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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
 
Title:Fix your thoughts on Jesus
Text:Hebrews 3:1-2 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel
 
Preached:2009
Added:2009-12-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3
Psalm 51:1-2
Psalm 110:1-4
Hymn 33
Hymn 6

Reading:  Hebrews 2:1-3:6
Text:  Hebrews 3:1-2
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,

 

In his recent book Christless Christianity, United Reformed minister and professor Michael Horton identifies a major problem in North American Christianity:   much of it misses the boat on who Christ is and what he has done and many times even ignores Jesus Christ completely.  Spurred on by his diagnosis, many are now calling for preaching that focuses on Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us in the Bible.  Of course, this isn’t the first time that such calls have been made.  After all, this was one of the fundamental complaints of the Reformation about late medieval Christianity.  Jesus was mentioned, but he was no longer central, and he was no longer preached or believed in as he was revealed in Scripture.  So we hear Martin Luther saying, “The truth of the Gospel is the principle article of all Christian doctrine...it is most necessary that we know this article well, teach it to others, and beat it into their heads continually.”  According to Luther, we must never take the gospel for granted or assume it.  We must never forget to constantly preach Christ crucified, the Saviour of sinners. 

 

My purpose in this sermon is to encourage you from the Word of God to continue hungering for Christ and the gospel which reveals him.  My purpose is to help you keep your focus on what is most important.  I pray that each of you would always find your only comfort in life and in death in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  That’s what our text from Hebrews 3:1-2 directs us towards.  I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

 

Fix your thoughts on Jesus

 

We’ll see that this involves:

 

1.      Confessing who we are, but most importantly

2.      Confessing the person and work of the Saviour

 

We don’t know who wrote the letter to the Hebrews.  There are a lot of theories.  Some say Paul, others say Apollos, and others think it was someone else.  Whoever it was, it doesn’t really matter all that much.  More important is the fact that the letter doesn’t really seem to be a letter at all.  Apart from the ending, it reads a lot like a sermon from the days of the apostolic church. 

 

Today when we begin our sermons, we customarily address the congregation as “Beloved congregation of Christ our Lord” or words to that effect.  This is our custom, but it is also biblical.  Through the New Testament we find letters addressed to churches in a similar way.  When you address a church, you address them as the people of God, as the congregation belonging to Christ, as those who profess the name of Christ.

 

Now the sermon that is the book of Hebrews doesn’t begin this way.  But yet throughout the book, we do find God’s people addressed in this proper apostolic manner.  And one of those places is right here at the beginning of chapter 3.

 

The author of Hebrews calls his readers “holy brothers.”  Those two words are pregnant and we need to carefully consider what they mean.  “Holy brothers” – these words build on what was said in chapter 2.  There we find all kinds of statements that as believers we are part of a spiritual family.  Verse 11 of chapter 2 says, “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.  So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.”

 

Loved ones, there is a beautiful and comforting truth here.  We are members of God’s family.  Because of Christ and his redemptive work, we have been adopted as God’s own children.  And there’s more here to be amazed at.  You might be wondering why it says “brothers” and “sons” throughout these chapters.  This isn’t meant to exclude the sisters and daughters, to exclude the girls and women.  Rather, it’s meant to highlight the fact that we are privileged children, we are those who will receive the inheritance of our Father, whether we’re male or female.  You can see that when elsewhere in chapter 2, the writer speaks of “children” in the generic sense.  So, we are God’s children who will receive an inheritance.  What is that inheritance exactly?

 

Hebrews 1:14 says that we will “inherit salvation.”  In other words, we will live forever reconciled to our God and Father in heaven.  This is eternal, this is something that cannot and will not be taken away from us.  Closely connected with that is our inheritance of the new heavens and new earth.  God will give us a land in which to dwell forever, a land which will both be ours and his, a land in which he will dwell with us in perfect communion.  There is a glorious inheritance waiting for us!

