Becoming Perfectly Complete
I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born from the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried, descended into hell,
on the third day rose again from the dead,
ascended to heaven, sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty,
thence He will come to judge the living and the dead;
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the remission of sins,
the resurrection of the flesh,
and eternal life.
C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Great Divorce” tells the story of a group of people in the afterlife who have been consigned to hell, given the chance to take an excursion to heaven. There is just one problem. The people from hell find the environment in heaven difficult to endure. It’s just too solid. The grass is like actual blades cutting into their feet. Compared to their surroundings, they are insubstantial shadows, incomplete human beings. “One had a feeling that they might fall to pieces at any moment...” In the light of heaven, “they were transparent—fully transparent when they stood between me and it, smudgy and imperfectly opaque when they stood in the shadow of some tree…I noticed that the grass did not bend under their feet: even the dew drops were not disturbed.” It’s the perfect picture of the human condition, right out of our present book of the Bible, Hebrews.
Hebrews tells us that we have been created to share the glory of God. We were created in His image to share in His work of spreading shalom, justice, righteousness, ruling over the earth, walking with God in total obedience to His will, walking in His ways, according to His words. But we have all fallen into sin and shame. We have lost the substance of our original glory. How can we be made complete again? Last week’s passage brought up the word we’ve been waiting for. In 9:9, the writer tells us that the earthly religion of worship in a temple made with human hands cannot “perfect” the conscience of the worshipper. The word for perfect is the same as complete, make whole, bring to completion. If religion fails to make us whole, to perfect us, to make us complete, what can?
The good news of Hebrews is that our glory can only be restored in Jesus. He is the only complete human being. Here in chapter 10 of Hebrews, we hear from two reliable witnesses that where religion has failed to perfect us, Jesus succeeds. And how does He do it? What does the process look like? We’ll see today that Jesus makes us complete as we draw near, hold fast, and consider one another.
10:1 - the law was a shadow of something better to come. The better thing to come was a Messiah who would purify us on the deeper level of conscience, so that we desire to do God’s will, to love God and love their neighbor perfectly.
Hebrews 10:1-17 - As humans, we get a lot of things backwards and upside down. Religion is no different. These things may seem more real than internal, unseen realities. As it turns out, the internal and unseen things are more real than the things that are seen. The Hebrew religion starts with externals, laws to govern the way Israel was to draw near to God. But it leaves worshippers unchanged internally. “It can never…make perfect those who draw near (v. 1).” If you could keep God’s law perfectly, always doing God’s will in perfect obedience, you would be blameless, pure, complete. You would love God and love your neighbor. But the externals govern behavior, and leave the heart unchanged. The standard is that we would (v. 2)“no longer have any consciousness of sin”. But because no one measured up, the sacrifices continued as “a reminder of sins every year (v. 3).”
The Witness of Messiah: Verses 5-7 quote Psalm 40 (read). Jesus took on a human body and perfectly obeyed God the Father (verse 7, “I have come to do your will, O God”). So, the law as a means to perfection became outdated. As verse 9 says, “He does away with the first (sacrifices according to the law) in order to establish the second (doing God’s will).” Now perfection, completion, comes in Jesus.
In one act, after living a perfect life of love, His final act when Jesus offered His body on the cross as a sacrifice for sin, Jesus was loving God and loving others perfectly, and fulfilled all of God’s law and will for human beings. It was the ultimate demonstration of love for God and love for others. So, as verse 14 says, “By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” His work is done, and “He sat down at the right hand of God (v. 12).”
The Witness of the Holy Spirit: The point is, for those that draw near to God by faith in Jesus, as it says in verses 15-17, the second witness, the Holy Spirit, promises to put God’s laws on our hearts and writes them on our minds, so we desire to do God’s will. God also chooses to remember our sins no more.
Once you receive this truth from these witnesses, one of two things can happen. Either you are sanctified, purified and set apart to a new life, or you continue sinning deliberately. In the second half of our passage, the writer uses essentially one phrase in two opposing ways. In verse 18, he says, “Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any offering for sin.” The work of Jesus is sufficient once and for all. God doesn’t need your offerings for you to be forgiven. But in verse 26, he says, “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectations of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” The phrase, “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,” is essentially the same. Jesus has offered the only sufficient sacrifice for sins. He has put an end to religion as we have known it. His sacrifice sanctifies the one who believes the gospel of the Holy Spirit, and it judges the unbeliever. One is a promise, the other a warning.
