(Sermon to be preached on March 25, 2012, at Calvary Bible Church):
Making Purification for Sin:
This will be a sermon without a porch. I’m not going to ease you into the text. There will be no introductory story. Instead, I’m going to bring directly into the living room. Our subject reaches from the beginning to the end of the Bible. Now please turn to Hebrews 1 and read with me.
Hebrews 1:1–4 (ESV)
1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
You can learn a great a lot by merely paying attention. You can understand most of the Bible by merely taking your time to think and read. It takes patience and attention.
Hebrews 1:1-2 is one long sentence which contains one main verb: to speak. To understand a sentence, start with the verb. The verb has a subject, the one who speaks: God. This sentence is about God and what God has done.
The sentence tells us about how God spoke. Long ago, God spoke by prophets. In these last days, God spoke by his Son.
There are two times spoken of in these verses: “long ago”; and, “these last days”. Time has been divided, and now we are living in a new age – the “last days”.
Why the division? The text implies that the great difference between the ages stems from the manner in which God spoke. “Long ago …. God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.” Then a break takes place at the beginning of verse 2 – your translation may or may not have a “but”. There is a shift from the time past to the present, there is a change from speaking through prophets and now speaking through the Son.
This leads to a question: Why does the Father move to speaking through his Son? Why does speech through the Son put an end to the old order, to the previous age? What happened to change the relationship between God and the world?
The key to understanding the shift is found at the end of verse three, where we see the words
After making purification [of if you have an NASB it reads “When he had made purification”] for sins, he sat down at the right hand of Majesty on high
The action of making purification lead to the incarnate Son being exalted. That movement of purification and exaltation radically transformed the universe – it changed how the Creator relates to the creation; it moved the universe from “long ago” to “these last days”.
The next time I am here, we will look to the exaltation of Jesus. This morning we are going to examine the words, “making purification for sins.”
If you have been around Christianity for any time, you will think, that means Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And that is true: Jesus did die on the cross for sins. However, those few words contain far more than just a statement of Jesus dying for our sins.
Jesus making purification for sin fulfilled the promise God gave to our first parents. Jesus making purification for sin decisively defeated sin and death and the devil; it made the New Heavens and the New Earth, possible – not just possible, but it has actually begun in a manner with the resurrection of Jesus from dead.
Making purification for sin instituted the New Covenant. A covenant is a word which means an agreement or a contract. There are many different covenants in the Bible. Two of the most important covenants in the Bible are the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.
The Old Covenant is the covenant on Mount Sinai. You have heard of the Ten Commandments? That is the Old Covenant – well a part of it. The Old Covenant involved Moses, Israel, and the Promised Land, and Priests, and sacrifices and a temple. God took Israelites out of Egypt, made a covenant with them and put them in the Promised Land. They disobeyed the Covenant, and so God sent them into exile.
However, when it looked like the Old Covenant failed, God promised to make a New Covenant. Jesus made the New Covenant at the Last Supper.
We are going to walk through that history from the time before the Old Covenant until we get to the New Covenant. There are some names and places, so pay attention. None of it will be too hard to understand.
We need to cover this history, because the book of Hebrews is all about this history. Our clause for this morning, making purifications for sins is a very short hand way of talking about the Old Covenant and the New Covenant and all the history involved. The book of Hebrews assumes that you know all these things already. The writer is explaining what the Old Testament means now that Jesus has come. However, I know that many of you are not familiar with the entire Old Testament. Therefore, I need to give you a sketch of some key events.
We are going to look at four times: First, Why did we need a covenant? Second, what happened with the Old Covenant (Israel broke it). Third, The Time of Cursing under the Old Covenant (God sent them into exile and promised to make a New Covenant). Fourth, What happened in the New Covenant.
As I sketch this out, I am going to make some observations along the way. One thing that you need to understand to follow this history is that at each step of the way God had the goal in mind: making purification for sin. The covenants were created to deal with sin.
Part One: Why Did We Need a Covenant?
