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Aug 3 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

August 2, 2020

Intro: We have come to the climax of the Book of Hebrews

N. T. Wright, “The whole letter has been about Jesus, and about who we are as a result of who he is and what he’s done.”
– now the writer of Hebrews reveals the purpose of telling his story of Jesus
• there is no point in reading or studying Hebrews if we miss what is here
• for me, this is the most wonderful revelation in the entire book
– in Genesis, God created the universe
• and, in particular, he created the man and woman for himself
◦ he revealed himself to them and they knew him
◦ their interaction was as children with him, their true Father
• when they chose something else over him, they were banished from Eden
◦ the entrance to Eden was blocked by angelic guards (Gen. 3:24, cherubim)
◦ we were born into the world outside of Eden

We still belong to God – we were still made for him and in his image
– so God chose a man and his descendants, to live among them
• but not like with the same closeness Adam and Eve enjoyed
• “Eden” was no longer a garden, but a inner chamber of the sanctuary
◦ the entrance to that space was also blocked by angelic guards (Ex. 26:31)
– however, that space never contained God
• it was merely a space to reveal his presence among his people
◦ the space of God’s actual existence transcends our universe
• the book of Hebrews has revealed that Jesus entered the transcendent, heavenly realm
◦ we have now arrived at the message the writer has been wanting to tell us

Two introductory statements that begin with, “since we have
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God . . . . Hebrews 10:19-21

First, we have confidence to enter the holy places
– this is crazy! We’re not qualified to go where the high priest went
• how can we possibly enter heaven’s holy space?
◦ previously, the writer told us,
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (He. 4:16)
• we get into places we don’t belong by grace and mercy
◦ this is what Jesus has made possible
◦ we’re at a point where we cannot be shy or tentative
• it’s true, we’re not qualified to enter here – but Jesus has qualified us
– “enter” is such an important word — we are not supposed to live outside of God
• this entrance that we make is not physical
◦ in the same way that the holy places Jesus entered are not
earthly (9:1), or made with hands, or of this creation (9:11)
◦ this is where we go in prayer; we are present with God in spirit
• we need to understand that this is real
◦ it does not matter what you see or don’t see,
what you hear or don’t hear,
what you feel or don’t feel
◦ you are as close to God as Adam and Eve were in Eden

The writer explains how an entrance was opened for us
by the blood of Jesus – most powerful sacrifice was the cross of Jesus
• on the Day of Atonement: blood was taken into most holy place
• and there, purification was made for the people and the sanctuary
– Jesus opened a new and living way for us
(in Heb. 9:8, the way into the holy places had not yet opened)
• Old Testament worship was formed according to the law (Heb. 8:4)
◦ law is static–it doesn’t change; worship was static too, in that the same offerings were repeated every day, month, and year
◦ but the way Jesus walks us into God’s presence is dynamic
through the curtain

Try to visualize this curtain that separated the holy place of the sanctuary from the most holy place. It was from floor to ceiling fifteen feet high and from wall to wall fifteen feet wide. The room was mostly dark, because it had only seven lamps on one stand to light an area of thirty feet by fifteen feet. The fabric of the curtain was unusually thick and served as an effective barrier. God was just on the other side of the curtain. God and his priests shared the curtain, so even though it curtain separated them, it also connected them! It is not unlike the Western Wall in Jerusalem, which separates the people who come there to pray from the sanctuary of the temple that stood at one time on the other side of the wall.
When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, Jesus’ body was like that curtain. God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. This is what we mean by the incarnation. God was present, within that curtain of flesh.

It is not important for you to know that the Greek word translated “curtain” is katapetasma. I mention this only because the same word appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke in connection with Jesus’ death, And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom (Mk. 15:38-39). The only other place in the New Testament where katapetasma occurs is in Hebrews (here and in 6:19). It occurs more frequently in the Greek translation of the Old Testament
And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it (Ex. 26:31). My point is that this is a technical word. We are not talking about just any curtain, but specifically the curtain in the sanctuary. And like the entrance to Eden, angelic guards are represented here, barring the way into God’s immediate presence.
Through his death, Jesus takes us through the curtain and past the guards to God himself.

