A Place To Belong
Faith requires closeness with God and being in community with other believers.
Hebrews(3) (Part of the National Back To Church Sunday(4) series)
by Stuart Johns(198) on September 17, 2017 (Sunday Morning(281))
15th Sunday after Pentecost (National Back To Church Sunday)
A Place To Belong
“One of the greatest tragedies of the 21st Century in America is the realism that millions of people who claim to know Jesus Christ rarely attend a local church or participate in the worship services. In so many of American churches, a lot of people basically attend three times in their entire life. The first time is when they’re born to be [christened] dedicated. The second time is when they are married. The third time is when they are buried. In other words, when they’re hatched, matched, and dispatched!
Yet, in the New Testament, if one consistently and deliberately missed the assembly, the coming together as a church, it was assumed that this person was no longer following Christ. They assumed that this person had gone back into the world and was no longer a part of the local church. In this case, New Testament Christians would eventually conclude that a person was no longer a Christ-follower simply because he/she was no longer attending the local assembly. The saw the worship service not only as a privilege and a priority, but they saw worship as a solemn duty.”
(James O. Davis, What Difference Does Church Attendance Make?).
Growing up in a Pastor’s home
My father was a pastor from before I was born
As I grew up, it was pretty much a requirement that I be at church
I went to college in IN and my parents lived in AL (750 miles apart)
They would never know if I attended church or not
But church was an important part of my life
I’m a people-person and an extravert, so I’m energized by being around people
So, going to church in college was something that I wanted to do for myself and not because I thought my parents wanted me to do
Attending church as adults
Judy and I got married between our Junior and Senior year of college
After graduation we moved to FL
We didn’t have any family nearby
We found a great Southern Baptist church
The members of that church became our family
We attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday evenings
We were part of the choir
I served on the Stewardship committee
We helped with work days (I got stung by fire ants working outside)
In every state that we have lived in, the church members have become our family
We’ve lived in OH (UB), MO (Wesleyan), and CA (Calvary Chapel)
We were close to Judy’s family in OH, but we didn’t have any family in MO or CA
Throughout our married life, Judy and I have found that the churches we’ve attended were places to belong
We feel the same way about Idaville Church – it is a place to belong
Many of you have attended Idaville Church for most if not all of your life
You’ve found it to be a place to belong
Those attending for the first time or returning again
If you who are returning to church after being gone for a while or if you’ve never attended church before, we hope that you’ll find Idaville Church to be a place where you can belong
We hope that Idaville Church will be a place where you can grow in your walk with the Lord and see your faith develop and blossom
The author of Hebrews is writing to Hebrew Christians and all believers in Christ. They were perhaps struggling in their faith, like we do too, and the author wanted them and us to remember that . . .
BIG IDEA – Faith requires closeness with God and being in community with other believers.
GOD (Hebrews 10:19-25)
In this passage of Scripture, the writer of Hebrews uses the same phrase three times to exhort the Hebrew Christians he is writing to
The phrase is “Let us”
It’s found in vv. 22, 23, and 24
These three exhortations are for us today as we consider Idaville Church as a place to belong
Draw near (vv. 19-22)
Basis for drawing near to God (vv. 19-21)
There are two bases for drawing near to God and we see those identified with the word “since”
The “therefore” points back to what the author said previously
At the beginning of chapter 10 there is a reminder of the sacrificial system that had been established in Israel
They had to sacrifice the blood of bulls and goats in order to cover over their sins, but those continual, ongoing sacrifices never took away their sins
We see then that Jesus’ sacrifice was offered once for all to take away every sin
When we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior, God sees us as perfected through the blood of His Son, Jesus
It’s through Jesus’ once-for-all, perfect sacrifice that we can have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
Confidence to enter the Most Holy Place
The Most Holy Place is where God’s presence dwelt and every Israelite knew that
Prior to Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, the High Priest would go into the Most Holy Place once a year with a bowl of blood to sprinkle on the mercy seat (the covering of the ark of the covenant) in order to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel
The High Priest may only get this opportunity once in his lifetime
This was a solemn and serious duty for the High Priest and required that he be purified before entering
