Summary: When times are tough, pray in faith, because you are fogiven. Persevere with hope, because God is faithful. And provoke one another to love, because Jesus is coming. These core values of faith, hope, and love will keep the church on track.
Not too long ago, a real estate listing in Dallas had the simple headline: “Converted Church.” In other words, what had once been a church facility is now somebody’s house.
The listing under the heading had this description: “The altar has been adapted for use as a granite and stainless steel themed kitchen, in homage to the cooking gods.” That’s the words they used – “in homage to the cooking gods!” It went on, “The choir loft has been rewired for a home theater.” There was no baptistery, but there was a hot tub – and, among other things, a game room, a music room and an exercise studio. All this for about $2 million! One more thing: the 15,000 square foot church/home has 11 bedrooms. Nice to know people can now sleep comfortably in that church.
John Whiteside, the realtor showing the house, says, “De-sanctified churches are the number-one type of building converted to residential use.” (www.PreachingToday.com)
Sad to say, this has happened to a lot of churches, whether or not they have been converted into residences. They’ve been “de-sanctified” and have simply become comfortable places for people to gather and sometimes sleep. These are churches that have lost their way, because they forgot what they were all about.
This morning, as we look into a new year, I want us to remember what we’re all about as a church, so the same thing doesn’t happen to us. This and the next four Sunday’s, we’re going look at the church’s core values which God put into place when He first established it in the 1st Century. We’re going explore the fundamental commitments that were there from the beginning so we don’t forget what we’re all about and lose our way.
And we’re going to start in the book of Hebrews, where the author addresses a church that was about to lose its way. The believers in that church were experiencing heavy persecution. Many had lost their jobs because of their faith in Christ. Many had been disowned by their family and friends, and they were criticized and ridiculed. As a result, some began to wonder if following Christ was worth it, and they were ready to leave the church and go back to a way of life that seemed a whole lot less stressful. It is to these people that the book of Hebrews was written to remind them of what they had in Christ, and then to encourage them not to give up their core values as believers in Christ.
It’s an important message especially for us today who still experience criticism and ridicule for the stands we take as followers of Christ. So if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to the book of Hebrews, Hebrews 10, Hebrews 10, where we come to the essence of this book, a paragraph that summarizes the entire book in just a few short sentences.
Hebrews 10:19-20 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God... (NIV)
Jesus has opened up a way for us to come into the very presence of God Himself. Under the old way, only one man, once a year, could enter into the presence of God. That man was the High Priest, who on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) would wash himself completely then enter the holiest of holy places in the Temple. There he met with God behind a thick veil, beyond which nobody else could go. Then Jesus died on the cross, and that veil was ripped in two – from top to bottom. His broken body and shed blood opened a way for all of us at any time to enter into the very presence of God Himself.
That’s what Hebrews 8 to 10 are all about, summarized here in vs.19-20. Jesus has provided direct access to God for every believer. He is mediator of a better covenant, a better way. More than that, He is a better high priest.
Hebrews 10:21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God... (NIV)
That’s what Hebrews 1 to 7 is all about. Jesus is God Himself – who became like us, who understands what its like to struggle, & who died for us once and for all. As such, He is our high priest, interceding and praying for us.
When somebody says to you, “I’m praying for you,” isn’t that a huge encouragement? I know that Sandy and I are very encouraged when people say to us, “We’re praying for you.” That means so much to us, and many times it has been just the thing to keep us going.