Heb10v19to25 A FOURFOLD CALL

(A) Introduction

Yet once more the writer to the Hebrews reiterates the points that he has made. It is almost as if he cannot let them go. Verses19 to 21 reaffirm that the Christian can enter God's presence by the blood of Christ. There is a new and living way by Christ's sacrifice into God's presence. We possess as God's people a great high priest and need no other! These are the imperishable assets of the follower of Jesus. They are assets that believing Jews possessed. So the writer now calls for a response. He has been driving home his points for this very purpose. Therefore .......let us.... he urges, and it is an urgent call, because many Jewish Christians are in real danger of repudiating their faith. I can remember playing cricket years ago with my dear old friend, the village blacksmith, Len Pawsey. When we were playing poorly and in danger of losing he would clap his hands and cry out in his broad Suffolk accent, "Come on altogether!" It was an urgent cry! The Jewish Christians were sailing perilously close to the rocks as will be seen when we study the succeeding verses. Here we have a passionate fourfold call for a wholehearted response to the riches they possess in Christ.

(B) The call to intimacy: no reservations. v22Let us draw near to God

We are told how we should draw near:

    (a) With sincerity v22 with a sincere heart
    Sometimes people draw near because they want something from us. I was always suspicious of pretty girls when they sidled up to me, smiled and said something flattering like, "Mr Reed you are my favourite teacher." They invariably wanted to borrow a pound, to be excused from attending my lesson or to avoid a ticking off for forgetting to do their homework. There are those who draw near to God because they want something from him - that Christian girl as a wife, acceptance and success in a community, respectability, a reputation for propriety, an insurance policy against present and future ills. The list is endless. The best reason to draw along side God is: that is the place you really want to be. Occasionally a girl would come into my room during the lunch hour while I was marking a pile of books. I would look up and and say, "Well and what do you want, Gemma?" Gemma would reply, "I've just come to see you, Mr Reed." I would stop work and give her my full attention. The best was to get God's full attention is to approach him for his own sake.

    (b) Without reservations v22 in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
    We do not always draw near without reservation. A young man who has been mucking out the pigs might not be too keen to embrace his girl friend until he has had a bath. His girl friend might not be too keen either! I love the story of Ruth and Boaz. Naomi gave her daughter-in-law this advice: "Wash and perfume yourself, and put on your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor...." When Ruth had done as her mother-in-law advised she was able to go with confidence and lay at Boaz's side. On other occasions we might hang back from a belief in our own inadequacy or unworthiness. When I was a student I never considered myself to be very attractive to women. There was a particularly beautiful female student whom I would never have dreamed of talking too. I can still remember, forty years later, my surprise when she drew near to me and talked to me. What follows is an aside for the benefit of immature male readers of this exposition - I learned too late that one of the things a women finds very attractive in a man is his desire to draw near without reservation!

    The writer tells us that Christians can come into God's presence with confidence. We have been cleansed, our hearts sprinkled and our bodies washed in pure water. There is no reason why we cannot be intimates of God because Christ's blood cleanses us from all sin. We should not underestimate the pleasure we can give to God by drawing close to him. Wasn't that elderly farmer Boaz glad that the sweet Moabite girl had put her trust in him. I can understand why he asked her to lay by his side until morning!

    I had been going through a bleak period at school. The grey winter months of January and February are particularly tiresome for a teacher. One dinner hour I was sitting in my form room at my desk when Megan walked in. She came and sat on the edge of my desk and smiled! I looked up at her and said, "Well want do you want, Megan". "Just to talk to you, Mr Reed", she replied. And that was all she did want. It was the happiest few minutes of the week! God doesn't get down like we do but I think he likes it when we draw near just for the pleasure of his company.

(C) The call to fidelity: no deviation. v23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess for he who promised is faithful.

The Greek word translated 'unswervingly' means not to be out of true, not to deviate from the perpendicular. The cardinal sin for a builder is to deviate from the perpendicular. It would put everything else wrong. So it is a top priority - to remain true to the perpendicular.

    (a) The Christian's priority in life should be to hold on to their hope. It is more important than anything else. It makes for success. The man who makes it his top priority to hold on to his wife is more likely to succeed than a man whose commitment is half hearted.

    (b) We are helped to hold onto our hope by:

      (1) Frequent profession. It is a hope we profess. I have just finished reading the autobiography of Frank Muir the English, very English, humorist. This is one of the things he wrote about his marriage:

      Polly(his wife) and I confirm our feelings towards each other every night.....so should a feministic journalist from a women's page telephone me today and ask me how often I have told my wife that I love her, I will reply (after a quick arpeggio on the calculator to check), roughly 16,822 times. And I spoke the truth every time.

