Recently I was preparing a sermon on Hebrews 10. What struck me particularly as I did so was that it is possible to live in a false make—believe world whilst ignoring the real world of God’s making.
These were the words that grabbed my attention. Hebrews 10:11 “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.” And later, “then he adds, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” 18 “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” Hebrews 10:17-18.
When the writer penned these words there was a reality as seen by God and a “reality” as seen by some humans. The reality seen by humans was the picture of priests offering sacrifices for sin in the temple. Every day! Yet as they did so it showed that sin was not being dealt with or forgiven. That’s why they had to keep offering sacrifices! That was the norm for so many humans at that time. Reality to them was the priests continuing to offer sacrifices for sin. However, what the priests were doing was achieving nothing in the real world, God’s world. He told us so!
The reality of God’s world
The reality of God’s world was different. It focussed on Jesus the Son of God, the Creator of the universe who had come into the world as the long-promised Jewish Messiah. He had come to do the will of God, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; 6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. 7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” Hebrews 10:5-7. The will of God for Him involved offering Himself as a sacrifice for sins that would make forgiveness of all sin possible.
The writer describes the reality about the true sacrifice that would take away sin, “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” Hebrews 10:11-14.
Note those significant words, “a single sacrifice” and “he sat down at the right hand of God.” God had accepted His one sacrifice as the sacrifice that would take away all sin forever. There would be no other sacrifice needed. The job had been done. The true priest had offered the perfect sacrifice for sin [Himself] and forgiveness was now available for anyone in Him. The mention of His sitting down was to emphasise that His priestly work was done. No more sacrifices needed to be offered. His single sacrifice of Himself was sufficient to cover all sin of all people throughout all ages!
The absurdity of the false reality
Jesus had done it all and returned to His Father in glory, sitting at His right hand in the place of honour. Why then were these priests still offering sacrifices which never had any power to take away sin? All the sacrificial system did was to prepare people for the one perfect and complete sacrifice that was to be offered by the one true High Priest, Jesus. Those sacrifices had been symbols of a coming reality. But now the reality had come and the symbols were no longer necessary. In fact the continuation of the sacrificial system was an ignorant or deliberate rejection of reality as God saw it and had planned from eternity. It was an absurdity!
Fancy playing around with symbols when the reality had come! THE sacrifice had been offered and been accepted by God as sufficient to cover all sins forever! The writer to the Hebrews expressed it like this, “For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near” Heb 10:1. All humans had to do was to receive forgiveness of their sins was to receive it where God had placed it, in Jesus. As Paul wrote of Jesus’ death, “In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” Eph 1:7. As we believe in and receive Jesus as Saviour [of our sins] and Lord of our lives we receive the benefits of His sacrificial death, namely forgiveness of sins [and eternal life as John indicated in 1 John 5:11-13.].
This was indeed the message that the Lord gave to Paul at his conversion to Christ, as Paul recalled in Acts 26 “And I said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’ Acts 26:15-18.
Are There False “Realities” In Today’s World?
Are there different ways to God? Isn’t that a reality in today’s ways of thinking? It would be “nice” to think so but the reality is different. There may be many ways to come to Jesus but He is the only way to God. As He said of Himself, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Peter declared that truth in his preaching when he said, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:11-12.
To say there are other ways to God except through Jesus is to live by a false reality. In God’s real world, Jesus is the only Saviour and the only way to God. That’s what that passage from Hebrews 10 also showed in describing Jesus’ death as providing access into the presence of God, “by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” Heb 10:20. Only through Him can people “draw near 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.” Heb 10:22. In God’s world, the real world, only Jesus provides that new and living way into His presence.
As long as you are sincere, you will be ok! That’s what some people think or hope to be a true reality. But are they living in a real or a false world? If we were asked the question, “Why should God accept you into His kingdom?” What answer could we give? It sounds a bit hollow to say, “Oh, I’m trusting in my sincerity!” After the laughter had died down, we might repeat, “But I’m being sincere in answering that question!” Sincerity doesn’t open the door to God’s acceptance and presence. Only Jesus does, for He alone opened the way to God and is the living way into His presence.
