************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:22a ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on August 28, 2016
"Let Us Draw Near"
For a little more than ten chapters Hebrews has fed us a steady diet of what we know as systematic theology. Beginning with our Bible reading today we move to what we know as practical theology. In other words, we move from justification to sanctification. We move from the indicative to the imperative. We go from Christology to pastoral care.
Yet, even as I say this, I want you to realize there is practical theology throughout Hebrews:
-For instance, after telling us Who Jesus is and how much greater He is than God's mighty angels, Hebrews tells us to "pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Heb 2:2).
-After telling us that Jesus as high priest is like us in every way, Hebrews says, "fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess" (Heb 3:1).
-After telling us Jesus is greater than Moses we are warned not to fall short as Israel did (Heb 4:1).
-After being told that Israel did not enter God's promised rest, Hebrews tells us to "make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience" (Heb 4:11).
-After telling us Jesus is the great high priest Who has gone through the heavens, Hebrews says, "let us hold firmly to the faith we profess" (Heb 4:14).
-After telling us the ABCs of the Christian faith, Hebrews tells us "to leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity" (Heb 6:1).
-In another place we are told not to "become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Heb 6:12).
What I am saying is that Hebrews is filled with practical applications of the Gospel.
Today we begin a look at three "let us" statements that especially emphasize the practical. Look at the opening word of our text: "Therefore ..." Because of everything that has been said about Christ, "therefore ... let us ..." Therefore let us what? Hebrews proceeds to lay out six characteristics of the Christian's life.
I First Therefore: Access
A Before Hebrews explains what it wants us to do, it cannot resist one final explanation of the "therefore." Here is the first therefore:
(Heb 10:19-20) 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 bodyI'm sure you realize the Most Holy Place is the inner court of the tabernacle or temple. The Most Holy Place is God's throne room on earth. The Most Holy Place is the place of God's presence where God dwelled between the cherubim on top of the mercy seat. The Most Holy Place is where God dwells in all His glory.
In our pew Bibles the emphasis is put on our confidence, on our feelings, on our boldness. In the Greek, the emphasis falls on our access. So let me propose more accurate translations:
-since we have the right to enter the Most Holy Place
-since we have the authorization to enter the Most Holy Place
-since we have the freedom to enter the Most Holy Place
-since we have access to enter the Most Holy Place
B "Therefore, brothers, since we have access to the Most Holy Place." What is the number one problem of sinful man? What is our major burden as sinners? What is our biggest concern as sinners? That we don't have access to God. That we have been cut off from God. That we sinners are not allowed into the presence of our holy and majestic God. This started already at the beginning of time. After man's fall into sin, the Lord God banished man from the Garden of Eden. And do you remember what God did next?
(Gen 3:24) After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
The net result of all this? Man was banished from the Garden of God's presence. Man was denied entrance into the immediate presence of God. Man was not allowed access to God.
"Therefore, brothers, since we have access to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus ..." (Heb 10:19). Do you hear the good news of the Gospel here? The good news of Hebrews is that the flames of the fiery sword blocking our access to God were extinguished by the blood of Christ.
C Who is Hebrews talking about? Exactly who is it that now has access to God? Who is the "we" to whom Hebrews refers? Does "we" refer to every member of the human race? Does "we" refer to every religious person? Does "we" refer to anyone who wants access to God? No, the "we" are defined earlier in the verse as "brothers." Brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Children of God. Descendants of Abraham sharing in Abraham's faith and Abraham's righteousness.
This means we don't go along with the politically correct view that all paths and all roads lead to God so that everyone is saved or most everyone is saved. That's not what Hebrews is teaching. Only those have access to God who are chosen to believe in Christ. Only those have access to God who are elect in Christ. Yes, this is a very narrow and intolerant view; it gives no saving credit to any other religion or path. Yet, this is exactly what Hebrews has in mind.
(Mt 7:13-14) Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (14) But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
D Now a question: Did the Old Testament saints have access to God? Could they enter into the immediate presence of God? Of course. But the access was limited. And the access was inferior. Their access to God was limited to one day of the year through the high priest. The high priest would slip through the curtain, shield his eyes from the awesome glory of God, sprinkle the blood of a bull or a goat, and get out as soon and as quickly as possible. There was access, but it was inferior and limited.
But now because of Christ was have "a new and living way." "New," because this way did not exist in the old covenant. "Living," because we enter not through the blood of dead animals but through the blood of the living and ascended Christ Who now is seated at the right hand of God.
Because of this new and living way we have access to God, we can enter into the presence of God, we can enter with confidence. We don't have to be like the people of Israel who cowered in fear before the presence of God. We don't have to be like the high priests of Israel who entered the Most Holy Place with lowered eyes and got out as soon as possible. We can come in and feel like we have the right to be there. We can come in and not feel like we are out-of-place and out-of-order. We can come in and feel like we belong.