There was a ritual purification that took place prior to entering the Most Holy Place (atoning for his own sins and the sins of his family with the sacrifice of a bull)
If the High Priest entered without being purified, he would run the risk of dying before the Lord
In the OT, the tabernacle had a heavy curtain in front of the Most Holy Place that sealed it from view. This same heavy curtain was part of the Temple in Jerusalem during NT times, but Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, offered believers a new way of coming into the presence of God
New way of coming to God through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection
The High Priest would have to lift the edge of the curtain to enter the Most Holy Place
But, when Jesus died on the cross, God tore the veil from top to bottom, showing that a new way of coming to Him and being in His presence was now available
Matthew 27:50-53, And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
The curtain that concealed what the Most Holy Place looked like was removed, by God, when Jesus’ died
New and living way of being in God’s presence
Everyone now had the opportunity to be in the presence of God, not just the high priest and not just once a year
“The Old Covenant high priest visited the holy of holies once a year, but we are invited to dwell in the presence of God every moment of each day.” [Wiersbe, 315]
It was new, because the Israelites no longer needed to use the sacrificial system with the blood of bulls and goats in order to have their sins covered over
It was also new in the fact that Christ did something that no one else had ever done or will ever do again – He died for the sins of the world
The idea of it being something new also carries the meaning of “previously unavailable”
God established the sacrificial system for the Israelites until He sent Jesus to fulfill His plan
God’s plan was set before the creation of the world
1 Peter 1:18-20, For you 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 forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
Being in God’s presence is now also living
Jesus didn’t remain dead
Jesus’ resurrection from the dead was God’s way of saying that He approved of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for sins
Jesus’ resurrection showed that God has power over sin and death
The way for us to be saved from our sins is living in the fact that it is effective and enduring [Lea, 186]
It wasn’t just offered the Israelites, Samaritans, and Gentiles in the 1st Century
It’s offered to everyone in every generation until Jesus Christ returns a second time
PRINCIPLE – God provided a way for us to draw near to Him through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Sin (All, Rom. 3:10-12 [#2]; Punishmnt, Rom. 6:23)
God’s love (Jeremiah 31:3 [#3])
Jesus’ sacrifice (1 Cor. 15:3b-4)
John 1:12-13, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
God promises, every person who repents of their sins and believes in Jesus Christ for salvation, that He has a place for them in His family – a place where they can belong
Perhaps that’s right where you are today
You’ve been trying to find a place to belong, but everywhere you’ve looked has worked out – it’s left you empty and alone
My Next Step Today Is To: Repent of my sins, believe in Jesus’ name, and become a child of God.
This is the first basis or reason why we can draw near to God – a new way of being in His presence
The second basis for why we can draw near to God is because Jesus is now our high priest and He sits at the right hand of God interceding for us
Hebrews 4:14-15, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.
Romans 8:34, Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raise to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
The bases for drawing near to God is clear, it comes through Jesus’ perfect sacrifice for us and His position at the right hand of God the Father
Exhortation (v. 22a)
So as followers of Jesus Christ, we can draw near to God
But, the writer of Hebrews tells us that there are two manners in which we should draw near to God
Manner in which we draw near to God (v. 22b)
The Greek word for “sincere” is better translated “true” and has the idea of being “real, genuine, and loyal” [Guthrie, 343]
Throughout scripture the heart often refers to the part of us that thinks and feels – the seat of our emotions
It involves our thoughts, will, emotions, and character [Guthrie, 343]
Proverbs 4:23, Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
God knows whether or not we are coming to Him with a sincere, genuine, and loyal heart
Jeremiah 17:9-10, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.
Illustration – Kyle Idleman, Not A Fan, page 145, first 3 paragraphs under heading “Living in Denial”
God knows if we are drawing near to Him with a sincere heart of a follower and not a fan
We must also draw near to Him with full assurance of our faith
Full assurance of our faith
We have to draw near to God knowing that He has provided full access to His presence through Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice
We have to claim the promise from God that the author of Hebrews quotes from Deuteronomy 31:6 and Psalm 118:6, 7
Hebrews 13:5b-6, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?”
