Teaching series from Hebrews

3 Responses to Christ's Finished Work

Hebrews 10:19-25

Teaching t05002

Introduction

For the past two teachings, we have been wading through some heavy theological material (PRIESTHOOD; TABERNACLE; SACRIFICES). Some have asked "When are we going to get to something more practical?" Well, here we are. In vs 22-25, the author gives three instructions: "Let us...Let us...Let us..." But before we take a closer look at these instructions, I want you to notice two things that are very important:

These instructions are based on something. They are preceded by vs19-21, in which the predominant word is "since." The author is going out of his way to tells us that in Christianity, what we do is based on what God has already done. In vs19-21, he summarizes what we have called the finished work of Christ. Let's review briefly what this means:

Read vs19,20. Jesus' sacrifice for our sins takes away the separation between us and God (symbolized the veil in the tabernacle >> remind of Matt.27:51). His sacrifice paid for our sins once for all; and no further sacrifices are needed. If we come to God on this basis (rather than by our works &/or other ways), we are permanently accepted by God (GOSPEL).

Read vs 21. Jesus' priestly intercession assures constant application of his payment for your sins (Heb.7:25 >> COURT-ROOM ADVOCATE).

This is important, because this is one thing that makes Christianity unique from religion. In RELIGION, what God does for us is based on we have done for him ("If you..., I will forgive and accept you."). But in CHRISTIANITY, this order is reversed: what we do for God is based on what he has already done for us ("Since I love and accept you, choose to respond by..."). When we come to God through Jesus, he doesn't say, "If you do this, this and this, then I'll accept you." He says, "I accept you PERIOD. Now since I accept you, why not respond to my love in these ways?"

There is another important difference to notice. In RELIGION, the imperatives focus on impersonal observance of rituals and moral rules (EXAMPLES). But in CHRISTIANITY, the imperatives focus on cultivating personal love relationships with God and other people. That's what this "snapshot" of the Christian life focuses on. This shouldn't surprise us, because this is exactly what Jesus said when he was asked what the ethical priorities in our lives should be (Matt.22:36-40)--God has designed us to center our lives around learning about and receiving his love for us, and then responding to his love by relating in love to him and other people.

>> Now we're ready to "get practical" by looking at vs 22-25 as 3 responses to Christ's finished work...

#1: Regularly relate to God (vs22)

>> Read vs 22a: "Let us draw near to God..." The instruction is to cultivate a love relationship with God by coming into his presence. Whereas in the Old Testament system only the high priest could come into God's presence (& only once a year), Christians can do this anywhere and anytime. Whereas we need to receive God's acceptance only once, this is something we need to do on a regular basis (thus, present tense).

Some may be disappointed that the author doesn't give externalistic directions on how to do this (POSTURE; TIMES PER DAY; DURATION; WORDS TO SAY; IMAGE TO VISUALIZE). These things are either ignored or warned against in the New Testament. He doesn't do this on purpose because he wants us to realize that relating to God is not to be an impersonal religious observance but rather a personal relationship.

Instead, he gives us some advice that will be far more helpful in cultivating a love relationship with God:

Draw near to God "with a sincere heart." This means with an honesty in contrast to a hypocritical heart like that described in Is.29:13. Jesus crystallized the difference in Lk.18:10-13. When you draw near to God, don't posture - be honest with him about where you're at, including and especially about your doubts and problems and moral failures.

Draw near to God "in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water." In the Old Testament system, before priests could go into the holy place they had to be symbolically cleansed of their moral impurity. But through the finished work of Christ, God has already completely removed our moral guilt. He is saying, "As you come into God's presence honest about your moral problems and failures, remember and affirm confidently (vs 19) that God fully accepts you because of the finished work of Christ."

If we relate to God on the basis of our own worthiness or feelings (which often tell us God doesn't exist, or is absent right now, or doesn't care, or is angry with us), we will remain irregular and weak in our communication with him (2DAYS). But if we choose against our thoughts and feelings to draw near to God affirming his love and acceptance and presence and willingness to help, our relationship with him will grow and deepen through the years.