 

And that’s expressed when we’re called “holy brothers” by the Holy Spirit here in Hebrews 3:1.  We’re younger brothers of our Lord Jesus, part of God’s family.  And then we’re also holy.  That simply means that we have been set apart by God from the world.  God has claimed us for his own – we belong to him, we belong to his family.  There is something special about this people.  And here we can think to baptism as well.  We have all received the sign and seal of God’s covenant in baptism.  God has claimed us for his own.  When we were baptized, God said, “This one is mine!  This one is holy, set apart for me.”  Then we all need to come to a point where we say, “Yes, I belong to God.  Through his covenant of grace, he has claimed me for his own.  I acknowledge that.  I believe that because of Christ and everything he has done – and only because of Christ, I am his and forever will be.”  All of us need to say exactly that same thing.  God has claimed us for his own, made beautiful promises to us in Christ Jesus, and we all need to respond to those promises in faith.  And all of that is captured in those two beautiful words, “holy brothers.”

 

Brothers and sisters, confessing that we are “holy brothers” of our Lord Jesus will also bear fruit in a godly life.  If we confess that indeed we are “holy brothers,” then that’s a statement of faith – we take God at his Word.  And such faith cannot but help bear fruit.  God says we are holy, set apart from sin and the world – and so it must be in our lives.  We are holy, that doesn’t mean that we’re perfect, or that we’re free from the struggle against sin.  You’re not an unbeliever because you struggle with sin, rather your struggle is part of what makes you a Christian.  God’s declaration of our holiness is also meant to be our declaration of war – war against sin.  God says we are holy, now we’re going to make every effort to be who we are. 

 

So, the writer to the Hebrews says that we are holy brothers and so we confess ourselves to be – and all because of Christ.  But he also says that we are those who share in the heavenly calling.  And these are also words that draw our praise upwards to God in amazement at his grace.  We share in the heavenly calling. 

 

That means two things.  First of all, it means that we have been called by God who lives in heaven.  God has called us out of the world, out of darkness and into his wonderful light.  God has called us with his Word to believe him and follow him.  God constantly calls us to repent and believe the gospel.  Our calling comes from heaven and it is to be God’s children in this age and in the age to come. 

 

But second of all, it is also a call to heaven.  According to Hebrews 11:16, there is a better country, a heavenly one.  God has prepared a city for us there.  And it is that city which is part of our eternal inheritance.  A city whose builder and maker is God.  A city whose splendour will take your breath away when you see it some day.  It’s beauty will be the beauty of God and we’ll delight in that.    

 

We share this heavenly calling with all of God’s people.  We share it.  It’s not just a calling for one or two people, but it’s something that’s shared by many, something held in common.  The heavenly calling exists in the communion of saints.  And that calling needs a response and that’s what we find in the command of our text to “fix your thoughts on Jesus.” 

 

The calling from and to heaven leads us to confess the person and work of our Lord Jesus.  Here we have to take a step back again to chapter 2.  We have to do that because of that one word at the beginning of chapter 3:  “Therefore...”  You can’t glance over that.  Whenever you see a “therefore” in Scripture, you need to ask, “What is it there for?”  What comes before?  What is the basis for the teaching that’s about to come?

 

As we look back to chapter 2 then, Christ is portrayed as the one who “suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  The Lord Jesus is the author of our salvation “made perfect through suffering.”  He shared in our humanity “so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death – that is, the devil” and provide freedom for us.  He was made like us so that he could be a merciful and faithful high priest.  He become one of us so that he could make the sacrifice that would turn away God’s wrath from us – that he would be our propitiation – propitiation means to turn away God’s wrath.  By so doing, he would bring reconciliation with God.  And today, because he has suffered during his temptations on this earth, he intercedes for us who are being tempted. 

 

Brothers and sisters, all of that is the basis or the reason for the “Therefore” that starts chapter 3.  The Holy Spirit says, because Christ is all of that, fix your thoughts on him.  Focus your attention on Christ Jesus, don’t get distracted by other things, but be obsessed with him.  He is to be the sun for your solar system.  Everything has to center on him, everything has to turn around him.  Why?  Because Christ is your salvation, and your hope, your life before God. 

 

Hebrews 3:1 tells us to fix our thoughts on Christ in two specific ways.  There are other ways in which we could fix our thoughts on Christ – for instance, we could think of him as our King, or as the husband of his bride, the church; and we could add others.  But here there are only two and they are closely related, in fact you cannot separate them:  Christ as apostle and High Priest.

