Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sermon: Hebrews 10: 19-25 Since We Have, Let Us

If I were to ask you today ‘what do you have’, you might think it a terribly rude question. You might turn your mind to your house, possessions, bank accounts, family, friends or that special ornament that sits in the living room and reminds you of someone special. You see, while some of us may not have much, we can all quickly put together a list of the various things that we have.

But if I were to ask that question, would you think of spiritual blessings too, or would your focus only be on the material things you have? The reason I ask is because our reading from Hebrews today is a great reminder of the spiritual blessings we have been given - as the writer says ‘we have’ access and a priest.

The letter to the Hebrews can sometimes be seen as difficult to understand. All that stuff about blood and sacrifices and priests and temples and tabernacles and Melchizedek - we just don’t see what it’s all about. I’m going to let you in on a secret today - our verses are a great summary of what Hebrews is all about. You notice the very first word in verse 19: therefore. Having reached the climax of his argument, the writer is summarising all that has gone before, as he reminds us what we have, and then what we need to do about it.

So first of all, what we have. 1. ‘Since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus’. This is all about access. Two years ago we were in London, and we were standing outside Buckingham Palace waiting for the changing of the guard. The Queen may well have been seated in her throneroom, but I wasn’t going to get anywhere near. The big walls and fences, the policemen, the guards, the courtiers, the corgis - all of these things would be stopping me from coming in to see the Queen.

The Old covenant was the same - God dwelt in the holy of holies, but only the high priest could enter once a year. The ordinary people were at least three sections removed (sorry ladies, you were further back!). But because of Jesus’ death (his blood), we now have access to God, to come right into his presence, the holy place, the throneroom of heaven, the seat of the king of kings.. If you are a believer today, then you have confidence to approach God whenever you want.

But more than that, 2. We also ‘have a great priest over the house of God.’ Jesus Christ is our priest, the one who prays for us, bringing us before the throne, the one who secures our blessing. Sometimes it can feel as if you have no one for you. As if no one cares about you. The Prayer Diary is a great way of praying for our church family, remembering certain people each day, and if you haven’t got one, then take one with you - and if you’re not in it, then tell me and I’ll include you in the next one. But more than the people of God praying for you - Jesus Christ is interceding for you!

These are the things we have - confidence to enter the holy places, and a priest praying for us. Both come to us because of Jesus, and his death on the cross. As we celebrate his death in the Communion, we celebrate the things that we have through him. But the writer isn’t finished. Yes, he has summarised all that we have, but we must do something about it. So the application is given to us in the passage. Look at how it is written: ‘Therefore, since we have... and since we have... (verse 22 starts with:) let us’. I call this the ‘lettuce’ passage, because we have three lettuces all in a row (4 in the NIV!)

Firstly, 1. Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith. We have this access, so make sure you’re using it! Don’t come fearfully, if you are trusting in Jesus, but come boldly - true heart, full assurance. Look up (to God)

Secondly, 2. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Look forward (to our hope). Later in the letter, we see what this looking forward without wavering is all about, when we’re told to look to Jesus as we run (12:2). How can we be sure about the future? Because he who promised is faithful. God does not change his mind, what he has said is sure. Those poor travellers hoping to go to Turkey and Greece with Goldtrail were left stranded, because the firm’s promise of a holiday failed. But God keeps his word. All the good promises he has given us, that we will dwell with him, forever, can not be taken away from us.

Thirdly, 3. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works. We’ve looked up, looked forward, and now we also have to look around, at our brothers and sisters. Christianity isn’t about getting a golden ticket to glory and then waiting in the departure lounge; it’s about being part of the family of God, helping one another, supporting one another, encouraging one another - because some are giving up on meeting together (a dangerous situation, trying to be a lone ranger Christian); and because the Day is approaching.

So how are we doing based on this passage today? Do you first of all realise just what you have - immensely better than your bank account or your prized possession. We have access and a priest. All because of Jesus’ death. And then what are you doing about it? Are you confidently coming? Are you trusting the promises? Are you encouraging your brothers and sisters?

The Christian life is not easy. I don’t have to tell you that. But it can be a great encouragement, a great help to have a brother or sister quietly remind you of the promises. Don’t be down - we have one who is praying for you. Don’t worry about the future - remember what God has prepared for you.

This sermon was preached at the Midweek Lord's Supper at St Elizabeth's Church, Dundonald on Wednesday 21st July 2010.


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