We needed a covenant because Adam and Eve sinned. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a Garden. God commanded them to exercise dominion over the creation and to work to glorify God. That was their reasonable worship.
Unfortunately, when Adam and Eve sinned, they wrecked everything. Sin ruined every human being, it ruined the animals, it ruined the entire creation. God is going to fix this problem by making a New Heavens and New Earth.
However, to fix the problem between God and the creation, God must deal with sin. You see, sin is worse than just doing some bad action. You must think of sin as the most deadly poison which could exist. It is an incurable disease. We usually don’t understand how bad sin is until we see someone commit a particularly grotesque act of evil.
Many of you heard of the man who murdered the people at the Jewish school in Paris. The man who committed the murder videotaped himself killing the people. One of his victims was a beautiful little eight year old girl. He chased her down, grabbed her by the pony tail and shot her in the head. Then the monster posted the video as a brag. He also murdered a 30 year old man and the man’s sons aged 6 and 3.
Does that make you sick? It should . Do you feel revulsion, hatred, anger. Good. That is what sin looks like when it takes off its costume and shows itself for real. The Puritan writer Ralph Venning when he wanted to express the utter hatefulness of sin called it sinful, he wrote of the sinfulness of sin.
Now, what would you think of a judge would simply forgive the man who murdered that little girl? You would hate him – and you should.
Adam murdered all his children with his sin. Adam’s sin brought death into the world. Adam’s sin created a problem which could not be solved. There was nothing in creation which could ever atone for that sin. That sin created a breach between God and man. God justly hates sin. To even begin to understand the revulsion of God toward sin, think of your revulsion toward that man who murdered that little girl.
This creates an unsolvable problem. God utterly and rightly hates sin. God hates sin with a hatred you cannot begin to understand.
But this creates a problem for man and for all creation. Nothing in Creation can satisfy God’s justice. God would be a monster to ignore sin or forgive sin without punishment. And yet all of Creation is insufficient to satisfy the judgment of sin. It is like a debt which cannot be paid.
Moreover, Creation cannot make God find a way to deal with sin. God would be right and just to merely judge the entire creation. God would be just to send every human being to hell and to burn the creation.
Yet, there when it seemed impossible that God could ever help and that sin would ever be resolved, God uttered a promise. It was a strange sounding promise. To the Serpent, it was a threat; to Adam and Eve, it was a promise which they could not fully understand. It promised a war:
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 (ESV)
That war would end with Jesus making purification for sin. Genesis 3:15 predicts the purification described in Hebrews 1:3. Until Jesus came, human beings only had this and other promises from God. Until Jesus came, human beings could only rely upon the promise of God that one day he would make purification for sin. How God could do that, was difficult for them to understand.
At that point, God opened up a means for forgiveness of sin. This is how it worked. If someone would trust – that is, have faith that God in the future would keep his promise and some how make purification for sin, then God would save that person. God did not reveal fully how this work would be done, he merely promised that he would do so.
The next big step in this promise comes when God chose an idolater named Abraham and promised that through Abraham all the world would be blessed. God promised also to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan – only it would be hundreds years after Abraham died.
Part Two: The Old Covenant
Abraham’s descendants end up in Egypt, were the Pharaoh reduced them to slavery. But God, who is rich in mercy, remembered his promise to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and determined to free the Israelites and so keep his promise. God found Moses in the wilderness and spoke to Moses:
16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey.” ’ Exodus 3:16–17 (ESV)
The Israelites in Egypt likely had heard – at least some had heard about the promise that God would deliver them and take them to the land of Canaan. But they did not wait for God. They were not faithful toward God. They were busy worshipping the Egyptian gods when they should have been faithful toward the Lord.
The Israelites wanted deliverance from sin. In the end, deliverance from sin is the only thing we want or need. Every single problem in your life, every disappointment or pain is the result of sin: whether your sin, the sin of others against you, or sin generally in the world. Death and disease come from sin. Hunger and oppression are the result of sin. Sorrow and loss are the result of sin. Every evil is the result of sin. The Israelites were not content to wait for the Lord to save them from sin. So they took matters into their own hands and made idols with their hands and worshiped the idols in a vain hope to be delivered from sin.
