Second Reformed Church

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

"By Faith Alone" Sermon: Hebrews 10:32-39

“By Faith Alone”

[Hebrews 10:32-39]

June 23, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            We have been considering that the author of Hebrews explains that we must both understand the teachings of the Bible with our mind – and especially the Gospel – and sincerely believe those teachings in our heart if we are to be saved from the Wrath of God for our sin.  Knowing what the Bible says and what the Gospel is without sincerely believing it, leaves you dead in your sin.  Believing what we feel is true, although it is not in line with what God has told us in the Scripture, leaves you dead in your sin.

            The section we looked at last week ended with the warning that “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31, ESV).  If you believe something other than what God has said or if you know what God has said but don’t believe it, you in the position where you are right to be afraid:  you are in the Hands of God and at His Vengeance.

            The author of Hebrews now turns his attention to those who have truly understood and believed the Gospel:

            “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings,”

            Here we get some additional insight into the reason for the writing of the letter to the Hebrews.  The letter primarily argues that the Old Testament Sacrificial Laws have been fulfilled in Christ – the perfect High Priest and Sacrifice – so they do not – and should not – be offered any longer.  So, as we look back at the first days of the Hebrews conversion, it is not a far stretch to see that the motivation for this letter was that the Hebrew Christians, at the hands of persecution, were turning back to the Old Testament Sacrificial System.

            And, so the author of Hebrews tells the Hebrew Christians to remember the time right after they professed faith in Christ – remember how they endured suffering – remember the hard struggle they endured for believing that the Gospel is true – with all of their heart and soul and mind and strength.  “Remember how you suffered, Hebrews, after your conversion to Christianity?”

            And note:  the point is that they suffered for being Christians – not for anything else – not for sinning or doing anything wrong.  They were persecuted because they became Christians – because they converted to Christianity.

            “sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.”

            These Hebrew converts endured reproach and affliction – that indicates severe trials.  As the author of Hebrews relates later in his letter, this included trials such as:  “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b-38, ESV).

            Many of us have hardly had any notice of our conversion, except to be told that polite people don’t talk about politics and religion – though I know some of you have suffered and can relate to this.  In many countries, if you convert to Christianity, you can lose your job, your family, your freedom, even your life – just as it was in the first century – just as it was for the Hebrews that the author was writing to – and he wants them to remember what it was like when they first believed – when they first felt the sting of persecution for knowing and believing the Gospel.

            He also wants them to remember how – in those first days – and even as he was writing – they joined in as partners with others who were suffering.  There was a fellowship of suffering.  Christians did not suffer alone – and we should not suffer alone – for the sake of the Gospel.  Christianity is a communal religion – God has chosen to save a people, as Paul writes, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together” (1 Corinthians 12:26, ESV).

            The author wants them to remember how they suffered for their faith and how they supported their fellow Christians who suffered for their faith –

            “For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

            Remember – they had compassion on those who were in prison – they provided for them and their families while they served their sentence for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

            Remember – they joyfully accepted their property being stolen.

            What do you think of that?  Part of their persecution for believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ was that the authorities, the religious leaders, their neighbors – whoever it may have been – stole their property – and their response was to rejoice.

            They weren’t stoics – they didn’t see that their property was gone and say, “Oh, well, here today, gone tomorrow, never mind.”  No, they rejoiced.

            If you were being persecuted for your faith in Jesus as the Only Savior, and you came home one day to find everything in your house gone, would you rejoice?  Is this a reason to believe that Christians are nuts?  Is this a reason to look down on Christians – or at least pity them?

            Why does the author of Hebrews tell us that the Hebrews Christians “joyfully accept the plundering of [their] property” – were they nuts?  He tells us, “since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.”

            The Hebrew Christians were not unfeeling.  They didn’t not care when they found all their property gone.  Surely they were sad over losing certain items of sentimental value – or even very valuable things.  Yet, they rejoiced, because they had a better possession – something that was worth far more than all their stuff – and it is an abiding possession – it is something that no one can take away from them.  They could lose their stuff, their home, their family, their job, be tortured, and even killed, and still rejoice, because what is most worthwhile – what is most valuable – could never be taken from them.

            Do you understand?

            If that kind of persecution came to the United States – to all Christians here – could you lose your stuff, your home, your job, your family, be tortured, and even killed, and rejoice, because no one could take your greatest treasure from you?

            Jesus said, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12, ESV).

            Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name”

(1 Peter 4:12-16, ESV).

            And Paul wrote, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:18-25, ESV).

            “Think back to when you first confessed faith in Jesus, Hebrews; remember that you suffered for the sake of Christ.  You joyfully endured all types of loss – some, even the loss of their lives – for the sake of Christ.  Remember how you ministered to your brothers and sisters as they suffered for the sake of Christ.  Remember that you are a body in Christ called to support each other in the faith.  Remember that what we shall receive in the Kingdom is greater than everything we ever had here – in this life.”

            Paul wrote, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.

            “Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, ‘I believed, and so I spoke,’ we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

            “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:7-18, ESV).

            The Scriptural witness is that it is normal for Christians to suffer for the sake of Christ and for believing in Him.  And the author of Hebrews is calling his readers to remember all that they had gone through since believing in Christ, how they had helped their fellow Christians, and that they had done all this because the promise of the Gospel and the life in the Kingdom is greater than anything they might suffer for Christ.  And the same is true for us.

            “Therefore” Because that is all true – here’s the point:

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.”

