************ Sermon on Hebrews 10:23 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on October 2, 2016
"Hold Unswervingly to Hope"
In this life and on this earth and in this body, God does not set us entirely free from sin. We all experience the daily weakness of sin. We all know that blemishes cling to even the best works of God's people. We all know we have continual reasons to humble ourselves before God, to flee for refuge to Christ crucified, to put the flesh to death more and more, and to strain for perfection. We all know this is our condition until either we die or Christ comes again.
Now comes a question: On account of these remnants of sin, is it possible for a true Christian to lose salvation? Is it possible that Jesus will no longer call us brothers and sisters (cf Heb 2:11)? Is it possible that we are no longer regarded as a child of God (cf Heb 2:10)? Is it possible to lose hope?
I Two Complementary Truths
A Do you know how Hebrews answers these questions? It tells us about our sure and certain hope in Christ. And, it tells us to persevere in the faith.
Let me review some of the passages telling us about our sure and certain hope in Christ, starting with the most recent one we have looked at:
(Heb 10:14) ... by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
(Heb 9:15) For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
(Heb 8:12) For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.
(Heb 7:25) Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
B Hebrews is focused on Christ. But this does not mean it has nothing to say to our daily lives. Again and again, as we have been going through Hebrews, we have noticed exhortations and encouragements and warnings to persevere:
(Heb 2:1) We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.Don't forget the author of Hebrews has a real reason for all these exhortations and encouragements and warnings to persevere. He talks this way because some of the Hebrews are thinking of leaving the Christian faith to return to the Jewish faith.
(Heb 3:1) Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
(Heb 3:6) But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
(Heb 3:12) See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
(Heb 4:1) Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.
(Heb 4:11) Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.
(Heb 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.
So on the one hand, Hebrews gives us wonderful descriptions of our full and complete salvation in Christ. On the other hand, we are powerfully told to continue in the Christian life.
C In our text this evening we see the author of Hebrews taking these two truths and joining them together into one beautiful statement. In the first part of verse 23 we are told to persevere in hope. In the second part of verse 23 we are told how perseverance is even possible in this sin-filled world.
But before we look at this, let me remind you of the context. We've been reminded that Christ is our access and our advocate (Heb 10:19-21):
(Heb 10:19-21) 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,I've been telling you that because of Christ our access to God is far better than what happened in the Old Testament when access was limited and inferior. It was limited to one day of the year and was done with fear and trembling. Our access, because of the blood of Christ, is limitless and with confidence. I've also been telling you that Christ is our great priest Who represents us in the presence of the Father. He is our flesh and blood. He sympathizes with us. He intercedes for us. He is in the Father's presence to make sure our salvation is brought to full completion.
Now, in response to Who Christ is and what He has done, three times Hebrews says, "let us ..." "Let us draw near to God ..." (Heb 10:22; we looked at what this means the last four weeks). "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23; we are looking at this today). "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds" (Heb 10:24; we are looking at this next week). The NIV translation of our pew Bibles has added a fourth "let us" statement in verse 25 that is not found in the original Greek.
II Christians Profess Hope
A Jesus is our access and advocate. Therefore, "let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess." What is a Christian, according to this statement? Christians are people who profess hope. Christians are people who have hope. And, if you are not a Christian, do you know how the Bible describes you? If you are not a Christian, the Bible describes you as "foreigners to the ... promise, without hope and without God in the world" (Eph 2:12). Unbelievers are those without hope.
B What exactly is hope? Do I have hope when I wish for something I know won't happen? Do I have hope when I cross my fingers and hope for the best? Do I have hope when I know I am going to be disappointed?
Hope means confident expectation. Hope means absolute certainty about something. Hope means surety about the future.
C In the New Testament hope is always tied in with the return of Jesus Christ and the completion of our salvation as His people. Our hope is in Jesus, that He Who began His work of salvation in us will someday bring it to completion.
Hebrews describes this hope in Christ and His work in a whole bunch of ways:
-Hebrews 2:10 - God is "bringing many sons to glory"
-Hebrews 3:1 - believers "share in the heavenly calling"
-Hebrews 4:1 - "the promise of entering his rest still stands"
-Hebrews 6:12 - believers "inherit what has been promised"
-Hebrews 9:28 Christ "will appear a second time ... to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him"
-Hebrews 13:14; 11:10 - "we are looking for the city that is to come" ... a "city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God"
All of these are different descriptions of our hope in Christ. Why so many descriptions? To show us and remind us of the fullness of salvation.
If you are a Christian, all of this -- and more -- is your hope. If you are a Christian, you live in the certain expectation of salvation in all its fullness.
Do you have hope? Do you have hope that Christ will finish His work of salvation in you? Do you have a confident expectation about your future? Do you believe that the best is still to come?
