Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hebrews 9:1-10 – A new universal order!

Hebrews 9:1-10 – A new universal order!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 30, 2012 AM

There are those in our day and age who spend an unhealthy amount of time wondering about conspiracy theories and who is behind what and when. Often these folks talk in hushed voices about how there might be a secret cabal wanting to start a new world order such as the CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) or the WFM (World Federalist Movement). I have to laugh at some of the convoluted aerobics they have to do in order for their pet conspiracy theory to be remotely fit together and come out anywhere near correct. While there are very real forces who want to control how people vote, what they eat, or how they raise their children, they are not so secret. Some of these utterly weird and fantastic ideas have crossed over into some theological heresy concerning the end times, such as in premillennial dispensationalism. Some folks, however, are surprised to learn that Christians not only believe in, but practice, and desire the establishment of a new universal order!

In fact, the perfect plan of God was to establish his universal order, which he has done through his Son Jesus Christ. The author of Hebrews begins to share just how the old tabernacle was just a pattern of what God truly had planned all along. Each part of it had meaning and was given for a particular purpose. My mother used to tell us, when we cleaned our room, “Everything in its place and a place for everything!” God believes this as well. We see it in how God had the tabernacle built. It was his pattern for the upcoming new universal order! Let’s discover how this is possible…
  
READ: Hebrews 9:1-10

God reminds us that, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NIV) The writer of Hebrews therefore noted that the Tabernacle was modeled on a heavenly pattern (Hebrews 8:5), and we will see that he used it to give meaning to the priesthood and the atoning work of Christ (9:9). His refusal to indulge in excessive symbolism should serve as a guide for us. Yet, in the tabernacle we find…

I. The old order of doing things! (Vv. 1-5)

  1. Hebrews relates that “the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary.” God gave Moses directions on how the Israelites were to set up the tabernacle. The Hebrew word mishkan implies “to dwell”, “rest”, or “to live in”, referring to the “in-dwelling presence of God”. God’s shekhinah, his glory, is based on the same root word. The English word “tabernacle” is from the Latin tabernāculum meaning “tent” or “hut”, which in ancient Rome was a ritual structure. The tabernacle was the portable place where God came to dwell among the Israelites from the Exodus until they conquered the Promised Land. They were not to deviate from God’s directions. When the “tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.” The lampstand was placed on the south (left) side of the Holy Place. It was made of gold and had seven branches. The central stem and the six branches each ended in a lamp which provided light for the Holy Place and were to be kept lit from dusk until dawn. It signified the light of God’s presence and was a “lasting ordinance.” The table of consecrated bread was located on the north (right) side of the Holy Place, opposite the lampstand. It was made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. It held 12 loaves of bread, bowls of frankincense, and vessels for wine. This bread was changed weekly and with the wine was an expression of gratitude to God. “Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant.” The alter was located in front of the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, this altar was of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Incense, which represented the prayers for the people by the priests, was to be offered on this altar by the priests every evening and morning. The Ark of the Covenant was where God would come to rest between two golden cherubim called the mercy seat. It was upon this mercy seat that the blood of the slain goat was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. All these were arranged in a precise way for specific purposes, but the author could not “discuss these things in detail now.” He is noting the old order of doing things!

  EXAMPLE: Churches have old ways of doing things whereby those in attendance can be heard to exclaim, when anything new threatens, “We have never done it that way before!” For some the old ways are the best ways and it is a matter of pride. While we cannot and should not dismiss the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the way it was set up, I am so glad it was not what God had in mind for the future of his redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ! Remember, Hebrews reminds us, “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27 NIV) And, Peter would write, “Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18 NIV) God had planned a better way than just the old order of doing things.

Over fifty chapters of the Bible are related to the tabernacle, how it was to be made, how it was to be set up, and the worship and how the sacrifices were to be made within its walls. It was important for the time God used it in directing the Israelites. Yet, all of it…

