Hebrews chapter 10, we’re gonna dive into this text and here’s how I wanna treat this for us. We’re in a transitional period in this text of Scripture where we have … the beauty of Hebrews is it takes the Old Testament and shows us how everything culminates in the identity of what the New Testament is and specifically in who Jesus is: prophet, priest, king, temple, sabbath, law, sacrifice. You think of all the pictures that the Old Testament wraps itself in, especially as it relates to the old covenant. Jesus is the fulfillment of all those things. Everything that in the Old Testament was a shadow of who Christ is for us and the significance of who he is.
Chapter 10 comes this transitional period where we now not only understand the theological implications of Jesus but now we answer the question, “So what? What does that have to do with our lives?” So this chapter starts to make the application for us and it gives us somewhat of a recap of everything that we’ve experienced together, so we’ve actually going through half of chapter 10. We’re gonna pick up in verse 26 and I’m gonna go to the end of the chapter from verse 26 and then I’m gonna bounce all the way back to verse 19, because 19 to 25 I think is the foundation of this chapter. I’m gonna do this fairly quickly but I want us to see the significance of what’s communicated from verse 26 to the end because it highlights the importance of verses 19 to 25.
He starts verse 26, this paragraph, if you look at it in Scripture you’ll see it’s broken into paragraphs. Verse 26 to 32 in that area, or verse 31 … excuse me … is the first paragraph. Verse 32 starts the next paragraph. So it’s this thought. Verses 26, 31 is a warning, verse 32 to 39 is an encouragement, and then all of the significance of chapter 10 is sandwiched in what really verse 19 to 25 communicates for us.
So now that you can process through that, let’s start with a warning. I wanna start with the hard stuff, right? The challenging things, and then get to the spurring of us on. So verse 26, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
Let me define what it means from this passage, what it means to go on sinning willfully. When we think about sin, it’s anything that is contrary to the nature of God. That’s really, in a nutshell, what sin is. What makes murder murder isn’t that you just end a life, it’s really that God is life, He creates life, and when we commit a sin, we’re always violating God from the beginning. That’s the general idea of what sin represents. But in this particular passage, it’s taking the thought a little further. When we go on sinning willfully, you could think … in Hebrews chapter 10, it’s now this culmination of everything that we’ve read, and all of it has identified the significance of Jesus. Chapter one, verse one. It started from the very beginning. “In times past, God spoke to us through the prophets, but today He speaks to us through Jesus.” And then it’s off to the races and showing the fulfillment of Jesus in everything.
So when we’re sinning willfully, it’s now looking at the picture of Jesus being the culmination of all things and rejecting who He is. So sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there’s no longer remains any sacrifice for sins. In fact, it went so far as to say this in Hebrews chapter 8 verse 13: “Jesus obliterated the old covenant.” And so having done away with the old covenant, we’re now in the new covenant of what Christ has done for us and if we reject that, there’s no longer any sacrifices for sins because Jesus paid for it all. And so that’s what the identity is in sinning willfully.
In verse 27 then he goes on and says, “But a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.” This is a fun verse to talk about, right? He’s talking about consuming adversaries. What in the world is an adversary? A lot of times in our legalistic religious mentality we like to say it’s the bad guy. I’m the good guy and everybody that does less than me, that can be them, but I’m doing the good so I’m not there, right?
But in this section of Scripture that’s not what it’s talking about. We wanna ask, okay, what is an adversary? When you look at it in the context of this passage, it starts to tell us. In verse 26, rejection of Jesus, and then it goes on in verse 28 and 29. Listen to this. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. The law of Moses was Old Covenant. Old Covenant was carried out by people. You break the Old Covenant, you face the consequences and is executed by man. That’s what it’s saying.
That was a pretty significant thing. When you think about laws in your land, there’s a certain code that we go by as people. If you go before someone on the street and you insult them, you could get smacked upside the head, right? If I were to go out and insult a rock, no big deal. The value of the rock, insignificant in comparison to humanity. You insult a human being, sometimes they take it personal and they may react. You insult a police officer, that takes it to another level, right? You insult a dignitary, another level. You try to attack, say, the President of the United States in the middle of a speech, it’s not gonna go well for you, right? You go to a country that’s run maybe as a dictatorship, you say something, no one will ever see or hear from you again, right? There’s a certain level of, based on the reverence of the identity of the person. When disrespect happens, it adds to the magnitude that takes place.