The promise is that for those who put our hope in Jesus, God writes His laws on our hearts and minds, and remembers our sins and lawless deeds no more. We have confidence in Jesus’ sacrifice to draw near to God (v. 20) and because Jesus is our high priest (v. 21), three activities should mark our lives (vv. 22-25). These are the means by which Jesus makes us complete.
(10:22) “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”, with clean hearts and baptized bodies. A true heart is one that has been restored to God’s original design for us. Created in His image, doing His will not as obedience to a law, but out of love for God, loving our neighbor, spreading shalom, justice and righteousness. This pure motive is restored to us in Jesus Christ, so that we can draw near to God. This comes before anything. Before we are told to do anything for God we are told to be with God. Trust that God wants you near Him. He has done the work through His Son. You are made complete as a person by drawing near to God. Are you practicing the presence of God, being present to God?
(10:23) “Hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” A confession is something you speak. This is our testimony toward outsiders. What is the confession of hope that we have? Jesus is faithful in every way that we are faithless. Jesus is complete and perfect in every way that we are empty and broken. Jesus is our hope. Our world is incomplete, broken, and imperfect. Jesus has begun the restoration. If He is able to purify my conscience, change my heart’s desires to do God’s will according to His words, He can make anything whole. As a believer, your confession to others of your hope in Jesus will make you more complete. Telling the story of Christ in you, the hope of glory, will make you whole.
If we were to translate verse 24 literally, it would be, “Let us consider one another into provocation/agitation of love and good works.” In other words, let us be considerate of one another in ways that lead us to provoke each other…to love and to do good works. Then the writer makes clear, this can only happen if we are spending time with each other and when we spend time with each other we are encouraging one another. We don’t shame anyone or lay guilt on anyone if they aren’t measuring up in our standards of love and good works. We encourage each other. We provoke each other in good ways.
We are provoked in a lot of ways that aren’t very encouraging. How are we provoked in a positive way? Every time you hear the story of someone doing good work and it inspires you to follow their example, you are provoked, stirred up. Does your life inspire others? Are you living as an example of love and good works? Quite a few of us are provoking and agitating and stirring up others in ways that don’t build up, don’t encourage, don’t promote love and good works. We have too much stirring up to anger, protests, and violence.
Who are the two to ten people you consider on a regular basis to the degree that you meet with them to encourage them in love and doing good? (Triad and Community Group) You cannot be made complete alone. You are a member of the body of Christ, and you are incomplete without the other members. Make a habit of considering others into provoking to love and good works and see how that makes your own life more complete.
Get these three things in order: God, others, one another. draw near to God, seek to know Him and love Him; make your confession - all our hope is in Jesus; consider one another, meet together often so that you can stir one another up in love and good works. These are the pathways to completeness in Christ. The alternative is the warning in verses 26-31...
When we do not believe the message the Holy Spirit has spoken, that we can be forgiven, cleansed, and sanctified to God through Jesus, we are continuing on the path of deliberate sin, and there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins. Jesus is the only one. What awaits you? verse 27, “a fearful expectation of judgment and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” You do not want to stay on the wrong side of God. God loves every one of us, and because He loves us, He hates the sin that keeps us from drawing near to Him. If you remain in your sins, you can expect His judgment. The white hot fire of God’s wrath that purifies the believer in Jesus also consumes the unbeliever in eternal judgment.
You were made for eternal life in the presence of God. But His dwelling place is of a more complete substance than this world. This world, and we who inhabit it, must be made more complete if we can live there. The warning of this passage is that if you continue in your sin, having heard the promise of wholeness through Jesus, you will be consumed in that next world. But the promise stands.
In C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”, it isn’t people who lived good lives that are made whole enough to live in heaven. The only member of the tour from hell to heaven that enters the promised land is the one who agrees to be remade, even if it means letting his earthly desire die, so that He can truly experience the fullness of life God has for him. This happens when he whimpers, “God help me. God help me.” It is those who confess their sin and their need to be remade in the likeness of Jesus, who died to sin and lives to God in perfect completeness.