far harder to show up week after week to worship, serve, give, and face your fellow believers, eye-to-eye. We forget that we are called to meet together. That a special fellowship happens when we do come together: “For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20 NIV) The body of Christ is only the actual body of Christ when it meets together in fellowship and service. The church is not some ethereal mystical amoeba that exists somewhere out there, that anyone can say they are a part of without consequence. Christians are to make the effort to meet together as Jesus’ body in order to “encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching!” Each day brings us closer and closer to the coming of the Lord. And each day brings us closer and closer to our own face-to-face meeting with God. What will you say to Jesus, who died for you and established his church for you to be an active part of, when in fact you are not “meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing”? What is your habitual behavior? It is one of the major ingredients of a believer’s life.

  EXAMPLE: I was making pancakes the other day and Andrew, my grandson, came up and asked, in his three-year-old vernacular, “Whatcha doing Papa?” I told him I was making our pancakes for breakfast. He then began to ask about each thing I added to the mixing bowl. I told him that each ingredient was important in order to have good pancakes. Later, after he had eaten his fill, Andrew remarked, “Papa make good pancakes!” We as believers have the best ingredients to live our lives for God. We are to draw near to God, hold unswervingly to our faith, spur one another on to love and good deeds, and to “not give up meeting together” as the body of Christ. You know what; our “Papa” in heaven has given us every ingredient we need as well. Let’s use the ones he has given us!

Conclusion:
Because, we have all the ingredients we need, let us do what God has called us to do!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hebrews 10:11-18 - What the sacrifice has done!

Hebrews 10:11-18 - What the sacrifice has done!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 11, 2012 AM

Up to ten Libyans were killed as well as Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL, who was one of the four Americans who died thinking that help was coming after defending their position for several hours. They were eventually overrun and slaughtered and the ambassador taken and killed. All of this occurred while the President and his Administration knew it was going to happen because they had been forewarned. The defenders reflected self-sacrifice, loyalty, and honor. What do you ascribe to the actions of those who could have done something but did nothing? They later claimed it was due to a protest of a video, when they knew it was actuality a planned terror attack by Ansar al-Shariah, an established offshoot of al-Qaeda, watched it live, and then told those who wanted to help to “stand down”. What would anyone call that? Certainly not, “sacrifice.”

What would call the actions of someone who knew the outcome of his actions and yet went ahead and stayed the course in order to benefit those who did not care, would not care, or who did not know? Jesus willingly went to the cross as our ultimate sacrifice. The author of Hebrews describes for us the perfect nature of the sacrifice of Jesus by contrasting him with the old order sacrifices. We learned before that Jesus’ sacrifice was so perfect that it was “Once for all.” Now we begin to learn just what the sacrifice has done.

READ: Hebrews 10:11-18


God had told Moses long ago, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5-6 NIV) However, because of the Israelite’s sin, this would not fully occur until the sacrifice of Jesus when his followers would become “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” (1 Peter 2:9) Jesus would be…

I. The sacrifice sanctifies! (Vv. 11-14)


  1. The writer teaches his audience some truths concerning the differences between the earthly priests and God’s holy priest, Jesus. He relates that “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices”! And in fact no matter how many times the priest stood and did the same sacrifice repeatedly, it “can never take away sins”! However, “when this priest (Jesus) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” Jesus did not have to stand and then offer himself repeatedly, as his earthly counterparts had to do! How marvelous to learn that one can depend upon the work of Jesus “once for all”! Interestingly, the writer then ominously makes reference to the fact that “Since that time” of his sacrifice, Jesus “waits for his enemies to be made his footstool.” Least they forget, and thereby us as well, those who do not trust in Jesus’ sacrifice remain God’s enemies! (More about that in a moment.) Notice that Hebrews is referring back to the prophetic writing of David in Psalm 110. Paul would say that our ultimate “enemy” death would be subject to Jesus: “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25-26 NIV) In fact, we know that “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” We are dying daily because we are in sin and we know it to be true because God tells us through his law, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:56-57 NIV) Hebrews knew that “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy”, those who are sanctified! Jesus told his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matthew 28:18 NIV) He also said, “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19 NIV) “And by that will,” referring back to what we learned before, “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10 NIV) The sacrifice sanctifies!

