“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20by the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh, 21and since we have a great High Priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (ESV)
Now because we’re not in an expository series of the book of Hebrews at the moment, I need to at least give you the context of this passage. We look at the book of Hebrews and we find it, as I understand it in three main parts. We read in the book of Hebrews about a Superior Person who is Christ, a Superior Priesthood – Christ and Melchizedek and a Superior Principal – faith. Those three things: A superior person, the book of Hebrews tells us of a Person Superior to the prophets, to the angels – even to Moses. A superior person in chapters 1 to 6 – and that Superior Person is Christ. Then in chapters 7 to 10 we read about a Superior Priesthood – a Priesthood that is superior to Aaron. It’s the priesthood of Melchizedek, who is Christ. And then we read in the final part of Hebrews from chapters 11 to 13 about a Superior Principal – faith, not the works of the Law.
In the first part we see Christ compared to the prophets – Christ compared to the angels, with an exhortation that says: ‘Don’t drift from the Word’. Then we see Christ compared to Moses with an exhortation: ‘Let us not doubt the Word’. Then we see Christ compared to Aaron with an exhortation: ‘Let us not grow dull toward the Word’.
In the second part, chapters 7 to 10, we see the superior priesthood of Christ and Melchizedek, and we read about a better order – Melchizedek, not Aaron; a better Covenant – a new one, not an old one; a better Sanctuary which is Heavenly, not earthly; a better Sacrifice – God’s Son, not animals. With an exhortation again: ‘Let us not despise the Word’. Then in the final part, chapters 11 to 13, we see that Superior Principal of faith, not the works of the Law. We see the examples of faith in chapter 11 and we’ll be looking at that this evening. The endurance of faith in chapters 12 from verses 1 to 13 and an exhortation once again concerning the Word – a warning against disobeying the Word. And then we see finally the evidences of faith.
Now we’re in chapter 10 and that has to do with a better sacrifice – God’s Son, not animals, and the way that sacrifice opens for us into the holiest of holies. And so we’re going to look at that and what we see in this passage from verses 19 to 25 – and this is the title of my message also to you this morning – I want to hold up to you this morning: our Christian Confidence, Comfort and Calling. Three things: Our Christian Confidence, our Christian Comfort and our Christian Calling. We have a certain Confidence, and you’re going to see what that is – something that you can put your weight down on and live a life on. And in living that, you have a Christian Comfort, which is Christ Himself. He is your comfort, and because you have that confidence and that comfort you are called to do certain things. What is that calling? And so let’s look at our Christian Confidence, Comfort and Calling.
- Our Christian Confidence
What is our Christian confidence? It is to enter the glorious holy places.
a. What are these Places?
Look at verse 19a: “Therefore brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places…” – the holiest actually the holiest of holies – we read about to enter the holies in chapter 10:19 – you can read about it. We have the confidence to enter it. It’s that heavenly place where Christ Himself has already entered and is sitting down. You read about it in chapter 9:11-12: “But when Christ appeared as a High Priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of His own blood…” Those are the places that you have confidence to enter – a place that Christ entered by His own blood (Heb. 9:11-12). And it’s into the very presence of God Himself that He entered. Chapter 9:24: “For Christ has entered not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” You have the confidence to go right in there as a Christian. That’s the places – the very presence of God.
b. What is the Passport?
You need a passport to get into these places. What is the passport?
Look at verse 19b: “…by the blood of Jesus”. There is no other passport for you into heaven, but the blood of Jesus! Not the life you lived, not how sinless you were, not how successful you were, not what a failure you were, not how many people you knew, not how many followers you had on Facebook. The blood of Jesus is all that will get you into these places where Christ is seated at the right hand of God! That cross where He hung with His own blood mingled with the spittle of His enemies dripping off His beautiful face for us – for the likes of us!
