Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hebrews 4:1-11 – Rest assured!

Hebrews 4:1-11 – Rest assured!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 29, 2012 AM

It is an old tale but true. Successful lawyer and family man looses only son to aggressive disease and all of his assets burn in a huge fire a year later. He and his family head to England for vacation, but at the last minute he is called away and his four daughters and wife go without him. Nine days later he receives a note from his wife simply stating, “Saved alone.” The ship they were vacationing on collided with another at sea and sank killing 226 including his four daughters Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta. His wife, Anna, miraculously survived; in shock he goes to join her. During the voyage the captain invites him to the bridge. He believes they are passing the place where the de Havre, the ship his wife and daughters had been on, sank. Horatio Spafford then quietly returned to his cabin and begins writing the lyrics of his great hymn “It Is Well with My Soul.”

Many people in our day and age are looking for some kind of assurance or respite from the many evils and ills in life. However, when we face life we soon realize that life happens whether we find rest from it or not. The recent shooting in a Colorado theater should teach us that no matter where we go, evil follows. How then can we find the emotional, physical, and spiritual rest many of us seek? The writer of Hebrews relates to us exactly how we can find the rest we need for our souls today.

READ: Hebrews 4:1-11

When faced with the difficulties of life, we can be reassured knowing that…

I. The gospel gives us the rest we seek! (Vv. 1-2)

  “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” (Hebrews 4:1-2 NIV)

  1. Notice that the author gives us encouraging words when he writes, “Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.” The wonderful truth is that God’s promise “still stands” for those who are willing to take advantage of it. The question we should immediately ask is, “Why?” It is simply because “we also have had the gospel preached to us”! The same gospel, the good news of faith in God, was preached to those of Moses’ day but it “was of no value to them because those who heard it did not combine it with faith”! Faith is the key the writer is heading towards in his dissertation. Paul would remind his readers of this by telling them, “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” (Romans 1:17 NIV) “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1 NIV) It is faith in this gospel message that gives us peace with God! “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 NIV) In fact, the author of Hebrews will later define “faith” for us. Yet right now let us focus on the encouragement he gives us. The gospel, the promise of entering” God’s rest still remains and it is this gospel that gives us the rest we seek!

  Example: Sometimes in the hectic nature of our lives we can forget the assuring words Jesus gave to his disciples concerning the gospel message. It is a light piercing the fiercest storm of sin, a ray of hope during the darkest night of our souls, and the sweet murmur of the quiet waters God offers us because of his Son Jesus Christ. When the crowds were getting large and pressuring them constantly Jesus told them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31 NIV) It is the same instructions he gives us in our day and age. It has not changed. Remember, Jesus tells us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV) It is the gospel that gives us the rest we seek!

If we knew we had the means to find peace in this often hectic and desperately wicked world we would be foolish not to do so. Therefore, we discover that…

II. We need to take advantage of the rest God has already provided us! (Vv. 3-5)

  “Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said, ‘So I declared on oath in my anger, “They shall never enter my rest.” And yet his work has been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: ‘And on the seventh day God rested from all his work.’ And again in the passage above he says, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’” (Hebrews 4:3-5 NIV)

  1. While the message of the gospel had no value to the Israelites of Moses’ day, it has tremendous value for us! The writer tells us exactly why: “Now we who believed enter that rest”! We learned that to profit from this message of rest we had to exercise our faith. This follows directly what Jesus told Thomas when he said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29 NIV) How sad to realize that the folks of Moses’ day could have simply believed God and then as Paul writes that their faith would have been “credited as righteousness”! (Romans 4:5, 9) Yet, some during Jesus’ day even though they had heard for themselves the proof of the gospel and they had the physical example of Jesus the Messiah, they would not believe! Therefore, God promised, “They shall never enter my rest!” Wow! While even God rested from his labors of creation, those who arrogantly refuse to take advantage of the rest God has already provided, run the risk of being cut off from God forever! The outcome of their refusal is final and carries with it drastic consequences. This is why he continues by explaining, “Therefore God again set a certain day, calling it Today, when a long time later he spoke through David, as was said before: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.’” (v. 7) -- It is therefore paramount that we take advantage of the rest God has already provided us in Jesus Christ!