I must make an application here: This is how temptation always works. God has promised us good, but we don’t want to wait – or we don’t want good in exactly the manner God has promised. Since we are unwilling to live by faith, we turn to sight. We want an answer we can see right now, and so we make idols: something we can hold and control and manipulate. Like Adam and Eve we think we know better than God; we hope to be creatures without a Creator. Every time you sin, you are impatient, you are discontent, you say God has failed and you must take matters into your own hand. Every time you sin you are acting exactly like the slavish Israelite worshiping the gods of Egypt.
Now, Moses came to the people and told them of God’s promise. God then mocked the gods of Egypt: each plague was designed to ridicule a god of Egypt. But even after the Lord delivered them and conquered the gods of Egypt, the Israelites continued to worship the gods of Egypt. We know this because Ezekiel tells us this on the authority of God himself. It is recorded in Ezekiel 20, verses 6-8
6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. 7 And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 8 But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Ezekiel 20:6–8 (ESV)
Even though the Israelites rebelled against God, God still made a covenant with them. God made an agreement. He said, I am the Lord and I have rescued you. I am going to teach you how to worship me and how to live with one-another. If you do this, I will let you live a land flowing with milk and honey. If you disregard my covenant, I send drive you from the land and send you into exile.
With the covenant, God gave the people a temple, along with sacrifices and priests. Here is an important point, which many people get wrong. The sacrifices and the temple and the priests did not actually take away sin. These things were given to remind the people that God had still not made the final way to take away sin. These things were pointers toward the need for a final solution, to the need for God to make purification for sin:
1 For since the law [the Old Covenant] has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. 2 Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? 3 But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10:1–4 (ESV)
Get that clear. In verse 3 of Hebrews 10, it says that God gave the sacrifices to remind the people of their sins – not to take their sins away. Then, to make sure the point is clear, he writes in verse 4:
For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin.
I want to make one other comment on the Old Covenant. This concerns the Passover. The reason I want you to know a bit about the Passover, is because Jesus institutes the New Covenant at a Passover meal which we call the Last Supper.
The covenant between God and Israel has its start in the night of escape which the people celebrated as the Passover. The night before the Israelites left Egypt, the night before the final plague, the final judgment the Lord brought against Egypt, the Lord commanded a meal and remembrance of the Israelites.
That is remarkable in and of itself: Just before they were to flee from the country, God told them to remember this: to stop and eat and remember. God instituted this meal so that they would remember what God had done, and by remembering what God had done they would have grounds for their faith about what God would do.
Since God had rescued them from Egypt, God would one day deliver them from their sins. The meal was given to remind them of the past deliverance so that they would have faith in God’s future deliverance.
This has a pointed application for us: Consider your faith – do you trust God as fully as you should? Why not? Why don’t you trust him well? Because you are solely looking forward and you can see no way in which God could possibly solve this problem. Faith looks forward, but it is based upon trust of God. That trust is strengthened by repeatedly remembering what God has already done. That is one reason that God gave us the Bible. That is one reason there are so many stories in the Old Testament. Those stories are a record of God’s faithfulness. Since God kept his promises in the past, we have good reason to believe God will keep his promises in the future.
Thus, God gave them the Passover as a reminder. They were to sacrifice a lamb and eat the lamb in a very special meal. The blood of the lamb was to be painted on the doorpost, and the people to remain inside with expectation of fleeing from slavery. Those who obeyed and painted the blood on their door where spared. The Angel of Death passed over their house. But those who disobeyed saw their own first born sons killed.
And thus, God institutes their escape from Egypt with a meal – a memorial for all generations to remind the people of the gracious salvation of God.
