This is the sermon for the third of our midweek Lenten services. The sermon text is: Hebrews 10:16-25. The sermon theme is: Do Not Bend Here is the Written Sermon
Do Not Bend
Do not bend. A couple of weeks ago I ordered communion wafers for our church. And in the box, along with the communion wafers was two pieces of cardboard with celophane wrapped around them. I was curious. So I tugged at the plastic, trying to break the plastic. And then I heard a ‘crunch’ sound. You see, they had put in a sampler package of their other communion wafers. And by pulling on the plastic I broke the wafers. Do not bend. There are some things we do not bend, because we know they can break.
In the words we read this evening from the book of Hebrews, about half way through these words, the writer to the Hebrews tells us to not bend. But before he gets to those words he lays down a foundation. First, he writes: “16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”” (Heb 10:16–17 NIV11-GK)
The first brick he mentions in laying down his foundation is the word, covenant. Do your remember what that word means? A covenant is a binding contract between two parties. For example, you give up a bunch of money and then you get a new car. The first covenant that the Writer to the Hebrews is speaking about here is the one the Lord makes with his people at Mount Sinai. There at Mount Sinai the Lord promised to be their God if they would perfectly keep all the commands the Lord was giving them.1 It was a two-sided covenant. That’s the old covenant. The new covenant is different. The Lord says that he will forgive their rebellions and wickedness…and we’re waiting. We’re waiting for the part where tells us what our part is. But it is not there. And that’s exactly the point. There is nothing you can do to earn or help earn your way to heaven. Jesus did it all.
That’s the first building block of his foundation. The second speaks about the fulfillment of this contract: “And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary.” (Heb 10:18 NIV11-GK)
Jesus took away sins once, for all people.2 And so we sing in our hymns:
Not all the blood of beasts
But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb
So the writer to the Hebrews lays down this second building block here, letting us know that one sacrifice takes away all sin. There is nothing we need to do to help Jesus. There is nothing we can do to help him.
In the verses which follow he lays down a third block: “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” (Heb 10:22 NIV11-GK)
The writer to the Hebrews has this wonderful foundation of Christ’s sacrifice. Then notice how he builds on it. Our hearts are sprinkled. Our bodies are cleansed. But what is it that takes this forgiveness that Jesus won for us and gives it to us? Water. But not just any water. God combines the power of his word with simple water. And through this he takes this forgiveness and places it into our hearts. And again, we sing about this in our hymns:
Sin, disturb my soul no longer:
Death, you cannot end my gladness:
And so Jesus cleansing blood becomes my cleansing flood in baptism. From this fact we ask a natural question. Now what? Or maybe even more to the point: So what? Since Jesus’ cleansing blood is now a cleansing flood taking away my sin, the writer to the Hebrews says, “let us draw near to God” (Heb 10:22 NIV11-GK)
There are no bars, not barriers no barricades between you and your God above. Approach your God boldly and confidently. Do no bend in this. And yet this is exactly where we see our sin. When the Holy Spirit speaks these facts to us in his word It is a sin to be fearful. It is a sin to cringe and cower before a God and Savior who has cleansed us with his blood. As a pastor one of the ways I see this is when people ask me to pray. I go to this gym and become thoroughly ugly and sweaty in those exercise classes. But, over the years, there have been people who have asked me to pray for them. And there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But when I ask them why they want me to pray for them, that’s where the fear comes in. They say that God hears my prayers before he hears their prayers. Oh, notice what the writer to the Hebrews says. He says to all of them: approach God with confidence. Go directly to him in your prayers.
But for many of us, there is another sin we commit. We don’t have any fear in praying to Jesus because we are too lazy to speak to him at all. The writer to the Hebrews invites us to approach God with confidence. And we respond by saying, “ehh, what’s on TV?”
Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, with this in mind, do not bend. Let us all that much more approach God with these sins of fear and laziness and lay these too along with all the other sins at Jesus’ feet, knowing that these sins have been washed away by Jesus’ blood.
The writer to the Hebrews continues in verse 23: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23 NIV11-GK) In the words which he just wrote he urged us to not bend when it came to approaching God. But here in these words, notice what he says. Do not bend.5 Do not bend when you profess your faith. He says, “hold on.” Well, hold onto what? Hold onto your confession of faith. Here again we bump into one of those big theological words. What is a confession or a profession? Confession is what you agreed to with others and speak together with others.
So notice what the writer to the Hebrews is saying. Approach the throne of God. But approach the throne together. And speak together the faith that you share. Here is where we have a powerful reminder of what worship is. The most important part of worship is what God does. Here, through God’s word is where Jesus comes to you and both offers and gives to you the forgiveness of sins. That is the most important part of worship. But it is not the only reason we gather together. In the words which follow he gives us three reasons why we should not bend when it comes to gathering together. In our closing verses he writes: “24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 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.” (Heb 10:24–25 NIV11-GK)
In these words he gives us three reasons why we do not bend when it comes to gathering together:
- Love: Don’t expect the unbelieving world out there to urge you to show the sort of selfless, forgiving love that Jesus showed you. Don’t expect that from them for they have no idea what that forgiving love looks like. But you do. And when you gather together for worship and bible study you show each other the same sort of love that Christ has shown to you.
- Good Works: Oh, the world knows about good works. But they do good works to be seen and repaid. Here among this group of sinner/saints is where you learn to do good works that God sees. Here is where we learn to do good works not in order to earn heaven, but because we already have heaven.
- The Day: Jesus could come at any time, as he says, like a thief in the night for Judgement Day. It’s important for us to gather together to continue to build each other up in the faith that we share.
And so, as you can see, worship is not just something for me. It’s also something that we join in for each other. So then, my brothers and sisters in Christ, don’t bend. Don’t break. Don’t bend when it comes to approaching your God in prayer. Approach him directly and confidently. But also don’t bend when it comes to gathering together. Confess your sins together. Say those ancient words of the creed together. Hear God’s word togther. And build each other up together. For our God who promised all of this to you is faithful. Amen.
1 Ex 15:26; Lev 26:14, etc
2 ⲉⲫⲁⲡⲁⲝ: Heb 7:27; 9:12
3 CW 128:1-2 \\
4 CWS 737:2,4
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