 

As I mentioned a moment ago, his High Priestly work is mentioned already in chapter 2.  It consists of two parts.  As a high priest, he has redeemed us by the one sacrifice that he made on the cross.  He turned away God’s wrath with the sacrifice of his body and blood.  As our perfect substitute, the Lord Jesus has paid for all our debts toward God, he has made the complete satisfaction for us.  Today as we fix our thoughts on him, we can be confident that we are forgiven, that all our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west.  We can be sure that God has thrown him into the depths of the sea.  Fixing our thoughts on Christ, resting and trusting in him, we can be certain that there is no barrier between us and our Father in heaven.  Loved ones, we need to believe this and hold on to this always.  Never, ever begin to think that some sin is too great to be covered by the blood of the Lamb.  Never forget that there is forgiveness for you at the cross of Christ, no matter what you’ve done or how far you’ve strayed.  Keep coming back to God in Christ, and you will never be turned away.  That’s because he is your High Priest who has made the sacrifice you could never make for yourself.  Keep trusting him.

 

That’s the first part of Christ’s high priestly work.  The second part is that our great High Priest also lives to make intercession for us before the Father.  Today, right now, the Son of God who walked on this earth some 2000 years ago is at the right hand of God in heaven.  He is there not for himself, but for us.  You know, those are two of the most beautiful words in the Christian faith – for us.  Christ is there in heaven for us, for our benefit.  When we experience the brokenness of this fallen world, Christ is for us.  When we struggle with our sinful desires, Christ is for us.  When we pray, Christ is for us.  When we don’t know what to pray or we can no longer pray because of old age or sickness, Christ is for us.  He speaks for us when we can’t speak for ourselves anymore.  He sustains us with his Holy Spirit and helps us in our pilgrimage on this earth.  This is something he always has done, still does, and always will do.  Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was made just once, but his priestly intercession for us is something that will not stop until the dawn of the age to come.  Loved ones, we are so blessed to have such a Saviour, a Saviour who loves us so much that he is always on our side, always by our side.  Fix your thoughts on Jesus the high priest whom we confess!

 

The author of this book adds that he was and is a faithful High Priest.  We find that in verse 2.  The Lord Jesus was and is faithful to the one who appointed him, to God the Father.  Here the comparison is made to Moses.  Moses was faithful among God’s people, he was faithful in God’s house.  However, the Lord Jesus is superior to Moses because he is faithful over God’s house.  He has redeemed the house with his own body and blood.  He is the one who builds the house, but he is also the one who rules the house and protects the house.  In other words, the Lord Jesus is faithful, he is loyal to God in carrying out his role of intercession.  He will never abandon the house or bring down words of judgment on the house.  The same mouth that prays for God’s people will never condemn those people.  The Lord Jesus is the faithful high priest whom we confess, the one upon whom we ought to fix our thoughts.

 

Closely connected with his being a high priest is his being an apostle.  This is an unusual way to describe Christ and in fact, this is the only place in the Bible where the Lord Jesus is explicitly called an apostle.  An apostle is literally someone who is sent out with a commission.  The apostles of Christ were sent out in Matthew 28 with the Great Commission.  But here in Hebrews, the Lord Jesus himself is called an apostle.  That’s because God sent him into this world.  Here you can think of 1 John 4:9, “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as the propitiation for our sins.”  There in that passage you see the direct connection between Christ being sent, his being an apostle, and his work as a High Priest, his propitiation, his sacrifice which has turned away God’s wrath from us.  That’s 1 John 4:9.  The Lord Jesus was sent into this world with a task and a calling.  He recognized that in his high priestly prayer in John 17.  In verses 3-4, the Lord Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.  I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”  The Lord Jesus was sent to this earth and he willingly agreed to come.  Before the foundation of the world, he agreed to come as our High Priest, to make the ultimate sacrifice in our place. 

