I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.
Do you recognize those words? The Little Engine That Could, carrying a trainload of toys over the mountain. The load was so heavy and the journey was so long, the Little Engine was ready to give up. Defeated. I canâ€™t do this, the load is too heavy. Then what happened? The Little Engine found courage, confidence, and strength to carry on. I thought I could, I thought I could, I thought I could.
Weâ€™ve spent the last two months learning how Jesus is better. Better than angels, better than Moses, better than Levitical priests, a better sacrifice, a better covenant. Weâ€™ve listened to how we should place our faith in Jesus because He is better than anything else we can know. Hebrews chapter 1 through the middle of chapter 4 tells about Godâ€™s Word. From there to about the middle of chapter 10, we learned about Godâ€™s Work.
With this faith in Jesus, how shall we live? The next four weeks in the month of November, the rest of the book of Hebrews answers the question, â€œSo what?â€ So what if Jesus is better? What does that have to do with me? And todayâ€™s lesson will describe the confidence we find when we totally give ourselves to Jesus, our perfect sacrifice and advocate in heaven.
Diane has to listen to my occasional complaints about work; I try not to complain too much, but I find sharing some of my struggles with her builds me up and makes the rest of the day easier. Work can take a toll on us. But it was easy compared to what the Hebrews were going through. As new Christians, they were being fed to the lions by the Romans and being stoned by the Jews. As you can imagine, this can cause a little pessimism because of all the persecution. My work day seems a little easier by comparison. The writer of Hebrews tells the Hebrews to be confident. As they have accepted Christ, they know how the battle ends; the Christians win, one to nothing.
All of us here may struggle with being a confident Christian. I overheard a table at a restaurant the other day; the woman was saying she was getting married and asked one of the 3 guys if he was thinking about marrying his girlfriend. He said, â€œWhy would I want to do that? Itâ€™s just a ring and itâ€™ll just cost me a lot of money.â€ Perfect opportunity to speak up about Godâ€™s plan for a man and a woman to cleave and become one flesh and how Christ treats His church is our model for how a husband should treat his wife. Andâ€¦ I just sat there. Part of it, of course, is because I inadvertently eavesdropped, but a bigger part, if I am to be honest, is that speaking up uninvited to a table of strangers was intimidating, scary. What was I afraid of? Was it not Godâ€™s plan for all of us that I wanted to share. Was it a lack of confidence?
We profess to be the children of Christ, and among us children we are not afraid to discuss our faith in the Lord. Think back on this last week. Where are places where we could have spoken up, but didnâ€™t? Work? Gym? Grocery store? What keeps us from speaking up? Are we like these early Hebrews, even if the obstacles to sharing Godâ€™s word are so much easier to overcome?
Weâ€™re going to walk through this part of Hebrews one part at a time and discuss it, so letâ€™s open to Hebrews 10:19-21:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
Dr. Young likes to remind us that when we see a â€œtherefore,â€ itâ€™s a conclusion for all that came before it. When we see a â€œtherefore,â€ we ought to remember what itâ€™s there for. The author calls these young Christian Hebrews â€œbrothers,â€ and reminds them what we have been studying the last 2 months. We’re told to have confidence because Christ is superior to the Old Testament system of offering sacrifices for sin over and over again. Christ’s sacrifice is once and for all sufficient for all of our sins. Confidence to do what?
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. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And 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 anotherâ€”and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Christians are encouraged to do 5 things, 5 exhortations here –
- Draw near to God
- Hold unswervingly to the hope we profess
- Consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds
- Donâ€™t give up meeting together
- Encourage one another
Just like the ancient Hebrews that were questioning the cost of becoming a Christian, the writer tells them they can have confidence by practicing these five simple things.
First exhortation, we draw near to God. We do this in 4 steps –
First step, with a sincere heart. When we come to church to worship the Lord, we must focus on God’s desire for us. We all want to approach God for help; “God please do this for me. God, please give me a promotion at work. God, please make me healthy. God, please smite my enemies, and here’s a list of who they are.” But that’s not a sincere heart. A sincere heart is, “God, please show me your will in my life. Please use me for your glory. Let me be your servant at the job you have provided me. Let me show your glory when you heal me, or let me show the joy in have in you in suffering. God, show me how to turn the other cheek and love my enemies.”
Second step, in full assurance of faith. In full acceptance of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. In full acceptance of the sacrifice Jesus made for *me* personally. I don’t have to seek out a Levite preist and ask him to intervene for me in the holy of holies. Jesus died for me and I can approach him directly. He is my advocate and intercedes for me at the right hand of God. I have confidence knowing that Jesus did these things for me, and knowing how much He must love me.