So first, we have confidence to enter, and second, we have a great priest
– Jesus is over the house of God
• in chapter 3, Moses was a servant in God’s house, Jesus is a Son over God’s house
• I don’t mean to be trivial or disrespectful,
◦ but Jesus gives us a backstage pass
– the high priest wore an apron with jeweled clasps on shoulders
• on those clasps, the names of the twelve tribes were engraved
◦ their names were also engraved on twelve stones set in a bib that covered his chest
◦ in the Hebrew Scriptures, shoulders represent bearing a burden
And Aaron shall bear their names before the LORD on his two shoulders (Ex. 28:9-10 & 12)
So Aaron shall bear the names of the sons of Israel . . . on his heart, when he goes into the Holy Place, to bring them to regular remembrance before the LORD (Ex. 28:21 & 29)
• the priests brought Israel into God’s presence symbolically
◦ Jesus takes us, on his shoulders and in his heart, into God’s presence for real
◦ in prayer, we are shrouded in transcendence

Based on what we have there are three things for us to do (Let us)
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and ll the more as you see the Day drawing near Hebrews 10:22-25

G. Campbell Morgan divides this passage into “privileges and responsibilities”
“Privilege is only powerful as it is practiced. . . . It is not enough to know this. We must enter.”

The two words draw near tell us everything we need to know
– what we bring to the entrance:
a true heart – the “true” sanctuary is a heavenly one
◦ the true heart is one that has its treasures laid up in heaven (Mt. 6:19-21)
◦ it is genuine and it is pure – Blessed are the pure in heart (Mt. 5:8)
full assurance of faith
◦ Israel did not enter God’s rest because of their unbelieving hearts
◦ we do not construct faith by intellect or will (it is not “make-believe”);
we go to God for faith — the more often we go, the more faith grows
acts of faith are cumulative – they build up to trust
hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
◦ to think of “conscience” as awareness of right and wrong is too limited
◦ the first meaning of the Greek word is consciousness
◦ we come to God with hearts that have no consciousness of guilt, animosity, anxiety, and so on
our bodies washed with pure water
◦ the writer is using these physiological terms as metaphors
◦ the reference to the body speaks of a total integration
◦ in hypocrisy, external appearance contradicts internal motivation
◦ to have heart and body integrated is wholeness and holiness

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope
– confession is a statement we make about our lives in God
• hope means we never stop looking toward the horizon
◦ and past the horizon!
without wavering – that’s the goal, a steady hope
◦ if we let hope slip out of our hands, we lose everything
for he who promised is faithful
God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9)
• God called us into this partnership and he is always faithful on his end

And let us consider how to stir up one another
– our encounter with God is inseparable from our lives in community
we cannot love God without loving others (1 Jn. 4:20)
◦ and we love God in others (Mt. 25:36-40)
• the way “church” is described in the New Testament,
◦ looks like a spiritual community, with Jesus at the center
And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers . . . . And all who believed were together and had all things in common. . . . And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts. 2:42-47).
– previously in chapter 3, the writer instructed us to consider Jesus (v. 1)
• now we’re told to consider each other – be curious, listen, pay attention to
◦ the Greek word translated “stir up” is the root of our English paroxysm
(a sudden spasm; physical or emotional — here the meaning is stimulate; we might think of “a stimulating conversation”)
◦ how do we do that? tell your stories – of blessings and God-encounters
to love and good works
◦ many Fundamentalist Xians have shut down good works (“social gospel”)
◦ they’ve used this slogan to justify hostility, insults, and doing nothing for others in need
Hanna Arendt, in The Human Condition wrote, “Goodness in an absolute sense, as distinguished from the ‘good for’ or the ‘excellent’ in Greek and Roman antiquity, became known in our civilization only with the rise of Christianity. Since then, we know of good works as one important variety of possible human action. . . . The one activity taught by Jesus in word and deed is the activity of goodness . . . .”

Two more instructions regarding the community – a negative and a positive
not neglecting to meet together – this does not mean “go to church”
• it refers to the interactions Christians regularly have with each other
◦ interactions that include the Scriptures, prayer, open sharing, and so on
• sometimes there are legitimate reasons for missing a meeting or two
◦ but our writer does not want that to become “habit”
encouraging one another
Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the bones (Pr. 16:24)
• encouragement is the work of God’s Spirit – “the Encourager”
all the more as you see the Day drawing near
◦ urgency grows with crises and catastrophes
◦ and especially in light of the Lord’s return

Conclusion: Reading in 1 Thessalonians yesterday, I came to this verse:
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face (1 Th. 2:17)
– this pandemic has torn us away from each other
• suddenly I realized how much I have missed seeing your faces
◦ I felt Paul’s need to connect in person
– there are gifts Christians receive only from our interactions with each other
• it is together that we pray,
together that we listen to God,
and together that we draw near

But whether huddled together or spread out in our homes,
what I will leave you with is this:
Come up close to God
At some points in our week, in our day
we need to experience God
Practice “draw-near” intermissions
William Barclay advised, “In the morning as the day begins; in the evening as the day ends; ever and again in the [middle] of the day’s activities, we must turn aside, if only for a moment or a second, and enter into the presence of God.”
You can do this as easily as taking a slow, deep breath
You can do this wherever you are
You can do this right now!

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