(A Series on Hebrews)
Westgate Chapel 11/12/89a.m. Hebrews 9:1-14
PROPOSITION: In "this time" Man is trying desperately to find meaning and purpose in life, and freedom from guilt, by the works of his own hand, but finds himself only half alive outside of the only true Life available through the blood sacrifice of the Lamb of God.
- WESTGATE CHAPEL is a part of a fellowship of churches called the Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, whose annual convention is held every year in the spring.
- TO allow time for worship, fellowship and the Word at these conventions, the business if the fellowship is conducted at a fall meeting called Fellowship Concerns Committee.
- WELL, Pastor Barry and I participated at this meeting, held this week in Chicago......and since we were going to be in that windy city, we left a day early so that we could meet with the staff and visit the mid-week service of a church called Willow Creek Community.
- WILLOW Creek is an exciting place to be.
- THEY live by the philosophy that since God loves the sinner, they should too, and they concentrate a great deal of their energies on reaching every unchurched unbeliever in their area.
- THE strategy they have established the church on is to design the Sunday Services exclusively with the unbelever in mind, removing anything that the unbeliever would not understand, or that would stumble him/her.
- SO the service that is just for believers, for worship, for teaching, for "family matters" in the body is Wednesday night......and Pastor Barry and I joined with them last Wednesday night as 4,500 believers from that church gathered for worship (They have had to add a Thursday night service for another 2,000 who could not fit into their facility on Wednesdays).
- WE learned a lot from our afternoon meeting with the staff at Willow Creek, concerning what they have discovered about the unchurched in their area. They have made it their business to find out everything they can about what the unchurched are thinking, what they believe, their hopes, their dreams, their fears.
- IN a door-to-door survey that took 15-20 people about a month, going out every day, they asked unchurched people why they were not attending a church.
- THE responses came in five basic areas.
* The church always asked for money.
* Church was boring.
* Church was predictable.
* Church was irrelavant.
* The sermons were negative.
- SO, by far, the majority of the people of this land are staying at home on Sundays or Wednesday nights.
- IN fact, in our area, here in the Northwest, the percentage of people staying at home is about 97%.
- HOW are these people getting by?
- THE French philosopher, Pascal, said that man was created with a God-shaped vacuum on the inside.....a vacuum that must be filled with something.
- MAN was designed to be a worshiper. It is never a matter of whether or not we will worship, it is simply a matter of what.
- SO, this 97% of the population of the Northwest, that is not attending any church this morning, is involved in some sort of worship.
- THE question is, has their worship produced real Life within them.......within you?
- OR are they involved in worship is dead works and will only lead to death....in this life, but, more critically, in the life to come?
- THIS subject is the very heart of Hebrews 9:1-14.
- THERE was a form of worship that the Jews had learned, that had to do with the Old Testament Tabernacle, and rituals and ceremonies.......that were beneficial for a season, for a time, but were not helping any more.
- THESE forms of worship had helped for a season. There was a time when they had done some good. But not any more.
- HEBREWS 9:14 says that now they were just works that lead to death.
- THEY were unable to produce Life.
- OUR world is full of people who have found a form of worship that has produced a measure of life....for a season.....but now they are in a walking death.
ii. half alive
- IT is safe to assume that approximately 97% of the Northwest is only half alive, worshipping at an altar of their choosing that no longer produces Life for them.
- THEY are woshipping at an earthly tabernacle......i.e. in the things of this life that are all passing away and were never intended to fully satisfy the needs of the human heart.
- HEBREWS 9:1 says,
"Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary."
- IT was an earth-bound sanctuary.
- THAT is the whole problem. It is a solution to the eternal need of the heart of man that we are trying to fill with earth-bound solutions. No wonder so few people are really happy, really alive.
- VERSES 1-8 describe what this earth-bound tabernacle was like, and how the people worshipped there.....with the lampstand in the Holy Place, and the table of shew bread, and the altar of incense for worship, and the ark of the covenant for forgiveness of sins.
- AND then verse 9 says,
"This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper."
- IN other words, an earth-bound system of worship does not help. It leaves you only half alive.
- SINCE we do not have an Old Testament tabernacle to worry about in 1989, where is it that men and women are going to worship today......that is just leaving them half alive?
- WHERE are the 97% of the Northwest worshipping? What is the earth-bound system of worship that is not really helping them at all?
- WHAT is it that is not able to clear the conscience, or offer relief from the pain, or hope for the future?
- VERSE 2 says that there is a lamp stand offering light, but it is only a light that illuminates one room, and only for a season.
* We live in a world where knowledge is multiplying faster than in any other age in history.