Third step, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience. When we accept Christ, our sins are forgiven. Are we still walking around like beaten dogs? Goodness knows I can look back on my life and see many, many things I regret. The disrespectful things I’ve said to my parents growing up. The trouble I got into as a youth. The times I’ve cheated and lied. But Christ has forgiven me, and the Lord God says He will remember my sins no more. Why should I continue to remember my sins? Paul tells me in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that if I am in Christ, I am a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come! Why should I walk around defeated? I am free of my guilty conscience and I should live boldly for Christ and stand up to challenges. I don’t have to be embarrassed because I’ve done wrong. I can stand up and proudly say that my Lord has forgiven me. How great is the Lord that can do that!
Let me remind you that for our sins to be forgiven, we must confess those sins and repent or turn away from that sin. When the adulterous woman was brought before Jesus to be stoned, his words to her were “then neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” Jesus didn’t say her sin was ok with him. He was showing us that we should turn from sin in front of Jesus, and he promises to remember that sin no more.
Fourth step, having our bodies washed with pure water. Think back to the day you first gave your life to Christ. What was one of the first acts of obedience you did as a new Christian? Thats right, you were baptized. The Greek word, baptizo, means to immerse, to plunge, to dip, or be buried in water. Romans 6:3-5,
“Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
I believe this “bodies washed with pure water” is an admonishment that we also called to be obedient to God’s word, starting with baptism.
Our second exhortation is to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess. Why? For He who promised is faithful. When we studied Malchizedek a few weeks ago, we studied how God is faithful through the ages. He promised Abraham many children, He promised Israel the Promised Land, and He promised us a savior. When God makes a promise, God fulfils His promise. What is the greatest promise God has given us? The gift of salvation! God has made this promise to us that we know He will fulfill, and because we know this, there is reason for our hope!
Whatâ€™s our third exhortation? To spur one another towards love and good deeds. Spur us! Craig what happens when you spur a horse? I bet it hurts, and I bet it makes that horse move a whole lot faster, doesnâ€™t it? As children of Christ, I believe God has a purpose for each and everyone of us. When weâ€™re actively involved in the ministries of Christ, God works in us and through us. When weâ€™re praying for the health of someone ill, when weâ€™re volunteering for Angels of Light, when weâ€™re using any of the spiritual gifts of hospitality or mercy or administration or teaching or giving or healing or discernment or whatever, God is working in us.
Remember that parable about the man who gave his servants a sum of money, and one of the servants buried the money for safekeeping? The master was outraged when he found out and took the money away from him and gave it to another that had already doubled the money? Everyone who has, more will be given. Those that have nothing, even that will be taken away from them. And so we are to serve the Lord with the gifts we have been given and spur our brothers and sisters to do the same.
Our fourth exhortation, â€œDonâ€™t give up meeting together.â€ Go to church, go to bible study, go to social and mission activities, do things together as Christians. We have strength in numbers and when weâ€™re together we can spur each other towards love and good deeds. When we separate, when we are away from our bothers and sisters, we seem to lose confidence in our faith. Thatâ€™s why when weâ€™re at work, at the gym, at the grocery store, when weâ€™re next to a table of people saying that marriage is just an expensive ring so why bother, we just sit there without saying anything. Weâ€™re told that whenever two or more of us are gathered in His name, Jesus is with us, so letâ€™s remember that when weâ€™re making our plans for the week.
Our fifth exhortation is the encourage one another. Notice how positive this message is. It doesnâ€™t say, â€œCriticize and backbate each other when you donâ€™t think theyâ€™re doing a good job.â€ It doesnâ€™t say, â€œif you donâ€™t like a brother, smack them upside the head with a family-edition bible.â€ We are to be positive, to spur our brothers and sisters towards love, toward good deeds. Thereâ€™s no room in this exhortation for criticism. Thereâ€™s a good reason for that, we donâ€™t respond well to criticism. I know I donâ€™t, so donâ€™t even think of starting that with me. Tell a brother how well he is doing something, and you can be sure heâ€™ll do more of it. Positive spurring towards love, positive spurring toward good deeds.
At this point, the writer of Hebrews reminds us in very scary language worthy of Halloween why we are to live our lives this way. Letâ€™s read Hebrews 10:26-31:
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Letâ€™s remember that the writer of Hebrews is talking to Christians. These were recently converted Jews who were considering rejecting Christ in order to go back to being Jews again. So the writer says, â€œremember all that stuff I told you about Christ being the complete and perfect sacrifice forever and ever? The old system is dead. There is no other way to be saved.â€
The Lordâ€™s judgment is perfect. We like how that sounds when we think about evil people like murderers and thieves. When we see â€œIt is mine to avenge, I will repay,â€ we think, â€œAlrighty, then Lord, come smite mine enemies, and I want a front row seat!â€ When we admit that we ourselves are sinners, weâ€™re not too thrilled with the idea of an almighty, all powerful, all seeing omnipotent being determining what sort of judgement we deserve. â€œLord, I ainâ€™t so bad. Smite somebody else, will you?â€ This passage reminds us that Christ died for our sins, but itâ€™s not a free pass to go on sinning. Itâ€™s sort of like asking Christ to die for us, over and over, to pay for our continuing sin. Those without the covering blood of Jesus have no hope in salvation, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and raging fire.