II. Pointed to a new universal order! (Vv. 6-10)


  1. The “regulations for worship” mentioned were now dealt with so that they underlined the inadequacy and failure of the Old-Covenant service. “When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.” Think about that, day after day, year after year, the priests entered, did the same thing the same way and it did not completely spiritually cleanse anyone from their sins! How do we know that, because “only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.” It makes us wonder why anyone in our day and age would continue in a system that promoted this kind of hopelessness. The outer room of the tabernacle could be entered regularly by the officiating priests, but it was only on the Day of Atonement that the high priest entered the inner room. As incomplete as this was, we discover that “The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.” When the new covenant came, written on the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the old tabernacle would fade and rot away to the dust of time. In fact, we do not have any of the implements of the Tabernacle. They were carried off by invaders, lost, or rotted away. Because all of this was pointing to something better! “This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” It never could. The Levitical arrangements were designed to convey the idea that the true way to God did not lie in them. Sadly, the Old-Covenant sacrificial system did not meet human need at its deepest and most urgent level. It could not clear the worshiper of their guilt. All of the sacrifice, all of the priestly pomp and circumstance, all of the golden glitter, incense, blood, and prayers were but a mere shadow of the better thing to come! “They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.” When Jesus came, all the lampstands, statues of golden cherubim, the golden box for holy relics and the bleating of sacrificial animals fled away and were silenced; they were of no more real use and service! All of it was used by the Holy Spirit of God to point to a new universal order established in Jesus Christ!

  EXAMPLE: There are those who call themselves the mediators between the Old Testament and the New. That they somehow have solved the problem of regulations verses faith. When the real truth is that there is no problem whatsoever. Just as God designed the Tabernacle and its furnishings for specific purposes in specific ways, he also designed his perfect plan for a new universal order. Peter said it best when he declared, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21 NIV) Contrary to some heretical views that God “evolved” into a more loving God, his plan all along included the Tabernacle. However, salvation is not found in the old order of doing things, but in God’s new universal order by faith in his Son, Jesus Christ!

Conclusion:
We learned about the old order of doing things and the new universal order that has come. Which one would you prefer?
---
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, September 23, 2012

Hebrews 8:1-13 – Out with the old, in with the new!

Hebrews 8:1-13 – Out with the old, in with the new!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 23, 2012 AM

Some folks love to talk about the “good old days” as if they think that everything in the past was way better than what we have now. I don’t know about you but I like the newer HD flat-screens with the better picture and reception than the old black and white TVs that you had to use tinfoil on the antenna to sort of get a picture or where could cook dinner on them because they ran so hot. I like the way electronics have gotten smaller, faster, and more useful. Instead of computers the size of a room, we have handheld tablets and way more computing power. Phones we can use anywhere and use as mini-computers. Cars have superior gas mileage and protect us better in case of a crash. Instead of armor-plated dashboards we have vehicles that are designed to crumple safely with multiple airbags. Modern kitchens, heaters and air conditioners, and bathrooms are a lot more enjoyable than woodstoves, fireplaces, and outhouses! And of course medicines, hospitals, and healthcare are far better now than what they used to be. Why then are some folks so reluctant to replace the old way of doing things when the newer way is so much better?

Interestingly, we find this to be true with some spiritual things as well. We have had arguments in the past concerning whether to use musical instruments like pianos and organs or just sing a cappella, singing hymns or choruses, what kind of Bible translation is best to use, wooden pews or padded chairs, and of course the Law verses faith in Christ. Of course I am not advocating that any new thing spiritually is better than what we have been given in the gospel message or the foundations of our theology. Hebrews, however, does dive deep into teaching that faith in Jesus is way better than the old Mosaic Law. For Hebrews it is a matter of out with the old, in with the new! Let’s see how…

READ: Hebrews 8:1-13

Last week we learned that “the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever!” In fact, “unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices!” Jesus is the superior high priest and for the author it is therefore…

I. Out with the old, in with the New Mediator and Sanctuary! (Vv. 1-6)

  1. If you were wondering what the point was concerning Hebrews, he immediately relates that the “point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest!” He therefore ties what we just learned to what he is now going to teach us concerning Jesus. Jesus is an active authoritative high priest, one who is alive and not dead, one who is way better and one who sits “at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven!” Jesus “serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” Jesus’ sanctuary is not made with bricks and mortar but by his blood and sacrifice! So, contrary to the Levites who served in an earthly building constructed by men, Jesus serves in heaven, in a building constructed by God for men! There is also kind of a note of a double-entendre meant by the author here because Jesus also serves the church, which is sometimes called a tabernacle, and it is the true church, and is his body here on earth that he ministers to and through, being the high priest over the house of God! We know that “Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, (which Jesus willingly did by offering himself) and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer.” However, because Jesus is in heaven at the right hand of God, he is not an earthly priest “for there are already men who offer the gifts prescribed by the law.” These men “serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven,” one that was a mere “pattern” shown to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Jesus’ ministry “is as superior to theirs as the (new) covenant of which he is mediator” a go-between “is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises!” Believers have a new high priest and a new sanctuary in which we are served and where we serve! Not some pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die kind of thing; we serve a living high priest who continually ministers! Paul reminds us that “we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.” (2 Corinthians 5:1 NIV) and that we “are the body of Christ, and each one of (us) is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27 NIV) Therefore, Hebrews affirms that it is out with the old, in with the New Mediator and Sanctuary!

