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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Living as Wise Children of God
Text:Hebrews 10:19-25 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Selections from the Psalter Hymnal, 1976, unless otherwise noted:

320 - Safely Through Another Week 
454 - Nearer, Still Nearer
359 (Red) - Be Thou My Vision
480 - O Jesus, I Have Promised

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Pastor Ted Gray
“Living as Wise Children of God”
Hebrews 10:19-25
In 1976 Francis Schaeffer produced the epic work entitled, How Then Should We Live? In that book, which also was turned into a series of ten videos, Francis Schaeffer succinctly and accurately traced the rise and decline of Western culture and challenged Christians to live faithfully in an increasingly secular society.
But the title to his epic work, How Then Should We Live? could also be the title for the passage that is before us from Hebrews 10. The word “therefore”, which begins the passage in verse 19, refers back to what the author of Hebrews has said about the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sinners.
He began the chapter by describing how the ceremonial law could never take away sin with all the required sacrifices. All the sacrifices of the Old Testament were only a shadow of the reality of the perfect sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ of himself.
In verse 5, and the verses which follow, the author of Hebrews describes how Christ, when he came into the world said,
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
     but a body you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
     you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am – It is written about me
          in the scroll –
     I have come to do your will, O God.’”
The will of the Father was for the Son to offer himself as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin on the cross of Calvary, so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. And now in verse 19, as a new section begins, we see that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf was not done just for our future life. Jesus suffered, died, and rose again not only so that we who believe in him have entrance into heaven. He also suffered, died, and rose again so that we would live – here and now, day by day – lives that reflect our gratitude for what he has done.
In other words, since he sacrificed himself for us, and has given us the gift of saving faith in him, how then should we live? That question is answered repeatedly in the passage that we read together. The words “let us” are used three times in the ESV (English Standard Version of the Bible), and five times in the NIV (New International Version).
Drawing Near to God
The first “let us” - which shows us how we should live - is in verse 22, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.”
In a culture which has declined and continues to spiral downward, how important it is that we draw near to the Lord. In an instable world he is the rock of stability. He is the sure foundation upon which we build our lives. It is only the life that is built upon the rock of Christ that withstands the winds of unbelief and skepticism which howl against Christianity.
It is Christ himself who is the door by which we enter into the presence of Almighty God. Jesus used that analogy himself when he spoke about how he is the door and the gate by which the sheep enter the eternal pasture, into the kingdom of God, into heaven itself (John 10:7, 9).  But how do we draw near to God through Christ?
One way that we draw near to God is through prayer to him. Earlier in the letter, in chapter 4:16 we read: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Through prayer we have direct access to God the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. If we thought more about the power of prayer, we would certainly be more fervent and frequent in our prayers!
And when we go to the Lord in prayer, verse 22 tells us we are to go to him in full assurance of faith. Jesus came to this earth to do his Father's will. His Father's will involved the sacrifice of his Son. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ cleanses those who believe in him from all their sin. And therefore – because of Christ, not because of anything in ourselves, but because of Christ – we can have full assurance of our salvation. And we have full assurance that he hears our prayers and answers them in the way that is best for us.
Part of having that full assurance of faith includes believing that our hearts truly are cleansed from a guilty conscience. When we draw near to the Lord, we can have full assurance that he has cleansed us from all those sins that our conscience accuses us of.
The washing with pure water, which verse 22 refers to, is likely a reference to baptism, but not to the mere outward action of the sacrament, but to what baptism portrays: the inner cleansing that comes through saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Holding On to the Hope We Profess
A second “let us” is in verse 23: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The hope that we profess is a wonderful and precious hope. It is precious because it is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. Because it is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ it is also certain. Hope in the Scripture doesn’t carry any of the uncertainty that our hope in earthly things carries.
But even though our hope in the Lord Jesus Christ is wonderful and precious, there are many things that can dim our hope and take the glimmer and joy of our salvation from us. Our sin is often the biggest deterrent in holding unswervingly to the hope we profess because it causes us to doubt our salvation, especially as the evil one accuses us.
But the world also works against the hope that we have in the Lord. One of the passages that I am trying to memorize is Psalm 104, which is a beautiful account of creation. I have no doubt that the Lord created this world and all that is in it, but the theory of evolution is put up as a truth and the truth of creation is considered a fairytale by many, if not most, people in our world today.
You can go down the list of everything that we have faith and hope in: Salvation itself, complete forgiveness of sin, glory in heaven, provision of every need – our daily bread here on earth, and our heavenly home not built with human hands. And as you go down the list of all the great and precious certainties that we have hope in, the world and the devil put a damper on our hope; the world and the devil try to douse our hope and destroy our faith.
It was no different in the first century, or in any other era of time. Perhaps that is why the author of Hebrews was inspired to write that great 11th chapter which extols the faith of God’s people. Over and over in Chapter 11 we read of how God’s people have persevered in their faith, held onto their hope, and looked forward to heaven even though they faced ridicule and persecution in the process. What kept them going? And what enables you and me to hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess? The second part of verse 23 gives the answer, “for he who promised is faithful.”
­We live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). If we lived by sight, we would not hold on unswervingly to the hope that we profess. But with the eye of faith, we look beyond the things of this world. We behold the faithfulness of God. He has made the promises concerning our salvation, concerning our eternal home, concerning the cleansing of our conscience, and concerning the provision of our daily bread. And because he has made the promises, and because he is faithful, we are to hold on unswervingly to the hope that we profess.
Love and Good Deeds
A third “let us” is in verse 24 which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
In the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we see the ultimate love of God displayed. Romans 5:28: “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Jesus has loved us not just with kind words, but with deeds. He has loved us with the ultimate pinnacle of love in that he laid down his life for us. Jesus himself said, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)
