There is a story of an English village whose chapel had an arch on which was written: "We Preach Christ Crucified." For years godly men preached there and they presented a crucified Savior as the only means of salvation. But as that generation of godly preachers passed, a generation arose that considered the cross and its message antiquated and repulsive. They began to preach salvation by Christ's example rather than by His blood. They did not see the necessity of His sacrifice. After a while, ivy crept up the side of the arch and covered the word "Crucified", and only "We Preach Christ" was visible.
Then the church decided that it's message need not be confined to Christ and the Bible. So the preachers began to give discourses on social issues, politics, philosophy, moral rearmament, and whatever else happened to spark interest.
The ivy on the arch continued to grow until it covered the third word. Then it simply said, "We Preach."
In cultured, sophisticated Corinth, Paul was "determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified". I Cor. 2:2
Christ crucified is the only hope for mankind, and that is the theme of the first part of Hebrews 10. In these verses we are shown the meaning and depth of His death in all of its richness. In His death, Jesus was the perfect sacrifice.
Again the writer speaks of the limitations of the old covenant and its sacrifices. Under the old covenant, the priests were busy all day long, from dawn to sunset, slaughtering and sacrificing animals. It is estimated that at Passover as many as three hundred thousand lambs would be slain within a week! The slaughter would be so massive that blood would run out of the temple ground through specially prepared channels into the Brook Kidron, which seemed to be running with blood.
But no matter how many sacrifices were made, or how often, they were ineffective. They were limited in three ways: they could not bring access to God; they could not remove sin; and they were only external.
Again we are told that the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming---not the realities themselves. The substance is in Christ.
Our Confession: THE GOOD THINGS I NEED ARE FOUND IN JESUS!
The shadow of a key cannot unlock a prison door or free our spirits. The shadow of a meal cannot satisfy a hungry man or a hungry soul. The shadows could never bring perfection, therefore they could never give us access to God. Before Christ, no one could get closer to the good things of God than the shadows of them.
The shadows gave the picture of what was to come, but they could never bring perfection to us. The shadow reminded people of the penalty of sin, and provided a shadowy covering for the sin, but never did away with sin...never defeated the power of sin.
Imagine that you have never heard the name of Jesus. You worship the only "gods" you know -- a statue, a stone, an animal, or a religious philosophy. You might try to fill the hollowness of your soul in many ways. You might sacrifice your baby to the crocidiles in order to appease your gods. But nothing satisfies the ache in your heart.
You bring offerings, meals, and sacrifices and pray before your god of stone. But your prayers go unanswered for these gods can never be touched with the feelings of human need. And though you do all you know how to do, yet you still have no lasting peace or happiness. Your world is meaningless. You are still in your sins. All of your religious activities only serve to remind you of your guilt and sin.
People do the same today. They try to find relief from the emptiness of life in chasing and embracing shadows, but nothing helps. They spend their lives wrapped in religious practices and traditions that only serve to remind them of how sinful, guilty, awful, and worthless they are.
Jesus came to set us free from that. He came to deliver us from false gods so that we might learn to know and serve and love the true and living God. There isn't and never can be any forgiveness or inner freedom from guilt outside of Jesus. There never can be satisfaction and peace in my soul without Jesus.
Our Confession: ONLY JESUS CAN SATISFY MY SOUL!
Even the old covenant, which was part of God's plan to redeem his people from the idolatry of the surrounding nations...could not redeem the human soul...it could not bring perfection...it could not address the needs of a guilty conscience.
Sin and guilt eat away at us. The old covenant could not remove sin and guilt, nor its power over us. Verse 2 teaches us that if the old covenant could have done this, they would not have repeated the same sacrifice over and over. And if the old covenant could have done this, people would no longer have felt and carried around the guilt of their sins.
What did these sacrifices do? They served as a reminder. They reminded old testament believers of their great spiritual need.
On the day of atonement the high priest, as part of the ceremony, had to call back to remembrance and recite the sins of the people during the past year. The priest would place his heads on the head of a goat...called the scape-goat....and recite all the accumulated sins and misdeeds of God's people.
Imagine that all the acumulated sins of God's people are spoken one by one. The list would be read: "dishonesty, lying, a false balance, jealousy, hatred, greed, adultery, idolatry, stealing, stinginess, drunkenness, pride, etc."
There was a ceremonial transfer of these sins to this goat...the scapegoat. Then the goat was led away to the desert to die alone...symbolically bearing the sins of the people. This ceremony illustrated what needed to happen to our sins. They needed to be carried away from us; but neither the ceremony nor the goat was able to actually do so. It taught and illustrated...but still left guilt remaining.
How would you feel if on communion Sunday, we had to list all of our sins...instead of listing all that our Savior has done for us? What if all our sins were recited, instead of us reciting the goodness and faithfulness of our God?
In the New Covenant, we celebrate communion...not as a sacrifice....not as a reminder of our sin...but as a reminder of God's solution for our sin...as a reminder of the power of the broken body and shed blood of our Lord. We celebrate not in remembrance of our failure, but in remembrance of His victory over our sins.
I need more than a reminder of my sins. There is little comfort in that. It's like receiving a reminder of a past due bill. You look at the balance in your account and realize that you cannot do a thing about paying it.
