13/10/02 10.30 a.m. Hebrews 2
Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. On the Fourth of July in 1951, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. The challenge was not so much the distance, but the bone-chilling waters of the Pacific. To complicate matters, a dense fog lay over the entire area, making it impossible for her to see land. After about 15 hours in the water, and within a half mile of her goal, Chadwick gave up. Later she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it." Not long afterward she attempted the feat again.
Once more a misty veil obscured the coastline and she couldn't see the shore. But this time she made it because she kept reminding herself that land was there. With that confidence she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men's record by 2 hours!
Last week we looked at Hebrews 1 which focused on the Lordship and Deity of Christ. Our passage today looks at four major issues or doctrines of the Christian faith. A sermon could be preached on each of these. Living for Jesus today, the ascension and return of Jesus, the church, and the incarnation. We will be looking at four P's;
Perceive what is to come;
Parentage that is shared;
Partaking in our nature.
Persevere today ( verses 1-4 );
We can deal with this section by answering two questions. What must we do? And Why must we do it?
A pastor said to an inactive church member, "I am sorry to see that you have quit the church." Said the inactive member, indignantly, "But, I have not quit." The minister replied, "you do not attend worship or study. You do not give of your money. And you do not participate in fellowship or work. You do not offer to be of assistance in helping others. If you were to quit, what is it you would discontinue doing that you have not already stopped?
What must we do? 1 We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. This is a warning to believers to persevere today, to pay careful attention to who Jesus is and the response he requires from his followers. Following Jesus is a serious business and if it is neglected or subject to anything less than wholehearted commitment this will result in a drifting away. We imagine a ship where the engine has failed and is unable to drop anchor. It drifts along carried by winds and currents, and is very unlikely to reach its intended destination. We need to be empowered by God's Holy Spirit, fuelled by: corporate worship, prayer and explanation of the Bible; fellowship; and private prayer and Bible study. This goes against the individualistic nature of the world today where people resent being told what to do, and think that they are the final arbiter of everything.
Two young military men were talking about the cost of commitment. One of them said, "I cannot tell you all that the Lord Jesus is to me, or what He has done for me. I do wish you would enlist in His army." "I'm thinking about it," answered the other young man, "but it means giving up several things-in fact, I am counting the cost." A Christian officer, just passing, heard the last remark, and laying his hand on the shoulder of the young soldier said, "Young man, you talk of counting the cost of following Christ, but have you ever counted the cost of not following Him?"
And, Why must we do it? 2 We must persevere in the faith because of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. the message spoken by angels was binding , and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, refers to the Old Covenant given to Moses by angels, the Jews believed. We saw last week how this revelation was fragmented and limited. The new covenant was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.
It comes from God himself, not angels. It was witnessed by people, and validated by signs from God and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. I think the latter refers to something wider than just the spiritual gifts listed in some of Paul's letters ( e.g. Ephesians 4 ), but also refers to faith, hope, love, ( 1 Cor. 13 ) peace with God, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22f ). Unlike the law that was given at Sinai which was external, written on tablets of stone, the new covenant is engraved on believer's hearts.
( Persevere today... )
Perceive what is to come ( verses 5-9 );
Three boys decided to have a race across a snowy field. The goal was to see who could run in the straightest line. The first boy looked down at his feet and veered from side to side. The second spent his time looking at the other two and also shifted from side to side. The third looked steadfastly at a point in the hedge opposite him and had the straightest line.
We have to have a vision of what is ahead of us if we are reach our destination.
7 You made him ( Christ ) a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor 8 and put everything under his feet." In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
We live in a world that has been visited by the Son of God and is subject to his control. Yet, whilst we see glimpses of his rule and power, we do not see it completely at the moment. Why? Because God the Father, in His mercy, has not decided to send Jesus back yet to claim what is rightfully his. The reason for this is that God is giving more time for people to hear and respond to the gospel. 2 Peter 3: 8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
In the meantime we see sin, suffering and death in the world, things that will no longer be present once Jesus returns. We should not let the pleasures and the problems of this life obscure our view of the promised land that awaits us. The land is not far, we are to keep swimming.
( Persevere today; Perceive what is to come... )
Parentage that is shared ( verses 10-13 );
10 In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11 Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, "I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises." 13 And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me."