To understand how important remembering is, let us consider an instance where Israel forgot. Shortly after God had rescued the people, he took them to Mount Sinai and gave them the Covenant. It was a terrifying sight. The mountain shook with fire and the voice of God thundered from the Mountain and the people shook with fear.
God then called Moses up on the mountain, where Moses stayed for forty days. During those forty days, the people forgot what God had just done. They lost their courage, their faith failed. They looked for some means to solve the problems of the world and they came upon the stunningly brilliant idea of turning their jewelry into a golden calf and praying to that calf.
There is an easy application: Sin always looks stupid – spectacularly stupid from a distance. It is easier to see in someone else. Consider someone else’s sin. It looks pathetic and stupid from where you sit. It is often so stupid that it is funny, if it is not tragically sad. Take that evaluation and apply it to yourself. Your sin is that stupid, that foolish. Sin is always foolishness.
Now, despite their idolatry, God rescued and forgave the people. God forgave them time after time for hundreds of years. God kept his part of the covenant. God gave them a land and prosperity.
Yet even with the constant reminder of sin, and the constant promise that God would deal with sin – for the Old Covenant was a reminder and a promise — the people plunged themselves into idolatry. God sought to show them their desperate strait so that they would turn in faith and hope toward the promise that one day God would take away sin. But the people would not wait, they would not believe.
God sent ten of the tribes into exile. Still, the two tribes that remained continued in sin against their God.
God sent them prophets, and they ignored the word of the Lord. This went on for hundreds of years. Finally, we come to Jeremiah, the prophet who pleads with the people as destruction gathers its fist to strike and destroy Jerusalem. But the people will not listen.
The evil has become so great, the darkness has covered the city for so long, that God will no longer tolerate their rebellion. The Lord tells Jeremiah:
16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Jeremiah 7:16 (ESV)
Think of that: Do not pray …. I will not hear. Do not pray. Can you imagine how dark and black a hole that is? God will not hear. Even the most wicked sinner thinks in his heart of hearts that if he were to call, God would hear. But God says to Jeremiah, do not pray, for I will not hear. Is there a hell darker, an end more dismal?
Part Three: The Time of Cursing Under Old Covenant
With the final rejection recorded in Jeremiah, Israel will go into exile, the temple will be ruins, the sacrifices will be gone.
God promised blessing under the Old Covenant. But God also promised a curse. God promised that if the people violated the Covenant, he would curse them and drive them from the land.
Now, consider this: What would have happened for us if the Bible ended at Jeremiah 7:16, “I will not hear you.” What compels God to go on? We have not put God under any obligation to hear us. God has no obligation to save. The Old Covenant was utterly gracious on God’s part. God need do nothing more.
So stop and consider, what if God had stopped with, “I will not hear you.”
The Israelites had rejected God. Human beings do not want God. But God rescues human beings. Men sin to stay far away from God, but God draws near to man. Slaves worship idols, but God rescues from Egypt.
But there in that deep well God brought a new promise. God said that he would make a New Covenant and this New Covenant would make purification for sin:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” Jeremiah 31:31–34 (ESV)
There is a beautiful prayer entitled The Valley of Vision which includes these lines:
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from the deepest wells
And the deeper the wells, the brighter thy stars shine.
Here in the deepest well, the brightest star could be seen shining in the distance. Here, God finally, plainly promised to forgive sin. God had forgiven sins before this point, but only for those who believed and trusted that one day God would deal with sin. Here, when it seems all hope is lost, God expressly says, I will make a new covenant – a covenant that will make purification for sin.
This New Covenant was the passion of God, the desire of God from before time began. Ephesians 1:4 says God determined this plan of salvation, this purification of sin “before the foundation of the world.” Titus 1:2 says that this promise was “before the ages began”. And in John 6:37, Jesus says that elect have been given by the Father to the Son. Before the ages began, before the foundation of the world, the Father determined to give the elect to the Son – before ages began the Son determined to save.
