After delivering the astonishing declaration that the veil torn at the moment of Jesus’ death was nothing less than Christ’s body torn asunder, throwing open the gates of heaven to every person, the author offered five ways every Christian responds to the magnificent good news of the Gospel.
The ABC’s of Faith
This fulcrum, after ten chapters of teaching, pivots on faith.
Therefore, my friends,
(A) since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus,
(B) by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh),
(C) and since we have a great priest -over- the house of God,Hebrews 10:19-21 (NRSV)
Then . . .
Five-Fold Fervent Response
(1) Practice God’s presence: Draw near to God as continuously as God draws near to you – practice God’s presence.
“Let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”Hebrews 10:22 (NRSV)
(2) Persevere in the hope we profess: Trust God, believe in God. Believe that God is powerful enough for whatever is going on in our lives, good and loving enough to always do the very best by us, and faithful enough to never, ever let us down or let us go.
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.”Hebrews 10:23 (NRSV)
(3) Press on in love: Help each other to be holy. Let humble, overflowing love be our motivation, and forgiveness be our hallmark.
“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds,”Hebrews 10:24 (NRSV)
(4) Persist in meeting together: To worship, fellowship, and share in Christ together. We commit ourselves to a specific body of believers and then regularly and actively invest and involve ourselves in that assembly.
“not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,”Hebrews 10:25 (NRSV)
(5) Promote each other’s progress: Build each other up, using our words and our deeds to encourage each other, looking for what God sees. We need each other! You and I are vital parts of Jesus’ Body.
“but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:25 (NRSV)
Salvation and Sanctification
Being saved is complete and permanent, being made holy is a continuing process.
Salvation is accomplished only through Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on our behalf, this is the reality in heaven that the tabernacle rites shadowed. The eternal and infinite Great High Priest offers the one perfect sacrifice that is eternally and infinitely worthy and sufficient, for the sins of the world.
Sanctification is accomplished only through our own sacrifice of ourselves to Jesus, our surrender to the conforming that God is doing in our character to be made as Christ.
When you and I refuse to genuinely offer up our lives as living sacrifices, our -sanctification- is hindered.
Sometimes it seems as though you and I are going backwards. There are times when you and I can tell that we are sinning. We know it is wrong, we know we are in full-blown rebellion, and we find we do not even care! At least for a time. This is a normal, human experience.
Being made holy is a process.
There are ups and downs, what seem like failures, one after the other, will be followed by gains. Christians grow the way crops grow, sometimes with huge growth spurts, sometimes with wilting. But all throughout you and I are completely and permanently saved to eternal life in relationship with God, Jesus has guaranteed that for us, and He will give us grace upon grace for those times when you and I feel ourselves falling down.
New Year’s Resolution
There was a time when I used to write long lists of how I would be different in the new year. Eventually, I whittled my lists to Ten Important Things. After a while, I had to whittle that down to One Thing I Really Will Do. And then, after more years of guilt, failures, and shame, I realized there is no such thing as changing on a dime just because I have decided to. In fact, the changes I focus on are very often not at all what God is focusing on.
And I have noticed that about others, too. The things I feel certain the Holy Spirit must convict in one or another person I know, that God must lean hard on them about, is not at all what they actually do feel convicted about, or find God is wrestling them to the ground about.
Even though the writer of Hebrews outlined a five-fold faith response, that involves proactive, purposeful action, it must be fueled by God’s purposes and power, not our own will and strength.
I might have asked myself, in years past, “What sacrifice of love am I ready to make to God as I am being made holy in service to the Lord?” But I don’t ask that of myself anymore.
Now, I sit as quiet as I can, and try to still all the voices inside me so I can hear what God might be saying to me.
“[The Angel] said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
“Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind;
“and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake;
“and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire;
“and after the fire a sound of sheer silence . . .
When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him”1 Kings 19:10-13 (NRSV)
And, I trust I will recognize God’s word to me when it comes.
“When you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”Isaiah 30:21 (NRSV)
When I am willing to surrender, to listen, to be available to the Spirit’s prompting, then I am in the flow of God’s purpose and power. So, these days, my question is more, “What sacrifice of love -does God indicate- I am ready to make, as I am being made holy in service to the Lord?”