II Second Therefore: A Great Priest
Before Hebrews explains what it wants us to do, it cannot resist one other explanation of the "therefore." Here is the second therefore: "and since we have a great priest over the house of God" (Heb 10:21).
Jesus is our "great priest." Jesus is our high priest. In Hebrews, the emphasis of Jesus as priest is on how He represents us. Jesus as high priest is like us in every way, yet was without sin. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He represents us in matters related to God. He always lives to intercede for us. He is always there for us. Always praying for us. Always interceding for us.
Notice, He is over the house of God for us. That is, He is ruling for us.
We notice that His is absolute sovereignty and loving compassion at one and the same time. But, then, He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek who was king of Salem and priest of God Most High. Jesus, likewise, is king and priest, priest and king. He loves us and rules over us and has compassion on us and knows what it is like to be tempted and human.
He is in the presence of God. As a priest. As a man. He is the king Who rules you. He is the priest Who died for you. He has one preoccupation -- your salvation. He is making sure you have everything you need so you can live forever in the presence of the Father.
III First Let Us: Draw Near to God
A With this in mind, we turn to the first "let us" statement that follows the therefore.
(Heb 10:19-22) Therefore, brothers ... let us draw near to God ...Because of Who Christ is, because of what He has done, "let us draw near to God."
Hebrews could have said so many other things here because the Gospel has implications on all of life. It could have said something about obedience to the law. It could have said something about marriage, work, money, recreation, church membership, correct doctrine, sacrificial giving, prayer. It could have said something about missions. It could have said something about leaders in the church.
B "Let us draw near to God." After this message we are singing "Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord." What does this mean? What does this refer to? Well, let me ask, when are we near to God? We are near to God when we pray. We are near to God when we read and study and contemplate His Word. We are near to God when we sing His praises. We are near to God when we celebrate the sacraments. We are near to God when we recite the words of our faith. We are near to God when we confess our sins. We are near to God when we hear His Word being preached. I'm sure you recognize I am leading up to something.
"Let us draw near to God." Think about the things I just mentioned: prayer, bible reading, singing, sacraments, creed, confession, preaching. Hebrews is talking about worship. Because of Who Christ is and what He has done, let us worship God and Christ. Worship. That's the response we are to have. That's the first and primary response we are to have to Christ our access and advocate.
"Let us draw near to God." Similar phrases are used throughout the Old Testament for those who draw near to offer sacrifices and to minister in the tabernacle. Go back to Hebrews 10:1; it specifically mentions those who "draw near to worship."
Since we have unlimited access to God and since Jesus represents us before the Father, let us daw near to God. Let us take advantage of our access. Let us draw near in worship.
Our first response to Jesus is worship. Do you see what Hebrews is doing? Hebrews is elevating what we do on Sunday. Dear brothers and sisters, your first and most important response to Jesus is worship. What we do on Sunday is central, significant, special. What we do on Sunday is more important than anything else we do as Christians.
I didn't read Hebrews 10:25 as part of our Scripture reading. But what it says certainly fits this evening.
(Heb 10:25) Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching.We will look at this in greater detail in a future message. But remember the number one concern or problem that Hebrews deals with? There are members of the church who are leaving Jesus to go back to Moses. They are leaving the new covenant to go back to the old covenant. From the perspective of today's passage, what are they doing? They are not in worship! They do not meet together with the other saints. They have given up on meeting together. They do not draw near to God.
C "Let us draw near to God." We have access to God in Christ, so let us draw near in worship. We have an advocate before the Father's throne, so let us draw near in worship.
This means worship is a privilege. This means worship is something we should delight in. This means worship should NOT be seen as a duty. If you are here out of a sense of duty, you are here for the wrong reason. If you think worship is something you need to be do because it is expected of you, you are here for the wrong reason. Instead, you should want to be here because of what Christ has done. Shame on you and shame on me if we shame people into attending worship, if we use guilt to make them come. We want you to come only if you want to come and desire to come and delight to come. We want you to come because you don't want to be anywhere else.
D "Let us draw near to God." We have access to God in Christ, so let us draw near in worship. We have an advocate before the Father's throne, so let us draw near in worship. Hebrews tells us the key to keeping up our enthusiasm for worship. Hebrews tells us how we can come Sunday after Sunday, 52 Sundays of the year, with the right attitude. Hebrews tell us how we can preach, print bulletins, play instruments, operate the sound booth, greet and usher, and watch children and do so with joy week after week. How? Are you ready for the answer? By recalling what Jesus has done for you.
We have access to God in Christ. We have an advocate before the Father's throne. So let us draw near to God. Let us draw near in worship. As we will be singing in a moment:
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou has died.
Draw me nearer, nearer, blessed Lord,
To thy precious, bleeding side.
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