  Example: We live in a world that equates faith with being tolerant and kindness with being righteous. For many they think their success or spirituality will save them. One afternoon while in debate with the religious elitists who refused to recognize him as Messiah but loved accepting the praises of one another and the world, Jesus told them, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not accept me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (John 5:37-46 NIV) They would die in their sin because of their unbelief! This is why the writer of Hebrews knew it is paramount that we take advantage of the rest God has already provided us in Jesus Christ!

How arrogant would it be to disobey someone who not only had the means but the very answer we needed to find peace in our lives? Yet many of us do that very thing! Hebrews relates that…

III. It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides! (Vv. 6, 9-11)

  “It still remains that some will enter that rest, and those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in, because of their disobedience…. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (Hebrews 4:6, 9-11 NIV)

  1. There are those who erroneously think that conservative churches like ours “force people” into faith, this is simply a lie. In fact, no one can force anyone to believe the gospel. The writer of Hebrews tells us that “It still remains that some will enter that rest” and the inference is that there are also those who will never enter because they decided for themselves not to do so. He writes that “those who formerly had the gospel preached to them did not go in” and the reason was obvious to him, it was “because of their disobedience.” Disobedience can only occur when the person who disobeys hears and understands and then decides they will not follow the message God has given them. There is no trickery involved here, no deception on God’s part, and certainly no false premise. “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.” God offers those who decide to respond the same rest he enjoys but the choice is theirs to make! While salvation is God’s initiative and he knows who will come to him, he offers salvation freely to anyone who will respond. As Paul would declare, “For he says, ‘In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.’ I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV) God does not force anyone into faith; it is freely their choice to make. This is why the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides!

  Example: We have all had friends that wanted us to join them in some plan or plot that we knew at the time we should not be a part of, but yet we willingly got involved. I remember how my friend and I almost blew up my family’s carport trying to make homemade nitroglycerin. Nowadays they would have pulled us in and we would have been in trouble with Homeland Security, the FBI, and local law enforcement. Back then it was bad enough to get caught by my father. He warned me to be very careful of the friends I picked. I knew to take advantage of my father’s warning. Failure to disobey resulted in severe consequences. This morning God is inviting someone to take advantage of the rest he provides, to not do so is disobedience.

Conclusion:
The gospel gives us the rest we seek! We need to take advantage of the rest God has already provided us! It is disobedience to God not to take advantage of the rest he provides!
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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, July 22, 2012

Hebrews 3:7-19 – Don’t harden your heart!

Hebrews 3:7-19 – Don’t harden your heart!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 22, 2012 AM

The comedian Bill Cosby used to tell the story about his preschool children whereby he would ask them to “Come here… come here… come here… COME HERE!” Of course they ignored him. He said it was as if they were “brain-dead.” In fact he went on to say that preteen boys could be the worst. His son gave himself a reverse Mohawk haircut. When Cosby asked him why he cut his hair that way, his response was, “I don’t know!” Well, guess what, Christians sometimes can be just as “brain-dead” in their faith walk with the Lord. We know what we should be doing, but the very thing we know we should not be doing is exactly what we do. And then, when we suffer from the choices we made, we wonder why!

The Apostle Paul would write, “In fact, I don't understand why I act the way I do. I don't do what I know is right. I do the things I hate…. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong! (Romans 7:15, 19 CEV) The writer of Hebrews addresses this very issue with his sermon. When we rebel against God and do what we know we should not do, we will suffer the consequences of our actions. Hebrews gives us the example of the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea where they utterly failed to follow God. The writer warns his readers: “Don’t harden your hearts!” Let’s discover why and how we can escape the same fate of the Israelites.

READ: Hebrews 3:7-19

The writer of Hebrews tells us that…

I. We harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God! (Vv. 7-9, 15)

  “So, as the Holy Spirit says: "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert, where your fathers tested and tried me and for forty years saw what I did... As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’” (Hebrews 3:7-9, 15 NIV)

  1. All throughout Scripture God tells his people to listen and Hebrews tells us that “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Listening to God means acting upon what you have heard in the way he desires. When we refuse to listen to God, our hearts, our spiritual selves become harden. Notice what God calls not listening to him – “rebellion.” The Israelites rebelled against God when they “tested and tried” God. Now we certainly live under grace, but the issue here is not one of losing one’s salvation, but rather what occurs when we fail to heed God when he speaks to us! God speaks to us in various ways through the Holy Spirit: through his Word the Bible, through our circumstances, through fellow believers such as the church, and through prayer. Instead of listening to and following God as they should have the Israelites “tested” God by continually griping, by not being satisfied where God brought them, they harden their hearts and were disobedient. Imagine doing this for 40 years! Far from being an ideal period of Israel’s history it was a time marked by tragedy and defeat! The writer quotes from Psalm 95 and interestingly we discover that the people were first invited to “sing for joy to the LORD… shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation… come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song… bow down in worship”, and to “kneel before the LORD our Maker!” (Psalm 95:1-6) As the “the people of his pasture” and the “flock under his care” we are to listen to God. Like the Psalmist David, the author of Hebrews knew that we harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God!