What he’s saying in verse 28, when you break the laws that are carried out by man, yeah, that’s important. But now look at this in verse 29. “How much more severe a punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant which He has sanctified and has insulted the spirit of grace?” He goes on in verse 30, “For we know Him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay,’ and again, the Lord will judge His people.”
It’s one thing to insult a person, it’s one thing to insult a dignitary or a leader, but in rejecting Jesus, we’re talking about the very blood of God who became flesh to serve you, this God that’s pursuing you, has given it all for you, and to just walk away from that, to just call that insignificant or to say it’s not enough … that’s a sobering statement to consider in this passage, isn’t it? The magnitude of that [inaudible 00:06:22]. And that’s what chapter 10 verse 26, this is where the author is at, is saying, “Look, don’t just treat Sunday as something where we’re here today because you’re supposed to be here today. What happens in this room has to do with something sacred and which God has established for us, this new covenant which cost His life. There is no greater value that could ever be paid. There is no greater moment in history than what took place on the cross, because it was for you.”
So the thought in this passage is don’t trample this underfoot. In fact, 1 Peter chapter 1 verse 18 says this: “For we 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 ancestors,” in verse 19, “but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
What Jesus has done is significant. You don’t wanna play games. This is the pinnacle of everything history has foretold. That’s what Hebrews has said. It goes back through this beautiful picture in the Old Testament how God didn’t just slap this history together, that this is Him unfolding His redeeming story for you from the beginning. It’s not to be taken lightly. But to understand that Jesus desires to lay hold of you … you were created for relationship in Him and then, as if it’s not enough just to leave that there, He takes this one step further and says in verse 31, “It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” This is the pee your pants moment right here, right? It’s gonna be like that, huh? Is it, God? It’s about to go down, right?
I mean, this is a powerful statement to think about. People don’t like to deal with this, but I think when you deal with it in the right way, it can be a very beautiful, secure place to be. You don’t wanna be on the bad side of God’s judgment but you do wanna be on the good side of God’s judgment. Judgment doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
When you think about all the things in this world that tear at your soul, that you despise, that you wish were different, that causes tears and pain in our life, Jesus does not like those things either. In fact, God is coming to do something about it. But where it puts us is in this place to need to have this understanding of what it means that God is a judge and God has wrath. God has wrath. God’s gonna bring judgment against things in this world and you don’t wanna be on the bad side of that judgment.
What do you do with it? I like my Grandpa God version, where He just sits in the rocking chair, He’s too old to throw the lightning bolts anymore, and He just kind of pats you going by. “Aren’t you just a good little child? Be blessed and go on.” I like that. My God is love, right? 1 John 4:8, I’m gonna get it tattooed, right? My God is love. I don’t believe in the wrath God. I believe in the love God.
But can I tell you and remind us … ? We talked a little bit about this last week. God can’t be a loving God without His judgment, because He can’t be good, He can’t reconcile the things of this world that are wrong, without His ability to judge it. God will make all things new but it’s because of His nature that wars against sin and the power to do something about it, that’s what makes His goodness echo in this world.
The beauty of what Jesus has done for you is He gives us that place of grace to be on His side of judgment which frees us in Him, because we’re created to belong to Him, to find identity in Him. So listen to this. When it comes to Scripture, wrath and judgment, even in the New Testament, it’s talked about dozens and dozens of times. In fact, if you were just to do a word search on the word wrath, you’ll find wrath used over three dozen times in the New Testament. You gotta deal with it. And it’s important as it relates to the goodness and love of who God is, because that judgment is to the benefit of His people.
If you were just to even pore through some of the most significant passages of Scripture like John 3:16 … everybody loves John 3:16. You’re supposed to carry a poster and show that in the back of end zones if you ever go to a football game. John 3:16, “God so loved the world”. I believe in a loving God. He gave His only begotten Son. What a gift. Whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life. I get to live forever. I’m not gonna be separated from God.
