Last weeks House opened with a guy being led up onto a hill carrying a cross, before he was then crucified. It turned out during the course of the programme that it was a deal he had made with God, every year his daughter stayed in remission from her cancer he would do that to show his faith in God. It is a fascinating idea, is that what God really wants? Is that the kind of deals God makes? Is such an action pleasing to him? Is that what it takes to earn God’s favour?
Hebrews is written to Jewish Christians who have left Judaism to follow Jesus, but who, under pressure from society, are drifting or being drawn back to adopt and adapt elements of their old religion with their new faith. The Pastor is encouraging them to persevere, to stay fixed on Jesus Christ because he is the only way to God, he is the ultimate high priest making the ultimate offering and securing unique access to God for his people. Here he summarises what he’s said about Jesus ministry and what he secures for his people, and answers the question ‘What does God really want?’ focusing on ‘what Jesus really gives’
1. What God really wants?
If you‘d asked a 1st Century Jew what God wanted what answers do you think you would have been given? The answers would have focused on obeying the law, the temple and the sacrifices which took place there. In fact that is exactly the answers that were given to Jesus. The Sinai covenant showed God’s people how to live, the temple was a sign of God’s presence with its offerings performed as God stipulated.
So (1)was revolutionary, what does the pastor say? “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeatedly endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” The law is not the real thing it is just an outline, it gives a vague idea, and it can’t make you right with God. Even the sacrifices for sin, the burnt offerings, sin offering and fellowship offerings can’t do it.
In fact the continual repetition of these offerings prove that they do not decisively deal with sin, that they can’t, because if an offering made the offerer perfect there wouldn’t be the need for another offering, but there is because they can’t. In fact their repetition (3)is a yearly reminder of the seriousness of sin and its consequences in separating people from God.
What does God want? Imperfect offerings are not enough because they cannot take away sin and restore relationship.
So what does God want? (5-10)The pastor puts the words of Psalm 40 on Jesus lips, as David prophecies about the coming of the Messiah and what he would do.
What did God not want? (5)"Sacrifice and offering...burnt offerings and sin offerings...” What does God want? (7)”I have come to do your will, my God.” Someone who carries out, who lives out his will. He wants someone who fulfils the law, the Sinai covenant was given so that God’s redeemed and blood bought children would live as such but they could not. Enshrined in it was what God really wanted Deuteronomy 6v4 “Hear O Israel; the LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul and with all your strength.” That is what God wants.
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve lived like that and they never had to make an offering to atone for sin. But after the fall sin has to be atoned for, Cain, Abel, Noah, Abraham, all make offerings even before the law is given and afterwards Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, continue because sin remains a constant cause of separation from God, but those offerings have to be repeated because sin is never decisively dealt with.
What is needed as David prophesies is one who will come and do what man cannot, perfectly fulfil God’s will, who will love God with all his heart, soul, and strength. God the Son becomes incarnate to do God’s will. That is what the battle rages over in the desert as Jesus is tempted. ‘Come on’ the Devil is saying ‘you don’t want to do the hard yards, you don’t want to do God’s will look where that will lead you.’ But Jesus remains determined, even in the Garden on the cusp of betrayal, desertion, injustice and in the face of God’s wrath he says “I have come to do your will, my God.”
Christ’s coming (8-10)shows the inadequacy of the first offerings and sacrifices. What God really wants Jesus incarnate gives. God doesn’t want sacrifices or offerings he wants his people to obey him as he deserves, to love him with all their heart, soul and strength.
(10)Jesus is what God really wants, and he lives as he does and dies as he does willingly to make us holy once and for all.
What does God require of us? There is nothing we can contribute that will make us right with God. If the sacrifices and offerings that occur in the temple can’t deal with sin how foolish of us to think we can make deals with God, or offer sacrifices that will make us acceptable. What God requires we can’t provide, but Jesus does it for us.
If you find yourself thinking if I just stop this, whatever it is drink less, swear less, get angry less, or maybe do more I’ll be more friendly, help more people, give more away none of those things even repeated frequently are enough. Why do I say that because sin is so serious Jesus had to come to die for us, to think our efforts at behaviour modification can achieve what his death does is insulting and inadequate.
Jesus makes us holy by his life and death.
2. What Jesus really gives (11-18)
Jesus fulfils God’s requirements, he lives life perfectly meeting God’s requirements, and as a High Priest mediates a better covenant for us. (11-14)Contrast the old covenant priesthood with Jesus to emphasis the superiority of his ministry, mediation and what is the believers by faith in Christ.
(11)The priest stands and performs his sacrifices daily – every day, repeated again and again, making the same sacrifices continually because they cannot provide forgiveness of sins.
How does (12)begin? “But”. By contrast Jesus offers one sacrifice, not repeatedly but once forever, and his sacrifice is himself, and having offered that sacrifice what does he do? He sits – he doesn’t stand to continue offering sacrifices - his work complete, his once for all sacrifice enough and he is seated at God’s right hand waiting. And his once for all sacrifice makes his people perfect for every.
Jesus gives God what he wants, and then by dying in our place takes our sin and transfers to us his perfect record, so that God sees us as those who do his will, so that God views us as his perfect sons and daughters. We are given that status made holy(11), made perfect(14) so why would you go back to what cannot perfect, what is only a vague shadow.
Do you see what Jesus gives us? What do we contribute to our salvation? Nothing, only our sin and need.
But he is not finished there. (15-18)Under the new covenant, in Jesus we are given new hearts on which God by his Spirit applying his word writes the law. God’s people are forgiven and given a new status, we contribute nothing to our salvation but we are to live in the light of what we have been given.
Do you see your status this morning? Jesus provides God with what he wants and transfers that status to us – his once for all sacrifice cleanses us and gives us new hearts. There is nothing we can do to add to it. When you have sinned this week there is no sense in which you can atone for it, God will not punish you to balance the scales, there is no cosmic Karma. You are made perfect by Jesus one sacrifice.
I guess we aren’t tempted to build an altar in the garden and slaughter a bull or goat but sometimes we do find ourselves thinking we ought to atone for what we have done. You cannot and you need not! Isn’t that liberating, Jesus has done it all there is nothing left to add to what he has done.
But accepting and following Jesus transforms us, we aren’t saved to sin, we are saved to serve. God puts his law on our heart and minds so that as a result of recognising the wonder of what Jesus has done for us we live in the of light of it. So that we follow Jesus our lives a living echo of his words “I have come to do your will”. Living to delight our loving heavenly father and following Jesus who has saved us.
Grace transforms, legalism binds. Don’t turn back to the inadequate fix your eye son your glorious Saviour and live transformed by grace.
What does that look like? We’ll come back to Hebrews 10 after Christmas but just look at:
- (19)We make use of our access to God – children naturally talk to their Father because they can, they have a relationship that provides them with unlimited access. So do we.
- (23)We don’t abandon our hope – we don’t turn aside from trusting Jesus alone but we persevere, we must not add anything to Jesus as our hope.
- (24)We spur one another on to love and good deeds – we work the gospel into each other’s lives so it bears practical results. How by meeting together, praying together, sharing our lives together. By engaging not in small talk and not in spiritual talk but in real life talk – helping each other apply the gospel of grace to every situation we face in our lives.
- (25)We commit to one another – to be here (That feels a bit like preaching to the choir this morning give the weather). It also means we need to be committed to encouraging others to being here. Phoning them, giving lifts, etc...
- (26)We encourage one another – that means keep on reminding each other of the wonder of salvation and provoking each other to live in the light of grace.