  EXAMPLE:  I remember years ago when a church I was a member of decided to build and all of sudden folks who had not been attending for ages began showing up for business meetings. One man cried over the fact that we might rebuild and replace the rafters he had built. Another reminded us that “a sanctuary is for birds and an auditorium was for basketball!” Some people really love their church buildings while others are in love with their worship more than the church they never join. Both are convoluted views of the church and boarder on heresy. Hebrews tacitly teaches us about the church Jesus established that was bought with his blood and sacrifice. We have a new high priest who serves us in a whole new sanctuary that is established here on earth and in heaven as well! Hebrews teaches us that it is out with the old, in with the New Mediator and Sanctuary!

F. B. Meyers writes that “A covenant is a promise, made on conditions to be fulfilled, and attested by an outward sign, like the rainbow, or circumcision, or the Lord’s Supper. The covenant under which we live is between God and Christ on behalf of those who belong to Him.” This is why Hebrews teaches us that it is…

II. Out with the old, in with the New Covenant! (Vv. 7-13)

  1. That there is a promise of a New Covenant the writer will shortly prove by quoting Jeremiah 31:31-34. Hebrews argues that it demonstrates the inadequacy of the old covenant. In fact, “if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another!” The Old Covenant failed because of the sinfulness of the nation and its people, for which it had no remedy. “God found fault with the people and said: ‘The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.’” It would not be like the old covenant when the Jews were lead out of Egypt and rescued by God. It failed but God promised that after a time “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” The covenant will be written not on stone but on the hearts and minds of men! It will be by faith alone. When the Messiah comes, the good news of God will not be found in rules and regulations, but in the faith found in the gospel message! The Holy Spirit will so infuse people’s lives that “No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.” Habakkuk prophesized, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea,” (Habakkuk 2:14 NIV) and John would also write, “the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real… remain in him.” (1 John 2:27 NIV) In this new covenant relationship God “will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” simply because of faith in his Son, Jesus! What the old covenant could never do by enforcing the law the new one does by faith! Just as the grass withers and the flowers fade, the old covenant became archaic. We now enjoy a new covenant, a new testament, and “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear.” Hebrews emphatically teaches us that it is out with the old, in with the New Covenant!

  EXAMPLE: I began this sermon by relating how some folks long for the good-old-days. I like the good-nowadays! I like all the fruits and vegetables you can now buy year-around. I like digital photography. I like how homes are insulated, hot water heaters, and our new memory foam mattress! Now, I can understand why folks would long for a simpler time of honesty and integrity; however, spiritually I do not long for following a set of rules or guidelines in order to be made right with God. I do not know about you, but I do not have room to raise sheep for a yearly sacrifice! I am glad that we live by faith alone because of God’s mercy. Hebrews emphatically teaches us that it is out with the old, in with the New Covenant!

Conclusion:
Hebrews teaches us two wonderful truths concerning how much better new things can be. We learned about: Out with the old, in with the New Mediator and Sanctuary and out with the old, in with the New Covenant!
---
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, September 16, 2012

Hebrews 7:1-28 – Melchizedek!

Hebrews 7:1-28 – Melchizedek!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 16, 2012 AM

Secret identities of heroes are nothing new. Years ago when I was very young there was a show called The Lone Ranger. After he had rescued the damsel in distress or saved the town from the bad guys, someone would ask as he rode off into the sunset, “Who was that masked man?” Now being young I did not have a problem that no one could recognize him or other heroes like Batman and Robin, or Zorro, but the one that used to really bug me was Superman. I mean, come on, the only difference was a curl in his hair and his demeanor! You had to be pretty dense not to recognize him!

