Sunday, September 01, 2013

HOLD FAST TO YOUR CONFESSION - HEBREWS 10


In all things, we should hold fast the confession of our hope. Our hope is our belief in our future deliverance into God’s presence for eternity through the death and resurrection of Christ.. And “hope” in Hebrews does not mean a wish, but a certainty of belief and expectation.  In fact, Hebrews 11:1 defines it for us. It says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” We do not see God, nor do we see our deliverance, but we believe and it is the certainty of it is what gives us the strength to survive the problems of life.

1 Peter 1:3-4 says that God caused us to be born again to a living hope. He defined that hope for us as “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.

The writer of Hebrews said we should not only hold fast to the confession of our hope, but should do it without wavering. What is wavering? It is going back and forth between faith and doubt. Here is an example. Sometimes when I go to the park, I walk on one of those balance beams. The object is to walk about 10 feet on the narrow edge of a piece of wood. I prefer the ones close to the ground because I do not have good balance. So I get on there and start walking across. I lean to the left, then correct it. I lean to the right and correct it. If I keep at it, I make it to the end without falling off. In contrast, a gymnast gets up on the beam and walks straight down it without losing balance. That, I think, is the idea the New International Version tried to capture with the word “unswerving”.

Many in the church walk the balance beam of faith the way I walk the one in the park. They have moments of faith, then lots of moments of doubt. They may get to the end in faith, but it is not pretty. Aspire to the the gymnast. Do not waver. Hold fast to your confession.  

We do not waver in proclaiming and believing that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. He ascended to heaven and sits at God’s right hand. He will come and take us to be with him. No matter what happens to us, that is our confession.

I know you are assailed on all sides by non-believers and doubters. They question the authenticity of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the exclusiveness of Christ’s salvation and the sovereignty of God. Do not waver. Hold fast. (23) We do not do this because we are strong. We do it because God is faithful. It is not about the strength we have, but the faithfulness he has. He will do what he promised. Believe him and trust him.

Not only do we draw near to God in faith, and hold fast to our confession, we encourage each other. (24) He says consider how to stir up each other for love and good works. That is what I am doing when I push you to love and serve. We all need a little push sometimes. So, do not gossip and criticize. Instead, encourage. When the conversation turns bad, do not join in. Instead, say “let’s find a way to love this person. Let’s extend grace to them. Let’s do something good for somebody.” This love and good works set us apart from the rest of the world. It defines us as the body of Christ. Jesus said “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

We, in our Bible study class, have rejoiced together in happy moments, cried together in disappointments and losses. We have sat together in funerals and weddings. We have consoled each other, counseled each other, encouraged each other, instructed, rebuked, hugged, patted, and most of all, prayed with and for each other. That is what the writer is writing about. May we do it more and more. We can say we love each other, but good works are the tangible expressions of such love.

In verse 25, he tells us not to neglect meeting together. It is important for us to meet together for fellowship and worship.

I love the quote from Benjamin Franklin when this country’s founding fathers met to declare independence from England. He said “if we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately”. All we have as Christians is Christ and each other. But that is a lot. You can only do so much on your own. But you can do much more with others. Your faith, your prayers, your work are all magnified when you meet together.

God gave us the church. He gave us the fellowship of believers. He intended for us to live together for him.

Note his statement that some have developed the habit of neglecting to meet together. (25) Sadly, that practice continues. You can look at our class roll and quickly see it. We cannot encourage you if you are not here, and you cannot encourage us. I can also assure you that your failure to meet with your brothers and sisters in Christ will lead to greater failures. Your prayer life, your Bible study, your holiness all will decline. You need the encouragement of the body of Christ to live for Christ.

We should do all this even more so as “the day” draws near. The “day” is the day Christ returns. We do not know when Jesus will return, but every day brings us closer to that day. It is also a fact that, if Christ does not return first, we will die. That will end our time of work and service. So, we need to encourage each other more and more to do these things as the time grows shorter.

I would like to accomplish some great things for God. I would like to teach through the Bible, Lord wiling. I want to lead others to Christ and to grow in Christ. I want to minister to people in need. I want to make a difference for Christ. And I know that every day brings my time closer to the end. So, it is important to push ahead. And we need the encouragement of others to do it.

The Consequence of Rejecting Christ
Hebrews 10:26-31

These verses may, at first, seem to be a jarring and abrupt change of topic. He was just speaking of the need to meet together and encourage each other rather than neglecting the fellowship. But remember that the writer of Hebrews was encouraging mostly Jewish believers to stay in the church following Jesus and not abandon the faith to return to Judaism. He equates absence from the fellowship with rejecting Christ for something else. In his case, that something else was Judaism. In our times, it may mean rejecting Christ for your parents‘ religion, your culture, your friends, or your immorality. Remember, John said “They went out from us, but they were of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out that it might become plain that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) So, John was saying that those who leave the fellowship do so because they are not “of us”, they do not belong to the body of Christ. They are not saved.  There are those people who will hear the gospel, indicate they believe it, and hang around for a while. Then they leave. They may stay on the church roll, but they quit attending. And that shows us they were not truly converted and part of the body. The writer of Hebrews is saying the same thing, and then he expresses what will happen to those.

So when, in verse 26, he writes about those who sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, he is speaking of those who heard the gospel, but rejected it. They heard the truth. They may have acted like they believed the truth for a while. But they rejected it. They “kept on sinning deliberately”.

For those people, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. The only effective sacrifice for sins is the death of Christ. They only way you get the benefit of his sacrifice is to believe in him and receive him as the savior. There is no other way. So, if the Jew returns to Judaism, the Jewish sacrifices do not save him. No matter what religion you embrace when you reject Christ, whether a religion with a name or belief in your own good works, it will not save you.

Instead, verse 27 tells us there is only a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire. You can dabble in whatever religion or philosophy you want, but the end of that is judgment and hell.

In verses 28-29, the writer makes an illustration to prove his point by arguing from the lesser to the greater. In verse 28, he points out that one who broke the law of Moses could incur the death penalty. This might be a reference to Numbers 15, which distinguishes between intentional sin and unintentional sin. An unintentional sin could be atoned for b the sacrifice of an animal. But one who intentionally reviled the Lord incurred the penalty of death.

In this argument, the intentional sin under the old covenant is the lesser. The greater is set out in verse 29. He said how much worse punishment would one get spurned the Son of God, who profaned the blood of the covenant, (the blood of Christ shed for us), and outraged the Holy Spirit? That person certainly not only dies, but is punished by eternity in Hell.  

I believe this is the same idea Jesus expressed when he said one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. The context of that statement in Matthew 12 is that of the Pharisees rejecting Christ and attributing his miracles to the power of Satan. Rejecting Christ leads to eternal damnation. This is a greater punishment than physical death.

In 30-31, the writer points out that God will indeed judge humanity, he will punish those who reject him and it is his right to do so. It is most fearful to fall into his hands without the blood of Christ bringing deliverance from judgment.

This passage is a presentation of the Gospel. He has already written of the need for a sacrifice for sin. Sin separates men and women from God. It brings death. The only way to end that separation and find eternal life is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our high priest and mediator. Those who follow Christ enter into the presence of God for eternity. Those who do not enter into judgment and punishment. Commit your life to Christ and live. Do not walk away and suffer eternal punishment.

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