      I am sure it helped to keep Frank Muir's love alive to regularly affirm it. We can profess our hope in prayer, meditation and hymn singing.

            My hope is built on nothing less
            Than Jesus' blood and righteousness
            I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
            But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
            On Christ the solid Rock, I stand;
            All other ground is sinking sand.

            His oath, His covenant and His blood,
            Support me in the 'whelming flood;
            When all around my soul gives way,
            He then is all my strength and stay.
            On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
            All other ground is sinking sand.

      I am convinced that hymns like the above are a very potent method of confirming our hope in the promises and finished work of Jesus.

      (2) Remembering the faithfulness and reliability of the one on whose promises we rely. God keeps his word. In Genesis50 v25 and 26 we read the touching last request Joseph made of his family:
      Then Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." And Joseph made the sons of Israel swear an oath and said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up from this place."
      So Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten. And after they embalmed him, he was placed in a coffin in Egypt.

      Joseph had proved God's faithful care and he was convinced that the Lord his God would keep his promises. Four hundred and thirty years passed. But eventually it is recorded in Exodus 13v19 Moses took the bones of Joseph with him because Joseph had made the sons of Israel swear an oath. He had said, "God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones up with you from this place." God kept his promise and the Israelites were led out of Egypt to the promised land and those harbingers of hope, Joseph's bones, travelled with them.

God never lets his people down.

(D) The Call to Action: no hesitation. v24 Let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

I think I am indebted to one of the old writers in the Pulpit Commentary for my next two headings. I am not capable of such elegance of language. The writer to the Hebrews calls us to:

    (a) The duty of mutual consideration:
    We are not urged to consider ourselves, nor encouraged to ask, "What's best for me?" This is what Christians are doing to the ruination of many churches. If we consider others before ourselves we will be obeying the advice of Paul who wrote Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others. Phil2v4 What a lot of trouble this would prevent. There would be:
      (1) Less ill will between churches and less division over inessentials. Lack of fellowship between conservative evangelical churches is mainly down to pride in being right. Envy is another reason for disharmony. We get so worked up over the sin's of the flesh. It wasn't sins of the flesh that put Jesus on the Cross but as Pilate rightly judged it was out of envy that they, the Sanhedrin, handed Jesus over to him. See Matt27v18

      (2) Less division within churches most of which is down to selfishness. People nurse bruised egos, plot revenge and give in to spite.

      (3) Fewer churches fatally weakened by desertion. How can you show consideration to your fellow Christians by abandoning them. Does a loving father abandon his wife and children. Desertions occur when someone puts their own interests first, above those of their brothers and sisters in Christ.

      (4) More support and encouragement for dedicated Christian workers from others in their churches. There would be fewer drones. The idle do not show any consideration for their fellows. Parasites weaken the host upon which they feed, draining it of vitality and well being.

    (b) The design of mutual consideration.
    The Greek word rendered 'spur on' in the quotation above is a very strong one and means, 'incite to riot'. It could equally well be translated 'rouse to action' or 'stir up.' Do we stir each other up to love and good works. We shouldn't be apathetic or hesitant about doing good. My brother, Philip, has recently been stirring up the Brockley Cricket Club members to numerous fund raising events to improve facilities. It is a pity he is not still active in the church using his motivational skills there.

    Over forty years ago now my mother stirred me up. She was a great visitor and she encouraged me to visit the elderly. She said, "You should go and see Miss Ward, John, she would love to see you." This week I have paid three such visits. They are a continuing tribute to my mother's efforts to spur on her son to good deeds. Some months ago, after my brother Paul had conducted services at our church in Brockley and told us about the work he was doing in Clapham, London, amongst the disadvantaged, two of our members, George and Lal, stirred me up. They wanted to know what we as a church were going to do to help. We have not always been very enthusiastic as a church to use our wealth to help others. We have been overly cautious. However there has been an improvement recently - and it is down to those who stir things up!

(E) The call to fellowship: no separation. v25 Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing but let us encourage one another.

Most of us have experienced what was happening amongst these Jewish Christians. People were starting to stop away from the church services - to separate themselves from their fellow believers. This is one of the most dangerous things a Christian can do. It is a sure fire recipe for disaster. So why do so many do it?