Did you know that one of the first heroes with a secret identity is found in the Bible? It is the intriguing character we find in Genesis 14 who was the king of Salem and Priest of God Most High, Melchizedek. Four kings joined together and waged war on their neighbors. They defeat Sodom and Gomorrah, taking Lot the nephew of Abram (Abraham). Abram forms an alliance of his own and with 318 of his own trained men, sets out to recover Lot. He resoundingly defeats the kings, recovers his nephew, the spoils and the folks taken in battle. As Abram passes Salem, Melchizedek brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. And blessed be God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Abram gives him a tenth of everything. Later, the king of Sodom offers him the spoils, Abram declines, not wanting anything that might construe him to be anything but honorable and to bring glory to God. This short tale of Melchizedek has left people wondering who he was. Let’s find out what Hebrews teaches us…

READ: Hebrews 7:1-28

The narrative in Genesis does not have a lot to say concerning this unusual person known as Melchizedek, but it is enough for the author of Hebrews to begin to teach us the deeper truths concerning Jesus. Let’s find out what Hebrews has to say concerning…

I. The person called Melchizedek! (Vv. 1-10)

  1. The writer succinctly states, “This Melchizedek was king of Salem and priest of God Most High.” Just like Jesus! This unstated fact will become increasingly important as we move through the rest of this chapter. We read that “He met Abraham returning from the defeat of the kings and blessed him, and Abraham gave him a tenth of everything.” He lays out where he is headed right off the bat for his listeners. He begins the longest single expository passage of his sermon, and its theme is the main teaching of his message. We discover that the Jews saw Melchizedek as one “Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God he remains a priest forever,” literally, “continuously.” Again, the tacit message here is he is like Jesus. “Even the patriarch Abraham gave him a tenth of the plunder” after receiving his blessing! Why was this important? He knew that the Law of Moses “requires the descendants of Levi who become priests to collect a tenth from the people.” Not some unknown guy who shows up out of nowhere! Evidently, Abram saw Melchizedek as a far more important individual than they realized! He was before the Mosaic priesthood. The author goes on to tell us that, “This man, however, did not trace his descent from Levi, yet he collected a tenth from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises.” Wow! In fact “the lesser person is blessed by the greater!” The writer knew that Levi did not literally pay tithes to Melchizedek; however, “One might even say that Levi, who collects the tenth, paid the tenth through Abraham, because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.” Abraham’s act affirmed Melchizedek's superiority even to the Levitical priests themselves. The inference is that the Levitical priesthood paid tribute to the person called Melchizedek!

  EXAMPLE: I would never run for President of the United States of America. You would have to endure an examination that is relentless and often misleading. This is why so many are frustrated by our current President. Rightly or wrongly, we know very little about him. We only have what he has prepackaged for us in his own enhanced memories. Few actual official records are available for anyone to look at. Therefore, I found it rather humorous that much was made of his opponent’s not releasing all of his tax records, while we still do not have any of the President’s college records, papers, writings, grades, or transcripts. Some even question his birth because of his reluctance to be forthcoming. By the way, I am not one of them. What this does is create, sometimes, an unhealthy focus on his history. I suppose it makes him more “mysterious” for some, but it also creates distrust in others. Melchizedek was a mysterious figure also that many have tried to figure out over the centuries. The author of Hebrews gives us a good introduction to the person called Melchizedek.

As unusual as Melchizedek is for the Jewish people, being called “king of Salem” and the “priest of God Most High” left them wanting to find out more concerning him. The writer of Hebrews disturbs his listeners by telling them that…

II. We have a better hope because of our Melchizedek! (Vv. 11-19)


  1. The author makes their heads spin when he then tells them, “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” What!? For the Jews there could be no other priesthood but the one God had established! In fact, some realized that in order for the Priest of God to remain pure he could not function as a warrior. This is why some believed there would be two Messiahs reigning together: A High Priest of God (Levitical) and a warrior king (Davidic). But this was not the case. There would be only one Messiah. He tells us that “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.” As perfect as the law was seen as, “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless!” Out with the old and in with the new! And the good news for them is that both the Levitical Priesthood and the Davidic covenant were found in Jesus, “For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah (David) and in regard to that tribe Moses (and) said nothing about priests.” In fact, “He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar.” No one from Judah by the decree of Mosaic Law could serve as a Priest of God, but Jesus satisfied both: It “is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears.” The conclusion is that Jesus “has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” Because Jesus had an “indestructible life” he was, like his ancestor David, declared to be, “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek!” (Psalm 110:4) Just as Melchizedek was before the Law we have a “better hope… by which we draw near to God!” We have a better hope because of our Melchizedek!

  EXAMPLE: No matter how well we raggedy old humans build something new, it decays and will become so much rubble in time. There is not a perfect painting, a perfect sculpture, or a perfect photograph either. Everything we touch or make is imperfect the moment we create it because we live in an imperfect world. All of creation is sin-tainted. While the Law of God was to show his people how to live holy lives, it was impossible to do. Even the priests who administered and taught it were imperfect. Then came Jesus, who through is death and resurrection became “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek!” As imperfect as the Law was, Jesus was perfect. As weak as the priests were, Jesus was indestructible. When the Law offered no hope for salvation, we now have a better hope because of our Melchizedek, Jesus!