* My father and mother rode to school on horseback. The first car that my Dad remembers his family having was a 1911 Dodgemobile....with a simple little four cylinder motor and brakes on the rear wheels only. On a long hill the brakes would overheat and you would have no brakes at all.
* Today, only 78 years later, we are walking on the moon, and driving cars with turbo's. The new street legal Nissan 300 ZX has a motor that can produce 300 horse power.
* We can split the atom, cure some forms of cancer, discover super-conductivity, fix clogged arteries, and live with artificial teflon hearts......but with all of our earth-bound knowledge today we cannot satisfy the real needs of Man.
* It is a light that only illuminates for a season.
- THE tabernacle had a table with bread on it, but it was a bread that only satisfied for a season, grew stale with age and had to be thrown out.
* There is a food that this world offers, prepared to suit any appetite.
* Some find this food in their career. And they eat at the table 70-80 hours a week. And many important things get neglected while they eat here, but they feel, at least at the moment, that they are being satisfied.
* Some find their food in the political arena, getting involved in campaigns and causes, saving whales, protecting the seals at Ballard locks, or guarding women's rights to murder innocent babies.
* Others find their food by being good, moral people.....genuinely doing good wherever they can.....raising money for United Way, working with the PTA.
- VERSE 3 tells us about the altar of incense, where the priests stopped to wave the incense in worship before the Lord. But it was a ceremony of worship that had become mechanical and had lost its real significance.
* Thousands of people today, rght here in the Northwest, are worshipping at altars that have long lost their significance.
* They gather, even today, in arena's, stadiums, and in front of TV to worship at the altar of sports.....hoping that a win will help heal the losses in their lives......living vicariously with Largent as he crosses the goal line, hoping that they too can cross the line into victory, but they don't even know where it is.
* They worship at the shrine of personal gratification, hoping to find meaning in designer clothes from Nordrstroms, in some luxury car, in a new CD player, in some new sexual conquest or gormet restaurant.
- AND then it comes to finding something that will help the pain and guilt that we all feel from time to time.In Hebrews 9:4&5 it was the ark of the Covenant, where the blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat for forgiveness of sin......but it was only a partial cleansing, even at best.
* There are many ways that the people of our day try to deal with the pain of guilt.....searching for anything that will help, if even for a moment.
* You will find them in the local bars, or quietly drinking away the pain at home. They frequent crack houses or do cocaine at the posh parties with their friends.
* Some volunteer for Easter Seals, or give their money for world relief.
* Some even attend a church, participating in the ceremonies available, hoping that religion will take away the pain they feel on the inside.
* Some try, with all their heart, to live good, upright, moral lives, hoping that this will pay for the guilt they feel.
- AND the tragedy of it all is that for all their trying they only end up half alive.......with restricted access to God......partial cleansing for their sins......and limited pardon for their future.
- HEBREWS 9:9&10 sum up all that I have been saying,
"This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings--external regulations applying until the time of the new order."
iii. fully alive
- WELL then, what is the new order? Let's leave the limited life behind and get to the real thing.
- HEBREWS 9:11 tells us how we can be fully alive, leaving all the partial solutions behind. It says,
"When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation."
- THERE is a solution to the inner cry of mankind that is not of this world. IT is why we end up so frustrated when we try to find Life from the things of this world.
- VERSE 12 says that Jesus went into the presence of the Father with the sin-cleansing blood, not of goats or calves, but the offering of His own life for you and me.
- AND what He did in the presence of the Father was to purchase us back from slavery to sin, with His own blood.
- NOTHING restricted about what Jesus did. He had perfect access into the very presence of the Father, going in as our guarantee, so that we can follow in His name.
* Jesus went in, on our behalf, with our sin offering nearly 2000 years ago, so that we can go in boldly, by is blood today. There is nothing that stops you and me from having complete access into the presence of God right at this moment.
* But there is more than this moment at stake. We will have complete, unrestricted access into the presence of God for eternity. Paul speaks of death and says, in I Corinthians 15, that to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.
- NOTHING partial about this sacrifice. Verse 12 says that HE did it "once for all".....having obtained eternal redemption for us.
- NOTHING limited about the work He does on the inside of all who come to Him in faith. Verse 14 says,
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"
- OUR consciences are cleansed. We are delivered from works that lead to death. Our lives empowered to serve a living God.
- WE are not just half alive. We are fully alive in His presence.......ready to serve a livig God.
- IF you are in the earthly tabernacle this morning, trying to find hope and life in the things of this life, you are only half alive.
- GOD'S Word tells us that there is so much more. You can be fully alive through faith and trust in Jesus Christ.
- YOU can turn away from the earth-bound remedies, and turn to Jesus who can fully satisfy.
- COME to Life.
THERE'S NO ONE LIKE JESUS