  EXAMPLE: Parents of preschoolers know that you simply cannot tell an immature child to do something once and expect them to do it. We also know that children do not always listen to what we are saying to them. They may hear with their ears, but not in their actions afterwards. We know that true listening is seen when the hearer not only listens but also responds to what they heard. James would admonish us to “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive [ourselves]. Do what it says.” (James 1:22 NIV) Hebrews teaches us that we harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God!

The writer of Hebrews continues by telling us that…

II. We suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts! (Vv. 10-11, 16-19)

  “That is why I was angry with that generation, and I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray, and they have not known my ways.’ So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’… Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:10-11, 16-19 NIV)

  1. The law of physics teaches us that for every action there is an opposite reaction. The same is true for the spiritual laws of God as well. We reap what we sow, in fact we learn “that is why [God was] angry with that generation”! There are consequences for our sinful disobedience. When God speaks to us and we refuse to listen, we harden our hearts and we become insensitive to God! Like the Israelites our “hearts are always going astray”, and we deliberately refuse to know or understand the ways of God! Sadly, many Christians then wonder why they do not have the peace of God that is promised. We cannot enter into the rest of God when we have “heard and rebelled.” The Israelites died in the wilderness for their disobedience! For forty years they wandered in the desert until all that sinful generation, those that disobeyed God, had died! How sad when Christians blame God for their consequences instead of their continued sin! The author of Hebrews wants us to realize that we display our “unbelief” our lack of faith and trust in God when we have more confidence in our sin than in what God can do in our lives! When God’s people deliberately refuse to heed God’s voice in their lives, they will suffer the consequences of their sin! Now do not think I am saying that we always experience suffering in our lives because of hidden sin, because that simply is not true, however, we suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts!

  EXAMPLE: We’ve all heard, “It’s not my fault!” from a child who has been caught doing something they should not be doing. Why would they try to excuse their defiance when they are caught in the act of their disobedience? Like all of us they want to escape the consequences. Adults use the same excuse for the very same reason when they are caught in their sin! Having pastored for 27 years I have heard many folks use many excuses for their sin condition yet all of them boil down to the same plea of “It’s not my fault!” Blaming it on friends, parents, society or upbringing still distills down to the same exclamation: “It’s not my fault!” Even the very first couple, Adam and Eve, used the same excuse. And when we use this as a means of escape our hearts become increasingly hardened by the sin we do. Hebrews reminds us that we suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts.

Finally, the writer of Hebrews tells us that…

III. We harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another! (Vv.12-14)

  “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” (Hebrews 3:12-14 NIV)

  1. What can we do? The answer is truly simple, we should “see to it, brothers, that none of [us] has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God!” The problem is when believers insist on continuing in their sin! It displays an unbelieving heart! We may say we believe with our mouths, but our actions and attitudes say otherwise! We have forgotten what we are to do as a church and as fellow believers; we are to “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’, so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.” Paul reminds us that we are to “encourage one another and build each other up” and “we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11, 14) The idea here is one of continued discipleship. The problem is that today’s church does not see itself as a body of Christ but rather a spiritual way station instead. Too many see the church as a place for them to enjoy God instead of a community directly responsible for one another’s spiritually. Paul would admonish Titus, a young pastor, “These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.” (Titus 2:15 NIV) Christians today refuse to allow themselves to be “encouraged” through the discipline or the “rebuke” of fellow believers. We want encouragement but we do not like to be confronted for our sinful condition! When we do not allow ourselves to be placed under the authority of a local church we become spiritually prideful. We are telling God we can “go it alone” and we do not need his church, his body, because we know best. We increasingly harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another!