The reality is that the eternal and only God has sent His Son into the world to be the only Saviour from sin. To reject the Son and all He did for humankind through His death and resurrection is to reject God and His purpose for the world. It is living in a state of unreality to reject reality.
We’ll all be OK in the end for God will accept everyone! True or false? Reality or unreality?
I also noticed the following words in reading Hebrews 10. They are uncomfortable words. They are warning words. They are words talking about real things, about a real God with real plans and real purposes for His world. The writer had written, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” The reality is that there is a day, a day of reckoning. The reality is that it is drawing near. The reality is that the time to act is diminishing.” Those who have acted on the gospel message and trusted in Jesus for salvation and for the forgiveness of their sins can come boldly to the throne of Grace, entering through the access Jesus provided in that new and living way, in Himself. That is the reality as God sees and declares it.
Is there a reality for those who have no desire to submit to or to receive Jesus? Can they set their own reality or is a reality set for them? Yes, they can change their present reality in that they can use their freewill to receive Jesus and become open to all the blessings that are to be found in Him, such as forgiveness of their sins, answers to prayer and eternal life.
But there is also a reality if they choose to ignore Him, reject Him and to reject the offer of His love to them. It is a reality declared by God to those who do not act on the truth of His revelation to humankind. The revelation in form of a warning is this, Heb 10:26 “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” Grim words, but real words about a real danger.
The real danger is in ignoring or failing to appreciate the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for humankind. The writer refers back to the Deuteronomy 17:6-7 to highlight the danger of rejecting the law of Moses and contrasts that with the more serious charge of rejecting Jesus and His sacrificial death, ‘Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’. The blood that was shed on the cross wasn’t any old blood! It wasn’t the blood of simply a nice kind human! It was the blood of the Creator of the universe! It was the blood of the eternal Son of God who had come to earth especially to die for the sins of humankind. It was the blood of the long-promised Jewish Messiah!
So there are two realities that are both true. One is for believers who have accepted God’s grace in Jesus and the other is for those who have failed to do so. The latter have the warning, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,’ Heb 10:31. The former who trust in Jesus have a different promise, the promise of entry into the presence of God at all times through the sacrificial blood of Jesus. For them it could be said, “It is a wonderful thing to fall into the hands of the loving God.”
The reality we will experience is dependent on what we do with Jesus. Accepting Him means the reality of acceptance with God. Rejecting Him means the reality of rejection by God. The “Day” is drawing near but has not fully arrived as yet. There is still time to change not only our perception of reality by seeing Jesus as the ULTIMATE REALITY but to become a new reality, a “new creature” in Christ by accepting Him into our lives as Saviour and Lord. As Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Cor 5:17.
Getting in touch with reality [with Jesus as the Living Truth]
Jesus wanted us to get in touch with Him as the living reality in this world. When He said He was “The way and the truth and the life,” [John 14:6] He meant it! He is the truth about creation -He created it! He is the truth about humankind – He became the perfect human. He is the truth about the way to God -He is the only way to the Father. He is the life in the sense that He was the source of all life but came to bring eternal life, God’s life, to humans who opened up their lives to Him! This is His invitation to all who want to enter into reality in Him. He indicated that He stands at the door of each human heart, knocking and waiting to be invited in, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Rev 3:20. Beginning a never-ending life of fellowship with Him.
How does it start? With a prayer of openness to Jesus such as this one, “Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for knocking on the door of my life and asking to come in. I choose now to open the door of my life to you. Please come into my life and be my Saviour from sin. Establish your throne in my life as I submit to You as Lord of every part of my life. Fill me with Your presence so that I might live for You from this moment on! I ask these things in Your precious name of Jesus. AMEN!”
Blog No.304 posted on www.jimholbeck.blog on Thursday 22nd November 2018.