If Melchizedek was called the “Priest of God Most High” before the priesthood was established by God to Moses, the implications were rather interesting to say the least for the Hebrews. This meant that the Law of Moses and the Levitical priesthood came after Melchizedek! If these were true, and they were, then the writer makes the case that…

III. Jesus is our perfect Melchizedek! (Vv. 20-28)

  1. We established last week that when God makes a promise, it is kept. The author reminds us that “Others became priests without any oath, but he (Jesus) became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: ‘You are a priest forever.’” It is “Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” God’s promise is sure and secure forever! Just as important is the fact that “there have been many of those (Levitical) priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.” Jesus is not like the mere human beings who served as priests before. He is God in human flesh and serves eternally! The wonderful thing is the eternal truth this contains, namely that “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them!” Since he lives eternally we enjoy the blessing and protection of a greater Priest of the Most High God! Jesus, the Most High God, himself intercedes on our behalf! “Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.” Jesus is not like those who continually had to go to the temple. “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” Wow! Jesus is not some frail sinful meager human who died. Jesus is not like the Law that was imperfect. A “law” that appointed “as high priests men who are weak” but rather, he was established by “the oath (to David), which came after the law,” and was “appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever!” this is why Jesus is our perfect Melchizedek!

  EXAMPLE: One of things that we have learned about Melchizedek is that he came out of the city, down the hillside, to the valley below to not just refresh Abram (Abraham) but to also bless Abram! What a beautiful picture! He could have come out to surrender to Abram, because after all Abram had shown his prowess to command and do battle. He could have come out to offer Abram a bribe like the king of Sodom did, but he did not. Instead, like Jesus would later do, he offered a blessing and refreshment to the weary warrior. Here he comes, arms filled with provisions and a smile on his lips. He is a joy to the tired and brokenhearted. He is the nursing agent that binds up the wounded and troubled. He is the priest of God Most High who comes out of his holy city, down into the valley, to walk to Abraham’s descendents and minister! It is wonderful to realize dear weary warrior of the Lord that you have a Melchizedek waiting for you right now wanting to offer you some refreshment and a blessing! Make no mistake you do. It is none other than Jesus our prefect Melchizedek!

Conclusion:
We learned about the person called Melchizedek! We learned that we have a better hope because of our Melchizedek! And finally, we discovered that Jesus is the perfect Melchizedek!
---
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, September 09, 2012

Hebrews 6:13-20 – The steadfast anchor!

Hebrews 6:13-20 – The steadfast anchor!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 9, 2012 AM

Recently, during the Democratic National Convention, leaders were angrily booed by the delegates when they decided to insert the word “God” back into their party’s platform. In another startling note, President Barack Obama enjoys a massive lead over Mitt Romney among registered voters who say they have no religion whatsoever, according to the Gallup tracking poll of the presidential race. Why are these two things important? They remind us that when people do not have a spiritual core or an anchor in life they will drift away from God. The warning we need to heed is that as individuals go, so goes the nation they live in as well.

The writer of Hebrews wrote his sermon because he saw early Christians drifting away from their relationship with Jesus Christ. He warned them about their spiritual drift and he began to share with them the basics of their faith but now wanted to go into deeper theological water. As he did he knew that they would need to be reminded of the steadfast anchor in which they were to base their faith. Let’s discover what he teaches his listeners…

READ: Hebrews 6:13-20

In the 1951 Walt Disney cartoon version of Alice in Wonderland, a caterpillar asks Alice, “Who are you?” He wants to know from her why he should answer her questions. It is not an unfair question to ask. In fact, more people should be willing to ask why they should trust what a person says, especially during election season. Here in Hebrews we discover that we can trust God’s promise because…

I. God’s anchor is based on who he is! (Vv. 13-15)


  When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.