I sat in a quiet moment yesterday while I was trying to work this text, and this terrible mental block came over me. I couldn’t break free of it. And I asked the Lord when I read that it’s by the blood of Christ that it’s for the likes of me – I sat there and I asked Him “why Lord – don’t You know me? Don’t You know who and what I am? Why the precious blood of the Lamb for the likes of me? Why? I don’t understand it!” But there can be only one answer – it’s the Grace of God alone – it’s His Mercy! It’s that tender, loving, kind heart! Your passport is the blood of Jesus too, because sin is serious. It makes you guilty, it makes you helpless and it makes you filthy. And only one thing can clean you up and ready you for Glory – for the holy places – it’s the blood of Jesus. We are able to enter God’s presence because we have had our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience. That’s a reference to the Old Testament practice of taking blood from the altar and consecrating the priests by sprinkling them with it, we read in Exodus. It’s the blood of Christ that is truly efficacious in purging our consciences of sin. And we’ve had our bodies washed with pure water – that’s another reference to the manner in which priests were consecrated in the Old Testament. So that’s the places – it’s where Christ is. The passport is the blood of Jesus.
c. What is the Path?
How do you get to it? Verse 20: “By the new and living way that He opened for us through the curtain, that is, through His flesh.” Jesus does not just show you the way. He does show you the way, but He doesn’t just show you the way – He is the way! John 14:6: ‘Jesus said to him (Thomas). “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Do you know what we see in that text? We see the three redemptive offices of the Lord Jesus Christ – that of a Priest, a Prophet and a King. He is the way as such “I am the way” – that’s the Priest – the new and living way that is opened that Hebrew speaks of. As the Way, He is our Priest. As the Truth, He is our Prophet and as the Life, He is our King. To be saved is to hear Christ as your Prophet – to always hear Him – to let Him sound out all other voices, subdue all other passions – you listen only to His voice – you look only at His heart, and you let Him contradict you – you let Him frustrate you – you let Him subdue you. And as your Priest you need to receive Him, you need to receive everything He learned on that cross: Justification, Sanctification and eventual Glorification. If you don’t – let me tell you – you know this already – your life will be a mess! You may be happy – a lot of people are happy in their messes, because they dress them up in nice houses, in cars, in fashions and lifestyles and braai every Saturday. And then we go to the theatre and buy some new paintings and we dress up and we look so good and we feel so good and we’re happy! Let me tell you something: This life is not about happiness. This life is about meaning! Don’t look for happiness in this life – look for meaning! Happiness is fleeting – it’s here today and gone tomorrow. Meaning lasts an eternity. Everybody wants to be happy, and nobody ever is. You need meaning, not happiness. God built us for struggle in this world. “In this world you will have trouble and persecution but be of good cheer I have overcome it.” “Love not the world, nor the things thereof.” You need to get an Eternal vision – all of us do! You need meaning, not happiness. You need what Christ gave on the cross as your High Priest and you also need to obey Him as your King. That’s what a Christian is: someone who hears Christ and his Prophet, receives Him as his Priest and Sacrifice and obeys Him as his King. So that’s the first thing – the Confidence to enter the holy places. We saw the places, the passport in the path.
- Our Christian Comfort
From verse 21: “And since we have a great High Priest” – that is our comfort. He is our comfort. And we see three things about Him as our comfort: His Glorious Person, His Glorious Position and His Glorious Place.
a. His Glorious Person
Jesus now serves as a High Priest over the house of God – “since we have a great High Priest.” He entered it through His own blood. He’s the bright and Morning Star, He’s the Priest after the order of Melchizedek – without any beginning and any end. He’s the King Priest or the Priest King – He’s glorious! His sacrifice is sufficient for all. He is able to come to our aid. Hebrews 2:17-18 says He sympathizes with your weakness and He ever lives to intercede on your behalf. That’s His Glorious Person.
b. His Glorious Position
In one little word in the text ‘over’ – over and above – higher than anyone – above the rest – He’s over it – He rules! As the Priest King and the King Priest, He rules over the house of God – not the Pastor, not the Elders, not the church officers, the Deacons, not some of the people with the money, not the people who can shout the loudest. He rules – He’s over the house of God. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. This is why I love the Church. This is why I always emphasize the Church. This is why I am a Churchman. I don’t like this “Jy in jou klein hoekie en ek in myn” Christianity (you and your little corner and I and mine). Church is a together thing! It’s a wonderful thing – it’s a community. It’s Zion! It’s important! Why do you think the devil hates it so much and uses Christians to split it and tear it in two? Christ is over the Church and He rules. So we’ve seen His Glorious Person and His glorious Position.