  EXAMPLE: As children we hate discipline, but it is the only way we can mature and make good choices for our lives as adults. The problem begins when society teaches that discipline is wrong and children should be indulged. We have forgotten that discipline involves both encouragement and correction. I remember being trapped where a parent unsuccessfully tried to get their child to behave. They tried talking with the miscreant, they tried bribery, empty threats, and to cajole their outlaw into good behavior. Of course none of it worked because the child knew nothing would happen. This notion has infected the church as well. We dare not say anything negative that might sound strict to degenerate Christians. Many churches no longer have membership because there is no need to have membership if you never disciple your members! Many in the church therefore have sin-hardened hearts. Church is about being indulged instead of serving Christ. We discover from Hebrews that we soften our hearts when we encourage one another!

Conclusion:

Dear Child of God have you become so calloused in your sin that you disdain any rebuke from your fellow believers for your ungodliness? Are you ashamed of what you do when you are away from the house of God? Hebrews teaches us that: We harden our hearts when we refuse to listen to God! We suffer the consequences when we harden our hearts! We harden our hearts when we do not discipline one another!
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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, July 15, 2012

Hebrews 3:1-6 Moses vs. Jesus: Smack Down!

Hebrews 3:1-6 Moses vs. Jesus: Smack Down!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 15, 2012 AM

There are some things in life that are better than other things. Peanut butter and jelly is better than plain bread and butter; homemade cookies are better than cheap store-bought ones and college football is better than pro football any day of the week! Of course some may disagree with my assessments, but there is one arena where we cannot disagree as to what is better and that is in the spiritual assessment between God’s Messiah and God’s Messenger. That is between Moses the messenger and Jesus the Messiah.

The writer of Hebrews continues in his evaluation of just how much grandeur Jesus is than people’s old views of spirituality. The old contract was finished and the new one has come into service. In his assessment between Moses and Jesus the author of Hebrews makes it very plain that there simply is no contest between the two individuals. It is almost like watching a boxing match or smack down wrestling. Let’s discover for ourselves just why Jesus is better than Moses is as we look at “Moses vs. Jesus: Smack Down!”

READ: Hebrews 3:1-6

My father and I used to sit and watch the old professional wrestling shows on TV when I was a kid. Guys like Gorgeous George and the Masked Marvel were the stars of the era. The author of Hebrews gives us a blow-by-blow assessment between Moses and Jesus. It almost is like a Smack Down wrestling match. It’s “Moses vs. Jesus: Smack Down!” The bell rings and we discover that…

I. Jesus Is the Builder! (Vv. 1-3)

  “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” (Hebrews 3:1-3 NIV)

  1. Notice we are called “Holy brothers” and all people are considered such “who share in the heavenly calling” of Jesus Christ! In fact, we are admonished to “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Why would the author tell us that? Because Jesus is the main messenger “apostle” of God’s gospel to mankind and he is the “high priest whom we confess!” Both Moses and Jesus were faithful to God, but only one was both “the apostle and high priest whom we confess!” We can never confess Moses only Jesus! But also notice that verse 3 says that Jesus is worthy of more glory than Moses in relation to God’s house. And the answer is obvious: Jesus is the builder of the house and Moses is only a part of the house! Look at what he writes in verse 3: “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” In other words he is saying: Jesus is to the people of God as a builder is to a house. Moses is simply one of members of God’s household. Therefore Jesus built everything Moses based his life’s purpose on! Jesus built the Law of Moses in the first place! Now think about that for a moment. Certainly “Moses was faithful in all God's house” but Jesus was the Heavenly high priest and apostle who made the house! Before Moses was born Jesus was with God in the beginning and when Moses hiked up the hill to receive the Law of God, Jesus had already written it! But more than this: Jesus is the one who brought us a heavenly calling from God and made us a way to God that is far better than the temple or the law! On him hangs all our hope of heaven. If we have any confidence this morning that our sins are forgiven and that we will persevere in faith and attain heaven, this confidence depends on Jesus who is the builder of the house of God!

  EXAMPLE: As the Olympics are about to begin, we don’t have any difficulty realizing that only one person is worthy of more glory than all the others in their perspective competitions. There’s more glory in gold than in silver, and more honor in silver than in bronze. Jesus is worthy of as much more glory than Moses as the builder of a house is worthy of more glory than the house. Jesus is worthy of as much more glory than every gold medal winner of the Olympics as the builder of a house is worthy of more glory than the house. Jesus as God’s apostle and high priest made the gold, the competitors, and the house! Jesus is the builder of the house! Round one goes to Jesus!