I love that verse. That’s a loving God. And then when you read the verses that follow after that, listen to this, verse 18: “He who believes in Him is not judged.” Really cool, right? And then it goes on: “He who does not believe has been judged already.” It’s like you’re already standing in this place of judgment, you’re already in this place of wrath. John 3:36, just a few verses on: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life, but He who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
Holy cow. Right? It’s a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Or if you were just to crack open Romans, listen to how Romans starts, Romans chapter 1 verse 18. “For the wrath of God was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.” Romans 2:5: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart, you are stirring up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath and revelation, the righteousness of judgment of God.” Romans 2:8: “But to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”
Holy cow, right? Like, enough is enough. I don’t believe in that God. Those verses have been ripped from my Scripture. What do you do with wrath? God’s not a good God without it.
Sometimes when we think about wrath, we often … or when we think about character of God, we try to equate it to places in life that we’re familiar with, and sometimes that gives us a hard place to recognize God, because when you think about wrath, a lot of times we’ve seen it maybe emulated in the life of a person and it’s when they flip their lid and you are in the path of their fury … I don’t wanna be in that wrath.
But when it comes to God, I think it’s very important to just say we don’t equate wrath in humanity, which is sinful wrath, with that of God, because God’s not just sitting there waiting for you just to slip up to blow His lid. God doesn’t lose it. God’s not surprised by the things we do wrong. God already knows everything. There’s nothing you’ve done in your life where God’s like, “Oh, didn’t see that coming. What a failure. My cross won’t cover that one.” We read last week in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 14 where it tells us Jesus’ sacrifice paid for your past, present, and future sin. His sacrifice was sufficient for all of your life and He was able to do that because he’s omniscient and there’s nothing that you’ve done that surprises God. God loves you right where you’re at. He may not love the way that you’re doing things with your life, but He loves you right where you’re at, and Jesus died for that. His sin covers that.
Wrath isn’t about God flipping His lid but it’s a calculated response to the sin of this world where God is finally gonna say, “Enough is enough.” You think about what creation is. God is King. God created all. Everything belongs to Him. And in creation, Adam and Eve from the beginning said to God, “You know what, God? We’re gonna do it our way. We’re gonna make life about us and the things that you created in this world that belong to you now are gonna be used for us, to serve us, because we’re king.” And they committed treason. That’s sin. It’s taking things God created … we defined sin a minute ago … and using it for your glory rather than his. It’s about you.
When God pours out His wrath, its’ against those things which are contrary to His Kingdom. Peter says it this way, to those that are in Christ: God isn’t not gonna fulfill His promises, but rather, He’s longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance.
See, what these moments are each and every day are a place of God’s grace. God is extending, in the midst of us rebelling against Him, God is extending grace to all of us to come to Him because of the price He’s paid for us. He has paved the way. This God is pursuing us. But he starts off this statement in Hebrews helping us to recognize it’s not just Grandpa God who just pats everything and says, “I love you. You’re good.” God is love. But a part of what makes Him so loving is that He’s extended a place of grace for you to be securely under Him as he pours out His wrath on the things that shatter and destroy the world that He has created, of which you are designed to be a part of.
We don’t take this passage lightly but we see the significance for which it was created in Scripture multiple times. The wrath of God is an act of the love of God, because God hates sin and He hates seeing how sin destroys His creation. Here’s another good verse to think about for us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:9, it says this: “For God has not destined us for wrath … ” Thank God, right? God didn’t create you for that. God created you to belong. God made you so beautifully different than any other creature. He made you in His image, that you could connect to Him. God made you to belong. God didn’t design us for wrath but for attaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us. He was only thinking about you. It was for you.
So in the midst of this God coming against sin, you still see the love of God communicated, and so then in verse 32, he starts to exhort the Church because they’re gonna experience hardship in their lives, and in verse 32 it says it like this: “But remember the former days, when after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of suffering, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated, for you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourself a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.”
So in verse 33, he’s talking about being made a public spectacle. That word is literally being brought up on a stage and being made a mockery of, people just shaming you before the world. So the point that they endured this and blessing other people who were going through hardship, they themselves have lost possession because of all of this, and he talks about this reward I’ll mention in a minute. But what I really wanna highlight, in verse 32 he says that this is for those who were enlightened, and enlightenment, I think, in this Hebrew passage or this book of Hebrews doesn’t necessitate that it’s talking about a believer. Being enlightened doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a believer. I think it means someone who was made aware of the Gospel of which they could embrace, to become a believer in Christ.