>> How are you doing here? Are you regularly exercising the priceless privilege of relating to God in this way? (ALONE/WITH OTHERS; PLANNED/SPONTANEOUS)

#2: Stay focused on God's promise of eternal life (vs 23)

Read vs 23. "Hope" here refers to the afterlife God has promised to his children (EXPLAIN). The imperative is to stay focused on God's promise of eternal life. Just as the finished work of Christ promises me that God will accept me into his presence right now in spite of my sins, it also promises me that God will provide a glorious future life in spite of my present suffering.

They needed this reminder because they were wavering under the persecution they were experiencing. Contrary to what many teach, God has never promised to exempt his children from suffering in this life. In fact, committed followers of Christ will experience additional suffering (2Tim.3:12). Persecution, bad circumstances, etc. will cause us to waver in our relationship with God if we focus on them. But this is not the whole story. Paul says one of his secrets was to "consider that the sufferings of the present life are not worthy to be compared with the glories that are to follow" (Rom.8:18). If we choose to focus on and affirm this fact, our relationship with God can be stabilized and even deepened in the midst of suffering (HEB.6:18,19 >> ANCHOR IN STORM).

#3: Motivate other Christians to love & serve God (vs 24,25)

>> So we are to cultivate a personal love relationship with God in this way. Most everyone here would laugh at the idea that we could be spiritual without ever relating to God personally. But many here may believe they can develop spiritually without relating to other Christians personally. But such an idea is totally foreign to the Bible. Christian spirituality is not to be developed alone with God in isolation from other people; it is developed in the context of personal, loving involvement in Christian community. That's why the author goes right on to what he says in vs24 (read).

Notice again that he is not interested in giving us some externalistic rules like WHEN TO MEET; HOW LONG; FORMAT; ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION. Such things have their place, but they are not the essence of how Christians should relate to each other.

"Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds." This goes beyond just being nice, sharing chit-chat about the superficial things in our lives when/if I run into other Christians. It also goes beyond relating to other Christians primarily in terms of how they can help me (although it is important to be able to receive help from them).

God has entered into a love relationship with us through the finished work of Christ. He is constantly accessible to us in this life and he has promised us eternal life. If we are drawing near to him and holding fast this hope, we can begin to let go of our worries about self and start to creatively serve others.

He is challenging us to motivate other Christians to love & serve God. This involves thinking about other Christians when we are not around them, thinking creatively about how we might motivate and inspire them to grow in their love and service to Christ (EXAMPLES). He is calling on us to initiate other-centered, servant-focused relationships with each other.

If you want to grow spiritually, here is a key question to ask yourself: "How much of my time is spent purposefully and prayerfully reflecting on how I can motivate other Christians to progress in their walks with God?" Your answer to this question will say a lot about the direction and vitality of your Christian life.

The sad truth is that many Christians never develop to this point. They remain self-absorbed in their thinking and demanding, passive (BLOBS), or superficial in their relating style.

"How can I do this? I'm a novice; I don't know where to start." The author gives us some very practical help here (2 PARTICIPLES):

"not forsaking our assembling together, as is the habit of some..." You've got to meet together with other Christians on a regular basis. Getting together with other Christians regularly will help you to start thinking about how you can motivate them. Watching others build people up will give you ideas of how to practice vs 24.

BIG MEETINGS ARE NOT CONDUCIVE TO THIS; THIS IS WHY WE EMPHASIZE HOME GROUPS, ETC. >> OVER 100 HOME GROUPS (UPDATE FORM)

BUT YOU HAVE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEM BY MAKING A COMMITMENT TO GO REGULARLY.

"but encouraging one another..." Simply attending meetings is not enough. You need to take the initiative. Prepare beforehand by prayerfully thinking who you could encourage by asking how they're doing, by pointing out how they've blessed you/others and ways you've seen them grow, by sharing insights God has given you for their growth through prayerful reflection, urging them to keep on keeping on, etc. The more you do this, the better you get at it, the more enjoyable it becomes, and the easier it gets to "consider how to..."

PRAYER: "Lord, help me to find one person tonight that I can serve." This represents a higher level of spiritual development...

THIS IS WHAT MAKES HOME GROUP MEETINGS EXCITING & REFRESHING >> DIRECT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN ATMOSPHERE OF GROUP & NUMBER WHO CAME COMMITTED & PREPARED TO SERVE IN THIS WAY.

Conclusion

If we build our relationships with God and other Christians in this way, we are building the framework for spiritual growth in our lives...