“If you remember everything you have suffered in becoming a Christian,” the author of Hebrews writes, “that you are one in Christ with your fellow Christians, and you are joyful in looking forward to the reward you shall receive – don’t throw it all away by going back to the Old Testament Sacrificial System!  Hold on to Salvation through Jesus Alone – through His Sacrifice Alone – endure, be patient – hold on – work hard at doing the Will of God – following after Him in holiness, and you will receive what God has promised.”

And, again, as we have noted before, very few of us here are still sacrificing animals to God in worship – we do not tend to fall back on the Old Testament Sacrificial System.  And hopefully, we do not misunderstand the Old Testament Sacrificial System as a way to salvation.  Let us note it again:  the Old Testament Sacrificial System was never intended and never could be a way to salvation.  There only ever was and still is only One Way to salvation through the Savior God promised to send, Who we now know is Jesus of Nazareth, the God-Man, the Incarnate Son of God.

Even though we may not even be tempted to offer up Cali, Annie, Teddie, Shema, Doxology, or any other of our animal companions, we may find ourselves tempted to look back at what God has said and say, “I’ve been a pretty good person.  I have kept most of God’s Law.”  The author of Hebrews screams at us:  “Don’t throw away your confidence!”  We have nothing to offer, nothing to add, to the salvation that comes to us through Jesus Alone – and, if we find ourselves thinking that we do – then we’re back to last week’s sermon, “Be Afraid” – do you trust in something other than Jesus Alone for your salvation.  Check yourself – don’t throw away that only assurance there is!

This is not to say that we are to “let go and let God.”  No, we are to endure through suffering for the sake of Christ by remembering and holding before ourselves the better and abiding possession of Christ and His Salvation that we receive in all its fullness in the Kingdom.  And we are to do the Will of God until we receive the promised reward.

“Well, how do I know what God’s Will is for my life?”  Pick up a Bible, start reading it, and when you have mastered everything in it, we’ll see what else we can find.  Now, that may sound kind of flippant, and it kind of is, because people often try to avoid what they plainly see in the Scripture by asking what God’s Will is for their lives. 

Quickly, there are three types of law in the Bible:  Judicial, Ceremonial, and Moral.  The first two were just for Ancient Israel, and we don’t have to keep them.  Moral Law is for everyone forever.  So, when we read that we are to stone fortunetellers to death, don’t do that – you’ll be arrested – that was a Judicial Law, just for Ancient Israel.  When we read that God wants us to sacrifice animals on the altar, please don’t do that, that was part of the Ceremonial Law for Ancient Israel.  But when we read we are to care for the widow and the orphan, when we read that we are not to hate each other, when we read that we are to be in worship one day a week, when we read that God Alone is to be worshipped, when we read that we are to work hard and honestly, when we are told not to steal – even little things – even things that everybody else steals, and so forth – that is Moral Law which we are all called to keep.  And, if you’re stuck on something, see me.

Remember when you came to Christ and any suffering you may have endured on His behalf – this is a blessed suffering.

Remember that all Christians are one body and minister to each other, especially those who are suffering.

Remember that – even if we lose everything on earth – our joy is in Christ and His Promise in the Kingdom.

Remember not to throw away your confidence, but find your assurance in Christ Alone.

Remember to endure and do the Will of God that He has revealed to us in His Word.

“For,” – because – here’s the reason for doing all these things:

            “’Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay;’”

            The Coming One is coming!  What does that mean?

            It means that Jesus is returning, and He is returning soon.  No matter what happens – and especially if you suffer for Christ – hang in there with your eyes focused on Jesus and His Return and the Restoration of all things in the Kingdom.  God the Holy Spirit indwells you and the Church is your body to support you, especially in matters of the faith.

            And we ask, “How?”  “How can we do these things and hold on when we are suffering and made to look like fools when we speak the Gospel?”

            “but my righteous one shall live by faith,”

            “The righteous shall live by faith” Paul also quotes this verse in Romans 1:17 and Galatians 3:11.  It is quoted from Habakkuk 2:4.  It is the most quoted verse in the Bible.

            If you haven’t read the book of Habakkuk, take some time to read it – it’s three chapters – about three pages, near the end of the Old Testament.

            The book of Habakkuk opens with the prophet praying to God, pleading with God on Judah’s behalf, as the neighboring nations were attacking Judah and winning against her.  God answered Habakkuk and told him not to worry, that God had heard his prayer, and God was sending the Chaldeans to slaughter Judah.

            Habakkuk prays again and tells God this was not exactly the answer he was looking for – and he didn’t understand how the Holy God could use a pagan people to punish the people of God.  God answers again and tells Habakkuk that the just will live by faith – and, eventually, God will punish the Chaldeans.

            What did God mean when He told Habakkuk that the “just will live by faith”?  Who are “the just”?  “The just” are all those who believe in the Savior God promised to send – so we who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation are part of the just.  How do we “live by faith”?

            An example I have used before is that faith is like the gutters and leaders on your house or apartment – when the rain comes down, the gutters and leaders are the means by which the rain is transferred to the ground – or out to the street.  In the same way, we receive the doctrine – the teaching – what God has said, through faith – it is the means by which the just – the believer – receives what God has said is true and right.

            So, in Habakkuk’s case, God was telling him, “I know you don’t understand, and there are things that you – and all my people – are not going to understand.  What is important and necessary for you to do is to live by faith – that is – to receive everything I have said and sincerely believe it.”