The reason I say that is in chapter six we’ve already seen this word enlightened, and in that section it wasn’t talking about a believer, but in chapter six, verse four, listen to this. “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good Word of God and the power of the ages to come,” or excuse me, “the age to come and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again through repentance since they are again crucifying to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.”
So in this passage, it’s saying there’s someone who’s enlightened, they’ve partaken of the Holy Spirit, which means I think they’ve been a part of a church community and they’ve seen how the Holy Spirit has worked in the lives of people, but then they decided to abandon the Gospel and Jesus, and it tells us that it’s impossible to renew them again to repentance since they are re-crucifying to themselves the Son of God.
Well, what it’s saying is these individuals heard the Gospel, they see the old covenant, they see the pressure put on themselves by their peers, the judgment they could face by society for following after this Jesus. Instead of pursuing this Jesus, they re-crucify Christ by going back to the old covenant law. Like, “My family still believes that so I’m just gonna believe it even though this Jesus thing might be true. I’ll kind of like Jesus and like you guys but I’m gonna just obey the Old Testament law.”
So what they’re doing in that is re-crucifying Christ, because they’re saying that Jesus isn’t enough, and as long as they’re believing that in their lives and they’re living that out, that Jesus isn’t enough, they’re re-crucifying Christ, they can’t come to repentance.
So enlightenment doesn’t mean that they’re necessary believers, but what’s happening in this passage in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 32 is they’re saying, “You guys have been enlightened.” In the early church, it was difficult to differentiate between true followers of Jesus among the Jewish community and just those in the Jewish community that were old covenant. They would hear the Gospel that the early church Jewish believers would mix together in the synagogues with unbelieving Jews. So it was difficult to tell in that enlightenment of the Gospel who belonged and who didn’t, but what the author is saying in here is that these people started to show the fruit of it. So their lives emulated the pursuit of Jesus, because they were coming alongside of those who were suffering for the sake of Christ and they themselves also suffered, and so in verse 35 it says, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward or a prize.” What is that prize? When you consider all of Hebrews that we’ve seen together, it’s communicated. That prize is Jesus and the new covenant He brings to us.
I say this to us every once in a while as a church because our longing, honestly, it’s not really heaven. I mean, I wanna be in heaven. Don’t get me wrong. There’s streets of gold and I’m gonna dance. But it’s not this location that we’re really called to. It’s a person that we’re called to. What makes heaven heaven is Jesus. Where Jesus is, that is heaven, and that’s where we should desire to belong. That’s where we were created to belong. The Bible communicates that we are in a covenantal relationship or marital relationship in Christ. That’s how it describes it in the New Testament. You were designed to belong to Jesus, to have that relationship in Jesus. That prize for us is in Jesus, as He has brought that new covenant for us. Old covenant obliterated, Hebrews 8:13. New covenant inaugurated, because of Jesus.
When the Bible talks about covenant, one of the best comparisons we have in our culture is the marital covenant, this place of intimacy, this place of unity, this place where you don’t wanna experience division because there should be a degree of connected towards one another, where the Hebrew text says in Genesis that two become one flesh. You can’t tell where one ends and the other one begins. They have a likeness, a belonging together.
Guys, you were created as a worship being. It is impossible not to worship something. You will look to something in this world to give you worth, value, and meaning, and if it’s anything other than God, in the end you will find yourself bankrupt, because the only place you’re ever intended to belong to is Jesus.
So it’s saying lay hold of this reward, and it goes on a little further and it says, “for you have need of endurance.” It’s not gonna always be easy. “So that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what is promised in Christ, for yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come and will not delay, but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” Commentators come and debate a little bit about what degree of shrinking is talked about. Is it shrinking in the sense where they don’t wanna show up on Sunday because the church might get attacked? Or is it shrinking where they’re completely denying Jesus because of the persecution that you’re facing? Don’t really know exactly to the extent of shrinking that could happen, but either way, God doesn’t want you to shrink. As He has delighted in you and given you everything, He desires for you to delight in Him.
