March 18, 2018
Last week I told you that at this point him Hebrews, the author is turning his attention to the ramifications of Christ’s work in our lives. If you remember, also, a few weeks back to the Mission’s Conference that Wasn’t, due to our speaker being snowed in just north of London, we talked about the consequences of our actions — both good and bad.
The author is essentially asking you to look inward in this passage and honestly ask yourselves, what are the consequences of Christ’s work on your life? Personally and individually, but also corporately.
Now, I need to warn you up front that from here on out, the author of this book does not pull any punches and he will get in your face. What he is essentially saying is that if your life looks just like the life of your unbelieving neighbors, you have likely created a savior of your own making who cannot save you from the wrath that is to come.
And that is why there is all the theology that is found in the first 9½ chapters of this book. It is telling you, here are the qualifications and if someone cannot meet the qualifications this book sets out — that person on whom you are banking everything, then you have a real problem. Look, we do our homework when we make our retirement investments and we do our homework when we buy a house, why don’t we do our homework when it comes to our savior? The bottom line is that while retirement may need to last you for 20-30 years and a house even longer, even 100 years is but a passing vapor in the scope of eternity. So, do your homework on earthly things, but be infinitely more intentional and zealous to do your homework on eternal things.
Ask yourself, “can the one on whom I am banking my eternal soul really save me and why?”
And so, the author of Hebrews has been giving you Jesus’ resume. And, we will be cerebrating the Resurrection in a couple of weeks…at the Resurrection, Jesus says, “Here’s my resume…”
Now, we know that no one can come to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44), but the resume of Christ, as it were, is not just about the proclamation of the Gospel, but it is meant to give us assurance in the faith that we hold to as well. And, it should be an aide to us as we seek to equip the next generation to defend the faith.
The sad thing is that the next generation is largely drifting away from the church. It should be no surprise that the Millennial Generation (born between 1982 and 2000 — roughly 19-35 years old) are falling away from the church at record speeds. But that isn’t the only bad news…
According to a Pew Research center poll, about 36% of Millennials identify themselves as “unaffiliated,” which basically means that they think of themselves as Christian but they are not members of a church nor are connected to a church in any meaningful way — they may occasionally attend, but it is more of a whim than a commitment. In addition, 23% identify themselves as nothing in particular — not Christian, but not atheist either…not even agnostic. Understand what they are saying, they believe in God but they also believe that what you practice is not that important and does not necessarily correlate with what you believe.
Of course, the problem is that the devil believes in God, and he does so more thoroughly and more definitely than any of us do, yet what will that get him in the end?
So, do we blame millennials? No, we blame ourselves because it fell to us to train these millennials to think in Biblical categories and we did not do so. Instead, we have allowed the creation of a religion in America that calls itself Christian and tells people that everyone is going to a better place when they die, that God loves them just the way they are and that they can love however they want so long as they are “good people” — at least according to a standard of one’s own creation — where there are only a few exceptions like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Saddam Hussein. (It’s the Rob Bell version of Christianity for those in TOPIX who saw the video of that heretic promoting his new book.)
Folks, that’s not what the Bible teaches and we in the evangelical Church know it deep down, but often we are too Biblically illiterate to be able to defend the Biblical view, or we remain silent so as to “keep the peace.”
And then, while we are busy being inoffensive to those around us, they are happily marching down the wide and easy road to Hell.
So, do I have your attention?
The Bible says that if you are really a believer in Jesus Christ — if you are really born again — then you will live differently than you did before — remember the context above — you will not forsake the gathering where the ordinary means of grace are made available to you.
So the author has laid out all of this and he has laid out the promises assured by the work of Christ, bot now we arrive at the “but…”
“But if we intentionally continue to sin after receiving the knowledge of Truth, there is no longer remaining a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of zealous fire, which is about to consume the opponents.”
The Apostle John writes something similar:
“Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning and the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8)
Neither the author of Hebrews, nor the Apostle John, is saying that we can live sinlessly once we are saved — John even writes that “if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).
But the distinction between the believer and the unbeliever — the child of God and the child of the Devil, happens to be whether one makes a practice of sin or righteousness. And if the believer sins, he grieves over it and is driven to repentance.