            So, how do we live by faith when we are being teased or mocked or throw in jail or beaten or kept out of jobs or being robbed – and still be able to praise and glorify God for Who He is?  Through faith alone.  Faith enables us to receive everything God has said, sincerely believe it, and respond – “This is what I know about God.  This is what I know about humanity.  This is what I don’t understand.  But I’m going to press forward with everything I know and hold on to it with everything that I am, because I am sure what I know is true, and I am waiting in hope for the Promise of God to come – and one thing I know is that God is always worthy of my praising and glorifying Him.”

            We are to be people who live by faith alone.  People who receive the Word of God and the Salvation God provides – not blindly, but having been made sure of the Truth of God’s Word and sincerely believing it.

            But not everyone does that, do they?

            “’and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’”

            The author of Hebrews reminds us that there are two types of people:  those who say they are Christians, but prove they are not by either not sincerely believing the Word of God or by believing things which contradict the Word of God, and there are those who know what God has actually said and sincerely believe it.

            “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

            The author of Hebrews ends this section encouraging the Hebrew Christians letting them know that he recognizes them as Christians who sincerely believe in the Word of God and know what they believe.  And he says that they are people who have faith and their souls will be preserved by God because they do.

            In whatever situation you are faced with, do you find yourself giving up or becoming downcast or turning to things that have been done away with or forbidden in the Bible, or do you trust in God Alone through faith alone through Jesus Alone – even when you don’t understand and don’t know what’s going to happen?  Do you trust in God and His Plan, or do you worry that God needs your help?  Will you live by faith alone, or will you run away?

            Let us pray:

            Almighty God, we are men and women of dust, weak, and too easily swayed by the wind.  Help us to trust You, to believe everything You have said, to work hard to become the men and women You have called us to be, and – no matter what happens – to look to You and the Salvation You have given us in joy, always seeking to praise and glorify You.   Cause the Holy Spirit, God Who dwells in us, to build us up as Your people that we would live by faith alone.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reformed Wisdom

John Calvin on Hebrews 10:32 --

"In order to stimulate them, and to rouse their alacrity to go forward, he reminds them of the evidences of piety which they had previously manifested; for it is a shameful thing to begin well, and to faint in the middle of our course, and still more shameful to retrograde after having made great progress. The remembrance then of past warfare, if it had been carried on faithfully and diligently under the banner of Christ, is at length useful to us, not as a pretext for sloth, as though we had already served our time, but to render us more active in finishing the remaining part of our course. For Christ has not enlisted us on this condition, that we should after a few years ask for a discharge like soldiers who have served their time, but that we should pursue our warfare even to the end."     

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Hell On Trial" Study

D.V., we will continue our study this evening, looking at several modern figures and their views on Hell.  Join us at 7 PM!

"Be Afraid" Sermon: Hebrews 10:26-31

“Be Afraid”

[Hebrews 10:26-31]

June 16, 2013 Second Reformed Church

            There is a good reason to be afraid of God:  God knows your heart.

            Last week, one of the things we saw is that as we draw near to God we must have a true heart – that is, we must have right doctrine – we must believe what the Bible says – especially about salvation through Jesus Alone, and we must have full assurance of faith – that is, we must believe what we believe sincerely.

            And we saw that there is a problem, because we must have both to draw near to God – it is possible to only have one or the other.  It is possible to know everything that the Bible says, to be able to explain all the doctrines of the Scripture and all the distinctive of our denomination and explain why we believe that our interpretation of the Scripture is the better one, and not believe that it is sincerely and necessarily true.  It is also possible to believe all kinds of things the Bible does not say – “God only wants us to be faithful, He doesn’t care what we believe,” “If we’re good enough, God has to receive us into the Kingdom,” “All religions lead to the same end – they are many paths to the same God,” and so forth – and be totally sincere in such beliefs, yet be wrong.  So, if we are to draw near to God, we must believe the things that Bible says – especially about salvation – and we must believe them sincerely with all our heart.

            Why?  Because, if we know everything in the Bible – and especially those things about salvation in Jesus Alone – but don’t believe them, we are still in our sins.  And, if we sincerely believe things which are not true, we are still in our sins.  Unless we believe the truth with all sincerity, we have not been saved – we are still in our sins.

            If we know all the right things, but don’t believe them, we have not been forgiven for our sins.  And if we believe things that are wrong, but believe them sincerely, we have not been forgiven for our sins.

            Do we understand?  Right knowledge must be combined with sincere belief.

“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,”

If we continue in unrepentant sin – deliberate, happy, joyful sin – after we have come to rightly know the truth of the Bible – the truth of the Gospel – there is no longer a sacrifice for sins – there is no sacrifice for such a person.

“Wait a minute,” someone is thinking, “Are you saying that someone can believe the Gospel and then sin and lose their salvation?”

No.  As we go through our text, we must remember:  right knowledge must be combined with sincere belief.

What the author of Hebrews is picturing for us is someone who knows the Bible very well – who knows the Gospel very well – perhaps a pastor or a Sunday School teacher – they’re on TV, they write books, they’re on their way to General Synod, but, for as much as they can repeat all the facts accurately, they have never sincerely believed.

“Well, why would a person do that?”

Perhaps because people like to be part of a group.  Perhaps because people think having some sort of religious upbringing makes a person moral.  Perhaps because they enjoyed using their minds in understanding the Scripture.  Perhaps because they enjoyed teaching and entering into conversation with those who came to be taught.

