************ Sermon on Hebrews 12:28-29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 9, 2001
"Let Us Be Thankful"
In eating and drinking at the Lord's Table this morning we have been given a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom in which no one goes hungry or thirsty; we were given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of the bridegroom and His bride (Mt 11:28,29).
As I said this morning, in the Gospels the institution of the Lord's Supper takes place against the background of the coming of the Kingdom (Mt 26:29; cf Mk 14:25; Lk 22:16; Lk 22:28-30). As the Lord's Supper form puts it,
"the remembrance of our Lord's death revives in us the hope of his return. Since he commanded us to do this until he comes, the Lord assures us that he will come again to take us to himself. So, as we commune with him now under the veil of these earthly elements, we are assured that we shall sometime behold him face to face and rejoice in the glory of his appearing" (P.H., p.980)
Our text from Hebrews talks of this heavenly kingdom. It reminds us that in response to the blessings of the kingdom we are to be thankful.
I A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken
A Our text tells us "we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." Unless you have been through an earthquake, like the people of Los Angeles or San Francisco, this may not mean much to you. I have been through 4 or 5 minor quakes – minor compared to what LA or San Francisco gets. One time I heard a roar, like an express train, the walls began to move, the ceiling began to shake, the floor began to wave. I ran outside. Another time I felt the bed shaking. Ruth was pregnant at the time with Christopher and Chris began to kick furiously. It is scary when the earth shakes.
The author of Hebrews directs our attention to two different mountains: Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. One shakes and the other does not.
God's Old Testament people came to Mount Sinai. None of the people or even animals were allowed to touch this mountain; those who did were to be stoned to death (Ex 19:12). The mountain burned with fire and was covered with darkness, gloom, and storm (Deut 4:11). There was a loud trumpet blast which got louder and louder (Ex 19:16) and a terrifying voice which shook the mountain, spoke to the people, and greatly scared them (Ex 19:19; 20:19). Even Moses, who was allowed to approach and climb the mountain, trembled with fear (Deut 9:19; Heb 12:21). Mount Sinai was a most terrifying experience for the people of Israel.
In contrast, Mount Zion – which Hebrews calls the "heavenly Jerusalem" – is not terrifying at all. This is a mountain that does not shake. It is a place of joy and singing. Those who come to this mountain are greeted by angels, the believing dead, and the Lord Jesus Christ. They can enter into the presence of the Lord with boldness rather than fear because of the perfect obedience and sacrifice of Christ (Heb 10:19f).
B Our text tells us "we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." Contrast this with what will happen to the present-day universe. Someday, says Hebrews, the whole present universe will be shaken to pieces. Quoting the prophet Haggai, the author of Hebrews reminds us of words spoken by God:
(Heb 12:26) Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.Then he continues with:
(Heb 12:27) The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain.
The great shaking spoken of here happens when Christ returns in glory and majesty. At that time the first heaven and first earth will shake away and the sea will be no more (Rev 21:1).
"Our God," says Hebrews, "is a consuming fire." He is the white heat of purity that consumes everything unworthy of Himself. He will burn up all that is temporal, false, and sinful.
Take a look around you. Everything that you see will be shaken and burned. Our homes and businesses, our farms and dairies, this building and all its furnishings, our present sin-filled bodies, the Sears & CN Towers and World Trade Center, our bank accounts – someday all of this will be shaken and burned. Even our faith, our hope, and the church itself will someday disappear. These are all transitory and temporary.
C Only the unshakable things will survive.
What are the unshakable things that will survive? One of them is love (1Cor 13:8). Another is salvation or everlasting life. And still another is the kingdom of Christ.
Our text tells us "we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." This can't be said of any of the kingdoms of the earth. Consider the Greek and Roman Empires – at one time they were shaken and today are gone. The British Empire ended with World War I & II. Hitler's thousand year Reich lasted only 10 or so years. The Russian Empire collapsed when the Berlin Wall came down. The American Empire – if we can talk of such a thing – will someday disappear too. In contrast, the kingdom of Christ is unshakable. It is unshakable because its King rules forever. It is unshakable because nothing temporary or impermanent can be found within it. It is unshakable because sin, evil, and Satan are excluded.
D Even though the kingdom has not yet appeared in all its fullness, the Good News of the Gospel is that it is already here and we are a part of it. Notice what our text says. It says, "we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." It doesn't say, "we will receive." It specifically says, "we are receiving." It is not a future event. Rather, it is a present day reality. Jesus is already seated at God's right hand as king (Heb 12:2). And, in prayer, people can already come boldly into the presence of God at Mt. Zion.
This morning we ate and drank from the Lord's Table. In doing so, as I already said, we had a foretaste of this kingdom and of the heavenly banquet of the bridegroom and His bride.