c. His Glorious Place
The house of God. Let me tell you something right now on this first really somewhat normal gathering since this terrible thing came upon us 6 months ago. As we gather together here, this is the house of God – not the building, you are. And Christ is over you and Christ is here, right now. That’s where you find yourself. You’re the house of God with Christ over you where you sit. When that sinks into a man or a woman, I cannot understand how they could ever skip a single service – not one! It can only be a lack of understanding of the glory of this truth that causes that. A glorious and great High Priest over the house of God. And as that, He is our comfort. He’s here to come to your aid, Hebrews 2:17-18 says. You all need aid don’t you? Anybody here who doesn’t need aid? He sympathises with your weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16). Anybody here who doesn’t have weakness? He ever lives to intercede on our behalf. Anybody here who doesn’t need prayer? Anybody here who doesn’t need the prayer the Lord Jesus Christ? You don’t need Him to pray for you? When He holds up His blood and He says “Here’s why I ask you Father for this vile, fallen deliberate sinner – here’s the basis on which I ask it.” And He holds up His pierced hands and His blood. “Here’s why – Calvary Father! Grant this prayer.” And as such He is our comfort. Does that comfort you – whatever your brokenness, whatever your sin?
- Our Christian Calling
With such a confidence and such a comfort, what are we called to? Our confidence was to enter the Glorious High Places. Our comfort is the efficacy of our Great High Priest. Our calling is to experience our Glorious and Holy Privileges – to experience them – Glorious and Holy Privileges! What are they? There are four of them: We must Draw Near, we must Hold Fast, we must Stir Up and we must Meet Together – those four things. They are privileges. They are not just duties that God is calling us to do – anything that God calls you to do is not just a duty that He calls you to do – it’s a privilege that He calls you to enjoy! When God calls you to pray, He’s not saying “go do your duty, pray!” – He says “you have the privilege to pray. I want you to experience it.” When He calls you to love your neighbour as you love yourself, He’s not just calling you to a duty – He’s saying to you “I earned it for you. It’s a privilege that you have – to love your neighbour. I want you to experience it.” And He gives you the power and the Comfort to do it – how can we not!? We must stop looking at our Christian duties as duties only, and start seeing them as privileges earned for us on the cross of Calvary that we need to enjoy! It’s a head shift we need to make – It’s a reframing. Notice at the Privileges that He calls us to experience and enjoy:
a. Draw Near
Verse 22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
He tells us to come and draw near to God with great confidence – with a true heart. That’s with all sincerity, not with phoniness – ‘in full assurance of faith’ – without doubt! And He doesn’t say that expressly but it’s a call to draw near to God in prayer. If you read Hebrews 4:16 that becomes very clear to us: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of Grace that we may receive Mercy and find Grace to help in time of need.” You know what we do when we hit a bad spot in our lives? You know what people do these days when they hit trouble or they get stuck on something or they don’t know anymore? You know what they do? They Google – they go to Google! The Bible says you must go to God – not to Google! With confidence! Draw near where? To the throne of Grace! Why must you draw near to the throne of Grace? So that you may get something out of it – “you may receive Mercy and find Grace to help in time of need.” That’s where you’ll find it – not Google, but the throne of Grace.
b. Hold Fast
Verse 23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” In Christ we have a much better hope. Hebrews 6:19 tells us: “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” That’s what you need to hold fast to! There’s always the danger of apostasy as we read in Hebrews 3:12-13 and 4:11. And it’s for that reason that we must hold fast the hope which we confess. And what’s the reason for that? He gives us a reason, a motivation for that: “…for He who promised is faithful.” in verse 23 – “He who promised is faithful.” That’s your motivation why you must hold fast! God will not fail you. And so we need to emulate the faith of Sarah who judged Him faithful who had promised.