In verse 39 it says something interesting here and I want you to see this in this text. If you go back and read through this passage, starting in verse 32, you’ll see a lot of yous. It’s talking specifically here. You, you, and you and you. But then in verse 39, it’s now different. It says we. Right? So that becomes important to understand this, because it says, “But we are not those who shrink back to destruction.” True believers, followers of Jesus, we’re not those who refuse to identify with Christ, “but of those who have faith for the persevering of the soul.” What Jesus has done in us we cannot deny. So the identity of followers of Christ is to live in this. So think about Hebrews chapter 10, what is about to take place. The Church is gonna face tremendous persecution and what you do in that defines you.
Let me say it like this, guys. He’s telling us to hold fast in this passage of Scripture to what God wants us to experience in Him, and when you think about the future of what our church is today as it relates to this passage, everything that we are … live, breathe, and move in, as a church … is the Gospel. The Gospel is what gives us identity in Jesus. It’s where we experience the love and goodness of God. It’s where the judgment of God becomes protection from us and for us, because God wants to make all things new in Him.
When you’re a follower of Jesus, there is no suffering, there is no pain that you will ever go through in this world that will be wasted. Jesus counts every tear and God will redeem it all. God will have victory over it all. Our lives are about living in this, and so if you think of the early church, this mixture of a community that some identify in Christ, others maybe not, because in the Jewish community they blended together. It’s saying in this community, where you can’t always distinguish, we, the true followers of Christ, it’s not our identity to shrink away in these moments, but the story that we live and declare as our anthem is demonstrated in the persevering of our souls in this gospel.
If we let go, there is no power in what we do. So on the backdrop of that, let me just jump into verse 19 and share with us what this author is wanting us to communicate and live in, because this is the section where he gives us a call to action. In verse 19 to verse 22 is a concise summary statement of really Hebrews, and especially chapter 5 to 10 that we’ve seen recently. We talked about from chapter 5 and 10, we specifically highlighted the law or the old covenant, the temple, the sacrifice, the priest, and here it is in a statement now. He says, “Therefore.” That’s a summary word, right? “Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place,” talking about the temple, remember? We discussed together, you couldn’t go into the rooms of the temple. Only the priest could do it, and there was one room in the temple that only the high priest could go to and it was only one time a year. It was a weird way to worship in church. You show up, you park your car, and you sit in the parking lot. There’s the building, guys, but we can’t go in.
But now he’s saying that you have confidence to enter the holy place, the temple, “by the blood, which is a sacrifice of Jesus, by a new and living way, the covenant, the new covenant, which He has inaugurated for us through the veil”, which is what separated the rooms in the temple. There was a veil there. “That is, His flesh, which is His sacrifice, and since we have a great high priest,” Jesus being that priest, “over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart.” We’re talking about a priest [inaudible 00:26:52] allow us to draw near. Jesus is our high priest. We are all now royal priests in Him. “In full assurance of the faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with the pure water, which is sacrifice.”
So you see, all of this talked about and the picture of which Jesus has created for us, and so in that statement then He gives us these three verses, verse 23, verse 24, and 25. If you have it, open your Bible. I want you to see in verse 23 and verse 24 and verse 25, he says this phrase at the beginning: “Let us,” verse 23. “Let us then,” and then in verse 25, he gives a negative statement that we don’t wanna do and then he says, “But do this instead.” So in the middle of the verse, you’ll see a but, and do this. So this is the spurring on. This is how we are called to live our lives.
So this is what he said. “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Like it’s gonna be difficult, there are gonna be challenges, but you’ve seen the security that’s in Christ. You know that this is dependable, for He who promised is faithful.
I can tell you in life, nobody wants to be burned. When you trust in people, you don’t wanna find them not dependable. You don’t wanna see the faithlessness of people. You trust them, you wanna see … there’s only so much a heart can go through in life, right? You don’t wanna trust again to see something else fail you. That’s what Hebrews 1 through 10 is. Those chapters, it’s laying this foundation for our life. It’s saying, “If anything in life you can trust and if there’s one thing that you know tomorrow, it’s not gonna change, it’s gonna be the same forever, it’s Jesus.”
So let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. One thing you can cling to in life, hold fast our confession. Every one of us will stand for something. You are a worship being. You will find something to find worth, value, and meaning in. Everything else will sell you short. Everything else won’t deliver the identity for which you truly have. But Christ. Hold fast.