  EXAMPLE: Brother Percy Manuel, a friend and pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon for many years, once told me something I have passed on to others concerning our faith in Christ. He related that when someone comes to Christ, “Their ‘wanter’ is changed.” What they used to do, they no longer want to do and they now want to live for the Lord. He knew that those who truly come to Christ want to live holy lives for him. Those who were trying to fake it would not. Percy continued by relating, “Lee, in the 50 plus years I have pastored, I have never met a brother that deliberately lives in sin. I have learned those who do are liars.” You know what, he was correct. This is why John wrote, “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:6-8 NIV) I am so glad that the sacrifice sanctifies us completely!

One of the most profound spiritual truths I learned as a new Christian was that no matter how I feel, God forgives me. My salvation is not dependent upon my emotions, but upon the work of Christ. Either the sacrifice of Jesus covers us completely or it does not. Praise God that it most profoundly does cover us completely! The author of Hebrews was having a tough time convincing his listeners that Jesus did what the priests could never do. He tells them that…

II. The sacrifice is sufficient! (Vv. 15-18)

  1. Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and “he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (John 16:8 NIV) In fact, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.” (John 16:13 NIV) This is why the author of Hebrews would tell his listeners, “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.” The Holy Spirit testifies to the fact that “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy!” (v. 14) Jeremiah, through the Spirit, prophesied, “‘This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’” (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV) Hebrews reminds them, “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” But more importantly, “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more!” In fact, Jeremiah states that God would “forgive” completely our “wickedness.” The sacrifice of Jesus ended our enmity, our hostility, with God because of our wickedness, our sin. Yet, notice that because of the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are completely and utterly forgiven! Paul would teach that we are “to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.” (1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 NIV) God, through the prophet Isaiah, reminds us, “Come now, let us reason together… Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18 NIV) Hebrews continues by saying, “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin!” The reason is simple: the sacrifice is sufficient!

  EXAMPLE: Many believe that the wrath of God was revealed in disasters like 9-11, hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans, and the super storm Sandy hitting New York and New Jersey. Perhaps, but the real outcome is occurring when God’s people live ungodly lifestyles thinking God does not care. It is reflected in our unruly families, fatherless children, violent crime, gangs, acceptance of perversion such as homosexuality, and the wonton race for quick happiness through things, drugs, or relationships. I believe the wrath of God comes when God’s people disdain his Son’s sacrifice and forget its sufficiency. Christians need to change society not through government or acquiescence of our faith, but through reminding people around us that the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient!

Conclusion:

The sacrifice of Jesus both sanctifies us and is completely sufficient for us as well!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hebrews 10:1-10 – The shadow of the reality!

Hebrews 10:1-10 – The shadow of the reality!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
November 4, 2012 AM

“True! Nervous - very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses - not destroyed - not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell.” Thus begins “The Tell-Tale Heart”, a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1843. It is told by an unnamed narrator who endeavors to convince the reader of his sanity, while describing a murder he committed. Ultimately, the narrator's guilt manifests itself in an auditory hallucination: The narrator hears his victim’s heart still beating under the floorboards where he hid the body. Guilt can make us hear things, do things, or say and promise things we would not normally hear, say or do. Sin is like that. Guilt coupled with pride convinces us to remain in ungodly relationships, do things we know we should not do, or say things we should not utter.

Guilt coupled with pride can also make us continue to stick to old habits and beliefs that are utterly worthless or even harmful. This is what was occurring with the listeners of the sermon of Hebrews. The author was desperately trying to help them see that their pride and guilt was causing them to make poor choices concerning their faith in Jesus. Some were actually thinking about returning to their old way of doing things. Going back to the shadow of the Old Law could never save them or assuage their guilt. The old way was a mere shadow of the reality itself! Can this be true of us in our day and age? The answer is a resounding, “YES!” Let’s discover why and how we can avoid making the same mistake concerning the shadow of the reality!

