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Popping Your Balloons

Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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You ever play that game where you try to keep a balloon up in the air? I think our life is sometimes like this. You’ve got all these different balloons and you’re trying to keep them all up in the air. List them.
Now here is the deal with each of these. Each time one of these drops somebody is hurt and or you experience guilt. And you know what—it’s not just false guilt. It’s actual guilt…now we might add some balloons that shouldn’t be there, we might get our priorities wrong as well. But don’t hear me wrong these do matter. But what happens when we attach our identity to these things?
What happens when we drop and our identity is tied to these things? I’m a great family man…I’m keeping this thing up in the air go me. But then I’ve got something else screaming out for my attention…I’ve got to keep that up too because I don’t just want to be a great dad or husband…I want to be a good friend…a good pastor…wait, I haven’t read my Bible.
This is exhausting.
My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.
One solution—>I’m gonna just do one thing really well. But you end up neglecting so many things.
Other solution—> I’m gonna try to juggle these and keep them up in the air and just do the best I can and drink a whole bunch of energy drinks.
But maybe there is another solution.
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Now you might be wondering how in the world is what I just said with these balloons tied to what you read in this text? That’s my job this morning to show you that.
Ultimately here is what I wan to show you. The biblical solution to this problem is that the good news of Jesus blows up the whole game. But I think Jerry Bridges is correct in his book Transforming Grace:
My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.
So what I want to show you from is that Jesus calls us to something much different than trying to keep these balloons up in the air. He calls us to place our identity elsewhere.
You see as we’ve been seeing in the book of Hebrews the whole thing is about access to God and having a cleared conscience. It’s all about us getting back to the Garden of Eden—that blessed existence where we are able to draw near to God without fear, where we have unfettered access to His presence and where our conscience is cleared and our guilt is taken away.
The balloons are an attempt to do that. If I can keep all these up then maybe I’ll get back. Maybe I’ll get access. Maybe I’ll have a clear conscience. Maybe I’ll feel good about myself.
But the Scriptures everywhere show us that it doesn’t work. Humanity cannot get itself back into the Garden. Thankfully the story of the Bible doesn’t end here. God graciously, in the OT, provided a shadow that was pointing to God’s big solution. But here is what the author of Hebrews is showing us—this is exhausting if this is your answer. It’s meant to be a pointer. And when the substance is here you don’t give your life to keeping up with the shadow.
v1—The law is but a shadow that’s pointing to the greater thing of Christ and the new covenant. The law was given by God. It’s good in and of itself. The law isn’t the problem. The issue—as we see elsewhere is our own hearts. And what we see here in Hebrews is that it’s only a shadow pointing to something greater. It’s not meant to be the end all. This is why it “can never ‘perfect’ those who draw near. That word perfect means—accomplish it’s designed purpose. In the language of Hebrews it’s “getting back to Eden”.
v2—If the law could clean you all the way up—if this was the point and not the shadow—then they wouldn’t keep having to do stuff over and over again. It wouldn’t be a treadmill. But it is. Note also verse 2 the “consciousness of sins”—that’s where I get earlier that this is a key point for Hebrews—a clean conscience.
v3—the sacrifices and the fact that they kept having to do them is a reminder that it’s not the “perfect”. It’s a reminder that your sin isn’t finally and decisively dealt with.
v4—The blood of bulls and goats couldn’t take away sins. They cannot accurately represent us before God. It’s impossible for them to take away sin.
So here is what God wanted them and us to catch from this text. If the God-ordained shadow “cannot take away sin” then what does this mean for all of our efforts?
Look with me at verse 11. Notice the language that the author of Hebrews uses here.
v11— “stands daily”, “offering repeatedly” “Same sacrifices” The point here—the standing—never complete. Offering repeatedly—same sacrifices—that’s the treadmill. That’s trying to keep the balloons up…it’s a non stop effort. It never ends.
So again—if the God ordained shadow is this treadmill what can we say of our own efforts. They aren’t going to work. They aren’t going to clear your conscience. It’s never going to be enough. They won’t get you back to Eden. And every time a balloon crashes it’s a reminder of this. We can pretend like it doesn’t matter but we know that it does.
So what’s the answer?
Look back at v5-10. Here the author of Hebrews is quoting . He shows how Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of these words of King David . He’s the ultimate King. He has given Christ a “body prepared for me”. What is that? It’s referring to the incarnation. It’s Christmas.
But notice also this talk of “come to do your will, O God”. What is that? It’s that Christ would come and give his life as a ransom for us sinners. He explains this in v8-10.