Here's another way of illustrating this truth: Let's pretend that you go to your bank to take out a business loan. A wealthy friend agrees to endorse the note and repay the debt should your business fail. So the terms are drawn up, the date of repayment is set for one year later, and the loan is granted.
The year passes, and the business has not done as well as expected. You go back to the bank and ask for an extension on your loan. On the same terms, a new note is drawn up...adding the indebtedness of the old. The old note is stapled to the back of the new one and the accumulated debt is carried forward for another year.
This goes on and on, the loans getting larger and larger every year, as you go deeper and deeper into debt. And each year there is a REMEMBRANCE of the former indebtedness and the new liablilities that are added to the note.
The only thing which keeps you afloat is the endorsement and signature of your wealthy friend! That is a picture of the Old covenant. The animal sacrifices were like promissary notes. By bringing these sacrifices to the altar, God's people acknowledged their accumulating debt of sin. Each sacrifice carried the endorsement of the Son of God, who guarranteed that He would fully repay all the debt of the sinner. The time came when the notes had to be discharged and paid, which is what Jesus did when He shed His blood on the cross of Calvary.
This was God's plan. Verses 5-7, quoted from Psalm 40 speak of God's plan. The plan was to fashion for God a human body. John Wesley said that the great and mighty and awesome God...was contracted to the span of a virgin's womb. There was no real relationship between a person's sin and an animal sacrifice. The relationship was only symbolic. It was impossible for the blood of an amoral animal to bring forgiveness for a person's moral offense against God. Only Jesus Christ, the perfect union of humanity and diety, could satisfy God and purify man. Only His sacrifice could be the ultimate sacrifice, the only effective sacrifice.
Our Confession: JESUS IS MY SACRIFICE!
Verse six tells us that God was not pleased with the burnt offerings and sin offerings of the Old Covenant. Verse eight tells us that God did not desire them nor was He pleased with them, even though they were required by His law.
Even when this old system was relatively new, the prophet Samual reminded King Saul that "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed God is better than the fat of rams."
God saw and knew that people would mis-use the sacrificial system. They would go through the motions when their heart was really far from God. They would trust in keeping the traditions rather than trusting in the Lord. The tradition came to be seen as a form of religious magic. If you said the right words and did the right things then God would perform for you in a certain way. Now God Himself had instituted the sacrificial system, but as a means for expressing obedience to Him, not as a means of using Him.
Soon these sacrifices became meaningless religious rituals and had nothing to do with obedience and faith. Soon these sacrifices became a sham and a mockery and God despised them because He saw the true heart attitudes of His people.
People needed something better than animal sacrifices. They needed reality they could hold on to. So Jesus came to offer Himself as sacrifice...as the lamb of God to carry our sins away from us...as our substitute...as a dying and resurrected Savior whom we could know and love and serve.
In Jesus we have God's better and perfect solution to the problem of human sin. Maybe we could say that the old system was like a model airplane and the new system is like a real fighter jet. Who would fight the enemy with a model airplane? Who could fight and win against sin with a model. We need the fighter jet. We need God's flying fortress...heaven's stealth jet, etc.
So Jesus came to do the will of God...to fulfill the plan. He sets aside the model and offers the real thing.
Our Confession: JESUS IS THE REAL THING!
And by His will....by Jesus doing the will of God...we have been made holy. Our goodness does not make us holy. Our obedience does not make us holy. Our sacrifices do not make us holy.
It is the goodness, obedience, and sacrifice of Jesus that makes us holy. Having been made holy, then we can now display His goodness, we can be obedient just as Jesus was obedient. We can lay down our lives in sacrifice...not for sin....but for the sake of His Kingdom and our love and loyalty to the King.
"We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Verse 10b
This does not mean that we are perfect. It means that He is perfect and we have put our faith and hope in His perfection. It does not mean that we have attained spiritual perfection, but that the One who calls us "holy" is also now working on us to make us more like Him.
We could say that in Jesus, we are holy....we are being made holy...and we shall be forever holy!
It is God's will that we live holy lives...lives set apart by God and for God. Jesus has sanctified us, set us apart from the world as His very own possession, and made us holy unto Himself and our Heavenly Father.
Without this sacrifice, we are not acceptable...we are rejected..."for without holiness, no one can see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, occasionally writes novels from the top of his doghouse. "It was a dark and stormy night," he begins. In one cartoon sequence he sent his manuscript to a publisher and looked every day in the mailbox for a response.
One day the letter finally comes. Ripping it frantically open, he reads the long-awaited response to the manuscript he has offered as his finest work. The message said: "Please find enclosed two rejection slips---one for the story you just sent us, the second for any future story you may send."
Rejection! Double rejection! Future rejection!
We don't like rejection. Yet our finest work, our attempts to make up for our sins, our best efforts to be holy are rejected now...and any thing we may offer in the future is also rejected.
But the sacrifice of Jesus is accepted...now and forever! In Him we are accepted...now and forever. In Him we have found true holiness. Our guilt is gone. Our conscience is at peace with God. We are no longer reminded of our sins...we are now reminded of our Savior.
We remember that we belong to Him. We are set apart to do His will....consecrated wholly and holy unto the Lord!
Let's make our confession and calling sure and certain for it is based upon the finished work of Jesus.
Our Confession: "Through Jesus I am made holy. I belong to the Lord. I am set apart as His possession. I am consecrated to the Lord. I am holy unto the Lord. I am here to do His will!"
Other sermons by Pastor John.