And since we are reminded in this passage that Christ has loved us – not only with words, but with the greatest deed of giving up his life for us – we are also to be spurred on to love and good deeds.
It was John who pointed out that love is more than just words. 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with action and in truth.” And it was James who pointed out, “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” (James 4:1)
When we think of sin, we usually think of sins of commission. But the sins of omission can easily outnumber the sins of commission. They are equally heinous in God’s sight. It was the sin of omission, springing from a lack of saving faith, that caused the man with one talent to be consigned to hell (Matt. 25:30). How often do we have good intentions, but never follow through with them? That is why this admonition of verse 24 is so important: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
Meeting Together
A further application is in verse 25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” One of the incentives for being faithful in the public worship of the Lord is that we know that the final day is approaching. Verse 25 is focusing on the day when Jesus returns in glory to judge the living and the dead.
But so many things in our society are geared to take our minds off the reality of the second coming. And so many activities in our culture are geared to take our minds away from the Lord’s Day and the worship that is required of us on that day. Sunday has become the day for sports, not only the professional sports that keep many people glued to the TV screen, but sports for young children are increasingly scheduled for Sunday. Sunday is also the day for shopping. Some stores have sales that are only on Sunday and many people have made the Lord’s Day their day to run errands and do shopping. Many other special events, whether running races for charities or other events that in themselves are worthwhile, are often scheduled on the Lord’s Day instead of Saturday.
These influences of our culture, along with spiritual apathy and animosity toward spiritual truths, have caused many churches to empty out in the last few decades. Statistics on the number of people who attend church regularly in North America have dropped substantially over the last fifty years. That is why the injunction of verse 25 is so important, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.”
It is interesting that the Holy Spirit inspired the word “habit” to be used in the injunction to not give up meeting together. Habits are something that we form; some of our habits are good habits, other habits are extremely destructive. For many of us, going to church is a habit that was formed in our younger years. I consider it a great blessing to have grown up in a family where my parents faithfully attended church morning and evening.
But even our good habits can be broken, and when they are broken, it is amazing how quickly they can be replaced with bad habits. As an example, a neighbor I once knew was an elder in another church; he faithfully attended morning and evening services. He was blessed both times and he often talked about how those who only attend the morning miss out on so many opportunities for spiritual growth and fellowship with other believers.
But then, after a period of time, as evening service in his church became less and less attended, that church put an end to the evening service. Initially my neighbor was really upset. He talked about leaving the church even though he had been there for many years. But in the end, he decided to stay.
We had moved to another state and came back to visit. We had attended the church that I had pastored when we lived in that town, and we wanted to look up our former neighbor. It was late on a Sunday afternoon, but we figured we had time to visit him before the 6 o’clock evening service began at our former church. We stopped at his house, but he wasn't home. One of his children told us that he was at his son’s house who was doing some remodeling.
We got the address and drove to his son’s house, and there was my friend, the elder who had been so consistent in both services, laying down a floor in his son’s house. He said, “Well, the church doesn't have a second service anymore, and my son and his wife need this new floor, and I've got to go to work tomorrow, so I figured I may as well lay some tile today. But we were in church this morning,” he assured me.
The Lord’s Day doesn't end at noon time, but rather extends throughout the day. In the Old Testament era it was marked by morning and evening sacrifices. The 92nd Psalm, which has as its subscript, “A Psalm for the Sabbath Day,” begins by saying, “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night.”
Because there are so many activities scheduled for Sunday, many people never attend any services of the church. And even among those who have the good habit of attending church, such as my former neighbor, the elder, find out to their own detriment that good habits can disintegrate so very quickly and completely when the whole day is not devoted to the Lord.
More recently, live streaming of church services has kept many from meeting together for worship. Covid 19 forced the closure of many churches, during which time churches relied on live streaming which is a great blessing in many ways. But as Covid restrictions ease, many people are so used to the live stream, the comfort of their couch, and maybe a pizza in the oven to munch on during the live stream, that they no longer attend church the way they once did.
By doing so, they not only hurt the church, who needs her members in attendance, but they also hurt themselves. The admonition of verse 25, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” is given to us for our good. It is by meeting together that our faith is increased, our hope is strengthened, and we are spurred on to love God and to love one another, as we are encouraged to do the good works God has before ordained for us to do.
The church also needs her members. The church is the body of Christ. Each member of the body is necessary for the body to function as it should. That is why Paul explained to the Corinthians how “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” (1 Cor. 12:21) Every member is needed in corporate, physical worship together in order for the church to be an active and healthy body.
In 1976 Francis Schaeffer produced the epic work entitled, How Then Should We Live? But the title to his book could also be the title for the passage that is before us from Hebrews 10. When we recognize all that Christ has done for us, as we recognize that we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by his shed blood, when we recognize that he is our great High Priest who has sacrificed himself for us, then we are to respond by drawing ever nearer to him and to our brother and sisters in Christ. For together, we are by God’s grace, the mystical body of Christ here on earth. Amen.
Bulletin Outline:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and
good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in
the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all
the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25
                        “Living as Wise Children of God”
                                     Hebrews 10:19-25
I. The “therefore” of verse 19 refers back to the “therefore” of verse 5,
    telling us that since Christ Jesus came into the world, we who believe
    in Him have access into the Most Holy Place, which is heaven (19-
    20) and a great high priest who has cleansed us from our sin (20-21)
II. The words “let us” are used three times in the ESV, five times in the
     NIV. Therefore, let us:
     1) Draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith (22)
     2) Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for God is faithful (23)
     3) Spur one another on to love and good deeds (24)
III. Further application: We are not to give up meeting together, but are to
      encourage each other to be faithful, for the Day is approaching (25)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Ted Gray

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