CCCAG January 22nd, 2017
Scripture: Hebrews 10:19-25
I want to take a journey through time- We are going to go back in time 3300 years-it’s about 1300 BC and the largest worship gathering ever is about to take place. 6 Million people have met in the desert to worship God. They are camped near a mountain in the southern part of what is today the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt. They strain to listen to the voice of their leader as he tells them how they should prepare for the first worship service of their fledging nation’s history-
Wash your clothes- put on your best robes- we are going to meet our God!
Abstain from intimacy- You need to be focused on worship
Do not draw too close to the mountain- God Himself is going to come down.
The people did as Moses commanded- they washed their clothes, put on their finest robes. Husband and wife slept in separate beds, and they stayed within the camp as ordered.
They all gathered for church, and suddenly the mountain burned with fire, loud noise proclaimed the greatness of the God they came to worship. The sight was so incredible that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear”.
That would be an incredible sight- to see the mountain filled with fire and the angelic choir singing as God descends.
Israel with all of these incredible experiences, and in all of the favor it had with God never knew Him as we do. They knew God as judge, as creator, as almighty, and as Holy. They never knew Him as Father. They knew what it was to fear God, but never really understood God’s love.
That is because God’s love, mercy, and grace are the most frequent targets of the enemy. The enemy wants God portrayed in our minds as unloving, as distant, and a vengeful malevolent dictator that only wants to make our lives miserable.
But that is not the God we serve.
Today we are going to explore this topic, and tie it into the importance of frequently coming together with your church family to worship.
We are going to study Heb 10:19-25
Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
How do we draw near to God, and why is it important to do so in community versus doing it Lone Ranger style.
Today we are going to start by looking at the way the Old Testament believer in God worshipped
I. The Former Way
People would gather several time a year for various feasts and ceremonies and celebrations that served to remind them of God’s goodness and faithfulness to them and their ancestors.
Many of these were very festive occasions- celebrations and party’s that everyone would look forward to- like Rosh Hashanah which was their New Years Eve.
There were also very solemn occasions, and one of these was called the “Day of Atonement”. This was a day of fasting and prayer, repentance and mourning over the sins of the individual, their families, and the nation.
It was serious business- so serious in fact that anyone who missed this event was exiled from their community and church.
On that day the high priest would take two special animals- both of them bred from the finest of the herds without spot or blemish- perfect in every way. One of the animals he would lay his hands on and ceremonially transfer the sins of the whole community to that animal. That animal was then taken outside the city into the wilderness and driven out from the nation.
The other animal was slaughtered and it’s blood carried through the temple to the Most Holy Place. Something very interesting happened here-
There is a very thick and heavy curtain there that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. The Holy Place is about the size of this room- it contains the table of show-bread, the candlestick, and the altar of incense. The curtain is hanging right in front of where I am standing- separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place. Right where I’m standing would be the Ark of the Covenant, with the Mercy seat resting on top of it.
The curtain separating the two has no seams, no openings and is secured on all sides like a tapestry inside of a frame. According to rabbinical tradition, it is 4 inches thick and weighs hundreds of pounds. Cherubim are sewn into it, representing the throne room of heaven being guarded by such beings. This is a solid wall of cloth.
This curtain, also known as the veil in some bible translations, represented the presence of sin that separated humanity from a Holy God.
Once a year, the high priest would bring the blood of the sacrifice to the edge of this wall- but how did he get in- it’s fastened on all sides, and he is alone with his hands full so it’s not like he nor a team of priest could unfasten some of the ties in a corner to let him through.
There is only one explanation- he supernaturally passes through this wall. The high priest had to take the blood, pass through the veil representing sin, and enter the very presence of God and apply the blood of the sacrifice to the mercy seat that covered the ark containing the law.
Blood making that separating barrier of sin dissolve, and then was placed on something mercy for that covered the law that condemned.
A lot of symbolism that points back to our verse this morning-
Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Jesus is fulfilled all of that for us. He is our new and living way.
“Jesus paid it all, all to HIM I owe. Sin had left it’s crimson stain, but HE washed it white as snow!”
His blood touched sin and obliterated it. It touched the mercy seat and bought forgiveness, now and forever for those who believe and follow HIM. The law which once stood in condemnation for us was fulfilled and canceled, so that we would know the freedom that God has always wanted us to live in.
Jesus obliterated the veil separating God and humanity
Jesus is our new and living way- that is what this church family comes together to celebrate every Sunday morning and Wednesday night. That is why we are told to celebrate this in community. We are the body of Christ, and to serve and worship God appropriately we need to assemble together often to worship this Savior who did so much to set us free.
The first part of the scripture we read dealt with the process that was needed for us to come together to worship. Let’s now look at what that worship and lifestyle looks like and how it benefits both God and us by look at what it means to abide in the presence of God.
II. Abiding in the presence-
In order to abide in God’s presence, this scripture tells us to do a few things.
A. Hold Fast
The author of Hebrews tells us what we need to hold fast to-
There were once two identical twins. They were alike in every way but one. One was a hope-filled optimist who only ever saw the bright side of life. The other was a dark pessimist, who only ever saw the down side in every situation.
The parents were so worried about the extremes of optimism and pessimism in their boys they took them to the Doctor. He suggested a plan. “On their next birthday give the pessimist a shiny new bike, but give the optimist only a pile of manure.”
It seemed a fairly extreme thing to do. After all the parents had always treated heir boys equally. But in this instance they decided to try to Doctor’s advice. So when the twins birthday came round they gave the pessimist the most expensive, top of the range, racing bike a child has ever owned. When he saw the bike his first words were, “I’ll probably crash and break my leg.”
To the optimist they gave a carefully wrapped box of manure. He opened it, looked puzzled for a moment, then ran outside screaming, “You can’t fool me! Where there’s this much manure, there’s just gotta be a pony around here somewhere!”
