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Hebrews - Part 9 - Be Amazed

Study of Hebrews  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:24
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Be amazed by the forgiveness and the power of Christ's blood

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Be Amazed Hebrews 9 June 6, 2020 Hebrews is a heavy book, full of important, weighty truths that give us hope when there is no hope, purpose when there is no meaning, and peace when calamity surrounds us. I have a confession to make. I didn't want to give this message today. I guess I've been feeling the weight of the world-pandemic, riots, adjusting to our new reality, figuring out how to run a farm during COVID restrictions, the weight of a busy life with many responsibilities. This sermon was like a mountain that I didn't want to climb. Praise God that He helped me through-it was just what I needed. I hope I can share a few insights today about the 9th chapter of Hebrews, and that like me, you'll be amazed. The author of Hebrews starts chapter 9 with a look at the worship practices of ancient Israel. He talks about the tabernacle, an earthly sanctuary. Let me do a VERY brief, super condensed Debbie-version description of events up to this point. Once upon a time, God created Adam and Eve and put them in a gorgeous garden with no weeds. (That's a very important point for me, a blueberry farmer who spends a lot of time and money trying to get rid of weeds.) Along came a snake, Satan, who tempted the newlyweds to sin-to disobey their heavenly Father. We've had a sin problem ever since. It's a problem because sin broke the relationship between God and man. Adam and Eve got kicked out of the weed-free garden of Eden. Sadly, humanity continued in sin, which is completely destructive, destroying peace and relationships. Sin invaded our human nature like a deadly virus that takes control of us. It's an internal power that affects everyone's humanity, giving birth to evil, selfish behaviors. We are enslaved by sin, as the apostle Paul expressed it so eloquently. As sinful human beings, we've missed the perfection of God, and, as a result we're unable to be in a relationship with God, or as we might say, are unable to remain in his presence because He's perfect and we're not. We are broken creatures. As a broken clay pot might be tossed away, we are fit only for the garbage heap of decay and death, for death is the result of sin. Fast forward to the nation of Israel, stuck in Egypt, where they had been for 430 years. Life was really difficult there, with hard slavery. God heard their prayers and rescued them, leading them out of Egypt and heading for the land he promised, a land of plenty. Unfortunately, the Israelites blew it, and made God so mad that He told them they needed to wander in the desert for 40 years. He instructed his servant Moses to build a tent called a tabernacle, where He would live among them as they wandered. God gave the people a tabernacle and a system of worship, using the blood from animal sacrifices to cover the sins of the people, to open access to him. That tabernacle was set up right in the middle of the camp, as you can see in this diagram. Have you ever felt like God is distant, that He's aloof? Like you're praying and He's not hearing you... like he doesn't even care? That he's not even there? That's not what the scriptures tell us. Here's a lesson from the tabernacle. In Exodus 25:8 God says, And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst. He took up residence in an earthly tent to hang out with his broken, sinful people. That's where he wants to be, and that's where he waits for us today, right in the middle of our messy lives. He gets us. Jesus experienced what it's like to be us because he became one of us. So if we feel like God's distant, maybe it was us who moved. He's still there. He's waiting for us, probably to fall before him humbly, to get on our knees, to cry out to Him with more than just our own wish list, with the desire to know what HE wants, to know His will better. Hebrews 9 is divided into a couple of sections. Verses 1 to 10 talk about the old covenant and ritual worship in the earthly tabernacle. Then verses 11 to 28 cover worship in heaven and Jesus Christ our perfect high priest and mediator of the new covenant. Craig spent a lot of time last week discussing the old and new covenants in detail, and that message is posted on our website. The first 5 verses of Hebrews 9 talk about the furnishings of the tabernacle. Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had the golden altar of incense and the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron's staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. But we cannot discuss these things in detail now. Hebrews 9:1-5 Here's an artist's rendering of the tabernacle, with its large outer court containing the bronze altar where daily sacrifices and burnt offerings were made. There was also a brass laver or wash basin. Everyone was allowed to enter this courtyard. Hebrews 9:1-5 refer to the tent you see in the middle which is divided into 2 sections, the holy place and the most holy place, also referred to as the Holy of Holies If you were a priest and it was your turn to serve, you would be able to enter through the curtain into the Holy Place where you would see the beautiful golden lampstand whose light never went out, the table with 12 loaves of bread, and the golden altar of incense. As a priest on duty you would trim the oil lamps on the golden lampstands, change the bread, and offer incense with prayers on behalf of the people. This happened every day, along with animal sacrifices morning and evening in the main courtyard. The second curtain, also known as the veil, separated the area called the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies. In the Holy of Holies housed the ark of the covenant-a beautiful gold-covered wooden box. Inside were 3 things: the jar of manna-the wonder bread that mysteriously appeared on the ground every morning, reminding them of God's faithful provision; Aaron's staff that budded; and the stone tablets that God wrote the commandments on. The top of the ark was known as the mercy seat, and two cherubim-huge angels with their wings touching were mounted on that, representing God's glory in heaven. Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies, and only once a year. The curtains were symbolic of the sins that separated the people from God. Thankfully, we read that at the moment of Jesus' death, the curtain or veil of separation, then located in the permanent temple, was ripped in two from top to bottom. Through Christ we have complete access to the Father. Nothing is separating us any longer. More about this later. Verses 6-10 discuss the problem with the rituals in the Old Covenant Let's read it in The Living Bible version: When all was ready, the priests went in and out of the first room whenever they wanted to, doing their work. But only the high priest went into the inner room, and then only once a year, all alone, and always with blood that he sprinkled on the mercy seat as an offering to God to cover his own mistakes and sins and the mistakes and sins of all the people. And the Holy Spirit uses all this to point out to us that under the old system the common people could not go into the Holy of Holies as long as the outer room and the entire system it represents were still in use. This has an important lesson for us today. For under the old system, gifts and sacrifices were offered, but these failed to cleanse the hearts of the people who brought them. For the old system dealt only with certain rituals-what foods to eat and drink, rules for washing themselves, and rules about this and that. The people had to keep these rules to tide them over until Christ came with God's new and better way. The NIV translates verse 9 like this: The gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper." The Message uses the words "living parable" to describe the old covenant and its rituals of worship. They were going through the motions but their hearts weren't changed, their consciences weren't freed from the guilt they felt because how could the blood of an animal cover the serious damage that sin does? How could the blood of the animals change their hearts? There was nothing in the Old Testament worship experience-no sacrifice, no gift, no ritualistic washing-that could cleanse your conscience. The animal sacrifices made a temporary covering-the Hebrew word is KOFAR-they made a kofar for sins, but they did not remove the sins. Think of it like this: You have a 4-year-old child who spills his drink on the floor. Then he picks up the nearest rug and covers up the spill with that. Is the mess really gone? No, it's just covered up. That's the way the old covenant was. The sin would be covered by the blood of the animal but it was not removed. The heart that sinned was not changed. The ritual was not going to change anything because that's all it was-ritual. Let's talk a bit about rituals: All of us ritually do things sometimes that we don't even think through. Have you ever come to church and when it comes to singing in worship, or in those moment of silent reflection before we participate in communion your mind is a thousand miles away? I'm sure this happens to all of us. Rather than truly participating in a meaningful experience our mind wanders off.... I wonder if I'll get home in time for my favourite show. I wonder what the score of the hockey game is... I've got a lot of things to do this afternoon... I've got that big meeting tomorrow. I wonder if I could postpone it.... I wonder how long this is going to take... Ritually we sing the words or take the bread and wine of communion before the holy God in heaven who has angels flying all over and calling out Holy, Holy, Holy, smoke and lights and unimaginable glory and we're thinking about what's for lunch? That's ritual. It changes nothing. Ritual is meant to be a reminder that something serious is about to take place, that something incredible needed to happen. That's why Jesus said that whenever we take communion, we need to do it in remembrance of him. Maybe you and I need to stop and shake ourselves a little bit and remember what we're doing. Verses 6 to 10 remind us that 1. Sin is costly. It requires blood, but 2. Animal sacrifices won't cleanse our conscience or change our hearts 3. The old covenant was temporary, the new and better one is coming This is the best news there is, and verses 11 to 28 talk about this new covenant, about the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ. Be prepared to be amazed. The Effects of the Blood of Christ 1 Jesus' blood secures our eternal redemption - IT SAVES US Verse 11-12, ESV But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. Do you get what this means? If you are saved, if you've accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, allowing him to pay the penalty for YOUR sin, you are saved by his blood. Your salvation is predicated by the work of Jesus on the cross by shedding his blood. There was NOTHING you could do to achieve salvation, only in accepting this free gift of amazing grace-undeserved forgiveness-- are you saved. Let's look at these verses in The Message: But when the Messiah arrived, high priest of the superior things of this new covenant, he bypassed the old tent and its trappings in this created world and went straight into heaven's "tent"-the true Holy Place-once and for all. He also bypassed the sacrifices consisting of goat and calf blood, instead using his own blood as the price to set us free once and for all. He doesn't have to keep shedding his blood every time we blow it. He was the perfect sacrifice, and his blood sets us free once and for all time. Yes, not only do we have eternal redemption through his blood, there's something else. Let's look at verses 13-14. Verses 13 & 14 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 2 Not only does Jesus' blood save us, it cleanses our conscience. Maybe you're sitting there thinking of some secrets of your past that still weigh heavy on your conscience. Things you are so embarrassed about, things that you hope no one will ever know. It is estimated that pornography usage has gone up 22% since the pandemic began. That's just one example of a secret someone might struggle with. The guilt is burnt on your memory-I did that, I was involved with this, I said that, I hurt that person. Nice little acts are never going to take the guilt away. Giving a dollar at the checkout for charity or helping seniors with their groceries is wonderful, but those good efforts are not going to clean up our consciences. The scripture here calls them "dead works". Do you know what will? Jesus' blood will cleanse your conscience. That's a powerful truth. You can live in the assurance that there was no debt too big for Jesus. There's no burden He can't carry for you. You can have peace in him, in the victory he won over all sin at the cross. His victory is your victory if you've accepted the gift of grace-undeserved pardon for all your sins. He went to the cross and died for every sin ever committed. Even Gabriel Wortman's sin as he drove around Nova Scotia shooting people and setting fires. Even Hitler's sins. Verses 13-14, The Message If that animal blood and the other rituals of purification were effective in cleaning up certain matters of our religion and behavior, think how much more the blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out. Through the Spirit, Christ offered himself as an unblemished sacrifice, freeing us from all those dead-end efforts to make ourselves respectable, so that we can live all out for God. Here's another thing that Jesus' blood does: The ESV puts verse 14 like this: ...how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 3 Jesus' blood empowers my heart to serve If you're watching this today and thinking, this is all kind of new to me and I'm not really doing anything, you need to realize something. When the blood of Christ has redeemed you, the Holy Spirit moves into your heart and mind and transforms you. The blood of Christ will change everything you do and will also start motivating you to serve. Jesus invites us to participate with him doing the work he has already prepared in advance for us to do (Eph 2:10) May our eyes and hearts be open to the opportunities he's putting right in front of us to serve. Do you see the power here? The blood of Christ saves us, it cleanses our whole lives, inside and out, and empowers us to serve, to live all out for God. Jesus in his new role (v15-17) 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Then the author starts into some legal talk, for you lawyers out there 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. A will is basically a promise that means nothing until a person dies. When they die, it kicks into effect. So what's the promise? Jesus says, You'll live forever if my blood is on you, if in faith you've accepted me as your Savior, trusting in me. You'll have eternal life. The Requirement of the Blood 18-23 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, "This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you." 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. These are powerful words. Blood has always had a very symbolic meaning. Negatively, it can tell us that something's wrong. If my son Brent came running into the house with blood on his face, I knew there was a cut somewhere, that there had been an accident. If you know my daredevil, bike jumping son Brent, you would know that this scenario would play out all too often. The blood I saw told me that something was wrong, broken, not going the way it was supposed to go. We also associate blood with guilt. We look at a leader or someone who makes a decision that greatly impacts the lives of others, and we might say "Their blood is on your hands." We associate that with guilt. Blood can also leave stains that don't want to come out. The blood stains are reminders. Blood can also be a very positive thing. People can donate their blood to