At the funeral of both Rich & Nellie Voortman I told the story of a lady who asked to be buried with a fork in her hand. Nellie just loved this story and insisted I use it.Is this your hope? Do you have the hope of eternal life in you? When you die, is it your hope that Jesus invites you into heaven; or will Jesus send you instead to hell?
The lady of the story attended many church potluck dinners throughout her life. Her favorite part was the cleanup when someone would say, "keep your fork." She knew this meant the best was still to come: pie or cobbler or bread pudding or something else delicious.
She asked to be buried with a fork in her hand as her statement to her family and friends that the best was still to come.
III Hope Unswervingly
A "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23). Notice, Hebrews does not tell its audience to hold on to salvation -- because security of salvation lies in Christ and not the Christian. Rather, Hebrews invites its audience to hold fast to hope.
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23). Unswervingly. That is, fixed. Unmoved. Stable. Steadfast. This is not a one-time thing. This is something lifelong. This is something we stick to.
"Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23). The problem, if you remember, is that some of the Hebrew converts were not doing this. They were not holding fast to the Christian hope. They were not holding unswervingly to the hope we profess because the Roman government was persecuting them. This persecution is described later in Hebrews 10:
(Heb 10:32-34) Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. (33) Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. (34) You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.Obviously, in spite of the persecution, there are those who did hold fast to the hope we profess. But, there were also those who were not holding fast to the hope that is ours in Christ.
B "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23). The last couple of months I've been doing lots of thinking about the "Parable of the Sower" as our consistory has excluded and erased a number of members:
(Mt 13:3-8) A farmer went out to sow his seed. (4) As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. (5) Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. (6) But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. (7) Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. (8) Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.Every exclusion and erasure hurts -- we pray with sorrow about this in the consistory room -- but the Parable of the Sower helps us to understand what has happened.
What really is the difference between the four types of soil? Each one hears the Word. Each one even accepts the Word. But in the first soil the Devil uproots the seed. In the second soil the threat of persecution makes the Christian fall away. In the third soil the worries of life chokes out the seed. Do you see what happened? The first three types of soil did NOT hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. They did not persevere in the Christian's hope. Only the fourth soil persevered in the Christian's hope so only the fourth soil produced fruit. Here is a reminder that many people profess Christ for a while; but only true Christians profess Him and our hope unswervingly. So, my brothers and sisters, let me urge you: "hold unswervingly to the hope we profess ..." (Heb 10:23).
IV The Faithfulness of God
A Now let me ask, why is it that true Christians persevere in hope? Is there something in them? Is it because they are better, smarter, wiser? Is it because they are more committed? Is it because -- going back to this morning's sermon -- they do a better job of guarding their heart?
Though we are called to persevere, though we are called to an unwavering hope, it is not grounded in us, our faith, our efforts, our works, our piety, our knowledge, or our commitment. Anything grounded in us is shaky ground indeed. Anything grounded in us is sinking sand. Anything grounded in us is built on the temporary.
B Instead, our capacity to persevere is grounded in the character of God. Hebrews puts it this way:
(Heb 10:23) Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful."For he who promised is faithful." That's the key. We can persevere only because God is faithful.
Faithful to what? Faithful to His elect people. Quoting from Deuteronomy, Hebrews 13 reminds us of God's promise to Israel: "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Heb 13:5).
Faithful also to His promises. I mentioned the promises earlier but let me repeat them now: bringing many sons to glory, share in the heavenly calling, enter His rest, inherit what has been promised, full salvation, a city with foundations whose architect and builder is God. God is faithful to everyone of these promises. He doesn't forget or neglect any of these promises. God keeps His Word. He does what He says He is going to do.
What gives us the strength to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess? The faithfulness of God. Consider God's faithfulness to His people and His promises. Hold this dear and near. This keeps your hope alive. That keeps you on track.
And, what is it that leads you to despair and bitterness? Taking your eyes off of Jesus. Looking to yourself and your life and your sin. This past week I was told about a 17 year old. He grew up in a Christian home. Attended a Christian church. Enrolled in a Christian highschool. But his life was filled with despair. So he committed suicide. Look to God, look to Jesus, look at their faithfulness. That's what keeps you going! That's what gives you reason for hope!
Back to my original question: On account of the remnants of sin, is it possible for a true Christian to lose salvation? Is it possible that Jesus will no longer call us brothers and sisters (cf Heb 2:11)? Is it possible that we are no longer regarded as a child of God (cf Heb 2:10)? Is it possible to lose hope?
"No," says our text. "Absolutely NOT." Thanks to God's faithfulness true Christians persevere in hope; they hold unswervingly to the hope they profess.
Take God at His Word, my dear friends. Believe in Jesus Who alone is the hope of glory.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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