But these are not people who “lose” their salvation – no – these are people who never had salvation – these are people who had knowledge, but never sincere belief.  These are people who participated in the life of the Church.  These are people who confessed the confessions.  These are people who in the end renounce the teachings of the Gospel – they forsake the Church – they turn their backs to Christ and say, “not for me!”

And, if that repudiation of Christ is permanent, the sacrifice of Christ which they seemed to have received is no longer available to them.  And the terrible thing is there will be people that come before the throne of God at the end of the age and say, “What do you mean we’re going to Hell?  We preached the Bible for fifty years.  We taught Sunday school for seventy years.  We participated in the Church and tithed and did everything that was right according to the book.”  But Christ will tell His Father, “These are not mine; I don’t know them.”  Because they did not sincerely believe what they knew, but continued in their sin with abandon.

“but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.”

If you memorize the Bible and can explain all the doctrines of the Bible, you may still go to Hell, if you don’t sincerely believe.  Although metaphors – images – are used to describe the horrors of Hell -- and that’s why the images are there – to disturb us – to frighten us – to alarm us, we are told that the judgment that such people receive is that they will be consumed by fire.  And the word, “consumed” there does not mean that they will at some point go into non-existence.  The word, positively, means, “to make a living,” and negatively, indicates a continual taking away – an eating that does not end.  And notice that God calls these people His “adversaries.”

And we might wonder:  “What if someone wrote the top hundred orthodox books, and led thousands of people to salvation in Jesus Alone each year, and pastored a mega-church, and taught through various media, inspiring other leaders and missionaries around the world – wouldn’t that count for something?”

If that person did not both know the Truth and believe it sincerely, it would be as if he had spit in the face of Christ and told Him to “be gone.”  It would be no better that if he were the chief proponent of atheism and attacks on the Church.  It would be accounted to him as sin – unrepentant, deliberate sin – leaving him without the Sacrifice necessary for Salvation and facing a fearful and horrific judgment and sentence.  The reason for all he did was not the love of Christ and His Salvation – it was something else.  It may have been useful to the Church and those who came to Christ through what he did, but there would no longer be the Sacrifice available for him, because he denied the Very One he had spent his life teaching.

This is not a popular thing to talk about – I’m sure some of you are hoping I will move on to something else pretty quickly.  But I would be lax in my duty if I do not call you – and me – to make sure that we have not even fooled ourselves – because it is possible to fool yourself.

Peter wrote, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:10-11, ESV).

Do you believe the teaching of the Bible that there is only salvation through Jesus Alone?  If you know and really believe that, you are a Christian.

Peter wrote, “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’” (1 Peter 4:17-18, ESV).

We who believe are saved, not based on anything we are or do, but on the work of Jesus Christ – His Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection, and Ascension.  There aren’t many ways – there are thousands and thousands of ideas out there, but only One Way through Jesus.

Some of you may be doubting that there are really people like the author of Hebrews is warning – one example:  some of us will be familiar with Charles Finney.  He was a revival preacher during the Second Great Awakening – perhaps the greatest revival preacher of the Second Great Awakening.  Thousands of people believed in the Gospel under his preaching.  Do you know what he wrote in his autobiography?  “Jesus is not necessary for salvation; we are able to do enough good works to merit our own salvation.”  He knew his Bible, but he didn’t believe.  He was an apostate – and God visits apostates with expectations of His Wrath, and then the judgment.

“Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.”

The author of Hebrews sets up a comparison from the lesser to the greater:  first, he reminds his readers that those people who committed capital crimes against the Law of Moses received the death penalty.  How much greater – he argues – how much heavier – is the punishment of those who break the Covenant with Jesus – those who reject His Salvation?  Breaking the Law of Moses and rejecting God’s Promised Salvation through Jesus are both apostate works – it’s saying “I know what’s true, and I don’t care, I’m going to sin and sin, because I like it.”  It’s the person sitting in the pew who says, “I hear what you have to say, and I don’t care, I’m comfortable doing what I’m doing and I’m going to keep on doing it” – never believing that God’s Wrath is about to fall on him.

“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?

Both the breaker of the Law of Moses and the rejecter of Salvation through Jesus will be punished without mercy, but the one who rejects Christ has committed a greater offense, which the author of Hebrews breaks down into three parts:

First, he says that the one who has participated in the life of the Church claiming to be a Christian and then proving himself not by renouncing the Gospel “trample(s) underfoot the Son of God.”  How is that so?

In this way:  rather than just rejecting Christianity, this type of person wants the benefits of the Church, but still wants to be in control of his life.  This is a person who hears the call to submit to the authority of Christ and responds, “You’re not the boss of me!”  This is the person who says he will gladly participate in the Church and say all the right things, but he will not allow Jesus to dictate how he lives and what he believes.  This person likes the Church, likes Jesus, but says he will not allow Jesus to have authority over him.  Rather than bow before Jesus, he tramples Him.

Second, he says that the one who has participated in the life of the Church claiming to be a Christian and then proving himself not by renouncing the Gospel has “profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified.”  Do we see an immediate problem?

If this person is not really a Christian, how can it be said that “he was sanctified”?  How could someone who does not believe receive the gift of becoming holy in the Father’s eyes – and at the end of the age?