Yet, I hear the “I know, but…”
You know how it goes:
“I know God says in the Bible that I should be in church, but…”
“I know that I should forgive, but…”
“I know that I should study the Bible, but…”
“I know that I should not lie, but…”
“I know that the Bible teaches that I should be spiritually and sexually pure…”
“I know that I should pay my taxes and not slip things under the table, but…”
“I know that…but…”
“I know that…but…”
Making excuses for sin, justifying it in our lives is a sign that a person’s life may not have been changed and transformed by the Gospel. And, as the author says here, for the one who is not born again, “there is not a sacrifice for sins.”
Remember, Jesus’ sacrificial death was not for all men (that would be universalism), it was for those who believe, Thus Jesus is being very clear when he says, “the shepherd lays down his life for his sheep” (John 10:11) — not all sheep.
And who are Jesus’ sheep? Those who follow him (John 10:27).
And what does that following look like? Obedience (John 14:21)
And thus, the Apostle Paul can write: “Who can bring any charge against God’s elect — for God is the one who justifies them.” (Romans 8:33)
Not all, but “God’s elect.”
And so, without a sacrifice for their sins, nothing is left for them but a fearful expectation of judgment.
And thus, when Peter confronts Simon Magus, who sought to purchase spiritual power with money, and Peter rebukes him with these words:
“Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven of you.” (Acts 8:22)
“If possible”? Why, “if possible”?
It is because Peter does not see evidence of the Spirit at work in this man and thus doubts his election…and without faith (saving faith from God) there is no sacrifice for sin. And with no sacrifice for sin, there is no basis on which this man (or any man) can be forgiven.
That’s a hard pill to swallow because we all like to portray God as a loving God who desires that all of his children repent and come to faith…but, remember the language of John … not all humans are God’s children. Only those who believe are God’s children, the rest are the children of Satan.
And the model we find of the evangelistic sermons in the Bible is not, “God loves you, come to him…” but it is “Repent and believe.” And there is a world of difference between these two messages.
So, as you examine your heart this morning, ask yourself whether there is sin that you are harboring, that you have become hardened to, of which you neither grieve nor are inclined to repent. And if there are such things, the warning is for you, if you go on intentionally sinning having known the truth with no intention of repenting, you may not really be a believer in Jesus Christ. You may not be saved.
So, repent and believe.
“If someone rejects the Law of Moses, based on two or three witnesses, he will die without mercy. So how much worse a punishment do you think it will be deserted by the one who, though being purified, tramples under foot the Son of God and who considers profane the blood of the covenant into which they were set apart and thus insulted the Spirit of Grace.”
There is a contrast being made here. In the Old Testament capital punishment was to be carried out without pity or the protection of the one so sentenced (Deuteronomy 13:8)
So, in other words, the author is saying, ‘Look, if you thought that God took it seriously when people rebelled against his Law, then what do you think his response will be when people trample underfoot the Son, call the blood of the covenant a profane thing, and in doing so, insult the Spirit of Grace.
If you take these words seriously, this is a scary warning. And it should be scary to us because that is what you are doing when you happily continue in sin thinking it is no big deal.
So, when he writes in verse 30:
“For we know the saying: ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ and again ‘The Lord will judge his people.’”
We recognize 2 things:
1) Vengeance is in the hands of God and that is a terrifying thing and it is poured out against his enemies — those who despise his Word and his Son.
2) Those of us who are in the covenant body — the broader visible church — will be judged more strictly because we know the truth. And I say covenant body because the word is preached in a context of the church where there are both believers and unbelievers gathered — both sheep and goats, but all have heard the Truth.
And so, Verse 31…
“It is a fearful thing to fall into the heads of the Living God.”
Why? He will either sanctify you or destroy you. He will conform you into the image of his Son or Avenge the honor of his Son on your life with eternal and zealous fire.
There is no middle ground, no neutral territory, no, “leave me as I am and let me live as I want” in the life of the believer. There is either faith and forgiveness which yields a life that seeks to Honor Christ in all things, growing in obedience every day, or a life that despises God and his Word and awaits wrath.
Which describes you?