II Therefore Be Thankful
A This demands a response, of course. The grace of God is never to be separated from the thankful life. The grace of God displayed for us in the Lord's Supper is supposed to call forth a response of gratitude. Says our text:
(Heb 12:28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe ...Grace demands a thankful response.
This morning we had a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom. Therefore we are to respond by being thankful. One of the characteristics of a life of sin and rebellion is ingratitude (Rom 1:21). On the other hand, one of the characteristics of a life of obedience and holiness is thankfulness.
Topic: ValuesWhat is true for the Laotians and Vietnamese is true for us as well: each person belongs to the kingdom whose values he or she exhibits. If we are part of the kingdom of Satan, then ours is a life of ingratitude. But if ours is a kingdom that cannot be shaken, then we lead a life of thankfulness.
Title: Kingdom Citizenship
Before the Western powers imposed national boundaries, the kings of Laos and Vietnam reached an agreement on taxation in the border areas. Those who ate short-grain rice, built their houses on stilts, and decorated them with Indian-style serpents were considered Laotians. On the other hand, those who ate long-grain rice, built their houses on the ground, and decorated them with Chinese-style dragons were considered Vietnamese.
The exact location of a person's home was not what determined his or her nationality. Instead, each person belonged to the kingdom whose cultural values he or she exhibited.
B "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful ..." Especially, of course, we are to be thankful for grace and salvation, for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. With the Apostle Paul we cry out, "Thank be to God for his indescribable gift" (2Cor 9:15).
What else can we say about the thankful life? It should be obvious that thankful people are not full of bitterness; rather, they are full of joy. Thankful people are not whiners and complainers. Some people grumble because God has placed thorns among roses. The thankful person, on the other hand, thanks God because He has placed roses among thorns.
Topic: DiscontentHave you ever heard anyone complaining because their freezer or their closet was too full and they had no place to put anything?
There was an chronic grumbler who couldn't find anything about which to give thanks or praise. Although financially he was a very successful farmer, because of a very sour attitude, no one enjoyed his company. Nothing seemed to please him. His pastor tried to help brighten the outlook, all to no avail.
At the time of the potato harvest, the disgruntled farmer enjoyed a bumper crop. Wanting to strike a more cheerful note, the minister suggested, "Brother I understand you've had a tremendous season with potatoes this year. That certainly must be cause for rejoicing!"
The chronic complainer never even smiled, but sourly responded, "Yes, it's true. The harvest was good enough. But my problem is, I don't have any bad potatoes to feed my pigs."
C This morning we had a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom. Therefore we are to respond by being thankful. According to Hebrews, the thankful life especially involves worship. Listen again to our text:
(Heb 12:28) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe ...The thankful life worships God. Or, to put it another way, we show thanksgiving to God when we gather together for worship.
But not just any kind of worship is in mind. Hebrews says "worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." In the Bible acceptable worship is always communal. I don't buy the argument of those who say they worship God by taking a walk through the park or a drive through the countryside; that may be a personal act of worship but that is not what the Bible has in mind. From the beginning of the Bible to its end, on earth and in heaven, the Bible pictures worship as something done in community. Worship happens when we gather together with other believers to praise and glorify God and lift up His holy name.
Acceptable worship, then, means coming to church.
D But it also means more. Just because you are here does not mean you are living the thankful life. You see, worship involves more than coming to church; it also involves lifestyle. Or, to put it another way, what we do on Monday must reflect what we do on Sunday. We are not to be hypocrites who live for God on Sunday and live like pagans the rest of the week. Listen to what the Bible says:
(James 1:27) Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
(Rom 12:1) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
(Mic 6:8) He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
(1Sam 15:22) "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.
(Cf. Amos 5:14,15)
E One last thing: acceptable worship means we come to church for the sake of God. We don't come out of custom or tradition or superstition. We don't come for the sake of our family or loved ones. We don't come for the sake of the minister. We come for God and for God alone. But do we? A story might help to explain this:
Topic: ChurchHe had it right, didn't he?! Acceptable worship is worship directed towards God. That is the kind of thanks God expects from us who are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken – coming to Him and for Him with reverence and awe!
One day the telephone rang in the pastor's office of the Washington church attended by the President of the United States. An eager voice said, "Tell me, do you expect the President to be there Sunday?" "That I cannot promise," the pastor said patiently. "But we do expect God, and that should be reason enough for a large attendance ..."
This morning, as I already said, we had the privilege of taking the Lord's Supper. In eating and drinking at the Lord's Table we have been given a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom in which no one goes hungry or thirsty; we were given a foretaste of the heavenly banquet of the bridegroom and His bride (Mt 11:28,29).
Now the question: how do you respond? With thankfulness or with complaints? With acceptable worship or with something less than acceptable?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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