The answer is found in the meaning of the phrase “he was sanctified.”  As it is worded here it can merely refer to a person’s confession, not actual, sincere, belief.  So, we could read this verse, “profaned the blood of the covenant which he said he believed, by which sincere belief and confession one is found to be sanctified.”  This is important to understand, because the author of Hebrews is not saying that this person was a Christian and then renounced his Christianity – that he sincerely believed the Covenant and was made holy, and then renounced it and became unholy again – that is not what the author of Hebrews is telling us.  He is telling us that holiness only comes through the Covenant to those who sincerely believe the Gospel.

So, what has the person who renounces the Gospel he said he believed done in this second case?  He has profaned the blood of Christ – he has considered the blood sacrifice of Jesus and said it is nothing to him.  He has said he does not need a high priest or a sacrifice; he can make himself right in God’s eyes.

Third, he says that the one who has participated in the life of the Church claiming to be a Christian and then proving himself not by renouncing the Gospel has “outraged the Spirit of grace.”  How does one “outrage the Spirit of grace” – that is, the Holy Spirit?

Such a person outrages the Holy Spirit by lying to Him:  this person has come into the Church, learned what the Bible and the Gospel say, acted in a proper way, taken part in everything of the Church, but said, “I don’t need Jesus, and I don’t need His Sacrifice or High Priestly work “And the Holy Spirit cries out; “Liar!  Hypocrite!”  And we know that lying to the Holy Spirit is the height of sin – it is the unforgiveable sin:

As Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32, ESV).

If a person – in the end – refuses to believe the Gospel, in faith, with sincerity of heart, truly, not just as an abstract truth, but as his ultimate need and only salvation, that person will not and cannot ever be forgiven.  Every other sin can be forgiven, but even if a person looks like a Christian, acts like a Christian, calls himself a Christian, knows the Bible and the Gospel inside and out, takes part in everything the Church does, but says that he doesn’t need Christ and His Salvation – His Gospel – or if he merely does not truly sincerely believe in faith that it is his only hope and salvation – he will not be forgiven – he will face the Wrath of God for his sins.

Be afraid.

Peter writes, “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21, ESV). 

“For we know him who said, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay.’ And again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’”

For a second time, the author of Hebrews uses a comparison from the lesser to the greater, both using these two quotes from Deuteronomy 32.  They are taken from a song Moss sang and taught the people right before he died.  It is a song which accuses Israel of being unfaithful and promises that God will not stand for an adulterer to be His Bride, but He will take vengeance upon them and judge them.  And Moses warns the people not to come into a state like that – where they are calling themselves the people of Israel, knowing the Word of God, participating in Temple worship and sacrifice, yet proving their lack of belief by worshipping other gods on the side.

The same is easily put to the Church today:  are we a faithful, believing Bride?  Do we know what God has said – and all that is in the Bible – and all that is in the Gospel – we even have copies that we can read at home – and do we sincerely believe it through faith?

Do you know the expression:  “If it walks looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck – it’s a duck”?  It’s not true!  If I put on a duck costume, and walked and quacked like a duck, I would not be a duck, I would be an imposter – a hypocrite.

God will not tolerate hypocrites in His Church – if you are boasting of being part of the Church – of being in the Church – but you don’t believe, be afraid!  The day is coming when God will bring judgment.

“It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

Human judgment is only for the length of this life, but the judgment of God is forever.  God brings the measure of His Holiness and Righteousness and executes vengeance upon all those who fall short.

The author of Hebrews does not write these words merely to frighten us, but to encourage us to make sure of what and Whom we believe in before the time is too late.  It’s wonderful to come to the worship service and be part of the Church in various ways, including being gifted in the Word and teaching it and preaching it to others, but if that is all it is – if there is no faith received belief at the core of what each one of us is doing, the author of Hebrews wants us to be afraid, because we are without help before a God Who requires holiness.

Is there any good news?

There is almost a mirror image of our concluding verse in the book of Second Samuel – David had disobeyed God, and God came to David through the prophet, Gad, and told him to choose one of three punishments that God would bring on the nation.  David was heartbroken – all of the punishments would bring great distress on the nation, especially as they were in the midst of war.  “Then David said to Gad, ‘I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man’” (2 Samuel 24:14, ESV).

David chose to suffer at the Hand of God rather than at the hand of his enemies, because he knew that God is merciful.

God has sent the Savior – just as He promised – we can read about it and know of the promise of the Savior and all the signs of the Savior by reading the Bible, but that does not save us.  We are saved for sincerely believing in Him through faith.

Paul summarized the Gospel like this:  “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8, ESV).

Believe in Jesus, God the Savior, and what He has done to accomplish salvation for all those who will ever believe, and you no longer have to be afraid of the judgment.  But make sure you believe.

Let us pray:

Almighty God, it is disturbing to talk about Your Wrath and Judgment, but it is necessary to warn those who believe they are right with You when they are not, and it is good for us to remember from whence we have come through the blood of Jesus.  Lord, make it clear to each on here, if we have truly, sincerely believed in Jesus as Savior by faith alone, and if any have doubts, haunt us with the fear of Your Judgment until we are sure – for the sake of our eternal life depends on it.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Community Lunch

Today, D.V., is our community lunch from 12 to 1 PM.  Join us for a free lunch -- with no strings attached!  We look forward to see you.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June Sermons Adjustment

I will not being going to General Synod, so I am adjusting the schedule as follows:

  Hebrews 10:26-31  “Be Afraid”

  Hebrews 10:32-39  “By Faith Alone”

  Hebrews 11:1-3  “Faith”

Join us at 10:30 AM for worship!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Hell on Trial" Study

We intend, D.V., to continue our study this evening at 7 PM.  We will consider the views of the early through the Reformation church.  Join us!

