************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:22a-c ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 18, 2016
"Worship in Full Assurance of Faith"
We've been looking at worship the last couple of weeks. Hebrews tells us to "draw near to God" (Heb 10:22a). And it tells us why: worship is to be our response to Jesus. Remember what we learned about this? Draw near to God because, verses 19-20, we sinners have access to our holy God by the blood of Jesus. Before the coming of Jesus, access to God was limited and inferior. On behalf of the people, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies one day of the year and he got in and he got out as quickly as possible. But now, thanks to Jesus, we have unlimited access to God, His grace, His presence, His holiness, His glory, His throne. And, draw near to God because, verse 21, we have a priest who is our advocate in the house of God. As our brother, as our flesh and blood, as our high priest, He represents us before the Father. In response to Jesus our access and advocate, Hebrews calls us to worship God.
Worship is to be our first and most important response to Jesus. This is the message not only of Hebrews but also of Peter and Paul and Mary. Do you remember what Peter says?
(1 Pet 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, [WHY?] that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.In other words, to worship God.
Paul says something similar in his letter to the Ephesians. Paul mentions our election. He mentions the presence of the Spirit. And four times he adds something about praise to God (Eph 1:3,6,12,14). In other words, election and predestination and the deposit of the Spirit is supposed to lead to the worship of God.
Remember what Mary said and did after hearing from Elizabeth that she is the mother of the Lord? Mary says,
(Lk 1:46-47) My soul glorifies the Lord (47) and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior ...Mary, too, worships the Lord.
Salvation and everything about salvation leads to the worship of God. That's what Hebrews teaches. That's what the Bible teaches.
I Non-Negotiables in Worship
A Now, how are to do this? How are we to worship? What does the Bible say? What does Hebrews say?
A number of years ago I was absolutely appalled when I opened the newspaper. On the front page was a news story about clowns in worship. Instead of a sermon, prayers, and Bible readings, there was face painting, balloons, and goofy hats.
This kind of approach to worship is becoming more and more common. There is the country & western church where the preacher leads his congregation in line-dancing as part of the worship service. Another church's worship is centered on holy humor as members come up and tell jokes and funny stories. The biker church includes Harleys on the stage. A Synod meeting I attended approved liturgical dance in worship (needless to say, it was not a meeting of the URC Synod).
I want to ask this evening if everything about worship is up for grabs? Or, are there elements of worship that are non-negotiable? Is everything and anything acceptable or are there things we can never give up?
B Again I ask: How are we to worship? We have come up with two non-negotiable answers so far.
How are we to worship? First, we learned that we are to worship God. "Let us draw near to God," says Hebrews. Our worship is to be preoccupied with God. God is to be the focus of our songs, prayers, sermons, sacraments, repentance. Our worship is to be God centered, not me centered. Worship is not about me and my feelings and my desires and what I get out of the service. We also said our worship is to be God centered, not seeker centered. So many today are confused and think worship is to be an evangelistic service. They tell me the whole point of the worship service is to have an altar call. But that's not the point of worship. The point of worship is worship -- the worship of the triune Godhead. The worship of the Father Who made us, the Son Who saves us, and the Spirit Who sanctifies us. That's the point of worship. Our worship is God centered.
How are we to worship? Second, we learned we need to worship "with a sincere heart" (Heb 10:22b). We looked at the people of Israel and the Pharisees and teachers of the law who worshiped God with the mouth and not with the heart. They simply went through the motions. Their worship was based on tradition and the rules of men. Unlike them, we are to mean our worship. We are to worship from the heart.
II Worship with Confidence
A Today, we see a third non-negotiable of worship: "let us draw near ... in full assurance of faith."
When we worship, God wants us to worship with solid assurance. With unwavering confidence.
Assurance because of what? Confidence in what? In Jesus and what we have just been told about Jesus. Jesus is our access. Jesus is our advocate. Because of Jesus, the veil separating God and man has been torn from top to bottom. So ours now is access to God. Therefore, let us draw near with assurance, with confidence.
B God does not want us to come into His holy presence the way the people of Israel did. Do you remember how they approached God? The people drew near to God at Mt. Sinai. There was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, the whole mountain trembled violently, and the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder. The people were filled with fear. With dread. With trembling (cf Ex 19:16-19; 20:18).
Nor does God want us to come into His holy presence the way the high priests of Israel did. Do you remember how they approached God? Also with fear. Also with dread. Also with trembling. In and out of the Most Holy Place as quickly as possible. Not daring to look up to the mercy seat where God dwelled between the cherubim.
And, do you remember what this type of worship did for the people and high priests of Israel? Were they washed? Were they cleansed? Was their guilty conscience relieved? No. All this did was deal with accidental, unintentional sins done in ignorance. It gave them no assurance, no confidence.
Unlike Israel, unlike the high priests, let us worship with assurance, with confidence. Believing that Christ has opened the way for us. Believing that Christ is at the Father's right hand to make sure of our safe arrival into the Father's presence.
C If we approach God like the people and high priests of Israel did, do you know of what we are guilty? If we approach God with fear and dread and trembling we doubt the effectiveness of Christ's work as access and advocate. If we approach God with fear and dread and trembling we question the effectiveness of Christ's work as access and advocate. If we approach God like the people and high priests of Israel, we call into question the entire work of Christ.