You see, even before Adam sinned, God determined to make purification for sin. Before Adam fell, God determined to resurrect fallen humanity. Before death came into the world, God determined to kill death. Before Israel broke the Old Covenant, God determined to make the New Covenant. This was the earnest desire of God.
You see, the Old Covenant proved the point: We need a savior. And it was the earnest desire of the Savior to save. Another old prayer (Resting on God) reads
O God must high, most glorious
The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed
But thou are ever at perfect peace
Thy designs cause thee no fear of unfulfilment
They stand as fast as the eternal hills.
Israel failed, we failed, but God never failed.
Part Four: The New Covenant
Turn to Luke 22, and we will read verses 14-15. This records the Last Supper. This was the last Passover under the Old Covenant. In just hours, Jesus will be betrayed, crucified. Yet Jesus is going to do something wonderful. And just like the Passover, God does not want us to forget his covenant. So God institutes a meal which must repeat so that we will not forget. So read with me in verses 14-15:
14 And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15 And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Luke 22:14–15 (ESV)
Consider carefully those words. First in verse 14, at the very beginning, And when the hour came. What hour? The hour God had promised so many of thousands of years before. Here was the time when God would finally reckon with sin and destroy death.
I want you also to see the words of Jesus, I have earnestly desired. For how long Lord? How long have you desired this hour? Since before time began. Since before light shone on the Earth, I desired this moment to rescue Creation from sin and death, to destroy the curse and redeem what was mine.
Remember at the beginning of this sermon, we read the introduction to Hebrews 1? In that introduction, we saw the credentials of the Son – he was God himself, Monarch over the Creation. That is why the Father sent him to the world. The Son came to redeem what was his own. The Son earnestly desired to redeem this creation, to institute the New Covenant, to make purification for sin.
In making purification for sin, Jesus did far more than merely die that you could be saved. Jesus redeemed the entire Creation. Jesus destroyed death and the Devil. Jesus delivered the world from the thralldom of sin. Jesus proclaimed the glory of God in Creation. Jesus undid the thousands of years of rebellion. Jesus proclaimed the victory of God.
Oh how the heavens and the highest heavens must have been transfixed by the words I have earnest desired. They knew what was coming. Peter says that angels, long to look into these things. Cannot you imagine the hush of the Cherubim and Seraphim and the Living Creatures and the myriads upon myriads who watched as Jesus said, I have earnestly desired.
What did Jesus desire? Read on:
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:17–20 (ESV)
There it is! This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
Oh let that break your heart! God finally dealt with sin, God finally made purification for sin – but oh the cost! The ransom was his blood. The Father from before times began determined to redeem, but oh the cost! The Father shed his Son’s blood to make purification for sin. Let that break your heart.
What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest friend,
For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?
O make me Thine forever, and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never outlive my love to Thee.
Oh let that sacred moment break your heart. Those words made purification for sins means that the king of all Glory became your sacrifice. That sacred head was battered down by man and devil and bore the wrath of God himself. That sacred head made purification for sin by bearing sin.
What does this mean?
To know that Jesus made purification for sin means damnation, wrath and judgment for some. John 3:18 tells us:
18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. John 3:18 (ESV)
God does not play at sin. The Father who would not spare his Son the weight of sin will not spare you. Isaiah 53:10 says
It was the will of the Lord to crush him
He has put him to grief.
The Father who would not spare his Son will not spare you. Do not toy with God. He is not a puppet who can be played. In Psalm 50 God says:
19 “You give your mouth free rein for evil, and your tongue frames deceit. 20 You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son. 21 These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you. 22 “Mark this, then, you who forget God, lest I tear you apart, and there be none to deliver! Psalm 50:19–22 (ESV)
You do not want to tempt the Father. Think of Judgment Day. You will stand before God and God will ask for his account. God has given you life and breath, and how have you spent your time. He will ask for an account of every idle word, every glance, every thought. You say, I would not trust the work of the Son. What your Son did was not good enough for me! I will stand on my own righteousness. Do you think it will go well with you? The Father gave his Son to save his enemies, and you will mock the blood of Christ? You will make an account, and he will tear and there will be none to deliver. Do not think your hell will have an end. One who would mock a Son to his Father is a fool.