But more than that, like a wrestler pinned to the mat and as the hand of the referee comes smacking down in the final count we quickly learn that…

II. Jesus Made Moses! (Vv. 3-4)

  “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” (Hebrews 3:3-4 NIV)

  1. We learned above that “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses” because “just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.” The inference here is also to be a transition into the next point the author is making, namely that Jesus made Moses! In fact, as we resume we discover that verse 4 continues this notion by stating, “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” And since Jesus is God, he made everything including Moses! Make no mistake about this theological fact, Jesus is God and not some other god in embryo or little created god-man. Jesus related, “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30 NIV) “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58 NIV) “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9 NIV) And both Paul and John referred to Jesus as “God and Savior” and “true God and eternal life”! (Titus 2:13 & 1 John 5:20) Jesus is the builder of the house because he is God! Now stand back and again consider the ramifications for our lives. If Jesus made Moses, the temple, and the Law of God, that means he made you and he made me! If this is true, then Jesus wins this bout with Moses simply because he made it all possible in the first place!

  EXAMPLE: It would be as if the Olympic decathlon athletes were all gathered together in the locker room bragging about which one was the greatest, and Jesus comes in and quietly listens. One brags, “I threw the javelin farther than anyone else. I’m the greatest!” Another says, “I put the shot farther than anyone else. I’m the greatest!” Still another boasts, “I jumped higher than anyone else. I’m the greatest!” And then Jesus standing in the corner calmly states, “I made wood for the javelin, the minerals for the shot put, and the field you practiced on. In fact, and I made all of you. I made your arms, your legs, and your hearts and therefore I am the greatest.” Just as the author of Hebrews writes that Jesus made Moses and therefore Jesus is greater than Moses. Round two goes to Jesus!

The match is almost over. The crowd is in anticipation of who will win the bout. And as if hurdled to the ropes of the ring, the opponent learns…

III. Jesus Is the Son; Moses Is Only A Servant! (Vv. 5-6)

  “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But 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.” (Hebrews 3:5-6 NIV)

  1. There is a difference if you are an employee of the boss or the boss’ son! Here we learn this truth anew. Moses was a servant in the house of God and Jesus is the Son over the house of God. The difference between a servant and a son is that the son, by inheritance, owns the house, and is Lord over the house, and provides for those in the house out of his wealth. But a servant doesn’t own anything in the house, and the servant obeys the word of the owner! The servant receives his provision from the owner. So again, Jesus, as a son, is superior to Moses in these three ways: 1) he owns the house of God; 2) he rules the house of God and 3) he provides for the house of God! By contrast Moses is just hired help in the house of God! He doesn’t own it; he doesn’t rule it; and he doesn’t provide for it from his wealth. He only sweeps the floor if asked to do so! So consider Jesus in relation to Moses. The writer of Hebrews wants us to apply this superiority of Jesus to ourselves! He relates, “And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” The church is the house of God today! The redeemed members are the church and Jesus is the owner, the ruler, and the provider of his church, his household! He’s the son; we are the servants. He is our title-holder, our Master, and our source for all things! We are his house, his people, and partakers of a heavenly calling “if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Jesus is the son and Moses was only a servant, round three goes to Jesus!

  EXAMPLE: Wouldn’t it be surprising for all of us as we watched the Olympics and during the medal ceremony the person who won the gold medal Greco-Roman Wrestling did not show up for the presentation but instead someone else took their place? They dramatically announce, “Ladies and gentlemen, I worked hard, followed all the rules, and I am a nice guy so I deserve the gold medal!” We would demand the medal got to the one who actually won it! This is what the readers of Hebrews were struggling with concerning their faith. They thought they deserved their salvation because they followed Moses and all the laws, but like being placed on the ropes in a wrestling match they discovered Jesus is the son and Moses was only a servant!

Conclusion:
Moses hoped in the law of God. Many in Jesus’ day hoped it was sufficient to save them if they routinely followed it to the letter. Let me ask you, “What are you hoping in this morning?” We discovered Jesus is the builder, Jesus made Moses, and Jesus is the son; Moses was only a servant!
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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, July 08, 2012

Hebrews 2:10-18 – Jesus went where no man could go!