The key is v9. He does away with the “former” that’s all the sacrifices and such in order to establish the second? What’s the second? It’s “I have come to do your will”. That word is a rich word that all over the NT refers to God’s eternal plan of reconciling sinners to himself through the work of Jesus Christ.
We see this confirmed in v10. Notice the “offering of the body”. Offering means that Jesus gave us life—it wasn’t taken from him. Notice the “body of Christ” that’s what connects us back to . Notice the once for all. It means that he’s popped the balloons. He’s accomplished what we could not. He is what gets us back to Eden. He is what cleanses our conscience. He is what gives us that unfettered access to God. It’s His accomplishments. And it is here that we have our identity.
See the contrast in v11. The sacrificial system couldn’t ever fulfill—couldn’t complete—couldn’t get us back to Eden. So our treadmill certainly won’t either. But now notice the contrast in v12.
“offered for all time” that means he does it once. He doesn’t keep doing it over and over again. That should say something about Catholic mass shouldn’t it? That says something about us thinking we’ve got to keep atoning for things and making up for things and running on that treadmill ourselves.
“a single sacrifice for sins”.
“he sat down”. Done. Finished. Tetelestai. Paid in full.
v13 is quoting . He’s the king. And this is pulling us back to the beginning of Hebrews as well. Christ is the promised one. He’s the prophet, priest, and king that God said would come and rescue us.
Then v14…he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Who are those being sanctified? That’s a fancy way of saying “made holy” but in Hebrews, again it’s talking about returning to the garden. It’s about completion. It’s about reaching that destination. And what this is saying is that Christ has done that for us. Again I turn to Jerry Bridges:
Living by grace instead of by works means you are free from the performance treadmill. It means God has already given you an “A” when you deserved an “F.” He has already given you a full day’s pay even though you may have worked for only one hour. It means you don’t have to perform certain spiritual disciplines to earn God’s approval. Jesus Christ has already done that for you. You are loved and accepted by God through the merit of Jesus, and you are blessed by God through the merit of Jesus. Nothing you ever do will cause Him to love you any more or any less. He loves you strictly by His grace given to you through Jesus.
This is why the author of Hebrews then turns back to . It’s about the New Covenant. Christ accomplished what we could not.
So where do you want to attach your identity? You want it to be in these balloons? Or do you want it to be in the finished work of Jesus Christ on your behalf?
v17-18. Where there is forgiveness of sins there is no longer any offering for sin. Do you know what that means? It means you can rest. There is a fancy theological word that we use to describe this. It’s justification.
What is justification? Justification means being made right with God. It means you are accepted by God. It means you are forgiven by God. It means you have peace with God. It means God is your Father. It means you are in Christ. It means you are clean. But I want you to think about a couple of the implications of this...
Justification is immediate and complete upon conversion. You will never be more justified than you are right now, nor more justified you were at the moment of your conversion. 10 years ago when you trusted Christ or 3 days ago, you are just as justified as you ever will be. You cannot add to it, nor can you delete from it. It is complete. It was immediate. It is not a process and it is not gradual. You are not justified by degrees. It is complete and total at conversion.
No one in history is more justified than you are at present. The weakest believer and the strongest saint are alike equally justified.
But as we close we need to return to those balloons. These things do matter. But they matter differently. My identity isn’t tethered to them. We can get off the performance treadmill and live in grace. Yes our obedience matters but it flows out of what Christ has already accomplished.
They matter differently
This actually allows you to be a non-anxious presence. It makes you a better dad. A better disciple. A better friend. A better missionary. A better employee. Because your identity is tethered to Christ and not all this stuff and so we don’t put on these relationships and such the weight of our identities which they cannot hold. No, that is placed on Christ. And so we follow him.
Is your identity tied to Christ? Or are you on the performance treadmill?
“The bridge of grace will bear your weight, brother. Thousands of big sinners have gone across that bridge, yea, tens of thousands have gone over it. Some have been the chief of sinners and some have come at the very last of their days but the arch has never yielded beneath their weight. I will go with them trusting to the same support. It will bear me over as it has for them.”
But there’s one more point to these balloons. We’ll pick this up in a couple weeks. But I think that part of the reason why you read in v24 “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” is because when you are saved you aren’t saved into an island you are saved into a body. How do you think I’d do in keeping those balloons up in the air if we had a row of people whose identities weren’t tied to whether the balloons dropped or not but they were tied to Christ and as such we are stirring one another on—we are working together to keep the God-ordained balloons up. Friends, this is really what the local church is all about.
Helping us grab hold of Jesus together. Maybe you need that. Joining our fellowship. Baptism connecting you to Christ.
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