    (a) Lots of Christians leave church because there is no one they can be really friendly with. There is no one in the fellowship who is their type. They feel dissatisfaction with the Christians they worship with. C.S.Lewis in his book, 'The Screwtape Letters' shows how Satan can use these feelings to disconcert a new convert:

    When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided. ...... Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.

    There is a price to pay for remaining in a church where there are few people with whom you have anything in common except Jesus. If you are a woman and remain loyal to a fellowship where there are no eligible Christian men the price may be very severe indeed. To leave may, like Judas, involve going out into the darkness.

    (b) Some Christians withdraw from church attendance to lick their wounds in private. We can feel dreadful - bereaved, disappointed in love, full of despair about our family, depressed and run down, hurt and upset - and so we stop away. We can creep into a corner like a wounded dog and lick our wounds. Such is the very time to come to God's house. God is faithful.

    I have to say that there are times when a particularly awkward, difficult, surly, old dog creeps away into a corner and we are glad to see him go. I used to take a grumpy old man to church. He was very cantankerous. Perhaps some would say that we deserved each other! When he prayed at the prayer meeting he used this as an opportunity to put us all right. One day he was particularly obnoxious as I was driving him through Bury St Edmunds. I slammed on my breaks - without looking in the mirror. It is a good thing that there was nothing behind! I turned round and said to old Jack, "You can either be civil and I will take you to church or continue in that vein and I will take you home. It is your decision". Well I took him to the prayer meeting and then I took him home. He never said another word and I never saw him again till the day he died. It is on my conscience. I should have gone to see him and talked the situation through with him. I was too much of coward. It is too late now. We should not abandon ungracious, unlovely, old dogs to their corner. It is easier to rescue the lost sheep. The father of the prodigal son did go out to the elder brother and reason with him.

    (c) Large numbers of Christians begin to stay away from church because they are too busy. Beware! Beware! Remember Jesus' story about the seed that fell amongst thorns. The gracious influence of the gospel was stifled and smothered by the cares of this world. Our chief priority should be the service of God. It is no good putting our careers first and then rationalising the situation by pretending that we can serve God exclusively in our careers. We cannot. Neither our careers nor our families nor our interests should come before our reasonable service to the Master. Jesus said, No-one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. Mat6v24.

    Two business people in my village used to attend our chapel irregularly. I liked them very much. When they retired they became active in the church and were very useful. They didn't live long in retirement. Think of the years they wasted when they were obsessed by business and the good they could have done by being active earlier.

    I was a dedicated schoolteacher. I was a flawed schoolteacher but I worked very hard! However there were two things I always found time for however weary I felt. One was sport and the other was Christian service. Funerals were always difficult. You cannot plan for a funeral. So sometimes I would be asked to conduct a funeral in a particularly busy week... But God is faithful. He always helped me in his service. Yes I can honestly say - always.

    (d) We can stop away from church because we don't feel like attending. During the winter months I never feel like getting up. I wish that I did! I never wake up and think - yipee! another wonderful day, and leap out of bed - glad to be alive. But I do get up. Gradually I begin to feel better about it all. Wouldn't I be a fool to stop in bed because I didn't feel like getting up. It is equally foolish to stop away from church because of how you feel. It is dangerous. It suggests that you are beginning to drift, that you are losing your first love. The very time that it is vital to be at church is when you feel least like going. Go, go, go. Get up and go. Make yourself go as I make myself get up on dark, bleak, winter mornings. It is not long before I begin to cheer up.

We will not separate ourselves from other Christians if:

    (a) We consider others. There is nothing more discouraging to a fellowship than unnecessary, inexcusable absence. Nothing is more demoralising than actual defection. A wife feels terrible when her husband leaves her for another women. I feel bad whenever a fellow church member defects to the world.

    Severe temptations pull a man or a woman out of the church. Chief amongst these is romantic love. Shared love makes for delirious happiness. Is it right to be happy at the expense of the happiness of many others who will be made miserable by your actions.

    (b) If we have our own spiritual interest at heart. We are encouraged as Christians as we meet together. I have so often been blessed by attending our little prayer meeting. We pray for each other and the welfare of our aging church membership. We share the word. Brother Peter will come up and share a thought in his cheerful, inimitable way. We learn what each is doing to help the weaker members of our church. Those who are confident help the diffident, the steadfast are an example to the waverer and the joyful a tonic to the dispirited.

            We share our mutual woes,
            Our mutual burdens bear
            And often for each other flows
            The sympathising tear.

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