Hebrews 2:10-18 – Jesus went where no man could go!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 8, 2012 AM

When I was young there was a TV show called “Wagon Train” that ran on NBC from 1957–62 and then on ABC from 1962–65. The show chronicles the adventures of a wagon train as it makes its way from Missouri to California. There were 284 episodes in 8 seasons and it was one of the longest running series of its day next to the TV western “Gunsmoke.” I loved it because of its strong characters and the idea of strong consistent leadership that was based on integrity and a moral code. The Wagon Master was the captain and leader who kept folks safe as he lead them west through many trials and hazards. Believe it or not, much of the science fiction TV series “Star Trek” was based on “Wagon Train” and its concepts. They both “boldly went where no man had gone before.”

When we read the gospel narrative we discover that we have a real hero who went boldly where no man could ever go, Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews begins to relate just how Jesus’ became our Wagon Master, our captain, and our redeemer. Let’s discover what the author teaches us concerning how Jesus went where no man could go…

READ: Hebrews 2:10-18

How did early settlers pick a good Wagon Master to follow west? Some became the leader simply because they sponsored the wagon train headed westward. However, the best ones were those men who had the experience to lead and who had been where the train was headed. They knew the trail because they had traveled it themselves. In this sense we discover that…

I. Jesus was made the perfect captain! (v. 10)
  1. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him! (Hebrews 5:8-9 NIV)
    1) We do not like to suffer and when we hear of anyone or anything suffering we are repulsed by it. Therefore it is kind of a shock to our senses that “we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor” suffering for us! The author writes, “In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Hebrews 2:10 NIV) Perfected through suffering? Yes, because the operative word here is the word “perfect.” God found this fitting that his Son would suffer for us. As Wesley would state, “It became him. It was suitable to all his attributes, both to his justice, goodness, and wisdom… in bringing many adopted sons to glory… to [the] perfect the captain - Prince, leader, and author of their salvation, by his atoning sufferings for them.” The writer of Hebrews used, for the first time, the Greek word archēgos of Jesus, which literally means “author”, “leader” or “captain.” It is almost equivalent in some respects to the English word “pioneer.” Hebrews therefore tells us that Jesus’ suffering was appropriate in order to become the “Wagon Master” or captain we need, Jesus was made perfect for his role “through suffering” death. Since we suffer in life, Jesus, God incarnate, suffered in death and in doing so was made the perfect captain for us to follow!
  EXAMPLE: On the Fourth of July after our church’s potluck picnic some of us walk together down to the Fort where they have the public fireworks display. As we head down we often walk in a single line and every once in a while we stop to wait for others. When we start up, one of us invariably hollers, “Forward, yo!” It comes from old John Wayne movies like “Fort Apache” or “She Wore a Yellow Ribbon”, when the troopers head out to track down Indians. It is like a Wagon Master getting his wagons to follow him. We then all fall into line and follow the leader just as the troopers or Conestogas did in those movies. This is kind of what the writer of Hebrews is sharing about Jesus. He was perfected in his death and suffering for us in order to become the perfect captain or Wagon Master for us to follow!

Sadly, for some, the TV series “Star Trek” became almost like a family. Captain Kirk was the fun-loving brother, Spock the intellectual nerd of the family, and Bones the irascible Uncle. Kirk would always get the girl, Spock would raise one eyebrow, and Bones would mutter. Each week we were invited in to join them in their latest adventure, but as enjoyable as that was, they were not part of our real family. They were make-believe. However, we discover from Hebrews that…

II. Jesus made us “family”! (Vv. 11-13)
  1. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29 NIV)
    1) There is a deep family fidelity and unity between Jesus and his followers. By His death He makes them holy, and those who are made holy by him are of his same family. The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 22:22 as referring to Jesus Christ, and these words as being spoken by Jesus the Son to God the Father. John would declare that “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God--children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.” (John 1:12-13 NIV) As an older brother surrounded by his siblings, Jesus “will declare” our names to all in heaven and earth, “in the presence of the congregation” he sings our praises as we sing his! This is how we can say, “I will put my trust in him.” But more than this, God can as well because Jesus did what his Father desired! Jesus related, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:19 NIV) In the end, Jesus will declare, “Here am I, and the children God has given me!” WOW! I like that! Jesus made us family through his suffering and he leads us to God! Paul would write that “This is why it says: ‘When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.’” (Ephesians 4:8 NIV) Remember when Jesus prayed to God the Father concerning his followers, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you.” (John 17:6-7 NIV) The author of Hebrews is establishing the fact that Jesus made us family!
  EXAMPLE: The British learned that true leadership is not paid for or given out as a prize but rather it is earned through skill, respect, and character. The British military would give out officer commissions to the wealthy aristocrats, but when war erupted they were sometimes worthless on the high seas or battle field. In fact, early colonials learned to kill the officers first because of the distrust the elite officer class had with the common rank and file. It rendered the army useless because there was no leadership. How glorious to learn then that God loved us so much that he sent his one and only Son to live among us, to die for us, and to lead us back to his presence! And even more wonderful is learning that Jesus did this to make us part of his family! His brothers and sisters in Christ! Paul would proclaim, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” (Ephesians 3:14-15 NIV) Jesus made us family!