  1. The writer immediately states that “When God made his promise to Abraham” the promise that he would be the source of “many descendants,” there “was no one greater for him to swear by” so “he swore by himself!” This is important because God has the authority to make a promise secured by the fact that he made it! He is God! But why would the writer of Hebrews choose Abraham as an example? He used Abraham as a pattern, because he was the father of the Hebrews, and thereby of all believers. Also, Jewish believers were interested in the promise made to Abraham, and had a right to the same blessing as his descendants. The inference is that all Christians do as well! As Peter proclaimed on Pentecost, “The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39 NIV) And we also know that Abraham was remarkable for his faith and patience! Remember, he was married to Sarah! “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Of course the “patience” Abraham displayed was waiting so long for a son, from whom the Messiah would eventually come! When God promises he will do something in our lives he does it but how long are we willing to endure until he completes his promise? Abraham’s promise was not fulfilled until Jesus was born, several thousands of years later. In fact, the promise of a son was not fulfilled until Abraham was quite old! Abraham never saw the final outcome in his lifetime but he remained confident, if not sometimes humanly dubious, that God would do exactly what he said he would do because God’s anchor is based on who he is!

  EXAMPLE: I was surprised the other day when I received a phone call by a telemarketer, who in a very thick accent tried to sell me something. I hung up on her. I was surprised because she immediately called me back and exclaimed, “Hey! You hung up on me!” I answered her, “Hey! I don’t know you!” she then said something that made me laugh out loud. She retorted, “You can trust me.” I reminded her that I had not just fallen off a turnip truck. That remark puzzled her and so I explained that I never buy anything over the phone, ever, from anyone at any time period. I then hung up. I do not know about you but I barely trust sales-folks I speak to face-to-face with let alone over the phone! How wonderful to learn we can trust in God’s promises because God’s anchor is based on who he is!

Knowing that we can trust God is the first step in trusting his promises. I learned at a very early age that if my dad promised something, he would do whatever it took to make sure his promises came true. Now, of course, there were times when he could not keep his promises, but he was always willing to share with us why. In a world of uncertainty and distrust, Hebrews reminds us that…

II. God’s oath is our assured anchor! (Vv. 16-18)

  Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged.

  1. We often incorrectly think that when we say we will “do” something, that should put an end to any argument concerning whether we will do it or not, but for some of us it does not. The reason is simple: Far too often we have the misconception that if we feel it or think it, then that is as good as doing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actions and character speak louder than mere words! There was a time when two people made an agreement and shook on it, it was a done deal. Nowadays, we often want contracts, lawyers, and witnesses to be involved! However, the writer notes that when “Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.” They would swear an oath according to God as their witness. They would swear by God! This is why it is so important to understand that God “confirmed” his promise with his own “oath.” By this it made “the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear” to Abraham’s “heirs of what was promised.” No one would dare argue against this because of who actually made the promise and the oath that was made! It “is impossible for God to lie!” God’s promise and his truthfulness are “two unchangeable things” we can rely on! Therefore, “we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged!” We know for certain we can trust Jesus is the Messiah because God promised Abraham, and God does not lie! God’s oath is our assured anchor!

  EXAMPLE: I will never forget going into buy a used van and my wife had the salesman scurrying around looking for answers. When they gave us the figures on the van we were about to purchase, the figures did not add up. It was an supposed to be an interest-free loan but they kept tacking all kinds of “extras” onto the purchase price. My wife whipped out a pencil and flipped over the piece of paper the hand-written agreement was written on and began doing long division. She immediately pointed out their faulty math. Incredulous that she could figure it out so quickly using long division the salesman went to get the manager, who then tried to convince my skeptical spouse. I just sat back and enjoyed the show. They wanted us to shake hands immediately on a deal based on faulty math and my wife would have none of it. We both refused until they agreed to my wife’s terms. It was only after all the legal documents reflected my wife’s math, that we signed them and purchased the van. How much more wonderful therefore is it to learn that God’s oath is our assured anchor!

One of my favorite hymns is “It Is Well with My Soul,” by H G Spafford: “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, It is well, it is well, with my soul… Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ has regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed His own blood for my soul.” The writer of Hebrews reminds us that…

III. Jesus is our anchor! (Vv. 19-20)

  We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.

  1. Two of the most sought after things we run to, when the storms and threats of life besiege us, is a refuge from the turmoil and a fortress from the invader. This is the graphic language used by the writer of Hebrews! We can take hold of the hand of hope held out to us by the promise of God to Abraham. Why? Because, “We have this hope as an anchor for our soul,” a quiet haven that is “firm and secure,” like the mighty stone seawalls of a fortified city harbor! We can put down our anchor and rest from the buffeting waves of doubt because God has given us a haven of rest! His Messiah promised to Abraham and it was culminated in Jesus! So much so that this assurance “enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf!” Our anchor has been dropped in the most secure and safest harbor of all, God’s inner sanctuary! The terminology here “recalls the role of sailors who leave their ship in a smaller craft in order to carry the anchor forward to a place where it can be firmly lodged!” (Bible Knowledge Commentary) Jesus has “entered on our behalf” the heavenly sanctuary where He functions as a High Priest forever, has given all believers a secure hope an anchorage from which the storms of life cannot shake it loose! Matthew Henry, a 17th Century commentator, wrote that our hope “is an anchor that is cast upon the rock, the Rock of ages. It does not seek to fasten in the sands, but enters within the veil, and fixes there upon Christ; he is the object, he is the anchor - hold of the believer's hope.” Jesus is our anchor!