Sunday, June 09, 2013

"Be Bold & Do Good" Sermon: Hebrews 10:19-25

“Be Bold & Do Good”

[Hebrews 10:19-25]

June 9, 2013 Second Reformed Church


            We have now ended the author of Hebrews doctrinal argument and moved into his practical application, and he begins with the infamous word, “therefore.”  In this case, the word “therefore” refers to everything he has argued thus far in his letter.  And so we remember:

            Jesus is the very incarnation of God the Son Himself.

            Jesus is greater than the angels, because He is the Son of God.

            Jesus is greater than Moses because He fulfills everything Moses taught.

            Jesus is greater than the high priests of Aaron and Levi, because He is a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

            Jesus is the High Priest of a better Covenant because salvation is only through Him Alone.

            Jesus is a better Sacrifice than any and all of the sacrifices of the Sacrificial System because He and He Alone is the Perfect Sacrifice Who secures salvation for His people – forgiveness of all their sins, freedom from slavery to sin, and the imputation of His Righteousness to them.  And because this Sacrifice only need be offered once for all those He came to save, because He is perfect and holy.

            “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,”

            Therefore, since all those things are true, we have confidence, we have boldness, we stand and enter with assurance of salvation – of reception as sons and daughters of God – brothers and sisters of Jesus – the holy places – Heaven itself, the throne room of God – through the Blood of Jesus.

            The author of Hebrews draws the parallel between the shadow in the First Covenant, where we remember that only the high priest entered the Holy of Holies in the Temple – that place where the Ark of the Covenant resided and the Presence of God descended – once a year with the blood of animals for the forgiveness of the sins of the people that they came to confess.

            And the fulfillment of the shadow through the Work of Jesus Who entered the Holy of Holies – that is, Heaven – by tearing open the curtain to the Holy of Holies in the Temple as He hung on the cross, making the way for all those who believe in Jesus Alone for salvation to enter God’s Presence through the Blood of Jesus which is effective to eternally save all those who believe.  Jesus’ Blood permanently opens the doors of the holy places that you and I can come into this sanctuary and worship before God Himself, with no curtain separating us – we are before our God now, in the holy places, before Him, and we shall be received into the Kingdom where He will ever be with us and we before Him in worship.

            And we enter the holy places confidently – boldly – even now – because He has raised us to life through His Resurrection – we are perpetually consecrated through Him – holy in the sight of our God and Father.  The atonement that Christ made through His Work on earth is the key to our entrance into the holy places now and forever as believers in salvation through Jesus Alone.

            That does not mean that we enter arrogantly – God forbid!  We enter with confidence and boldness and assuredly, but only through faith in the Blood of Jesus – through confidence in His Work,  boldly asserting the efficacy of His Blood, going forward with the assurance that all those things that the author of Hebrews has argued are true, and nothing we can do – not even following the Sacrificial System – could ever gain us entrance into the holy places, but our hope, in which we stand tall, in that we can enter through the Work that our God and Savior has done on our behalf.  We enter, not through our name and our works, but through proclaiming the Name and Works of Jesus.

“by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,”

We enter the holy places – not though the old way – not through the curtain, which has been torn asunder and no longer separates the areas of the Temple – because it no longer exists.  We enter the holy places – not through the old way – not through the work of a high priest of the order of Aaron or Levi – who could never secure salvation for us, anyway.

No, we enter through the new way – through the New Covenant – Who is Jesus.  We enter through the living way – through the way that leads to life eternal – not through a way that leads to temporary forgiveness – or less.  No, Jesus allowed Himself to be torn open in body and soul – taking on Himself all of the sins of everyone who would ever believe and the Wrath of God for those sins, that we could come through Him – and only Him – into the holy places – into the Presence of God.

Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9, ESV).

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6, ESV).

And let us understand that Jesus is using imagery – we do not literally climb through the flesh of Jesus in to the holy places.  Jesus does not literally have a door in His Body that we have to open.  No, He, Himself, is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  If we believe in Him – if we believe the Gospel – if we believe the New Covenant, we are welcome into the holy places, and we shall not die in the Presence of God.

 “and since we have a great priest over the house of God,”

What is the difference between a priest and a prophet?  A priest pleads before God on behalf of the people – especially with regards to their sins.  A prophet proclaims the Word of God to the people – on God’s behalf – which is why preaching has been called prophesying at different times in history.

Christ stands as Mediator and Priest – High Priest – over the house of God.  Jesus pleads for us before His Father.  Why?  Because we still sin.  Jesus does not die again for each sin we commit.  Jesus does not re-present His Sacrifice for each sin we commit.  But He stands before the Father and pleads for us as One Who has already paid the debt for every sin we will ever commit.

And we might wonder if that means we should not worry about sinning.  Paul confronted the Romans, some of whom thought it might be good to continue in sin – as much as they could – that God’s Grace would increase among them.  Paul wrote:

“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:1-14, ESV).

Do not misunderstand what Paul is saying:  Paul is not saying that we, Christians, will never sin again.  Paul is not saying that we will not struggle with temptation to sin.  Paul is saying, first, that we ought not to sin unrepentantly – happily – as though it doesn’t matter.  And, second, that through Christ, we have been freed from slavery to sin, so we do not have to sin, we do not have to give in to temptation to sin, we are to not let sin reign over us, as though we were still slaves, but we are to strive and fight towards that righteousness – that newness of life – into which Christ has called and saved us.