READ: Hebrews 10:1-10

I enjoy going to Disneyland or Disneyworld. I confess I like theme parks and especially the rollercoasters, where the faster and more loop-the-loops the better! Yet I am amazed and somewhat saddened to see the amount of money spent because of parental guilt in these parks. And all of the experience is based on a false premise, namely that everything is make-believe. It is not real. While the requirements of the Old Testament Law were very real, they were actually only a foreshadowing of what was to come. Hebrews therefore teaches us about…

I.  A mere shadow! (Vv. 1-4)

“…the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16 NIV)

  1. “The law is only a shadow” that is a mere example or more exactly a foreshadowing in relation to the temporal good things of the spiritual and eternal good things of the Gospel to come. The good news is the “good things” that were coming because of Jesus Christ! We find that Colossians 2:17 tells us that in fact these “are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ!” More about that in a moment, however, the Old Law for “this reason” could “never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” An example cannot be as good as the real thing! This is why the author of Hebrews continues by asking, “If it could, would they not have stopped being offered?” Of course, the answer would be that certainly, they would have stopped, but they didn’t. So, if in fact they had stopped then “the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins.” Can you imagine realizing that the continuous sacrifices, which you had “repeated endlessly year after year”, actually testified to the Law’s inability to “perfect” its worshipers? What a bummer! We discover that instead “those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins!” Sin is actually a defiance of the eternal law, and these material sacrifices belong to a ceremonial law, which is far less acceptable to God than moral duties or eternal consequences. We know that sin is committed against God and is objective and without truly measurable limits. Therefore, it can never be atoned for by the blood of creatures but it leaves a stain on the mind and conscience, which blood can never reach! What the blood of these creatures could not do, the blood of Christ has done, and does continually. The Law was just a mere shadow.

  EXAMPLE: When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. Of course, my brother did not help the issue because he delighted in hiding in the closet, jumping from behind closed doors, or even lying under my bed and waiting for me to come to bed. Our minds can play tricks on us and that is why theme parks and certain horror movies are so popular. Yet they are not real. They are mere shadows of what our minds have conceived. Convincing folks that some things are not valid can be tough. The sacrifices of the Old Law could not perfectly cleanse anyone. They were only meant as a reminder of the cost involved and as an example of what would prove to be so much better. The Law was a mere shadow of better things to come.

This is why the author spent so much time in his argument concerning the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Christ. He wanted his readers to be convinced of…

II. The reality! (Vv. 5-10)

“These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” (Colossians 2:17 NIV)

  1. “Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.’” The author is using Psalm 40:6-8 where David writes, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, ‘Here I am, I have come-- it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.’” (Psalms 40:6-8 NIV) Jewish scholars believed this has always referred to the Messiah to come. Interestingly, the phrase “a body you prepared for me” is one Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew expression “you have dug ears for me.” It was a phrase used in preparing the body for burial. In the “body” which Jesus assumed in his coming, he could say that he had come to achieve what the Old-Covenant shadow sacrifices never achieved, the perfecting of New-Covenant worshipers, those who lived in the light and not the shadows! The reality was that Jesus could say, “Here I am -- it is written about me in the scroll -- I have come to do your will, O God.” Remember, it was not his will but God’s will that Jesus earnestly desired to do! Jesus’ last concern was that he not be dissuaded in any way from doing what he was called to do! We learn that, “Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.” (Isaiah 53:10 NIV) By Jesus willingly doing what he did, he “sets aside the first to establish the second.” The author continues by reminding his readers that “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” The Law was simply a shadow but Jesus was and is the light and life of all men. This is the reality!

  EXAMPLE: As fun and as exciting as make-believe can be, reality is far better. That is, if you are prepared for it. We can become so enamored with the lives of others that we disdain our own existence or we live beyond our own means. I have seen parents try and make up for their lack of a childhood by overindulging their children. I have also watched as young couples have an inappropriate view of what their married life should be like. Then there are those who think that the world owes them a living. It is interesting to watch folks, as reality comes crashing into their lives. Just as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz learned, “There is no place like home”, the believer needs to understand the reality of Jesus: That “we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all!” That is the reality and not some shadow!

Conclusion:
A mere shadow or the reality, which do you prefer. I rather like reality myself.
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hebrews 9:16-28 – Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice!