You must fly, you must escape. Your blood will be on your own head come judgment day. I am glad that you are hearing, for I do not want to stand surety for your sin. You have no choice. God will not play. You must repent, you must cast your hope solely upon the Savior or you will be lost. You are no friend of God who are an enemy of the Son. If he is not your king, then you are a traitor. Traitors are killed, not coddled. Do not fool yourself.
I say that out of the deepest love. I have no better good to give you than to plead for your repentance. I do you no kindness to lie to you and make your bed in Hell. Repent. Trust that you cannot made purification for sin and trust that Jesus, the true High Priest in the true sanctuary will be your surety. Trust him, fly to him. He has promised to receive you:
40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:40 (ESV)
Now to those of you who know him. I have a warning and an encouragement. First the warning:
Do not grow slack in your faith. You are not safe because you are saved. Oh, you will not be damned, but this is still a dangerous world. It is filled with devils and traps. There are snares about every corner. You would careful if you were to walk about where lions roamed, and yet you wander aimlessly about demonic lions and your own lusts and you are thoughtless. Peter writes to believers:
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV)
Put your name in the place where you read “someone”. The Devil is seeking to devour you. Jesus told Peter that Satan was asking for him by name so that he could sift him like wheat. Have you ever seen wheat sifted? Peter’s faith failed. He sinned. Peter knew all too well what it was to be attacked by this lion.
You see, the worst thing that can happen to you is not that you suffer, but that you sin. Satan devours a Christian not by the persecution but by the sin. Persecution is horrifying and wicked and we do not care enough for our brothers and sisters who know real persecution. But the true injury to a Christian comes not with sorrow but with sin. Sin is our great fear.
Do not let your faith fail that you may not fall into sin.
And sin may bring correction from the Father. Do not go there. Do you feel concerned at all at this point? You should. I mean to make your heart race. What shall I do to avoid this end?
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. Hebrews 3:12–14 (ESV)
Do you see that person sitting next to you? You need her or him to be safe from sin.
Pastor Tim has a particular heart for this. You will hear him a hundred times exhort you and encourage you to love one another, to be with one-another, to exhort and encourage one –another, to eat with one-another and enjoy fellowship with one-another. He is not doing this because he wants our congregation to be an exalted social club. He wants this because the Bible commands this. We want this, because we are deeply concerned for your soul. The elders of this church love you dearly and seek nothing but your safety from sin. We are all too easily distracted, we all too easily follow our own ways.
Oh beloved, trust in what Christ has done. Look on to the Savior and you will be changed. Our trial is that we trust too little, that we love too little, that we do not admire our Savior as we should. We will receive a kingdom!
Have you ever hoped that you could be great, truly marvelous – a wonder? That is the hope of glory. That is the hope to be forgiven from sin so that you are set free to glory in God in Jesus Christ. Do you fear death? That is the fear of sin. Sin in its plain colors is death. Sin leads no other way. But you were created for something greater. You were created for God himself.
The chief end of man – the reason why you were created is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. The greatest joy a human being can obtain, the greatest joy we can hope to obtain is to glorify and enjoy God. We were created for that end – and a great and glorious end it is.
I can guarantee your misery: Live for yourself. Make you, you own desires and wants your chief end. Do what pleases you right now and ignore the wisdom of God. You will enjoy just long enough to be made miserable. The Devil, that master fisherman, will allow you to swallow the hook and line and it will slide down into your gullet. Only then will he set the hook. The barb will draw into the space beneath your rib. You will feel the tug of the line and the pain of the hook, but you will not escape unless God miraculously sets you free. Do not toy with the Devil’s baits, he intends only your horror and misery and ruin.
But for you, I hope for something better.
18 … you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. [That was the making of the Old Covenant]20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire. Hebrews 12:18–29 (ESV)