But, do not despair, the author of Hebrews says we have – we still need – a mediator, because sanctification – becoming holy – is a process – sometimes a violently difficult process – we all have sins that we enjoy or have especial difficulty saying “no” to.  We have a mediator, because we need one and He loves us and has chosen us to be His.  He stands before the Father to assert that we have been forgiven in Him – not to excuse our sin – but to show us – because the Father already knows – He gave Christ His people – Christ’s mediation shows us that He has not left us alone, and He has, indeed, covered all of our sins, and our only hope is in Him.

Paul writes, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5, ESV).

Christ has made the way for us to enter the holy places – the Presence of God – through His One Sacrifice, and He now stands as Mediator for us before the Father that we would fight against sin and know that we are forgiven, even when we fall – He is still the High Priest for His people.

“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.”

“Let us” or “Therefore” – here’s what we ought to do:

“Draw near” – the last thing we should do as the adopted children of God and brothers and sisters of Christ is run away or hide from God.  We are to continually draw near to God – especially in worship.  When things are good, when thing are bad, when we are doing well, when we can’t seem to let go of some sin – draw near!  Go to Christ.  Go to the Father.  Implore the help of God the Holy Spirit.  But don’t turn your back.  Don’t neglect coming into the holy places – especially when you are in trouble.

If you fall off a boat and someone throws you a life preserver, what should you do?  Should you push it away and say “you don’t know what kind of man I am?”  Or should you take hold of it with all your might and be brought to safety?

R. C. Sproul tells the story of a woman who came to him and told him that she had done such and such, and R. C. told her to confess her sin to God and receive forgiveness.  She came back and told him that she had done what he said, but she still did not think she was forgiven.  So, R.C. told her to ask for forgiveness one more time – and she became enraged – why should she ask for forgiveness one more time – she had asked and asked to no avail.  And R. C. told her that, this time, he wanted her to ask forgiveness for believing that her sin was too great to be forgiven by God.

If you believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ – draw near!  Do not neglect to drawn near!  Come into the Presence of our God and Savior – to worship Him, to hear His Word, to receive His Sacraments, because you are forgiven through the Blood of Jesus.

And “let us draw near with a true heart” – that is, let us draw near to God – especially in worship, in doctrinal truth – knowing what the Bible teaches.

And “in full assurance of faith,” – that is, with sincerity of heart, believing in the efficacy of Christ’s Salvation.

And it must be these two – drawing near in doctrinal truth and in sincerity of heart – it can’t just be one of these, because it is possible to know everything the Bible teaches about God and salvation, and not sincerely believe.  And it is possible to sincerely believe in things that the Bible doesn’t teach.

Knowing the Truth without a passionate love of it is death, and just being sincere, doesn’t meant that you can’t be sincerely wrong.

One of our seminary students who was examined last week said that she believed that the Bible teaches that Jesus’ Birth was a Virgin Birth – that Jesus was conceived without male human participation.  But, she said, as far as the meaning of the text, it didn’t matter if Mary was a virgin or if she slept around.  She was sincerely wrong.

We must know what the Bible teaches and sincerely believe it when we draw near to God.  But that is not all we ought to have in drawing near to God:

“with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”

Sadly, this is not a proof for infant baptism.  What the author of Hebrews is saying is that our hearts – our consciences – our internal self – that which remains who we are, even if our body is damaged – that part of us is to be sanctified.  Our heart and soul and mind are to be sanctified as we come to draw near to God. 

“and our bodies washed with pure water.”

But, that is not all, our bodies are also to be sanctified – not through a literal washing with water, but in taking the symbolism of Judaic baptism, which was a baptism for repentance – initially for the Gentiles who were becoming Jews, but, as John the Baptist made clear, was for all people, even the Jews, who recognized their need of forgiveness through the Promised Savior – sanctifying our bodies as we come to draw near to God.

We are gathered for worship this morning – we are gathered near to God – in the holy places.  Are you sanctified – holy – in your mind and soul and heart?  Are you sanctified – holy – in your body?  Are we – in every part of our being – holy, before God?  No, but yes.  Peter wrote:

“Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

“To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

“May grace and peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:1-2, ESV).

We are not yet holy in body, soul, mind, and heart – we still sin – we are imperfect.  Yet, in Christ, and through His Blood, we are – in Him – not only righteous – but holy in body, soul, mind, and heart.  We are striving towards holiness now as the people that God has saved, and God sees what will be – that we are the holy people of God.  We ought to strive towards holiness in all things, but, before the Face of God, we are holy through the Blood of Jesus – so we can draw near to God in the holy places through Jesus, believing what the Bible actually says, in all sincerity, being holy in body, mind, soul, and heart.

If we believe that – though we come boldly, confidently, and assuredly into the holy places, we will also come humbly, recognizing that we are still sinners – we are not what we are called to be, yet, through the Grace of Jesus, we are received through Him as what we ought to be now – and through the Work of God the Holy Spirit in us, we are truly becoming what we are called to be.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”

Therefore – let us hold fast – tightly to the confession of our hope without wavering.  What is our confession?   God came to earth in the person of Jesus, lived a perfect life under God’s Law, died for the sins of everyone who would ever believe, and physically rose from the dead and ascended back to His throne.  We are to believe all that God has said, but, in short, we are to believe this Gospel.  And we are to hold on to it without wavering.