Those of you who know what is coming up in Hebrews might say,
"Hold it, pastor. What about the last admonition in Hebrews 12: worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our 'God is a consuming fire' (Heb 12:29-30). Doesn't that contradict what you just said? Shouldn't we be scared of God? Shouldn't we approach Him with fear and dread and trembling? After all, Hebrews tells us He is a consuming fire."
Christ is our access to God. Christ is our advocate before God. So there is no need for fear and dread and trembling. Yes, there is a need for reverence. Yes, there is a need for awe. But we don't have to be like Israel.
D Christians who approach God with fear and trembling are looking in the wrong direction. They are looking at themselves. Yes, we are fallen. Yes, we are sinful. Yes, we aren't holy and perfect and loving. Yes, we deserve the judgment and wrath and fire of our holy God.
But, but, we don't look at ourselves. We look at Christ and to Christ. We look at what He has done. We look at Him as access. We look at Him as advocate. Remember, our worship is all about God. Its focus is God, not ourselves. It is God centered. So, because of Christ, we draw near "in full assurance of faith." Because of Christ, we worship with unwavering confidence.
If you are a scared, trembling Christian, listen to this: look to Christ! Look at what He has done! Believe in what He has done! Draw near to God in full assurance of faith. Don't be like the people and high priests of Israel. Don't be like some of the churches out there which emphasize fear and dread and trembling and fire.
God does not accept my worship today because of who I am or what I have done. If that were the case, none of us can ever draw near. God does not accept my worship because I did devotions every day this past week, because I put money in the offering bag, because I devoted time to church and kingdom activities, because I did not lose my temper with my kids, because I did not look at any pornography, because I was nice to my fellow workers, because I did not mistreat my animals. The only reason God accepts my worship is because of Christ. And, because of Christ, I can worship Him with reverence and awe. And, because of Christ, I do not have to worship Him with fear and trembling. Because of Christ I can draw near in full assurance. Because of Christ I can worship with unwavering confidence.
Dear friends, do you hear what I am saying? God wants our worship to be marked with assurance and confidence. To worship Him like this is to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of Jesus -- our access, our advocate. To worship with assurance and confidence is to honor and celebrate the saving work of Jesus.
III Two Examples
A I want to hold before you two examples of worship with assurance and confidence.
The first is the Apostle John on Patmos. He was in the Spirit and heard a voice. He turned to see the voice and saw someone "like a son of man," dressed in a robe reaching down to His feet and with a golden sash around His chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. What John saw was Jesus in all His brilliance and glory.
When John saw Jesus, he had a typical Israelite response: he fell at Jesus' feet as though dead. But what did Jesus do? Jesus placed His right hand on John and said:
(Rev 21:17-18) Do not be afraid. [Repeat] I am the First and the Last. (18) I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."Do not be afraid." Don't be like Israel. Don't be like the high priests. Worship me with assurance and confidence.
Isn't this amazing and wonderful?
B The second example is Mary, the sister of Lazarus. Jesus was in Bethany in the home of Simon the Leper, and Mary came to Him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on His head and feet as He was reclining at the table. Then she wiped His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. The disciples were indignant. "Why this waste?" they asked. "This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor" (cf Mt 26:6-9; Jn 12:1-8).
Now, let me ask, were the disciples concerned about the poor? Or Mary? Or even Jesus? Of course not! Their concern was themselves. Mary's act of worship made them look bad. Because Mary's act of worship was shameless, selfless, and even reckless. Think about it for that time and that place and that culture. Mary was bold, forward, fearless, and assertive. She was a woman at someone else's dinner party. Her place was to be quiet. Her place was to show proper behavior. So, how could she be so shameless?
Let me tell you how. Mary approached Jesus with confidence. Mary approached Jesus with assurance. Mary approached Jesus with faith. Mary knew she was accepted by the Lord. Mary knew she was welcome in the Lord's presence. Mary knew she could worship Jesus without reserve, without preoccupation with self, without having to worry about what other people said and thought.
When we know and understand the Gospel and how it give us full access to God, then we too can draw near in worship without shame, without reserve, without worry of what is the proper thing to do. When we know and understand the Gospel, then we -- like John, like Mary -- are invited and welcomed into the very presence of the Lord.
"Let us draw near ... in full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22a-c). Let us draw near with unwavering confidence. Let us draw near because of Jesus our access and our advocate. And, let us not draw near in fear and trembling. Let us not draw near like Israel and her high priests.
Then what? What happens? "Come near to God and he will come near to you" (James 4:8). That's what James says. Our reward for boldly drawing near to God -- if I can talk that way -- is the presence of God Himself. This is the language of lovers. This is the language of intimacy. He is the lover Who kisses us and sweeps us off our feet. In His presence we feel so loved, so safe, so secure, so wanted.
"Let us draw near." And when we do, He rewards us with Himself. After all, as we learned this morning, nothing I desire compares with Him. Jesus is the treasure that I seek. Jesus is a precious jewel. Jesus is my all in all.
"Let us draw near ... in full assurance of faith" (Heb 10:22a-c).
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