How would you define a Christian? Lots of people define a Christian as someone who believes in God. But actually that’s wrong, someone who believes in God is a Theist.
The essential part of the word Christian is the first 6 letters, Christ. A Christian is someone who accepts the claims Jesus made and follows him. As someone said if you take Christ out of Christian you are just left with Ian and he can’t help you.
Look at our passage, what does the pastor writing to this church urge them to do? “fix your thoughts on Jesus”. It’s an interesting phrase isn’t it? What he is calling them to do is to pay intense attention to Jesus, to thoroughly investigate and think through Jesus so that they fully understand who he is and what it means to follow him, and to keep on doing that.
It is a good definition of what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who has investigated and paid careful and close attention to what Jesus claimed and by doing so believes he is who he claims and what it means to follow him.
Look at the end of the verse and we see what it is the Christian has understood about Jesus by what they confess about him. What is it? “whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” What does it mean to acknowledge something? To admit or recognise the truth of something or to confess it as the truth.
What makes someone a Christian is what they believe about Jesus and the importance he has in their lives. The genuine Christian fixes their thoughts on Jesus no matter what, when suffering or tempted or fearful they fix their thoughts on who Jesus is, what he has done, and the relationship he has given them.
We’re going to look at 2 questions; 1. Why is Jesus worth fixing your thoughts on? 2. What difference does it make?
1. Why is Jesus worth fixing your thoughts on?
We’ve seen that the believer confesses two things about Jesus. He is their apostle and high priest. An apostle was a messenger, an envoy or representative of someone else. In using that word the pastor is pulling together the themes of chapter 1 “in these last days he [God] has spoken to us by his Son...”, Jesus is God’s greatest, his ultimate envoy. He is God made flesh, the creator stepping into his creation, God made one of us, his words, actions responses, reactions revealing God to us like never before. That makes him worth listening to.
But actually we need more than just someone with God’s message to listen to because that message would leave us helpless. We need someone who can deal with our biggest problem. You see the message Jesus brings is that we aren’t automatically right with God, but we are automatically wrong with God. Jesus comes because there is something very wrong with our relationship with God, and that something is sin.
Sin is when we fall short of what God intends us to be. God made us to be his people, to love him and live recognising our creator. But we rebel against that in hundreds of ways every day; we worship ourselves rather than God, we say our will be done not your will be done, we worship the creation rather than the creator, we get angry, we resent others. Sin is not out there it is in here.
Often we keep a lid on it but it is seen in our reaction to trials and sufferings, they don’t force us to be something different they simply reveal who we really are.
And because God is holy and can’t stand sin we face his right judgement, every instance of injustice will be accounted for and paid for, every instance of rebellion, or self worship rather than God worship. And the penalty will be eternal separation from God. **How is hell portrayed in the media? A place of fun, it’s where the party is. That is wrong, hell is place where everything enjoyable, everything good is sucked out, even the devil does not want to go to hell, but God in his power will judge him and send him there.
Jesus comes to warn but he also comes to bring hope, he comes to seek and save the lost, he comes to be a high priest for his people.
The High priest alone went into the holy of holies to represent the people before God on the day of atonement and sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial goat on the mercy seat to pay for peoples sin.
That is exactly what Jesus does 2:17 “he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” He becomes our high priest but more amazingly what is the offering? He is; God’s son who lives a perfect life, who never sins, he dies as the ultimate sin offering for us, in our place exhausting the just wrath of God against our sin.
That’s why here he is described as a faithful high priest, he undertakes and finished the task God appointed him to. He is faithful just as Moses was faithful but his faithfulness goes beyond that of Moses. Moses is worthy of honour for his service of God among the people of Israel, for his intercession for them, for his leading of them, but Jesus is more than a servant among the people he is the Son over the people.
St Paul’s is a magnificent building! But if you honour the building you miss the point, **who deserves the honour? The architect and builder. Creation is amazing but **who deserves the honour? God the creator. In the same way Jesus creates the people of God (house) by his death and resurrection, and he deserves honour and glory. In fact says the author Moses witnesses to Jesus coming to do just that in the future.
For the Jews Moses was a revered figure but he points you to honour Jesus, he calls us to fix our thoughts on him and his work.
Who do you say Jesus is? Have you investigated who he is and what he says? Have you made your mind up?
Are you continuing to fix your thoughts on Jesus and what he has done for you?
2. What difference does it make
Things change us don’t they. If you get married how does life change? You may change address, you change name... If you retire how does life change?
Investigating who Jesus is and confessing him as God’s ultimate revelation and your saviour changes everything and that is something the pastor wants his readers and us to grasp. It changes who they are now and it changes their future.
a. Who we are now. How does he describe them(1)? “Holy brothers and sisters...” They are holy – that means they are acceptable to God, God views them as sinless. Jesus doesn’t just take their status of sinner on himself and pay for it, he transfers to the believer the status of God’s perfect child.
Imagine for a minute you had a debt of £250,000. It would be great wouldn’t it if a wealthy millionaire came and paid your debt for you. But how much greater if that person paid off your debt and credited you with access to his bank account.
When God looks at those who are following Jesus he sees them through the lens of the cross, it isn’t just that he sees our sin paid for but he sees us as his perfect, holy children. And because we are made holy in Jesus we are God’s children.
But there is more just look at(6) how else are believers described? “his house” we are his people. We are brought into a community of believers, we aren’t isolated lonely individual Jesus followers we are brought into a community marked by grace.
And this change in status makes a huge difference! As we fix our thoughts on Jesus and what he has done for us we are freed from the burden of guilt, because he has paid for it all, we are freed from having to work to earn salvation because we are saved by confessing him. And we are freed from individualism because he brings us into his family and his people who relate to one another by grace, and help each other keep our thoughts fixed on Jesus.
b. Our future. How else does he describe believers(1)? “Who share in a heavenly calling”. It isn’t just that we are saved now. We are also called to something, it is a call to follow Jesus because he will lead us to glory, to be where God will be for eternity. It is a reminder that one day just as Jesus ascended he will come back and he calls believers to live in the light of that calling.
Deciding to follow Jesus changes everything it changes who you are now and it changes what you are living for. Are you fixing your thoughts on God’s faithful Son? Have you confessed him as your apostle and high priest?
If you have confessed Jesus as God’s Son the ultimate revelation of God and the one who died for your sins and makes you a child of God, then keep fixing your thoughts on him. As you live in a world where there is suffering keep your thoughts fixed on him and on what he has done for you and what he gives you.
Sometimes we can find ourselves, just like the Hebrews, living with a gospel gap. We forget what Christ has done and what he has made us and in the press of the now and the stress of the urgent we don’t fix our thoughts on Jesus, and other things fill the gospel gap – formalism, legalism, activism, and so on.
Where is the gospel gap in your life? Is it in the way you think of yourself, the guilt you labour under, the constant seeking of peoples well done and approval because you have forgotten you have God’s? Or is it that you have forgotten your future, that the world seems to matter too much, so that you are too driven by trying to achieve it all now, or by trying to earn status?
The Hebrews are in danger of filling their gospel gap with the wrong thing, with religion, with extra’s. What have we filled ours with? The remedy is to fix our thoughts on Jesus, to remember what he has done, our new identity and our future.