Bound to Glory

Text: Hebrews 10:19-25

Proposition: With the privileges we have in Christ to draw near to God comes the privileged responsibility to care for others.

Introduction: What was the most sacred place that you have ever been in? The kind of place where awe and reverence for God were experienced, a place that was set apart from all other places, a holy place. Wherever you remember that place to be, I think two things contribute to the sense of the sacred: 1.My conscious awareness that I am in the presence of God in some unique way ;  2. The amplification of that as I experience the moment with other people.

As we move into this New Year I pray that Faith Community Church will be a sacred place for you as these two things reflect to you the magnitude of God and the depths of His great love for you. Let’s look at a few verses of Scripture which were meant to help us move through Old Testament images and discover the riches of this very thing in  Hebrews 10: 19- 25…

I. God Chooses the Way To the Most Sacred Place For Us.

Did you see the imagery in those first three verses? They present a picture of the high priest performing his sacred duty in the temple just once a year on the Day of Atonement. He would take the blood that represented the life of the animal and walk around the edge of a massive curtain that separated the Holy place into two parts.  As he moved around the edge of the curtain with the bowl of blood in his hands the high priest would be trembling for fear that the sacrifice would not be enough to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel. Going into the Holy of Holies  (two clicks) he would come before the ark of the covenant and there he would sprinkle the blood onto it. The priest; the sacrifice; the curtain; the sprinkling of blood; the ceremonial washing of the priest…all of these were the ways in which God had directed the people to come to Him. All this was but symbol or picture of what God was about to do through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the fulfillment of the High Priest, Jesus was the sacrifice, the blood was His blood, the body of Jesus was the curtain which was ripped in two from the top to the bottom, both literally and figuratively at the time of His death on the cross. What is it that all this imagery is trying to tell us about the way which God has chosen for us to come into His presence, the most sacred place on earth? Hebrews 10 says that because of Jesus and our faith in Him we are now to come boldly into the Holiest place. Now we are to come before God by a new and living way, Jesus is that Way.  It says that this way into the most sacred place is consecrated for us. That word ‘consecrated’ has the primary meaning of ‘to make new again’. There once was a way for man to commune with God eternally, that way was called the tree of life. Because of Adam’s sin that way was lost to mankind  forever, barred by angels that we could never again get to it as sinful people who would stay so eternally. The ‘consecrated’ way is the person of Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are now dedicated to be the new and living way into the most sacred place. This is the way that God has chosen for you and I to enter the most sacred.

In essence it is as though God were trying to help us see a disease within us that desperately needs to be treated. It’s like the story of Birke Nigatu. She was just four years old when they first began to see a reddish spot on her skin. Her family tried a number of solutions from sorcery to ceremonies of cleansing but nothing worked. Eventually they gave up trying to find a way to heal her, for the next ten years she lived in increasing isolation. Birke had a disease called leprosy and neither she nor her family knew what to do about it. Leprosy damages the nerve endings causing a numbness so that people cannot feel it when they’ve been injured. Wounds are frequent, infection dominates. Sin is like that in all of us, we don’t even see it until we recognize the wounds that the insensitivity causes. Our spirits are dead as we come into this world, we easily trespass against God and don’t feel a thing. It is why God has prescribed a way in which we can be healed from the deadness of our spirit. We become aware of sin, even sin that is against God Himself. Before we only saw it as actions against another but now we see it as an action against God Almighty.  Now we can come freely, naturally, boldly into His presence. By God’s grace Birke  eventually found the African Leprosy Rehab Training hospital, she was cured of her leprosy and became the chair of Ethiopian National Association of Ex-Leprosy Patients.

God has prescribed the blood of Jesus Christ as that unique treatment for the washing away of sins isolating effects. By the action of our faith the blood of Jesus Christ is applied to all of who we are. It is sprinkled upon our conscience that those who struggle with guilt would know that in Christ there is forgiveness of all sin. It is even applied to our bodies, they are said to washed with pure water. These were actions of the priests in the Temple as they prepared to serve, now they are said to be the actions of every person in the church, a kingdom of priests. There will be things of which we are ashamed, over which we feel guilt and even condemnation. The actions are done but the effect of them, as far as condemnation in us, can be been forgiven in Christ. The command is to ‘go and sin no more’ but know that both the inner and outer man are restored in God’s eye.

In fact God even uses the death of Jesus Christ to change your identity, by taking the disease of your sin and putting that upon Christ and at the same time taking the righteousness of Jesus and embedding that in your newly alive spirit, He changes your identity from self made person to the child of God. Then he says, “Commune with Me  in this sacred place. The way in is  through the torn curtain of My Son, given for you.” 

II. The Discovery of the Sacred Occurs in Communion.

There are three invitations as to how we are to experience this communion:

1. Draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith.   God does not want you to stand at the door and shout your concerns to Him, He wants you, even invites you, to draw near. Sincerity of heart is what He invites you to come with. Communion with God is a cleansing process, first for the forgiveness of sin unto salvation and then for the failures of my human nature even after He has transformed the depths of my identity in Christ. You could say that every time God meets with us in a deep way, He instructs us to ‘wash our hands before we eat’, clean our consciences in Christ and then come to receive.

2. Hold fast the confession of our hope. The word hope is from the Greek word “elpis” referring to the expectations we have according to what Christ has promised. It can refer to that place where you find refuge, a place where in the upheaval of your world there is peace. The thing is as a Christian you already know about the promises of Christ, that’s why it’s called the confession of your hope, but look at what you are to do…Hold it fast. When you speak to God, when you draw near to Him, speak to Him of your hope, your expectation, your need of Him for a refuge. Hold tightly onto that.

3. Consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. This is the community of communion. We can enter into the experience of being in a sacred place when we assemble together and spur one another on to love well and to serve well. This is often an unplanned experience, a time when someone shares their struggle and others gather about them. It can be a time when we declare our faith for the first time and the entire assembly is moved by the awe of God’s working in their life. The caution is to not forsake, abandon or leave in a helpless condition…the assembling of the church. How easy it is to conclude that we will never be missed or that the church won’t be affected by our absence, or the work of Christ in the church won’t be altered at all by my not being there, or that I won’t be affected at all by not being connected to the body in worship and in serving one another, or that I really don’t need to prepare for the return of Christ.

The discovery of the sacred occurs in communion, a communion with God where I come in sincerity and transparency before Him and it is also a communion with others who also have life where before there was  numbness, who once had no hope but now in Christ, live in sacred places.

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