This phrase literally in the Greek means, “Do not give it permission to leave.” I remember this cartoon … I don’t even know if it’s good because I saw it when I was younger, but I’m sure if I saw it now I probably shouldn’t use that as an example. But here comes Animaniacs. I don’t know if you remember that girl that loved animals, like she killed them all every time. “I wanna hug you and love you and squeeze you,” and you just see them turning blue till they almost die. Okay, what was her name? Somebody remember that girl’s name? Ah, see, you guys know. Elvmyra? Elmyra. There we go. Run away from her, but do what she does in that cartoon. Let us hold fast to this. Squeeze the ever loving life out of this thing, you care about it so much. That’s what this Greek passage is wanting us to understand. Cling onto it this way.
What it wants us to have the idea of is guys, things are gonna be hard. Things can be hard. But don’t let circumstances and people dictate the kind of person you’re called to be. Don’t let people or circumstances define you. Rather, let it refine you. When hardship happens, what comes out? Does it refocus you on what you’re holding onto or do you allow the circumstances to dictate the kind of person you wanna emulate yourself as being, right? “Well, they did this so I’m doing this.” Don’t give them that control. Hold fast to the identity which you were called to in Christ. You will stand for something. I want my life to be about something, intentionally.
I wanna be in control about what, when my life was done, what it was about. I can’t always dictate my circumstances and I cannot control people, but I can stand for something regardless of what happens around me. What God calls us into this world … guys, it’s pretty simplistic, and it’s understanding … I think, in fact, it’s very simplistic, because the Apostle Paul defined his life very, very easily. I’ll tell you if you wanna read it in Philippians chapter three, he goes back and defines his old life and religious way of living in Philippians chapter three. He says, “I was the Hebrew of Hebrews. I obeyed all of the laws. I did everything.” But then he says, “I count it all as dung.” I forget what lies behind and I move forward to what lies ahead. And he says in chapter 3 verse 10 this one thought, that I may know Him.
God made you to know Him. In fact, Jesus said in John chapter 17, “This is eternal life.” You wanna know what eternal life is about? “This is eternal life,” Jesus says. “That you may know Him.”
Wait a minute. You know what that means? God measures success different than we do as human beings. We measure success by all the accolades and achievement in life. You got this, you accomplished this, bravo, good for you, right? You know how God measures it? One word: faithful. Faithfulness. That’s what this new covenant is.
You think about the marital relationship, right? They kind of correlate in their identity of new covenant and marital relationship. Faithfulness spurs the health of what marital relationship is, and Jesus pursuing us, Jesus paying a dowry for our lives, dying on the cross, and God calling us into relationship with Him.
God’s not gonna get to the end of your life and said, “You should’ve done 10,000 things more, man. Where was this and where was that?” You know what God cares about? Faithfulness. The things that I label in my life as what I need to achieve and what I … those are my desires. Those are my plans. God, He just wants faithfulness. God’s calling us into relationship and so my confession is my target, what I want to be in the midst of circumstances that can rock … I do not let them define me but rather, I want it to refine me. When hardship happens, what comes out? Because it’s an examination of me to determine, do I do it? Am I really doing it for God, or something else?
Here’s the hard statement. If adversity comes and in the midst of that adversity I choose not to follow Jesus anymore, perhaps I wasn’t doing it for Jesus to begin with. I’m not telling you that’s everybody but it’s a good place to examine why, because what they’re saying in Hebrews is that challenges are gonna come. They’re gonna come. But what defines you? Don’t give it that power.
When you look at the totality of this statement from 19 to verse 23, what it’s expressing to us is identity. This is who you are now in Jesus because of what Jesus has done for you. I like the way the Bible describes it in 2 Corinthians 5:17. It says that we have a metamorphosis. It’s the same thing a butterfly goes through. You’re a new creation. Behold, all things become new, all old things pass away. If anyone’s in Christ, it tells us, you are a new creation. Metamorphosis.
What a great picture, because when you think about a butterfly, no one hates the … well, if you hate a butterfly, you just need to … no, I’m just kidding, but if you hate a butterfly, something’s wrong though, right? I mean, butterflies, they’re pretty, right? And the statement where every once in a while people will just get distracted and all of the sudden just yell the world, “Squirrel!” because they go off on a rabbit trail, truth is, I don’t really care about squirrels that much, but butterflies are kind of cool, and they always capture your attention. I don’t care how much you’re not paying attention, they always capture your attention, because it looks like they kind of know where they’re going but they don’t always quite know how to get there, like when you watch them fly, they’re like … trying to get to the next target they’ve got in mind. So we like to see things in rhythmic patterns and so we see this kind of sporadic thing. It just sort of captures your attention for a minute and you can look at it, you move on. But never do you think, “Ugly butterfly.” It’s beautiful, right?