  EXAMPLE: In our area there is a local church that has handed out literally thousands of little black and white bumper stickers that state “Only God.” While I know for certain that not everyone who has placed one of those stickers on their vehicle actually believes what it says, the placement of the statement is a testimony to God. We could argue that it has reduced God to a pithy two-word catch phrase, that those who place them on their bumpers may not be able to tell you why the statement is true, or that the witness is ruined when the driver speeds or runs a red light. However, I would like to think that those tiny stickers reflect the view that only God has the answers one seeks or that only God can save. But perhaps, in the light of today’s verses, we can now safely state with confidence that it is truly, “Only Jesus.” Only Jesus is our anchor!

Conclusion:
Hebrews has taught us that God’s anchor is based on who he is, God’s oath is our assured anchor, and Jesus is our anchor!
---
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, September 02, 2012

Hebrews 6:1-12 – It’s more than elementary!

Hebrews 6:1-12 – It’s more than elementary!
By Pastor Lee Hemen
September 2, 2012 AM

I have learned over the years that if you have low expectations from yourself or from others, those are the limits you or they will attain. This is true in relationships, education, or your work ethic. It is true spiritually as well. We have a choice as believers to either expect great things from ourselves or to acquiesce to the world and live in the gutter of our sin. At some point one has to decide to leave behind anything or anyone in their life that hinders their maturity in Christ. Continued living in spiritual preschool is not an option for those who want to live as Christ. It involves more than the elementary teachings of Jesus.

Hebrews continues on the theme he has been building toward in his sermon. Righteousness requires faith, faith requires trust, and trust requires righteousness. I am amazed how little children grow and the things they quickly learn to do. They crawl, then walk, and then run. They blabber, they talk, and then they shout. It is the natural order of things and it naturally occurs whether we want t to or not, however, when these things do not happen in the order they are supposed to, we wonder why. We know something could be drastically wrong. The same is true for those who claim Christ but who do not live like Christ. We wonder, “Why are these folks immature in their faith and stuck in the elementary teachings?” Let’s discover what Hebrews teaches us...

READ: Hebrews 6:1-12

Some parents have to learn to be a playmate and friend, while others learn how to be a “cowboy” – rope, throw, and brand them! However all realize very quickly that silence can be a warning that something else is going on. It is only one aspect of parenting. There are of course many more things to learn and as your children grow parents learn the basics and continue onto the deeper waters of parenting. The same is true for our faith. Christians are to hold onto the basics of faith and then…

I. Leave the elementary things behind! (Vv. 1-3)

"Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And God permitting, we will do so."

  1. The writer makes it very plain that rather than going over old ground it was time for them to “leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity.” Too many are content to stay preschoolers of faith. You may argue, “Pastor, aren’t we to have the faith of a child?” And I would say, “Yes, but your faith should move you to grow spiritually and mature!” If all you can talk about is when you repented, accepted Jesus, were baptized and joined the church; something is wrong with your spiritual growth! I can remember meeting with fellow pastors and all they could talk about were the numbers of people in the pews and the dips in the baptistery. Few could talk to you about how they were discipling their congregations teaching the deeper truths of Scripture. However to be fair many Christians depend only upon their worship attendance to teach them the deeper truths of their faith. This creates a spiritually shallow emotionally based faith. In this kind of learning environment pupils continually wonder if God loves them or if they are “good enough.” The author knew to continually review the fundamentals of faith would only have left them where they were! He preferred “radical surgery” and decided to herd them forward as rapidly as possible. This was the solution to their spiritual immaturity. Thousands of books are written each year on how to connect emotionally with God and they keep the reader in the shallow water of emotional dependency. Focusing on constant introspection does not move the believer out of the classroom and into the world! It keeps one constantly spiritually insecure. However, they could avoid the danger “of laying again the foundation of repentance.” They needed to leave the elementary things behind!