When I read this, I am reminded that often we act like part-time Christians. Weâ€™re Christian on Sunday, then go home and email some raunchy joke to a friend. Weâ€™re Christian on Sunday, then say something critical about our spouse when he or she is out of earshot. Weâ€™re Christian on Sunday, then cuss at a co-worker and take the Lordâ€™s name in vain. Weâ€™re part time Christians. Matthew 7:13-14 says,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
How narrow is this gate? Why do we continually try to see what we can get away with, instead of trying our hardest to walk dead-center down that narrow road? How do we walk down the middle of the road? By continually re-examining our thoughts, actions, and words to be in line with Godâ€™s will.
The last part of this chapter of Hebrews returns to an encouraging note again, Hebrews 10:32-34:
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
These are some of the light and momentary afflictions we Christians can expect if we are to boldly proclaim the good news of Christ. These Hebrews stood their ground in the face of suffering, insulted, persecuted. They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property. Joyfully? I suppose once you come to grips with the fact that you canâ€™t take it with you, then you can be joyous. You donâ€™t get to keep in anyway.
Letâ€™s conclude with Hebrews 10:35-39
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while,
“He who is coming will come and will not delay.
But my righteous one will live by faith.
And if he shrinks back,
I will not be pleased with him.”
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.
If we are confident in our faith in Jesus, we will be richly rewarded. If we persevere by doing the will of God, we will receive our salvation. We can be confident because we know our eternal destination has been promised to us. We should be confident â€“ we have direct access to God through Jesus. Romans 8:31, if God is for us, who can be against us? And Philippians 4:13, â€œI can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.â€
The most stirring example of confidence I can find in the bible is the story of David and Goliath. I got to see the statue of David in the city of Florence Italy several years back by Michelangelo. You know, until that trip, I had no idea that statue of David was the same David that faced Goliath. And when I saw the statue up close and saw the sling over Davidâ€™s back, it finally dawned on me. Goliath and David faced each other and Goliath was thinking to himself, â€œWhat the heck is this little fellow doing? Heâ€™s naked as a jaybird!â€ *Thwack* he gets nailed in the forehead by a rock.
In 1 Samuel 17, the Philistines lined up for war on one hill, and Saul and the Israelites were on the other. Neither side wanted to go first because theyâ€™d have to run down into the valley and would be target for the archers on the other side. Then Goliath of the Philistines came out to challenge them. Verse 4, and Iâ€™m going to use the version from The Message â€“
A giant nearly ten feet tall stepped out from the Philistine line into the open, Goliath from Gath. He had a bronze helmet on his head and was dressed in armor â€” 126 pounds of it! He wore bronze shin guards and carried a bronze sword. His spear was like a fence rail â€” the spear tip alone weighed over fifteen pounds. His shield bearer walked ahead of him.
Goliath stood there and called out to the Israelite troops, “Why bother using your whole army? Am I not Philistine enough for you? And you’re all committed to Saul, aren’t you? So pick your best fighter and pit him against me. If he gets the upper hand and kills me, the Philistines will all become your slaves. But if I get the upper hand and kill him, you’ll all become our slaves and serve us. I challenge the troops of Israel this day. Give me a man. Let us fight it out together!”
When Saul and his troops heard the Philistine’s challenge, they were terrified and lost all hope.
No confidence. Terrified at the giant before them and ready to give up. David shows up at this point, just in time to hear Goliathâ€™s challenge, and volunteers to fight. They tried to put armor on him, but it was too heavy and David could hardly walk. So he took all the armor off. I donâ€™t know if he was naked, but he didnâ€™t have any armor on him. Instead, he picks up 5 smooth stones.
When he walks toward Goliath, Goliath taunts him again. â€œCome on,” he said. “I’ll make roadkill of you for the buzzards. I’ll turn you into a tasty morsel for the field mice.”
David didnâ€™t shrink back. David answered,
“You come at me with sword and spear and battle-ax. I come at you in the name of God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel’s troops, whom you curse and mock. This very day God is handing you over to me. I’m about to kill you, cut off your head, and serve up your body and the bodies of your Philistine buddies to the crows and coyotes. The whole earth will know that there’s an extraordinary God in Israel. And everyone gathered here will learn that God doesn’t save by means of sword or spear. The battle belongs to Godâ€”he’s handing you to us on a platter!”
God blessed David for the confidence David had in God. We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. For Christ, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can.