But how awkward would it be if a beautiful butterfly then comes and lands on you or maybe on a branch beside you, and all of the sudden you hear the butterfly say, “I quit.” And it starts crawling up this branch and it’s like, “Back to worm life for me.” And it just starts nibbling on this leaf and you look at this beautiful butterfly, capable of all these things in the world, and yet it’s subjugating itself back to the life of the worm. You’re like, “Butterfly, man, what’s going on with you? Don’t you know that you were created for so much more? You’re supposed to be beautiful. Just fly. Don’t just eat leaves, man. You’re called for flowers now. Get outta here. Get lost.” Right? The butterfly is for so much more life, and when Corinthians talks about you and this metamorphosis … that’s the rage within the life of the Christian, because this old nature isn’t completely eradicated from us but we’ve got this new nature in us.
It’s not that God has just forgiven you of your past, but now God calls you a royal priest in His Kingdom. You’ve left something behind but you now have this new identity, and how weird it is if you’re just crawling around on the ground eating leaves. God calls you into this confession, a living out this new identity.
Maybe you think in terms of a criminal, if someone who’s a criminal has a leader come before them and say, “I have the authority and power. You’ve been forgiven. Go on.” There’s no promise that criminal may or may not return to that life of crime, right? But what if it were a ruler, a king, and that king says, “You’ve been forgiven but not only are you forgiven, you now belong in my Kingdom and I want you to rule right under me”? It’s a whole new identity, a whole new place to live, a whole new way of being.
That’s where we are in Jesus, all things being made new. And it’s then on the backdrop of this thought, he gives these final words to us. He says, “And let us consider how to stimulate,” which is also this word for provoke or contend, “one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
The imperative in this section is actually don’t forsake assembling together. Sunday is a good day for God’s people to get together and our culture is taught to treat that day that certain way, so don’t forsake opportunities that you’ve got to get together. And truthfully, guys, if we understand what Jesus has done for us, we really shouldn’t have to have anybody tell us this. We’re like, “No joke, man. Do you know that this was the greatest thing in history that defines who I am and everything that I’m doing with my life? Do you know how important this is, not just for now but for all of eternity? I’m not just keeping this to myself. Why do I even have to say this?” But it’s because within our soul, at some point we start waging this war, and the reason we leave this identity of beautiful butterfly and we go back is at some point in life, we had this tendency to start believing in lies as more beneficial for us than the truth. We need to be reminding one another of who we are and our identity, so do not forsake this.
He gives these three statements. He says this to us. He says, “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.” This idea of stimulating … the only other time it’s mentioned in the New Testament is in Acts 15. Acts 15, when Barnabas and Paul are going on their second missionary journey and they’re getting ready to leave, they have this argument and it’s so intense that it separates them. That stimulation that happened there is now the same emotional stimulation or the same involvement with one another, only for a better purpose here, not to separate but to bring us together in Him. So let us figure out how to provoke … I think the better word is actually contend … one another to love and good deeds.
This phrase literally means for us, it carries this idea to connect so deeply with one another so that we don’t sit still as believers. We can’t sit still as believers. So here we are, gathering together in this assembly not just to do it on Sunday, but because the greatest event for which we all stand for in Jesus, we’re stimulating one another. We do not just sit still in this but we’re called to something more in Christ, and so he says in the next thought, “But encouraging one another.”
Now, I want you to know, being here today, if you’re living and breathing, you need encouragement. Whoever is sitting around you, near you, if they’re breathing right now, they need encouragement, right? We all need encouragement in life. But this isn’t just saying you pass someone in the hall and you say, “How you doing?” “I’m doing all right.” “How you doing?” “I’m doing good.” “All right.” The word of encouragement … it’s not just saying a word of encouragement. The same word for encouragement is the Greek word where we get the word for Holy Spirit. It literally means “to come alongside”, to be present in the life of someone for the purpose of what this passage is calling us to in Christ. It says, “… all the more as you see the day drawing near,” which means every day, we’re one step closer to seeing Jesus. Every day, one less moment to glorify Him in this life.