Hebrews 9:16-28 – Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 28, 2012 AM

Far too many folks in our day and age do not have a last will and testament, because they never bothered to have one written. They think it is unimportant or that they do not need to worry about it so they put it off. Some foolishly think that by doing one they might hasten their own demise! It is extremely important to have a last will and testament. Few realize that their net worth is what matters and not, necessarily, what is in their bank accounts. We have all watched TV shows or movies where folks gather to hear the last will and testament of some dearly departed soul. However, did you know that a will is not completely valid until someone has died? This is especially true where the Old Testament is concerned and was not fully understood until Jesus came and established the New Testament when he became the ultimate sacrifice.

What will be your last will and testament to the world? Have you even written one yet? If not, why not? If you do not write one, then the government can decide who gets what you have materially left behind. But let me ask you another question? What kind of last will and testament are you leaving for future generations that will impact them for eternity? You can you know by making sure you have done your share in telling others about Jesus’ last will and testament. Jesus’ last will and testament was so extraordinary that the writer of Hebrews had a tough time trying to convey to his readers just how extraordinary it truly was. We learn that it did not take effect until it was written in Jesus’ blood because Jesus became the ultimate sacrifice! Let’s discover what the writer of Hebrews says about Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice…

READ: Hebrews 9:16-28

We write a last will and testament in order to leave those we care about most something of ourselves. This is exactly what God did as well! The new covenant is so much better than the old one that we often forget what it cost to be implemented. The promises derived from the new covenant are an eternal legacy for all mankind. However, we can never forget…

I. The cost of the new covenant! (Vv. 16-22)

  1. We forget that “In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it.” And the reason is obvious, “because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.” The writer deliberately used the terms that referred to a person’s last will and testament. While “covenants” and “wills” are not in all respects identical, the author meant that the New Covenant is really a testamentary disposition. Like human wills, all the arrangements are secured by a testator and its beneficiaries need only accept its terms. He goes on to explain, “This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood.” Something or someone had to die in order for the last will and testament to take effect! Least his listeners forget what happened, he continues by telling them, “When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people.” Death had to occur and the ceremony completed. Remember that during his final Passover meal, Jesus gave new significance to the meal by telling his disciples, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:28 NIV) Hebrews reminds us “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” Just as the old covenant was put into effect with blood, so now the new one is written in the blood of Christ! “In the same way,” just as Moses “sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies” Jesus sprinkled everything as well! “In fact,” he writes, “the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” This is the cost of the new covenant!

  EXAMPLE: Remember that Direct TV commercial, where the testator is reading the will of a wealthy man. The ex-wife, bimbo girlfriend, and other family members are gathered as the lawyer drones, “I also will my private jet, my island in the Maldives, and full control of the family business to my soul-mate… Angel. Finally, to my only son Chancy, I bequeath my Direct TV and its vast collection of 6,000 channels, shows, and movies.” The idiot son begins to dance around the room and whoop it up. We all have at one time or another thought of how great it would be if some wealthy relative, we really did not care that much about, died and left us a pile of money. Of course, this is not reality and it kind of erases the truth of the situation. For a will to be read and in effect someone must die, and we must be the beneficiaries of their last will and testament! Isn’t it therefore great to know then that the cost of the New Testament has already been covered by the sprinkling of a better sacrifice?

Far too often, when Christians gather on Sunday morning they have forgotten why they are supposed to. Sunday worship is not about us. Our worship is to make us reflect on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, but more than that, it is a time whereby we are to remind ourselves of…

II. The amazing wonder of the new covenant! (Vv. 23-28)

  1. The writer quickly teaches his listeners the importance of the new will and testament of Jesus. Jesus did not just cleanse earthly implements or people so they could be clean until they sinned again, he cleansed those who trusted him for salvation for eternity! “It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.” Jesus was a better sacrifice because “Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence.” Jesus could do this because of who he is! He is not a human becoming a god, nor is he just a good man trying to gain ultimate reality, he is God himself in human form. This is why Jesus did not “enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own.” As Gill relates, “Christ entered into heaven with his own blood, he having been altar, priest, and sacrifice: the high priest went into the most holy place every year, but Christ has entered into heaven once for all, where he sits down and continues, having done his work effectually.” If Jesus were not God in human flesh, “Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.” The end of the ages began when Jesus died and rose again! He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all things! Just as “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” (John 1:3 NIV) Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV) In fact, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Jesus came once, died once, rose once, and will come again once! It is the amazing wonder of the new covenant!

