This sermon begins with my entry for the competition for the “worst joke in any sermon in the universe” competition. You know that doctors recommend we consume “five a day”, five portions a day of fruit and vegetables to be healthy and strong. This evening I am offering you all your five portions in just one sermon. Five easy to remember extremely healthy portions all found in just seven verses of Hebrews 10. I am about to bring you five portions of lettuce for you to savour, five practical things we can all do when the going gets tough.
The Letter to the Hebrews is an encouragement to Christians going through tough times. Hang on in there! We have seen just how great Jesus is. We have seen that Jesus has offered himself once for all as the perfect sacrifice for sin. We have seen Jesus is our great high priest interceding for us, greater even than that remarkable timeless King of Righteousness, King of Peace, Priest of God Most High, Melchizedek. We have such a fantastic Saviour! More than able to meet all our needs. So however hard life becomes we should hang on in there, says Hebrews.
But before we hear about the five things we can all do which will help us in times of trouble, the writer gives us EIGHT reasons in just four verses why we should rely on God and not give up.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 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, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Did you spot the eight reasons why Christians should hang on in there?
We can have confidence
Bold I approach the Royal Throne! Bold because of all that Jesus has done for u!
We can enter Most Holy Place – the Holy of Holies
It is easy to pray when everything in life is going well, although even then most of us don’t pray nearly enough. It gets harder to pray when the going gets tough. But those are especially the times when we need to draw near to God.
The Most Holy Place, or the Holy of Holies, was the central area of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem where they believed God was especially present. The curtain, or veil, of the Temple was not a curtain of fabric. It was a great wooden panel over thirty foot wide and sixty foot high! It kept the people and even the priests out of the Holy of Holies. The purpose of the curtain of the Temple was to keep people from entering the Holy of Holies and from seeing God – because the Old Testament is very clear that whoever sees God will die!
Only one man, the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, the most holy place. And that only happened once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest offered a unique sacrifice for the sins of the people.
Hebrews 9 Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. 2 A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. 3 Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, 4 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. 5 Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory, overshadowing the atonement cover. …
6 When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. 7 But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance
So human beings could only ever enter the Most Holy Place, the Holy of Holies, with the sacrifice of Atonement. Only the High Priest could do that – and only once a year.
We read in Mark 15:38 that at the very moment Christ died, something else quite amazing happened.
“The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
At the very moment that Jesus died, the veil or curtain of the Temple, that symbolic barrier into the presence of God was broken open, not by human effort from the bottom, but by an act of Almighty God, from the top. As Jesus took away the sins of the world, so he removed the barrier which had stopped human beings since Adam and Eve from coming face to face with God. Because of course the real barrier keeping us all out of God’s presence was not a wooden curtain or veil, but the barrier of human sin. And God has dealt with that problem once and for all by the death of Jesus, His blood shed for us.
We can come to God through the blood of Jesus
Hebrews 9 26 …. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
By his death, by shedding His blood, Jesus has made a way for human beings to come into the presence of Almighty God. We have the enormous privilege of being invited to come into God’s presence. So let’s do so – especially when the going is tough!.!
We have a new and living way into God’s presence.
WITHIN THE VEIL I now would come, Into the holy place, to look upon Thy face.
I see such beauty there, no other can compare; I worship Thee, my Lord, within the veil.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 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,
We have seen just how great a High Priest Jesus is, a priest forever, greater even than Melchizedek. Jesus has offered the perfect sacrifice. His priesthood is eternal, it rests on the power of an indestructible life, the resurrection of Christ from the dead. Even now Jesus is alive and Jesus stands at the right hand of the throne of the Father, interceding for us!
Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith,
We don’t need to be afraid. We don’t need to be hesitant. We don’t need to be uncertain. We can come to God in full assurance of faith. We can be certain that we are forgiven, certain that God loves us, certain that God will welcome us.
BLESSÈD ASSURANCE, Jesus is mine: O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God; Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience
In the Old Testament the priests used to sprinkle the blood from sacrifices on objects or on people to make them pure. We have been made pure by the blood of Christ shed for us and that blood has been metaphorically sprinkled on us.
and having our bodies washed with pure water.
This is clearly a reference to believer’s baptism. How can we be sure we are saved? At least in part because we have declared our faith before God and before other people in the waters of baptism. Baptism symbolises the washing away of our sins, and our memories of being baptised reassure us of God’s love for us and remind us of the joy of our salvation.
So there in four verses the letter to the Hebrews gives us no less than EIGHT wonderful reasons why we should not give up even when the going has got so tough that the tough have long since given up and run home. And now he gives us FIVE very practical things we can all do to help us stand firm in our faith. Five healthy portions of lettuce. And the first one is this.
LET US DRAW NEAR TO GOD
It is strange but true that there are two things Christians often do when they are going through difficulties. Sometimes we try to cope with all our problems in our own strength instead of drawing on God’s strength. At other times we even run away from God, when all the time God longs for us to draw near to Him and so He can bear our burdens for us. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Hebrews 4 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
LET US HOLD UNSWERVINGLY TO THE HOPE WE PROFESS
Sometimes we are holding on to God but still we weave from side to side. But we should hold on to God just as a little child will cling on to the hand of their parent. We have a hope which is steadfast and certain, gone through the curtain and touching the throne. So we should hold on to that hope, because he who promised is completely faithful, reliable and trustworthy.
LES US CONSIDER HOW WE MAY SPUR ONE ANOTHER ON
We all need spurring on, or as one translation puts it stirring up, from time to time. It is easy to become weary in well-doing, especially if we are going through tough times. We all need other people sometimes to cheer us on towards love and good work.
LET US NOT GIVE UP MEETING TOGETHER
Obviously the time and place where we can support one another and spur one another on is when we meet together. When life is tough, when we feel as if we are not waving but drowning, it can very hard to drag ourselves out to worship or prayer meeting or Home Group. But it is at those times when we need the support of other Christians the most, caring for us, sharing with us and bearing our burdens with us. So we should not neglect to meet together.
When I visited Bulgaria I was struck by one couple I met, although I didn’t meet them at the same time. They were man and wife but they never came to church together. The reasons wasn’t the need for childcare. The reason was that the return bus fare for just one of them to come to church was a whole day’s wages. So they took it in turns to come to church, take careful notes of the sermon and share the message with their spouse when they got home. Do not neglect to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing!
LET US ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
We have said before, encouraging is simply giving another person courage to face the challenges of life. Discouraging takes away that courage. We all need encouragement from time to time. Hebrews 3:13 says, “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today.” We should go out of our way to encourage and support our fellow-Christians, especially if we know they are facing tough times. Let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching