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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:Fix Your Thoughts on Jesus
Text:Hebrews 3:1-6 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Life in Christ

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

I Love the Lord, the Fount of Life and Grace

Children of the Heavenly King

Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

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.

Fix Your Thoughts on Jesus”
Hebrews 3:1-6
Have you given much thought to who you really are? I'm not speaking about just who you are by your name, or your family background, or your occupation in life, whether you are a student or in the workforce, unemployed or retired.
Beyond those specifics of who you are, have you thought and examined in your heart who you are in God sight? In other words, as God looks at you, how would he describe you? Would he describe you just by your occupation? Or by your age? Or by the name given you by your parents when you were born?
As this third chapter of Hebrews begins it gives us a description of ourselves. It describes our self-identity from the perspective of heaven. It describes for us what God thinks of us as he looks upon us. As it does so it makes a startling observation, one that I would not quickly make of myself and perhaps you would not of yourself either. It tells us that because of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ we who believe in him are holy.
By contrast, when we think of our own identity, we often identify ourselves by the sin that has marred our lives. We may think back on unkind words we have said, or things that we have done that we deeply regret, or perhaps we surprise ourselves with the depth of our sin that others do not know about and yet we know the depth of sin which lurks within each one of us, in the thoughts of our heart and in the recess of our mind.
Although it may come as a surprise that God would identify us as holy, it shouldn't. The “therefore” in verse 1 points us to some of the great truths that we read about in the previous chapter, including verse 11 of chapter 2: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.”
In that verse we are reminded and assured that although we are yet indeed sinners, we are also holy. The holiness that we have does not belong to us, though we strive to live a holy life, that is, a life that is separated from sin and committed to serving our Savior and Lord. But it is the imputed holiness and righteousness of Jesus Christ that makes us holy. We are, in Luther's famous statement, both justified and sinner. In the words of the Puritans, we have an alien righteousness; we have a righteousness not of our own, but the imputed righteousness and holiness of Jesus Christ.
It is easy to look at ourselves and see our sins. Our sins protrude out of our lives like fast growing thistles. And it is good that we see our sins so that we can confess them to the Lord and receive forgiveness.
But if that is all that we see in our lives, then we miss our true identity. Our true identity from the perspective of heaven, as the Lord looks down upon us, is that we are holy. Our sins have been covered by the precious blood of Jesus and in their place is his perfect righteousness. He has justified us, he has begun a work of sanctification in us, and has promised to carry that work on to completion until the day we meet him face-to-face, completely holy, completely sanctified. If you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and the Lord of your life this evening, then you have the assurance that your identity is with him and that you are holy.
But you probably noticed that the word “holy” in verse 1 is used as an adjective to describe brothers and sisters. Those of you who read the ESV Bible have undoubtedly noticed the many footnotes explaining that the Greek word translated “brothers” includes sisters. The newest NIV Bible, which I do not recommend, is however accurate on this verse when it translates it, “Therefore, holy brothers and sisters...”
Each one of us who truly believes in the Lord Jesus Christ is a member of God's family. Children, boys and girls, you carry not only your parents' family name, you carry the name of Christ himself; you are part of his family. The same is true for moms and dads and grandparents. For all of us, who by God's grace have saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, there is assurance that we are members in the family of God.
In the family of God, Jesus Christ is your elder brother and my elder brother. The “therefore” of verse 1 points us back to those momentous truths we read in the previous chapter in verse 11 and 12: “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. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers (and sisters); in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’”
That is a wonderful self-identity. I don't think about it often enough and perhaps neither do you. What a blessing that we are brothers and sisters in Christ with Jesus as our elder brother! When the devil is aiming his darts toward you and your sins seem to jump out of your life like thistles in full bloom in springtime grass, remember your true identity as the Lord sees you. Rejoice in his grace, repent of your sin, and strive to live a holy life out of deep and sincere gratitude as a member of God’s family!
Our Heavenly Calling
To be a member of God's family here on earth is truly a wonderful blessing, but verse 1 goes on to teach us that we also share in the heavenly calling.  It is a clear reminder that just as Jesus ascended into heaven, so also the members of his family, adopted in God's family through saving faith in the elder brother, Jesus Christ, will partake of heaven with him!
We could never share in that heavenly calling if Christ had not come to this earth and taken on human flesh in order to live a perfect life, die a sacrificial death, and rise victoriously three days afterward. The “therefore” points us back to that truth. In Hebrews 2:9 we read how Jesus suffered death for us. And verse 10 of that previous chapter tells how he suffered in order “to bring many sons (and daughters) to glory.”
When you think of your identity, remember that your true citizenship is in heaven. One of the first things you children were taught when you were little was your street address. Your parents wanted you to know where you lived. If you got lost you could identify where you lived. In a similar way, Scripture tells us to know that our true home address is not on an earthly street here, 54th Avenue, or any other. Rather, as Paul told the Philippians: “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (Philippians 3:20-21)
As God's people – holy brothers and sisters in God's family, citizens of heaven – we are told in the first verse of this passage to fix our thoughts on Jesus and confess him as the ultimate apostle, sent from the Father.
The word “apostle” in the New Testament has multiple meanings. It refers to the office of apostle, such as the disciples who were appointed as apostles after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. But the root meaning of the word “apostle” refers to someone who is sent. It is that designation which verse 1 is speaking about when it tells us to consider (ESV), or to fix our thoughts (NIV) upon Jesus as our apostle. Consider that he was sent by his Father. Consider that he came to do his Father's will. As Jesus says in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.”
Jesus was sent by the Father for the redemption of our sins and the salvation of our souls. We see that in the second designation for Christ, where our text says, “fix your thoughts on Jesus – the apostle and high priest whom we confess.”
In the previous chapter we saw how Jesus is a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. We saw that a high priest offers a sacrifice on behalf of the people whom he represents, and also intercedes for them. In the Old Testament there were many high priests, some of them were somewhat faithful, but none of them were perfectly faithful, because every Old Testament high priest was a sinner, just like you and just like me.
But Jesus, as our great High Priest, is ever faithful to the one who appointed him. He faithfully offered himself on the cross of Calvary as the sacrificial lamb slain for the salvation of his people. As Hebrews 2:17 teaches us, he was faithful in his work of atonement as he shed his blood as a propitiation – a covering which satisfies the righteous and proper wrath of God against sin – for us.
His high priestly work continues as now he ever lives to represent us, to intercede on our behalf, and to perfectly present to the Father our imperfect prayers. In every way, Jesus is, and always will be, faithful to the work that he was appointed to by his Father. He was appointed and sent into this fallen world to save sinners and to faithfully serve as our great high priest forever.
Because Jesus is perfectly faithful, and because his appointment as our Redeemer is one that only he could fulfill, he has all honor. That is why his name is above every name. Because he is the one who saves his people from their sin, every knee will bow before him and every tongue confess his deity.
By comparison, even the most faithful human leaders are nothing like the Lord Jesus Christ. As James points out, “We all stumble in many ways” (Jam. 3:2). With John the Baptist every church leader must acknowledge that we are not even worthy to untie the strap on the sandal of the one whom we proclaim. With John the Baptist we acknowledge, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
The truth that Jesus is superior to all human leaders is the point that the author of Hebrews makes in verses 3 to 5. The Hebrews to whom he was writing placed a great deal of honor upon Moses. After all, Moses had the honor of receiving the tablets of the law from the Lord. Moses was inspired to write the first five books of the Bible. Moses led the people of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt. Moses had a unique relationship with the Lord for “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exo. 33:11). The author of Hebrews does not take this honor from Moses, but rather teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ has far greater honor than Moses had, even though Moses was given such great honor by God himself.
One way Jesus receives greater honor than Moses is that Moses was a servant in God's house while Jesus is the Son who has complete authority over the household of God. Jesus also served as a servant in his work of redemption. But in his exaltation, he is the head of the church – the household of God. Ephesians 1:20-22 describes how God the Father “… raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all."
Another way that Jesus is superior is that although Moses faithfully served within God's household, Christ is the one who built the house that Moses served in. And the builder always receives more honor than the one who serves in the house that has been built. Thus verse 3 declares, “Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself.”
What is the house which these verses speak of?  It is the household of faith. It is referring to God’s people of every age, to all who persevere in their faith in him. The definition of God's house which verse 3 to 5 describe is clear in verse 6. The second part of the verse says, “And we are his house, if we hold onto our courage and the hope of which we boast.”  It is yet another identification for us. Because of the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf we are holy, we are brothers and sisters within the family of God, we are partakers of heaven, and we are members of God's household.
However, there is a qualification to being a part of the household of God. Verse 6 tells us that we must hold onto our courage – our boldness – and the hope of which we boast. How do we do that? As we face temptations of many types, as we live in an immoral, corrupt, and violent world how do we hold on to our courage as Christians and to the hope of our salvation?  We persevere and hold on the same way the disciples did. Whenever they took their eyes off of the Lord they wavered and fell. But as long as they focused on the Lord they persevered.
Peter is the ultimate example. Walking on the water to Jesus he held onto his courage and his hope as long as he looked at the Lord. But when he looked aside and saw the waves and felt the wind, he began to sink. The same is true for you and for me. That is why this passage begins in verse 1 with the admonition to consider Jesus, to fix your thoughts upon him. For as long as you focus on the Lord Jesus Christ you will find the courage to live out your faith and you will find that your hope is secure because it is anchored in Christ.
That is why it is so important to read your Bible systematically. It is so important and so necessary to be fervent and faithful in prayer. It is crucial to be consistent in worship, being fed by the Word and sacraments, which are means of grace given to us. They are means that God uses to enable us to grow spiritually and to hold on to our confession of him with boldness.
There is great truth in the delightful children’s song that we often sing at Vacation Bible School:
Read your Bible/pray every day
Pray every day.  Pray every day.
Read your Bible/pray every day
And you’ll grow, grow, grow!
Don’t read your Bible/forget to pray.
Forget to pray.  Forget to pray.
Don’t read your Bible/forget to pray.
And you’ll shrink, shrink, shrink!
Our passage, in verse 6 tells us, “We are his house, if we hold onto our courage and the hope of which we boast.” Perseverance is crucial.  And prayer and the faithful study of God’s Word are the means to help us persevere no matter what age we are. That is part of the reason why the Holy Spirit tells us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17) and to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” whose name is to be glorified, now and forevermore (2 Pet. 3:18).
This evening, do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and the Lord of your life? Do you confess that you believe he was sent from the Father to save you from your sins? Do you confess that you believe that he was faithful, is now faithful, and ever will be faithful as your Great High Priest?
If so, you can be sure that he himself will enable you to hold onto your courage and the hope of which you boast with great confidence, not because of you but because of Christ. You and I, although sinners until the day we die, can yet take Philippians 1:6 to heart, “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Your faithful apostle and high priest, Jesus Christ, serves as an eternal anchor for the soul for everyone who fixes their thoughts – and places their faith – in him alone! Amen.
Sermon Outline:
Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your
thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.
                                                                                          Hebrews 3:1
                             “Fix Your Thoughts on Jesus”
                                           Hebrews 3:1-6
I. The “therefore” of verse 1 reminds us that because of the death (2:9)
    and resurrection of Jesus we who believe in Him are:
       1) Holy (1b; 2:11)
       2) His brothers and sisters (1b; 2:11-13)
       3) Partakers of His heavenly calling (1c; 2:10a)
II. We are to fix our thoughts on Jesus (1d) and confess Him (1g) as:
       1) The ultimate Apostle, sent from the Father (1e)
       2) Our High Priest, faithful to the One who appointed Him (1f, 2)
        3) The Builder and Overseer of God’s house (3-5)
III. Application: Reflecting on Jesus, and what He has done, we are to
      hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast (6)


* 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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