  EXAMPLE: There is no free lunch. Nothing in life is free. Nothing of value is free. Everything has a price. Anything of value costs something. All of these quotes refer to the price that has to be paid for something we might take for granted. The salvation Christians enjoy came at a great cost and in fact, it cost us nothing and everything as well. We did not have to die for it, Jesus did that, but we have to die to ourselves to obtain it and for some that is a difficult price. It is difficult because we know who we are and we cannot believe anyone would care enough to die for us! Paul put it this way, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!” (Romans 5:7-9 NIV) It is the amazing wonder of the new covenant!

Conclusion:
We learned two things concerning Jesus, the ultimate sacrifice: 1) The cost of the new covenant, and 2) the amazing wonder of the new covenant! It is Jesus’ last will and testament to us for us!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hebrews 9:11-15 – The blood of the Lamb of God!

Hebrews 9:11-15 – The blood of the Lamb of God!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
October 7, 2012 AM

When I was younger, we had a clubhouse we had built in a huge fir tree and then we decided to build another by digging one just down from the tree in the hillside by the railroad tracks. In order to get into the clubhouse you had to know how to enter. We had a set of passwords and booby traps to entrap the unsuspecting who dared enter without knowing the secrets of our clubhouse. Of course looking back on those security measures we had, they seem pretty juvenile now. You know what, there are religions in our world today that have the same kind of secret handshakes and code words that you have to understand and do in order to get into the “secret” inner arena of their spiritual philosophies. It is a matter of genuflections or erasing one’s engrams.

The Old Testament ritual had become, well, so much ritual because of Jesus Christ! But how does one show this to people who had for their entire lives and for centuries lived for and had adhered to those very rituals? The fact is the Old Testament was just pointing toward the New Covenant established by Jesus’ sacrifice and planned by God all along. Those beautiful words of John the Baptist remind us of this wonderful truth when John saw Jesus coming toward him as he was baptizing in the Jordan River and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NIV) Remember, Peter tells us that it is “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19) that we are cleansed and saved. It is by the blood of the Lamb of God! Let’s discover how this is true…

READ: Hebrews 9:11-15

There is a PBS show called Doc Martin where a chief surgeon in a London hospital has to give up surgery and begin again, in a small town, as their area doctor because of his aversion to blood. He used to see people as mere objects of his specialty until he came face-to-face with the fact that those he was performing surgery on were someone’s parent, child, or beloved spouse. We do not like to talk about such things as blood, yet we are intrigued by the horror of it in movies. The plain truth is that sin costs and it demands a tremendous price. We learn that…

I. Jesus entered heaven’s tabernacle through his blood! (Vv. 11-12)

  When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:11-12 NIV)

  1. Now that the Messiah has come, a more perfect system is introduced by which the conscience may be made free from guilt. Under the Messiah, the Jews anticipated greater blessings. They looked forward to better things than they enjoyed under the old covenant. They expected more confirmation of God’s divine favor; a clearer knowledge of the way of forgiveness; and more prominent spiritual satisfaction. Of these, Hebrews relates, “Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here!” Jesus has come, fulfilled his office in every way, and has given us everything! It was by Jesus they were ransomed back; and the time had actually arrived when they might enjoy the long-anticipated good things! Jesus proved he was capable and who he was because he “went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation” to do his ministry of high priest. In fact, “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” It was by the means of his body and blood offered as the ultimate sacrifice that Jesus entered into the most holy place in heaven! It was by this means we have “obtained eternal redemption” for our sins! Jesus entered heaven’s tabernacle through his blood!

  EXAMPLE: When we go to the county fair, there is usually a fun house or house of horrors or some such thing. Inevitably, there is a sign that reads, “Enter if you dare!” or “Enter at your own risk!” That is kind of the way it was when the priests entered the tabernacle. How truly wonderful to learn we have Jesus who “went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle” by the power of his sacrifice. Jesus entered heaven’s tabernacle through his blood!