 

In this too, he was faithful.  He was a loyal Apostle, a loyal Son in the Father’s house.  He took on our human flesh inside the womb of the virgin Mary.  He became incarnate by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit and thus began his life as one of us.  At his incarnation, he started off down the road of humiliation.  He did what needed to be done, suffering his whole life, but especially at the end.  All so that many sons would be brought to glory.  All for us.  The Lord Jesus is the faithful Apostle, sent into this world to be our Redeemer – look to him in true faith and hang all your hope and expectation on him alone, both for this life and the life to come.  That’s the bottom line of this passage.  That’s what the Holy Spirit is telling us here. 

 

But then someone might say, “Well, what do we have to do now?  What is this passage saying about living as a Christian?”  Loved ones, let me explain.  This is a foundational text, it lays the foundation for a Christian life.  There is that general aspect of being holy brothers, but this passage doesn’t give the details of how to live as a Christian.  That’s not the emphasis here.  We find that elsewhere in the Bible.  This text is about what is most important for believers, which is to constantly be looking to Christ, constantly being reminded about the gospel of grace.  This passage is about being impressed with our Saviour, so that we are motivated to a holy and godly Christian life.  You see, it’s all about Christian Faith 101, a course we need to take over and over again until our dying day.

 

Brothers and sisters, see how the author of Hebrews works here.  He clearly states that he is addressing Christians.  He calls them holy brothers.  He says that they share the heavenly calling.  But he doesn’t take anything for granted.  He tells these holy brothers, these people who share the heavenly calling to keep on fixing their thoughts on Jesus.  He doesn’t work like many people today who say, “Well, you know, Mr. Hebrews Author, we already know all that.  You don’t have to keep telling us that.  Just tell us how we should live now.  Just give some practical teaching and quit repeating yourself.”  No, he says, “You may be a Christian, you may have been a Christian your whole life, but you still need the gospel.  You never outgrow your need for it.  There’s never a day or a time in your life, when you don’t need to hear the reminder to fix your thoughts on Christ.  That’s something you’re always going to need.”

 

And loved ones, it’s the preaching of the gospel which powers a Christian life.  When we are impressed with God’s grace, smitten by his love, in wonder at what Christ has done, what happens in our hearts?  Aren’t our hearts filled with gratitude?  Aren’t our hearts filled with love and a desire to please our Father?  Don’t we want to do the will of our Lord?  Don’t we want to make much of him with our words and deeds and also win our neighbours?  When we understand the grace proclaimed in the gospel, we don’t aim for obedience because we think we’re going to earn something from God, that we’ll make him love us more by what we do.  We aim for obedience, because we love him and from our hearts we want to please him.  Jesus is not only our Saviour, but also our Lord and those two aspects of his person and work are inseparable.  If he is truly our Redeemer, then he must also be the master of our lives.  But it all begins with the gospel and the gospel must never be taken for granted or assumed.

 

History teaches us that churches that assume the gospel or take it for granted will surely lose it, usually within one generation.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  If what children and young people hear in the church is only about how to live a Christian life, only how to be obedient to God, and they never or seldom hear about the gospel, they will soon think that Christianity is all about us and our deeds, our obedience, and our lifestyle.  The gospel will disappear and we’ll just become a club of likeminded people who are trying to live a moral life.  The gospel is a precious treasure, a pearl of great price, and to lose it is a horrific tragedy.

 

So, let me encourage you to fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest we confess.  Brothers and sisters, keep Christ central and the gospel central.  Doing that in faith we will give glory and honour to God our Creator, Redeemer, and Renewer; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  AMEN. 

 

Let us pray together:

 

Lord Jesus,

 

You are the apostle and high priest whom we confess.  We thank you for agreeing to come into this world to be our Redeemer.  We praise you for your faithfulness and loyalty and we thank you that through it you have brought many sons to glory.  We are so grateful that we can be counted among your brothers, thank you that we have a place at our Father’s table, thank you that we have a share in the inheritance to be fully revealed in the age to come.  Your good news captivates our minds, cheers our hearts and powers our wills.  Please help us all with your Spirit so that we would never assume the gospel or begin to take it for granted.  Help us all to fix our thoughts on you.  We pray in your name and for your glory, together with the Father and the Spirit.  AMEN. 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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