save the lives of others. The cool thing here is that God doesn't demand more blood, He offers his. It's more than enough Is all this talk about blood grossing you out? Perhaps you'd rather talk about the love of God, or heaven. "If God is God, couldn't he just forgive? Does there have to be blood?" Have you ever heard of Dietrich Bonhoffer? He was a German Lutheran pastor. When Hitler rose to power in Germany, Bonhoffer and a number of other pastors opposed him, and they were thrown in concentration camps. Bonhoffer ended up in Auschwitz, which Craig and I visited in Poland. One of the last things Hitler did before he took his own life was to make sure that Bonhoffer died. Bonhoffer, while imprisoned at Auschwitz, wrote the following: "Thus the call to follow Christ always means a call to share the work of forgiving men their sins. Forgiveness is Christlike suffering which it is the Christian's duty to bear." All forgiveness includes suffering. If you've ever had something evil or vile done to you, you'll understand what he means. Some will say "I've forgiven others and I haven't suffered." Well then it wasn't a big deal to begin with. When it's a big deal it costs. Forgiveness on this level costs. When God chose to forgive, what did he do? He bled and died. Jesus shed his blood. He laid down his life for you. He paid your debt in full. The completeness of the blood His blood is enough v23-28 23 Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. 25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. Jesus did not come into the world to bring violence; he came to restore it. He came to give HIS blood. He came to die FOR you. He came to solve the problem of SIN. What human religious figure in all of history can claim anything like that? Think back on all those religious observances that we mentioned, and things that "religion" is now associated with: We talked about rituals, washings, gifts, sacrifices... all those duties in the Old Covenant system. Then in more contemporary terms we have good works, gifts, kindness, tolerance, compassion, love. They're all helpful things, but they will not complete in you what needs to happen, and that is the cleansing of your conscience, the changing of your heart. That only happens by blood. Jesus's blood. Do you know what we tend to do? We go to church, we listen to a message online and we hear "Jesus loves you so much that he died for you." Do you know what we do, what I do inherently? We say in our heads, "Thank you very much, I know that." No, no, no. I want you to understand something. He died for you. "I heard that. I've heard that since I was like 4. I've got it. Thank you." Do we really get it? It's like you and a friend are out walking beside a train track and your friend turns to you and says, "You know what? I love you so much that I'd die for you." A train comes along and he jumps in front of it and dies. You're not going to sit there and say, "Wow. He really loved me." No, you'd say, "Why did he do that? I don't get it. He didn't have to jump in front of the train. Why did he do that?" We don't see the need for death there, right? So when a preacher brings up the issue that Jesus died for you, so many of us, even in the church, say "Why did he do that? I'm not that bad." He could die for those people living on the street, or in jail, but I'm a pretty good person. Let's change the scenario a bit. Let's say you and your friend are walking along the tracks but you get to a narrow tunnel that you have to go through. You check the track both ways and then proceed, when out of nowhere a train roars toward you. Your friend shoves you into a small alcove where there's only room for one person. The train runs over him. He sacrifices himself so that you can live. Then you would say, "He really loved me." Because you get it. "I was going to die, but he saved me." Here's the truth. Without Jesus' blood, you are going to die. It's what you deserve. Eternal death. It's what I deserve. We have a sin problem that we cannot fix. Being a good person isn't going to save me. Going to church isn't going to save me. Knowing a bit of the Bible isn't going to save me. Giving all my money away isn't going to save me. There's nothing I CAN DO to save myself. Someone could give away a billion dollars and be the best person in the room but it's not going to affect their eternal status because the only thing that affects your eternal status is the blood of Jesus. He died to save you. He shed his blood to forgive you, and honestly if that doesn't change you, you ought to seriously evaluate whether you know him or not. It's time to be amazed by Jesus, our Savior, our friend. Father, thank you for allowing your Son to come, to suffer, to die on a cross, to shed His blood for me. My sin has a terrible cost. Jesus paid it for me. I don't want to get caught up in ritual. I don't want to live a life like that. I want to know you personally. I want to know the wonder and joy of what you've done for me. I want to remember what it cost. I want to be more thankful and mindful of that. Lord, move inside our hearts. Holy Spirit transform our thoughts, our motives. If there are those listening today who don't feel like they know you, draw them to yourself. Make it real. Help us as sinners to see our desperate need for a Savior. The only answer is you. Thank you!
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