The Prince and the Pauper tells the tale of two boys who trade clothing one afternoon and, as a result, they trade lives as well. Each of the boys is fascinated by the other's life -- Tom, by the luxury and the cleanliness that Edward has, and Edward, by the freedom that Tom has. After many adventures and experiences, matters are set right again. Jesus’ willingness to come to earth is more than a tale of royalty wanting to discover the common man. The author of Hebrews teaches us that…

III. Jesus also shared our humanity! (Vv. 14-18)
  1. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8 NIV)
    1) Here is a wonderful glorious truth: It is not for the heavenly beings known as angels but rather those who become “Abraham’s descendents” that Jesus came in order to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” Did you know that he means all Christians? Satan had the power of death in the Garden in that he brought it to all mankind through the sin of one man Adam, but now through God’s Son, Jesus, we are freed from that fear! Why would God do such a thing? The author says it was simply because “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil.” Death no longer holds any fear for those who have faith. This is why Paul would grandly write, “‘Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57 NIV) Hebrews reminds us that in fact it was “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Whatever our needs are on our trail of life our Wagon Master leads us because he earned the right to through his sacrifice! As Jesus would declare, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest… If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (Matthew 11:28 & John 7:37 NIV) Jesus understands us at our basic needs. In fact, like one who has walked a mile in our shoes, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” That is the glorious wonderful truth; Jesus also shared in our humanity!
  EXAMPLE: The fearful settlers made up of shopkeepers, farmers, womenfolk, and children look to the lean grizzled suntanned man on the horse and wonder, “Can this man lead us to where we are going? Does he know the way?” Of course we all know he can, he is the Wagon Master. He has been over the trail, fought the Indians, and kept the bandits at bay before. He looks at the crowd of faces, leans back in his saddle, and tells them that the trail will not be easy. It will be tough as nails, rain, sleet, dust and mud, flies and bugs, and heat and cold. Yet through it all he will faithfully lead them safely to their destination because he has been there and back himself. Jesus is way better than any dusty old Wagon Master, he is the Shepherd of our souls and Jesus also shared in our humanity. He knows the way.

Conclusion:

Jesus was made perfect, Jesus made us family, and Jesus also shared our humanity!
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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, July 01, 2012

Hebrews 2:5-9 - Jesus, better than angels are -- 3D!

Hebrews 2:5-9 - Jesus, better than angels are -- 3D!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
July 1, 2012 AM

In the movies when they cannot come up with an original idea they often make remakes of the original. “Heaven Can Wait” is a good example of a movie that has been remade over 6 times and it was not the first based on the original idea! Now they rerelease movies by adding new scenes or by making them 3D. It does not necessarily make the movie any better. I kind of used this notion in order to introduce us to what the author of Hebrews does in his sermon concerning Jesus being way better than angels are -- 3D! However, in this case the “sequel” the author of Hebrews writes is just as great as the original.

They say that repetition is good for the soul, and in the case of Hebrews it is excellent. It is excellent because the writer was not afraid to keep hammering home the teaching that Jesus is better than angels are. Let’s discover why…

READ: Hebrews 2:5-9


The great Christian writer Oswald Chambers wrote, “Choosing to suffer means that there must be something wrong with you, but choosing God’s will— even if it means you will suffer— is something very different. No normal, healthy saint ever chooses suffering; he simply chooses God’s will, just as Jesus did, whether it means suffering or not.” Chambers continues by writing that “Jesus never measured his life by how or where he was of the greatest use.” We know that Jesus measured his life by what he was sent to do. In fact, Hebrews teaches us…