  Example: In the movie “Jack” Robin Williams plays a young 10-year-old boy that has an unusual aging disorder that has aged him four times faster than a normal human being. He is extremely childish as a consequence of his secluded life. He has only had contact with his parents and tutor, Lawrence Woodruff (Bill Cosby), who introduces the idea that he should go to public school. His parents initially balk at the idea of their son going there because he could be emotionally hurt. He enters the fifth grade for the first time with the appearance of a 40-year-old man. What follows is the disbelief of students, teachers, and other parents. How uncomfortable is it when there are those who have claimed Christ for decades and yet remain spiritual preschoolers in adult bodies? Perhaps we need to leave the elementary things behind!

Moving on from the basics of faith, Hebrews moves into the deeper truths his listeners needed to hear, especially those who had followed Jesus for different reasons than faith. The writer wanted true believers to be able to distinguish themselves from those who claimed Christ, but really did not believe. He teaches us that…

II. Faith produces a harvest! (Vv. 4-9)


"It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace. Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case–things that accompany salvation."

  1. Self confidence cannot be inherited; it has to be learned. Those who have placed their faith and trust in Christ can be confident of the fact that they are his and he is theirs forever. The writer of Hebrews knew the truth that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance.” He knew, like the old preacher said, “When you are changed by God, you are changed by God!” If your spirit has been “enlightened” and you therefore have “tasted the heavenly gift” of salvation sealed by and “shared in the Holy Spirit” you are changed! This does not mean your old habits are necessarily gone, but it does mean your intrinsic self is completely changed, cleansed, and complete in Christ! As Paul would declare, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) Folks who claim Christ, but continually “fall away” back into their old life and insecurity are displaying a faithless life! It is hard for them “to be brought back to repentance” because it becomes a crutch rather than trust. Are they in fact saved because, “to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace”? He writes that even “land that drinks in the rain… produces a crop useful to those” who farm! True believers produce a harvest from their faith. They join a church; they serve, they teach, reach, and tell others about Jesus through their lives, words, and deeds! “But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” Wow! There it is dear child of God. Can we say, like the author of Hebrews, that “we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation”? Can we see a harvest in your life? Faith produces a harvest!

  Example: I am excited about having a garden next year. I built raised beds, put in gardening soil, and have kept the weeds and cats out of the beds. Next year we will plant seeds and watch them grow. Now I know that it will be a lot of hard work to water them, weed them (yuck, I hate weeding), and to keep the insects and pest away from the young plants. But the harvest will be fun! It will be enjoyable to harvest what we have planted and cared for and helped to grow all year. The same is true for Christians who share their faith through hard work, their actions, their words, and their willingness. What a joy to reap a harvest for the Lord and watch it grow! GBC has been part of a wonderful harvest over the years. Planting the seeds of the gospel in the lives of others and watching them grow, bloom, and make fruit of their own! Hebrews teaches us that faith produces a harvest!

It is always good to know that even during our darkest times of faith; God never forgets us or leaves us. We can wander away from the Lord, but God never is never far from our lives.

III. God knows those who know him! (Vv. 10-12)


 "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised."

  1. We live too often for the moment. We live for what we can get out of life right now, instead of investing for eternity. The church and its leaders have failed to properly teach and remind folks that this is not all there is and we will be held accountable for what we do in this life in the next. The writer of Hebrews was not talking about believers who lose their salvation, but rather those who claim Christ, say they believe, and yet know they never did have faith that would “move mountains.” Having “tasted the heavenly gift” and “shared in the Holy Spirit” and his power, they walk away because of insecurity and their worthless crop of “thorns and thistles… will be burned” up! Paul related that “If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:12-15 NIV) But the author of Hebrews was confident of his readers. The author knew that “God is not unjust.” His readers would not be forsaken. He tells them that God “will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” He knew that if they showed “this same diligence to the very end” their “hope” was “sure.” He did not want them “to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised!” God knows those who know him!

  Example: My 3-year-old grandson and I play a little game with one another. He will point to me and say, “I see you!” and I will immediately point to him and respond, “I see you!” We will often repeat this over and over until his grandma or his mom gets tired of hearing us! Then we will both laugh. It is enjoyable because what he is learning is the fact that he not only “sees” me but he knows I “see” him as well. I am there for him as his “papa” and I am willing to take care of him as well. Because of this and the love he has experienced from his momma, his grandma, great grandmother and aunt, and his church, he knows he is loved. Do you know what? The same can be said for the believer as well. We can rest assured that God knows those who know him!

Conclusion:
Hebrews teaches us that we need to leave the elementary things behind, that faith produces a harvest, and that God knows those who know him!
---
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.