Building the right foundation part 21
Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, 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 towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
New International Version - UK (NIVUK)
As we continue in our series of “Building the Right Foundation” we continue to consider the church covenant. Every church member agrees to the covenant when joining the church. It is therefore important for us to regularly consider it's content and to re-confirm our promises. Today we will focus upon:
Church covenant point 3
We commit ourselves to worship by reverent and regular attendance at services of praise, prayer and preaching, by sharing in the celebrations of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and by cheerfully giving our tithes and offerings.
The writer of Hebrews in our passage speaks of the confidence that we Christians have to enter into the most Holy Place. We will therefore consider what he means by saying that. We will secondly consider what reverent worship is and finally the importance of regular attendance.
The confidence we have:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, 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,
Firstly we need to address what is the Most Holy Place. Hebrew's is a letter written to a Jewish church and as such each person hearing these words would immediately think of the central place in the temple. The temple and also formerly the tabernacle was the place where God had focussed His presence in Israel. He met in the Temple with the nation's representative or High Priest in a very special part known as the holy of holies or the most holy place. Only the High Priest could enter and then it was only once a year after he had been cleansed from the effect of sin through the blood of an innocent victim. That place where God chose to meet with His people was a pointer to the place where God lives eternally. It was a glimpse of heaven on earth. It was also a a wonderful example which shows that it is possible for sinful man to meet with God who is perfectly holy. The way of meeting was directed by God and was only made possible by the sacrifice of an innocent victim. All of this was a pointer to what the Lord Jesus Christ did when He died upon the cross.
Instead of a high priest who needed sin to be forgiven by sacrifice, Jesus had to become sin in order to be sacrificed. He is now the Great High Priest who has opened a way into heaven for all who are cleansed from sin by His sacrificial blood.
There is a natural barrier between man and God. It is our sin that separates us from His presence but by faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrifice and through repentance we are forgiven and can then enter into the Holy Place where we can freely worship our God. When Jesus died on the cross the curtain which separated the Temple courts from the Holy of Holies was torn from top to bottom. It was only God that could tear it from the top to the bottom, by doing so He demonstrated that He had now opened up a new way into His presence. Jesus His Son had just made the once for all sacrifice which made it possible for any to enter into God's presence. By His death a way into the holy place was achieved for all who will trust in Him.
It is by repentance and faith that personal salvation is accomplished. Repentance is simply turning away from self and sin and turning to God for help and forgiveness and then in faith following Him.
Is this your personal experience?
If it is then:
“let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, 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.”
How should we worship?
Our covenant tells us that we must worship reverently. But what does it mean to worship reverently?
One thing that is absolutely clear throughout the whole of the Old Testament is that we cannot worship just as we want to. Cain who was the firstborn of Adam and Eve discovered this to his cost. In his attempt to please God he brought an offering of the fruits of his own labours which was totally unacceptable to God. His younger brother Abel's offering of a sacrificed animal was however accepted. As a consequence of this Cain in a jealous rage murdered his brother. Also King David learned the same lesson when he transported the Ark of the Covenant on an ox cart in order to take it into Jerusalem. This procedure ultimately cost the life of a man called Uzzah. By the death of a man who simply touched the Ark in order to steady it David discovered that God is angry with anyone even His anointed king if they do things as they think is right. God had recorded in His law that the Ark must be carried by the priests only and should never be transported on a cart. When David did it the right way then blessing came to the nation.
It is exactly the same today we must only worship God in the way that He proscribes. Both Cain and David on those occasions were guilty of pragmatic worship. They had what they thought was a good idea and offered the fruits of their mind as an act of worship and God rejected it. We must worship God as he prescribes. Jesus said that there was coming a time when His people would worship in Spirit and truth. That is exactly what the writer to the Hebrews is saying in our passage and it is also exactly what we have covenanted to do.
Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart or as our covenant puts it let us worship reverently. God is only interested in the sacrifice of praise that come from a sincere heart. It is so easy for us to look pious here in the worship service. Do you know God does not accept anything that you offer whatever your words say if the your heart is insincere. At this moment you know exactly what your heart is like, some might say that you alone know but they are wrong.
Man may look on the outward appearance but God is scrutinising your heart NOW!
Let us now draw near to God with a sincere heart!
PRAY for a moment!
The writer also talks about a full assurance of faith. That means to be fully persuaded that you really are saved. This comes as the direct result of true repentance. Ephesians tells us that faith is a gift of God.
Do you have full assurance of faith, if not ask God.
We are a new creation the Apostle Paul said, we are no longer under condemnation. Our sins are forgiven as far as the East is from the West. God remembers them no more. Our hearts have been sprinkled and our consciences are washed as was alluded to by Old Testament temple ritual. But this is reality!
We are saved!
All of which means that we should:
hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
We should regularly worship together:
Our covenant says:
“We commit ourselves to worship by reverent and regular attendance at services of praise, prayer and preaching, by sharing in the celebrations of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, and by cheerfully giving our tithes and offerings.”
This is what we ought to adhere to. We ought to be regularly attending the services and share in the celebrations and ordinances of the church.
Baptism is a command of scripture. Have you been baptised. I know that there are differing modes and ways and theologies surrounding baptism but the scripture says that upon repentance baptism ought to be applied. It is not essential to salvation but it is important enough to be a command of God. Personally I am happy to accept those who differ from my understanding that believers should be baptised upon the confession of their faith. Some believe that in faith their parents baptised them as infants and now they have since becoming a Christian have confirmed that which was done for them in the faith of their parents.
The point made in our covenant is that as committed Christians we ought to share in the celebration of baptism. That is we should be there to support all who are baptised. If you have not been baptised then please talk to me and we would love to explore the possibility.
We are coming to a celebration of the Lord's Supper in a few moments. The Lord's Supper is a celebration of the life, death, resurrection and the future return of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such Christians must celebrate it together regularly. In fact it is so important that it is entrenched within the constitution (legal rules) of the church. The constitution actually says that if it is missed for 6 consecutive months without reasonable excuse then the offender has in effect broken covenant with the church. They cannot logically any longer be a member.
That is the outworking of what the writer of our passage is saying. He tells us not to give up meeting together for at least two reasons. Firstly because of who we are and what God has done in saving us; we ought to be together to worship and praise Him. Secondly we ought to be together for the mutual encouragement and blessing of each other.
Christians; God has done everything necessary to accomplish our salvation. Jesus did not stay in heaven because the work was going to be tough, He for the joy set before Him (which is us as part of His church) endured the cross and did not despise the shame that He encountered by it. He knew the future benefits that it would bring. By His death He was accomplishing the populating of heaven with His own people who are His adopted family. We are amongst that number and as such we will all one day be together enjoying each others company and all enjoyng God together.
Our church service is like a mini heaven where together we are of one heart, one mind and one purpose which is to enjoy God together.
Why miss out on such blessing?