Drawing near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of our faith comes from two things
Means with which we draw near to God (v. 22c)
First, it’s having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience
We see here a reference to the ritual cleansing that the OT priests went through on a daily basis
They had to wash at the laver before entering the holy place (Ex. 30:18-21)
On the Day of Atonement, once a year, they had to go through various washings and the applying of blood also
Fortunately, as believers today, we don’t have to go through those ritual sprinklings, but we do have to come to the Lord with a pure heart and a clean conscience
PRINCIPLE – Fellowship with God demands purity.
We have to continually confess our sins to the Lord
As followers of Jesus Christ we’ll still make mistakes, we’ll give in to temptations, but God promises to forgive our sins when we confess them to Him
Read 1 John 1:5-2:2 (#1)
“The Jewish cleansing with blood related only to that which was external, and could not make the conscience perfect, but the sacrifice offered by the Saviour was designed to give peace to the troubled mind, and to make it pure and holy.” [Baker, 234]
We have to have a pure heart and a clean conscience, but we also have to have bodies washed with pure water
Some scholars believe this is a reference to baptism and perhaps it is
A basin of water was available at both heathen temples and religious temples so that worshipers could be cleansed before entering the temple
Pure water was drawn from fresh wells or fountains
Water form pools and ponds was not consider pure or fresh
Sea-water was usually regarded as the best source for pure water, because the salt was supposed to have a cleansing property
Igor Fredrick (Ukraine) – laying in the Pacific Ocean for its health benefits
Others believe that it is symbolic, just like the sprinkling of our hearts
“If it is symbolic, the hearts sprinkled from a guilty conscience would picture our salvation, and our bodies washed would symbolize a righteous lifestyle.” [Lea, 186]
1 Peter 1:13-16, Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
The first exhortation is to draw near to God and the author tells us the bases behind why we can do that and the manner and means with which we do it, but he shares a second exhortation to believers who may be struggling in their faith
Hold unswervingly (v. 23)
The exhortation is for us to maintain spiritual consistency
The Greek word is in the present tense, which perhaps emphasizes that we are to continue to do this on an ongoing basis – we should never stop holding on to our faith
The Greek word for “hold” means “to hold fast, keep secure, keep firm possession of”
We should be keeping a tight grip on our Christian faith
We should not let our faith slip through our fingers
The truth of the Gospel never changes – it is sure and secure – even when our emotions and feelings change
So we can hold on to our faith, but how should we do it?
“. . . ‘unswervingly.’ This rich word literally means ‘that which does not bend’ or ‘that which is straight,’ which communicates the concept of stability or immutability.” [Guthrie, 344]
It also has the idea of an object standing absolutely straight
In the 1st Century the hearers of this letter were probably experiencing persecution for their faith
These believers were former Jews or rather Messianic Jews (followers of the Messiah, Jesus)
They were probably being pressured by the Jews of their day to return to Judaism and abandon Christianity
In the midst of that pressure, they were to continue to hold on without bending to the Gospel of Jesus Christ
That is what we are called to do as followers of Jesus Christ – we too are to hold on to the Gospel without bending when others around us mock us, make fun of us, and marginalize our hope
We need to hold on to our Christian hope, which is rooted in who Jesus is and what He came to earth to do, without allowing the ever changing circumstance of our lives to affect it
God is faithful
One of God’s attributes is His immutability – that word simply means that God is unchanging
That same attribute is found in Jesus Christ
1 Peter 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Since we serve an unchanging God, we can trust His promise of hope through Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection
We can become God’s child when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus
The first two exhortations are best accomplished within a community of believers – we can draw near to God through worship and studying God’s Word, and we can hold unswervingly when we do it together with fellow believers
Spur one another on (vv. 24-25)
This exhortation calls us to be responsible for each other
PRINCIPLE – God’s plan for His people is for them to encourage one another by serving one another.