I think the only thing that you’ll take with you in this world into the next, it’s people, and the opportunity that you have to make the most of today. Hold this glorious confession contending to love and good deeds, deeply connecting and encouraging one another as the day approaches.
I’ve ended every one of these talks, I think, or at least nearly all of them, with a little bit of lesson from church history, so let me close it with this. These two missionaries are connected together almost 200 years separated, but on the left hand side is David Brainerd. He was a missionary in America to Native Americans in the New Jersey area. On the right hand side is Elisabeth and Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot, that was the first biography I ever read about a missionary. Elisabeth Elliot wrote it about her husband. But when you read their stories, Elisabeth Elliot in Through the Gates of Splendor writes about their missionary journey to Ecuador, where they ministered to what they call the Auca Indians in Ecuador, and they went down as a group of missionary families, and when they first encountered up close, in a personal opportunity to interact with these individuals in Ecuador, the group of men went and the ladies stayed back. It was their first encounter. And all the men were speared to death and killed, including Jim Elliot, who was only 28 years old, leaving Elisabeth Elliot as a widow.
David Brainerd was an orphan by the age of 14. He went on to college. He ended up getting kicked out of college because he criticized one of the professors, and his desire, though, was to go into ministry and he finds another opportunity rather than schooling into ministry. He finds another opportunity where he studies under a minister and then he ends up going to Native American tribes to do ministry, and he really only ministered for three years. He went to one tribe for one year, saw nothing take place there. He decided to move on to another tribe, saw nothing. Finally he gets to the third tribe and they start to turn to the Lord. He helps this tribe secure land, because at this time America was persecuting the Native Americans, and so he helps them secure land for their protection. And then he dies. 29 years old. He starts to see all this effect take place with this people and the Gospel and he has tuberculosis. The story goes he went to Jonathan Edwards’ home and he died in Jonathan Edwards’ home. He died.
All these things these individuals could accomplish. I mean, if I could give my life to let either of these guys come back … I mean, these guys loved God to a degree I don’t even know if I could ever achieve. These guys gave it all for Christ. And what’s God thinking? Doesn’t He know what these people were capable of, right? When I first read the story that Elisabeth Elliot wrote about the missionaries, this phrase was in there that she placed in the book of what Jim had spoken that has just resonated with my life. It’s something I’ve held onto. He says, “I seek not a long life but a full one.” I tell my wife that all the time. But, “I seek not a long life but a full one,” and he gave it.
Or David Brainerd. Look at this one. “Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am.” I feel like that’s been my life every day following Jesus, right? But God is capable of doing in us and through us. Their lives cut short. Why? But [inaudible 00:44:41] before the Lord, their lives were beautiful. Why? Because God doesn’t measure success the way we do. They were faithful. They were faithful. In fact, if I’m giving you a precursor to chapter 11, that’s all chapter 11 is. It’s the faith chapter. That’s what God calls you to in your relationship with Him, God’s desire for you. Don’t let circumstances and people dictate who you are.
In Hebrews he’s saying the moments that you face in life, there will be adversity, there will be challenges, but all God asks in your soul is just to know Him. God knows. God knows the hardship. Guys, that’s a hard thing to remind ourselves of when we go through difficult times. But God knows. God knows. And all He calls you into. Faithful.
Elvyra, man. Or Elmyra. Whatever her name is. Squeeze the confession that you have in Christ. Just to give you just a beauty at the ending of this story, when David Brainerd was dying, Jonathan Edwards had his journal, and he decided to publish it, because he read what this young man wrote and the mind and the love that he had for Jesus. He published it. And here we have someone in the 1700s in America, before America was even America. Wasn’t even founded as a country yet. Living for the glory of God, publishes this journal, and it gets into the hands of young people that it impacted for centuries. William Carey and Henry Martin, his companion to India, they were inspired by David Brainerd’s book. It was one of their favorites. The same was true for Jim Elliot. Jim Elliot clung to David Brainerd’s stories that he wrote in his journal. Long after his life was gone, his love for Jesus, though his life were short, that faithfulness continues to resonate in this world.