We can intellectually note that we are cleansed by Jesus’ sacrifice, but it is another thing when we have to live with ourselves! We know, as Paul did, that “nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For, I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:18-19 NIV) We are inherently spiritually insecure people! Hebrews lets us know that we need not fret because…

II. Jesus’ blood is far better than our sacrifice! (Vv. 13-14)

  The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! (Hebrews 9:13-14 NIV)

  1. In Leviticus 19:9, God related that the ashes of a heifer were to be kept “for use in the water cleansing” because it was “for purification from sin.” The ashes were to be carefully preserved, mixed with water, and then sprinkled on those who were for any reason ceremonially unclean. The “reason” for this appears to have been that the heifer, whose blood has been offered as a sacrifice, and the application of the ashes were therefore regarded as an evidence of one’s participation in that sacrifice. It was needed, where there were so many laws regarding external pollutions where the individual of the Jewish community were regarded as frequently “unclean” in various ways. There had to be some method in which they could be declared to be cleansed from their “uncleanness” and God provided the ashes of a heifer. That is why “The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.” “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ” being infinitely more precious than the blood of an animal inwardly cleanse us! Notice too that the trinity is in full display in the act of redemption here because Hebrews also notes that Jesus “through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God.” It is by this wondrous means we “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death (literally, “dead works”) so that we may serve the living God!” The old covenant acts always lead to spiritual death, whereas the new covenant establish through Jesus’ blood leads to life! Jesus blood is far better than our sacrifice!

  EXAMPLE: I grew up in a church where the priest would walk down the aisle making the sign of the cross while sprinkling holy water on the congregation in memory of baptism to confer grace and blessing on the participants. It is one of many rituals that the Catholic Church believes helps God and us to get rid of any unconfessed sin we might have in our lives. How sad that there are those who in our day still do not understand that Jesus paid it all. That Jesus’ blood is better than any sacrifice we could ever make. Jesus’ blood is far better than our sacrifice!

In our day and age, we hear a lot about advocacy. There are advocates for children, senior adults, parents, different ethnic groups, the poor, and others. You name a group or individual and there is probably an advocacy for it. How marvelous to learn therefore that there is an advocate for our sin! We discover that this is the message of the gospels and the message of Hebrews, namely that…

III. Jesus’ blood sets us free! (v.15)

  For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. (Hebrews 9:15 NIV)

  1. So how is it that we who are so easily insecure in our relationship with God are made secure even when may think we are not? The writer states it is for “this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant!” Wow! We are always looking for some excuse as to why God should not, could not, or cannot forgive us of our sin but God can, could, should and did! As the apostle Paul reminds us, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast!” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV) God’s grace is exactly that, his grace! It is not won or procured through the endless bloodletting of animals and was never meant to be! It was so “that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance!” Notice the predestination of being “called.” God calls us through the Holy Spirit, to Jesus as the Mediator between God and man, into the new covenant, which Jesus has made through his blood! We gain entrance into the heavenly tabernacle by faith through this same blood! In fact, Jesus “has died as a ransom to set” all of us “free” not only from our present sins, but also “from the sins committed under the first covenant” which were not covered until Jesus. In all of these things, we used to need the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on us, but now we are cleansed by Jesus’ blood! Can you imagine going to Worship every Sunday, hoping your sins will be forgiven, and being sprinkled with ash water? Praise God that Jesus’ blood sets us free!

  EXAMPLE: I will never forget how as a young man the impact of this truth had on my life. I no longer had to try and please God. I no longer had to worry if I had done enough. I no longer had to guess if I had made enough contrition, lit enough candles, said enough prayers, or made enough confessions. For those of you who never grew up in a faith that held you imprisoned to doing good works and had you convinced that you could never know if you were truly saved, that in fact, not even the leadership or your local priest knew for certain if they were saved! Then, you have the glorious good news jump off the pages of Scripture, and you realize that Jesus’ blood sets us free!

Conclusion:

Jesus entered heaven’s tabernacle through his blood, Jesus’ blood is a better than our sacrifice, and Jesus’ blood sets us free! It is all because of the blood of the Lamb of God!
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Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 Biblica. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

Pastor Lee Hemen has been the outspoken pastor of the same church for 27 years in Vancouver, WA. He writes regularly on spirituality and conservative causes and maintains several web blogs. This article is copyrighted © 2012 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.