Life has a tendency at times to hand us a box of manure. Even the most positive thinking among us can get depressed, or overwhelmed, or tired when the waves of trouble smack you in the face one too many time.
But that is what your family of faith is for. To take you in our arms, to help you raise your vision up from this earth and lock your eyes on the savior once again.
Not only do we do this for you- but you are here to do it for us. You will never grow in hope if you spend your Sunday’s and Wednesday’s apart from your church family. God has placed you here among us for such a time as this, and we desperately need the entire body present for it to function correctly.
If we commit to the assembling of ourselves, we will find a second attribute forming that helps us hold fast to God and that is-
Faithfulness to God will increase.
Life is full of both successes and failures. One of the areas in life that plagues a devote Christian the most is our faithfulness to God.
All of us have experienced seasons where we seem to be walking in the clouds with God- the sun is shining, the breeze is warm, the ground is dry, the smell of the flowers and green grass is everywhere.
Then there are the other times- times where life has piled on worries, sin, and distraction and it seems that God is a distant memory, and our souls cry out for our father but HE doesn’t answer and seems distant.
An example of perseverance and faithfulness- Thomas Edison took years and over 1000 tries to make the light bulb. When a reporter asked him how he was able to continue to work so diligently to invent something never before seen in the world after a decade of failure after failure, Thomas Edison replied- “We never failed in those years. WE simply discovered 999 ways not to build a light bulb”.
Sometimes we need those types of people around us. People that again will lift up our eyes off of the circumstance, gently speak truth and hope into your lives, get our focus back where it belongs- on God Himself!
Some of the practical ways this scripture tell us to do that is-
B. Consider One Another
And to Provoke one another
In Love- show apage love to those around us. Agape is the Greek word for an abiding God like love that can only be seen in those who have yielded their hearts to Jesus and have that promised Holy Spirit living within them.
Another way we provoke one another is to
To Serve- about 17 years ago I took a break from being a street paramedic to take a job helping to manage a medical call center that had the capability to have 70 call takers on the phones at any given time. Right after I was hired, the director that hired me was fired and Dave Buckley took her place. Dave was a student of leadership and management and I learned a lot from him. One of the things that he was always drilling into us is that if people are busy with useful and fulfilling work, they won’t have time to sit around and come up with complaints. Dave developed something called “LCV” or low call volume. We supervisors would watch the computers and when we’d see a trend toward not as many calls coming in, we would offer those who had been there the longest the chance to go home early. The reason is to keep the rest of the people busy, so that their attitudes would remain positive and it would help the moral of the call center.
God created you and I to work. There is something about meaningful work that really drives people. There is also something about wasted time that irritates people toward negativity.
Part of our fulfillment as human beings is to find that one thing we love to do, and do it with all of our hearts. My grandfather once told me that when you find what you love to do, you will never actually work a day in your life.
When we find ways to serve in the body of Christ that fulfill us-it’s hard to contain that person’s excitement, and that excitement is contagious for the rest of us.
That’s why when we learn to serve, Good Works come. The pastor doesn’t have to beg you on Sunday morning for help- once we find our passion in life, we will want to do it- it’s fun, it’s fulfilling, and it yields results that echo into eternity and change lives.
When we are busy people, doing the work God has called us and equipped us to do, Unity comes.
Most people want the presence of God in our church and in our lives.
Nothing attracts the presence of God like unity.
Why? God’s nature is unity in trinity
God wants the same type of unity to exist between us here on earth with the people that are gathered together in HIS name that exists in heaven in the trinity
Listen to what God thinks about unity- (Psalm 133)
1 How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe.
What is being described her is the anointing of God flowing through an individual or a people- God’s favor resting upon them.
This is what happens when we abide in HIS presence, when we hold fast to Hope and to Faithfulness to God, when we consider one and other and provoke each other to love, to serve, to be unified.
All of this WILL provoke a response in heaven.
Finally let’s look at the reward of frequently coming together as a church family
III. Why do we assemble?
A. Jesus is in our midst when we assemble
Jesus Himself said- Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them. Jesus is here with us today, and if Jesus is here, He promises to attract those who need salvation.
There is Spiritual power in numbers.
A scriptural principle found in the bible- one can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flee. You’re active presence in worship, in serving, and in prayer when we meet together is like carpet bombing the forces of hell that are plaguing this community, our families, and our friends.
Never, ever think that Sunday church attendance means nothing- it is everything to help win this area to Christ
Because- You are placed in this body for such a time as this. You being here is part of the divine plan for your life.
You are here to at this time, to grow, to mature, and to help grow others. (as iron sharpens iron)
That is why Jesus Himself instituted the church- it’s not just for you- it’s for HIM.
Let me illustrate this a little bit more-
The Gospels records Jesus talking to His disciples and out of the blue Jesus asks them, “Who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
Let me personalize this for us-
Pick out a few people from the crowd- “(Name) Because of your faith in Jesus, you are the rock He will build His church on”
Instead of saying, “I can worship God anywhere and I don’t need the church”, ask yourself what God wants, because it’s clear from the scriptures- HE wants you here.
We are the body of Christ. There is no “I” in body, there is no “I” in church, there is no “I” in heaven. There is only Christ, and the I in Christ is in the middle of a group of letters- and you are that group of letters. Jesus can only be perfected in us and HIS mission fulfilled on this earth as we are worshipping and living our lives together.
Musicians/prayer “Be Glorified”
Charge- Close your eyes and absorb this truth from later in the book of Hebrews
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, 20 because they could not bear what was commanded: “If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned to death.” The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, “I am trembling with fear.”
But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” The words “once more” indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, 29 for our “God is a consuming fire.”