c. Stir Up
The King James version says: “Provoke one another to good works.” I like that: “provoke them to good works.” – stir up one another to good works. How to “stir up one another to love and good works.” As we draw near to God and we hold fast our hope we are not to do so alone – we cannot do so alone. We are to be mindful of each other and how we are doing. He says: “Consider one another” and that’s with a view to incite one another – to spur on one another – to stir up one another with both love and good works. We’re called towards that. That’s why these assemblies are so important. We cannot stir up one another to love and good works on Zoom meetings and live streaming. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t work for me! Does it work for you? That’s why meeting together is so important! We need a stir one another up, and you can only love one another and stir one another up if you:
d. Meet Together
Verse 25: “…not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” That’s an important reason why we need to not neglect meeting together – it’s to stir up love and good works. Yes, we do come to worship and praise God, but we also come to edify and exhort one another – to encourage one another – look each other in the eye and say you can do this. Make peace for that person you’re angry with. Stir them up to love. You know, you can’t walk around hating people!
You walk into church in the morning in the foyer and you see somebody looking really droopy, and it’s often happened in my ministry. Even this week two little children – a boy and a girl – pre-teen boy, pre-teen girl looked me in the eye. You know what they said to me – which is one of the results of this pandemic – no wonder I had a mental block yesterday! They said to me – the one spoke the other one nodded – no doubt they talk to one another: “Pastor, we don’t want to live anymore.” – Pre-teens! “The world is a bad place – there’s no happiness left – we can’t play with our friends – we can’t go to school – we’re all walking around with masks!” What’s gone wrong when pre-teens – when our young children tell us they don’t want to live anymore! I think we’ve taken certain good things a little bit too far. And we need to meet together to stir them up and to say “you do want to live – here’s how you live: There is a Redeemer, Jesus God’s own Son.” And if the pre-teens feel that way, you can imagine how some of you feel. Amen? This pandemic has devastated our society. Not just the economy, which was devastated before the pandemic. Nice rider there for the people who pillaged it – shame on them! You need to stir one another up to love and good works. You do want to live, you do – so do your children. You do want to live – He’s the Way, the Truth and the Life – you won’t find it anywhere else.
The word ‘forsake’ means to abandon, to desert, to neglect, to stop assembling with the Saints all together. Some evidently had done so in the time of the writer “as is the manner of some” he says. And he says we need to “do it all the more as we see the Day approaching.” Now let me say a few words about that. This pandemic has threatened to drive us apart, and it’s why I’m so encouraged to see these faces in front of me this morning. You look beautiful.
As Elders we have thought about this. What are the reasons that one needed to consider if you come to church or you don’t come to church? We have formulated what we call the 3-C framework. You must consider Conscience, you must consider Comorbidity and you must consider Circumstance. Now with conscience, let me say the following: Nobody knows – listen to me this morning congregation – nobody knows – not anywhere in the world what is going on with Covid-19 – nobody knows! Amen? Do you know anyone who knows? I can go get you a smarter guy who disagrees with the guy that you know who knows. So there are varying perspectives on this. If you have a comorbidity, and you want to come to the service you’re welcome, but don’t look upon those who don’t come as though they are cowards or unfaithful. They’re not just staying away – they’re participating by other means they’re live streaming – they’re not sinfully staying away because they hate the Lord and His people. Some of them have comorbidities. But those who don’t come, who decide to live stream – don’t look upon the people who do come as though they are irresponsible and imprudent. Allow one another freedom of conscience in line with our Baptist principle of freedom of conscience. And if you have comorbidities, it’s your decision. And thirdly Circumstance – many just cannot come I think of dear Blanche Reynders, who would love to be here – she can’t come. Her son was a former Elder of this Church. He was a great encouragement to me when I was a theology student. She would love to come, but she can’t.
We’re talking about sinful neglect here. If you have a grudge against the Lord or His people and you stay away because of that. That’s what he’s talking about. But that’s not what I want to emphasize. I want to emphasize this – and I’m sure you all agree with me – we need to come together. Amen. Are we all agreed? We need to – as much as we can, because it’s a privilege to enjoy – it’s not a duty to perform.
And so lastly we saw our Calling – to experience our glorious holy privileges: Draw near, Hold Fast, Stir Up and Meet Together. May the Lord give us His Grace in these days to do so.