This is not just a casual thought about others, but rather taking time to concentrate and pay attention to them
It means to “notice, consider, pay attention to, look closely at.” [Guthrie, 345]
Paul helps us understand this in his letter to the Philippians
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
We are to look closely at how we can spur each other on in our faith
The word “spur” has also been translated as “provoke”
Its original meaning is “to arouse, to excite, to call into action”
When I hear the word spur I think of the apparatus attached to a horse riders boot
They use that apparatus to encourage the horse to move more quickly
That is the sense of the word here – how can we as fellow believers encourage each other in love and good deeds
“It is interesting to note that the emphasis here is not on what a believer gets from the assembly, but rather on what he can contribute to the assembly.” [Wiersbe, 315]
Love and good deeds
Love is the motivation behind the good deeds that we do
Hebrews 6:10, God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Galatians 5:13-14, You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Are we serving each other in the body of Christ out of love?
Are we encouraging/spurring each other on toward love and good deeds or are we content to sit back and wait for others to that?
It is encouraging to me and our commission chair people when individuals feel led by God to step up and serve without having to be asked
I’ve been reading the book Not A Fan and have been challenged by what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ instead of just a fan
One single father was transformed by the Gospel and began to serve in the church, give sacrificially to the church, and witness to his family and friends
He was unashamed and all in
No one had to ask him to serve, because He was compelled by God, through a close walk with Him
Your service here at Idaville Church may encourage other members and attenders to do the same thing
My Next Step Today Is To: Commit to serve at Idaville Church and consider how my service may encourage others to serve also.
You may be thinking, “I don’t know where I can serve?”
That’s fine, we’ll help you to find a place to serve
One tangible way to encourage fellow believers is meeting together regularly
Meet together regularly
Some of the readers of Hebrews were neglecting to meet together for worship
It’s hard to be an encouragement to others when we’re not meeting together regularly
It’s also hard to be encouraged by others when we’re not attending worship on a consistent basis
73% of Americans identify as Christian
73% of Americans say religious faith is very important to them
When a self-identified Christian attends a religious service at least once a month and says that their faith is very important in their life, Barna considers that person a “practicing Christian.” After applying this triangulation of affiliation, self-identification, and practice the numbers drop to around on in three U.S. adults (31%) who fall into this classification
Barna researchers argue this represents a more accurate picture of Christian faith in America
In the past, a regular attender was someone who came almost every Sunday in a year – they rarely missed
A regular attender today is someone who comes once every 4-6 weeks
Coming once a month (every 4 weeks) means individuals only come 13 times in a year (25% of the time each year)
Coming every 6 weeks means individuals only come 9 times in a year (17% of the time each year)
It’s hard to be encouraged and to encourage others with those attendance numbers
“Encouragement cannot take place in isolation.” [Guthrie, 345]
My desire is that Idaville Church will be a place where you can belong
It will be a place of encouragement and growth
We need each one of you to come, so you can be encouraged and encourage others
My Next Step Today Is To: Make church attendance a priority in my life, so I can encourage others.
The need for encouraging one another and being encouraged is so important as Jesus’ return gets closer
Jesus return is coming soon
As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been commissioned by Him to accomplish the Great Commission
Matthew 28:19-20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
We’ve been commission to Pursue, Grow, and Multiply Disciples
Every one of us needs encouragement while we pursue, grow, and multiply disciples
BIG IDEA – Faith requires closeness with God and being in community with other believers.
PRINCIPLE #1 – God provided a way for us to draw near to Him through Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
Perhaps that’s the step you need to take today
Repent, believe in Jesus, become God’s child
PRINCIPLE #2 – Fellowship with God demands purity.
We’re human and will sometimes give in to sin and temptation
God promises to forgive us when we confess our sins to Him
PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s plan for His people is for them to encourage one another by serving one another.
We need your help to serve here at Idaville Church
We need you to attend church to be an encouragement to others
“It is said that the giant redwood trees of the Western United States have a relatively shallow root system. Their enormous weight is supported, in part, by the interlocking of the tree’s roots with those of the other trees around it. As Christians we need ‘interlocking roots’ with other believers in the church to withstand the enormous weight of life. We need others spurring us ‘on toward love and good deeds’ in a world so bent on self-centeredness and self-gratification.” [Guthrie, 352]