I. Jesus is better than angels are because of what he has done! (Vv.5, 9)

  1. Through the victories you gave, his glory is great; you have bestowed on him splendor and majesty. (Psalms 21:5 NIV)

    1) The Jewish world of Jesus’ day was one of obedience to a myriad of often confusing regulatory laws derived by human beings, but accredited to have been given to them by the angels themselves. The gospel changed all of this. It was and now is a whole new world. This is why the writer states, “It is not to angels that he has subjected the world to come, about which we are speaking.” This new dispensation was often referred to as “the world to come,” it was the Messianic age, the world we now enjoy! Angels would no longer be needed as go-betweens, mediators, or messengers. “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor!” As Paul delights, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name!” (Philippians 2:9 NIV) However, more than this, it is “because he suffered death” that we enjoy the salvation we do without any burden of the law! It was “by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone!” Jesus died on the cross so we might enjoy the grace of God! He died that we might live! John would write, “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV) And again, Paul would tell us that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:7-8 NIV) Jesus is way better than angels are because of what he has done!

  EXAMPLE: There used to be a story that made the rounds way back before the internet concerning how some individuals have had heavenly visitors suddenly appear to warn them and then vanish. Beginning in the 1970s with Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's studies on so-called near-death experiences, which popularized the notion that people can, and should, develop relationships with “spirit or angelic guides,” New Age circles had been quick to exploit the growing fascination with angels. When I first became a Christian there was an unhealthy fascination with angelology, the study or veneration of angels. Lately they may seem to have drifted away, but they’ve merely wandered into the literature of self-help and healing. It is now possible to buy “How to Hear Your Angels,” “Working with Angels,” “In the Arms of Angels” and “Angels 101,” as well as angel dictionaries, encyclopedias and art books. However, the Bible makes it plain that while they are ministering spirits that serve God or mankind, they are no longer needed as mediators. The answer to why is simple, Jesus. We have learned from Hebrews that Jesus is better than angels are because of what he has done!

What Jesus did was so astounding that Paul would write, “God showed how much he loved us by having Christ die for us, even though we were sinful.” (Romans 5:8 CEV) Now I do not know about you, but I never had anyone die for me before. But more than this not only die for me but also to be resurrected to display our new life in him, have you? Hebrews teaches us that…

II. Jesus is better than angels are because he proves God’s concern for mankind! (Vv. 6-8)

  1. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” (Luke 7:16 NIV)

    1) Using the testimony of King David concerning how God views us, the writer of Hebrews kind of uses it as a double meaning for us here in this passage. He quotes Psalm 8:4-8 which describes how God graciously entrusted his creation to mankind. David was amazed that finite man would be placed in charge as stewards by an infinite God. In quoting this passage the author of Hebrews uses this as a means to introduce the question that has always been on mankind’s mind concerning God, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” However, he is also using it as a teaching about Jesus as the Messiah. Interestingly, Jesus made reference to this when after his resurrection he explained to his disciples, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44 NIV) Not only did God care so much that he made mankind “a little lower than the angels” and “crowned him with glory and honor” he also did this for his Son Jesus! In fact, God “put everything under his feet.” God made his Son not only the sacrifice for all his creation but the ruler as well! “In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him.” Only “at present we do not see everything subject to him” because that will not occur until he returns again. Jesus remarked, “David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: ‘The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’” (Mark 12:36 NIV) and “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:64 NIV) We know in fact that it is “Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us!” (Romans 8:34 NIV) We do not see everything subject to Jesus yet, but we will when he returns! Jesus is way better than angels are because he proves God’s concern for mankind!

  EXAMPLE: Joe Stowell writes, “Last year an American radio preacher stirred up the interest of the mainstream media with his prediction that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011.” Of course, he later changed the date. “Anyone who knows Scripture well knew that this advance warning wasn’t accurate, because Jesus himself said his return would be ‘at an hour you do not expect’ (Luke 12:40). But I do have to admit that this prediction captured my attention. All of my life I’ve had to ‘be ready.’ As a child, I had to be ready for dinner by washing my hands. As an adult, being ready for important responsibilities continues to be an ongoing reality. But I’ve come to realize that nothing is more important than being ready for our reunion with Jesus.” Stowell is correct. One day Jesus will return and complete his kingdom work, however, right now he sits interceding for us! Jesus is way better than angels are because he proves God’s concern for mankind!

Conclusion:
We have learned from Hebrews that Jesus is better than angels are because of what he has done! Jesus is way better than angels are because he proves God’s concern for mankind!
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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 25 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.