Why?  Because God is faithful!  The reason for our holding on to the Gospel is that we know God does not change – He cannot change – He is perfect and holy – and since God has clearly stated One Way to be right with Him and carried out every aspect of our becoming right with Him – we have no reason to doubt and every reason to trust.  No matter what failing and corruption we see in ourselves or in the world, God has promised resurrection and restoration and life eternal – and He is faithful.  So hold on and don’t waver.  All will be as God has promised – for you and me and all of Creation.

As Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:9, ESV).

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,”

Therefore – let us – find ways to stir each other up to love and good works. 

The word “love” that the author uses is “agape.”  That is, a conscious, giving love.  “Agape” is not a love that is based on anything you did for me or anything you will do for me, and it does not stop if you do something to me or someone else that I don’t like.  This is a love that – since we are brothers and sisters in Christ – continues to love each other because of Christ.  It is a love that looks out for one another – encouraging each other in what is good and true and right, and guiding each other away from what is wrong and false and dangerous and sinful.

This is a love which can look at a person you would not care to hang out with if you were not a Christian, but since the both of you are Christians, you can sincerely encourage that person – in love – in using his or her gifts in the Church.  This is a love which can look at a person engaging in sin and lovingly take them aside as brother or sister and gently help him or her to see that what they are doing is sin and that they need to stop.

You might be a very laid back, slobby kind of person and someone else might be a very prim and proper type of person – and out in the world, you might not have had anything to do with one another – but you notice that she has a great voice, so you go up to her in love and tell her and encourage her to use it in the church.

You might be someone who notices another Christian in the supermarket, and he is “sampling” from the produce section, and even opening bags to try different foods.  So, in love – probably not in the middle of the store – you should explain your concern for what he is doing and how it is stealing – a sin – and encourage him to stop.

And so forth.

“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,”

R. C. Sproul asked in one of his video series if there is a command in the Bible to attend worship.  Those in the audience said “no.”  And then R. C. pointed them to this verse:  “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another,”

God says we are all to regularly assemble together for worship.  Why does God have to say that?  Because some people thought – even in the first century – that they had met their obligation to God if they stay home and watch or listen to a worship service on TV or radio or the Internet.  I listen to sermons on CD and on the Internet – there are some good things out there – and there is a lot of junk – but it cannot take the place of being in worship with other Christians.  We must join together for fellowship – to sit under the reading and preaching of the Word together, to prayer together, to sing together, to receive the sacraments together, and to receive discipline together.  We are the body of Christ – not the bodies of Christ.  It is not possible to be a Christian alone.

Luke records the actions of the early Church:

 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42, ESV).  They gathered together for worship.

Gathering together for worship is not an option for Christians – there are times when we cannot get to worship, when we are ill, in severe weather, if we are homebound, but normally, every Christian should be in worship regularly.  It is when we gather together and receive the Grace given by God in worship that we grow.

Where are the Christians?

What impression does it make if we tell our friends and neighbors that we are Christians and we gather for worship on Christmas and Easter?  How well shall we grow if we are fed twice a year?

The word “encouraging” in this verse indicates congregational activities, as well as worship – that our being together in worship and in other activities in the church is our food.  It also indicates the attitude we are to have about each other – in addition to what we have already seen:

We ought not to set ourselves above each other.  We ought not to think that we don’t need each other.  We ought not to be in contempt of each other because of our sins.  We ought not to envy each other.  We ought to receive each other in love.  We ought to cultivate unity – though not to the neglect of doctrine.  We ought to encourage each other in doing what is good and right.  We ought to strive to lead each other in the truth.  We ought to help restore each other after we have fallen into sin.    And so forth.

Bringing a bunch of different people together and telling them to love and encourage each other is not easy, but it is what we are called to.  For the sake of Christ, we are to help each other be the best we can be for Christ and His Church.

Are we willing to love each other like that for the sake of Him Who has made the Way through His Flesh and by His Blood that we would be made holy by God and welcomed into the Presence of God?  Are we willing to really commit to joining together for worship and joining in other times we gather as the church for the sake of the One Who is always faithful?

Our text ends this morning with a motivation to be quickly at these things:  “and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  The only question is what day the author of Hebrews is writing about.  The commentators are split:  some say that he is referring to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. – remember we have seen that the author of Hebrews says that animals are still being sacrificed, so the letter must have been written before 70 A.D.  So, the author of Hebrews could be saying, “and all the more as you see the end of the Sacrificial System coming through the destruction of the Temple drawing near” – which will increase the persecution of Christians.  Others say that the author of Hebrews is referring to the return of Jesus, “and all the more as you send the end of this age coming with the return of Jesus drawing near” – after which comes the judgment.

Whichever the author of Hebrews intended, the fact of the matter is we don’t have time to play games in church.  We need to know what we believe and stand for it, and love and help our fellow Christians in the Truth, for the time has come, as Paul warned Timothy, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4, ESV).

Don’t neglect joining together for worship.  Come boldly through Jesus and His Gospel, Who is making you holy.  And let us cling to our confession and the One Who is faithful, lovingly joining together for the good.

Let us pray:

Lord, You have given us an unparalleled privilege to come into Your Very Presence to worship You and live – yet, we have often thought it a small thing.  Help us to see and believe passionately in the Work of Christ Who makes us one body and one people.  Help us to seek after holiness in all ways, as You bring us to holiness.  And help us to truly love each other, for the good of every Christian, and to the witness of Your Gospel through our good works – that those who see us will know there is a God and Savior in Irvington.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.