"We are family", as the song goes! These verses tell us that every believer is a brother, or indeed sister, of Jesus. This is because we share the same Heavenly Father. There is a unity of believers with Jesus and with one another. Families, at least good ones, share with one another, help one another, rejoice together and grieve together. This unity is to be found in and through Jesus, and especially through his suffering, verse 10. He makes people holy and blameless in God's sight. This is a free gift and does not rely on anything that we have done. Jesus has done it all. In great humility He left the glory of heaven to become a human being. What an honour to be able to address him as a 'brother'!
Our unity is to be expressed in the 'congregation', verse 12. The Greek word 'ekklesia' which is translated congregation doesn't refer to a building but a gathering of people who have been called out from the world to worship and to live for Jesus.
Thomas Paine, 1737-1809, Anglo-American Political Theorist, Writer; "My own mind is my own church."
The thought behind these words, and something that many people believe today, is that you can be a Christian without being part of the church. Whilst it is true in a sense, for example if you were stranded on a desert island, it would not be ideal. It is like a soldier without an army; a student who will not attend school, a salesman without a customer, a sailor without a ship, a bee without a hive, an author without a reader, or a soccer player without a team. If these want to fulfil their potential they need others. If we as Christians want to reach our full potential and further God's kingdom we need other believers, the church.
Dwight L. Moody 1837-1899, American Evangelist; "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man."
( Persevere today; Perceive what is to come; Parentage that is shared and...)
Partaking in our nature.( verses 14-18 );
John Howard Griffin was a white man who believed he could never understand the plight of African-Americans unless he became like one. In 1959, he darkened his skin with medication, sun lamps, and stains, then travelled throughout the South. His book, "Black Like Me," helped whites better understand the humiliation and discrimination faced daily by people of colour. Jesus Christ became like us; the Incarnation is evidence that God understands our plight.
Jesus became a human being, lived a perfect life, suffered and died on the cross. He achieved a number of things by this:
1) by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death, that is, the devil and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
Alfred Krupp was a famous manufacturer of weapons and bombs in Germany before World War I. He made his living producing instruments of death, but he himself had a dreadful fear of dying. If anyone even brought up the topic in his presence, he never forgave them. If any of his employees talked about it, they were fired.
Once a relative who was visiting with him suddenly died. Krupp ran from the house in terror. Later, when his wife criticized him for what he did, he kicked her out and never lived with her again. When old age began to take its toll, he offered his doctor $1,000,000 if he would prolong his life ten years. All his money and fear made no difference, and Krupp died.
Jesus has paid the price for every believer to enjoy eternal life, a life lived in a right relationship with God the Father. We need not fear death, we are to be free of this. We might be a little apprehensive about how we die, but even then God will give us everything that we need to fulfil his purpose for us.
2) 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.
Last week we reminded ourselves how Jesus died for us. Here his role is compared to a high priest, who once a year came into the presence of God to offer sacrifices for himself and the sins of the Jewish people. He represented God to men and men to God. Jesus is the great high priest. He did not need animal sacrifices for himself as he never sinned. He did not need animals to sacrifice for the sins of the Jewish nation. Instead, He offered himself as a perfect human sacrifice for the sins of the world to reunite us with God.
3) 18 Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
When I lived in Norwich our family G.P. was Doctor Carlson. He had a 'handlebar' moustache and, when I was a young boy, used to call be 'sausage'. Perhaps he called all the children sausage because it was easier than remembering their names! When we had an ailment he would usually start by sharing that he had once had the identical illness. My mum said she was delighted when she became pregnant because, for the first time, she had a condition that Dr Carlson had not!
The Greek word pi-rad'-zo, is translated 'tempted' twice in this verse. A better word might be test, the word can also mean scrutinize, examine, prove. Jesus was 'tested' in two ways. Firstly, by enduring the afflictions of life, so that his true character, his love and devotion to God, might be seen. Secondly, he was tempted to sin by the devil. The devil's inducements to sin were alluring to anyone who wanted power and glory for themselves, but Jesus only wanted what God the Father wanted, so he never sinned. We cannot imagine the temptation and the pain that he endured. Therefore, no-one can point to a particular situation and accuse God of being absent, because, in Christ, God suffered.
As well as being an example for us, this also means that Jesus can empathise with people because he has been through a similar experience. When we are going through difficult times we can be assured that we have a Saviour who can draw alongside us, and also has the power to do something about our situation.
We are to keep going in our faith, knowing everything is subject to Christ and one day we will live in paradise with him. In the meantime we are to live in his family and come to him for help and support when things are difficult.