Luke 12:13-34

Jesus speaks about money and possessions, worry and anxiety, about your security in life 

 

jesus says that knowing him will change your relationship towards your money ..and your possessions. 

 

To people who are beginning to follow or considering following him Jesus says v15 ‘Watch out for greed’ 

Following Jesus challenges your greed, your materialism. To which you we might well say, ‘greed? i may be a lot of things but i don’t think i’m greedy.’ 

really? says Jesus.  ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.’

 The reason Jesus has to say watch out is because of all the sins which can hinder our spiritual lives, greed is the most elusive. None of us thinks we are greedy not compared to ‘those others’ – but Jesus says there are all kinds of greed. You don’t need to be rich to suffer with it, you can be penniless and full of greed. Watch out. 

 

So how do you define greed? Where do you draw the line as to what is or isn’t greedy? 

Well Jesus doesn’t do that, what he does is he describes the characteristics of greed – 2 kinds – and he alerts us to the warning signs to watch out for and then he offers a cure to money sickness. A threefold cure.. 

 

  1. A New security 
  2. A New beauty 
  3. A New priority 

 

  1. A New security 

 

The first kind of greed that Jesus identifies here occurs when you make money your security. When you look to money to make you safe. This kind of greed shows itself in the desire to store up money and possessions. That’s your security. 

 

These are the danger signs: 

When you have some wealth stored up you gloat. Arrogance 

When you don’t have anything or enough stored up you worry. Anxiety 

 

Arrogance and Anxiety..

 

Let’s look at the first one. Listen to the rich fool gloating v19 I’ll say to myself. You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry. Have you ever seen that arrogant sign of greed in yourself? i can remember the one time when my wife Fiona and i were both working – we were DINKYs - and we were able to start packing out our ISAs a bit and i would go online daily just to survey our amassing wealth and i felt very good about myself – gloating cos you’ve got some wealth stored up. 

And then there’s the second one. Perhaps it’s more familiar – Anxiety. Worrying about money. Jesus talks at length about his in Vv22-32. It’s interesting to consider that worrying about money is a sign of greed. Look at v29 Jesus says Do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink, do not worry about it. To worry about money and possessions is to set your heart on money and possessions. In money i trust. And so even though you don’t have any, you are just as absorbed with money, just as money-centric as the person storing up more and more. 

[It’s telling isn’t it that while Hackney is the second poorest borough in the country there are more betting shops per head of population here than anywhere in the country.  The powerful appealing to the anxious greed of the poor. In money we trust. ]

 

Well of course the whole point of the parable of the rich fool is to expose the stupidity of seeking your security in money. to expose the deception. 

 

Of course having lots of money can make life more convenient. You can buy every manner of gadgets and items, you can get your personal shopper to go and do your shopping for you. But of course the question is – is the time that you need to go shopping – is that really what makes life difficult? No – what makes life difficult is tragedies, accidents, sicknesses, broken relationships and death. And money doesn’t do anything to stop any of those things! In fact, the situation that leads to Jesus’ telling of the parable of the rich fool - the man coming to Jesus: ‘make my brother share the inheritance with me’ – reminds us that it is often disputes about money that lead to the breakdown of relationships. Money doesn’t solve life’s deepest difficulties – sometimes it makes them worse! 

 

Watch out! Beware the deception that storing up money brings security. 

The rich fool’s discovery was that far from being an owner, he was in fact owned. 

That everything we have, including our souls, our very life belongs to God. We only possess anything in trust from him and therefore our true security is found in God alone. Jesus says find New Security in Him. Lift up your eyes from your bank statements and pay slips and look out of the window. …

 

V24 Consider the Ravens. (i guess if Jesus had come to 21st C London he’d have said consider the pigeons) They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn, yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!

 

Jesus says, this is the involvement of the creator sustaining his creation: It is not by chance that birds daily and consistently find food. God sustains his creatures. And if this loving God feeds them, won’t he feed you who are much more valuable to him than they are? 

Jesus isn’t giving us an excuse for idleness – lie back and let God provide. The ravens work extremely hard, but they rely on God and so are free from worry or arrogance. They do not store up for themselves. They do not need to. 

 

And so the Q is – where is your security? Will you entrust yourself to your Creator. The God who cares for you and has the whole world in his hands. Or will you anxiously or arrogantly rely on yourself, your plans, your money? 

A new security 

 

  1. A new beauty 

God secures the ravens. But in vv27+28 God arraigns and adorns the fields There is a second kind of greed that Jesus subtly identifies here. 

Just as there are some for whom money is their security and so they store it up 

There are others who make money their beauty. They use possessions to make them feel worthy and important and attractive. To be approved of and loved. These people don’t store up, they spend ..in order to array themselves, their homes. As v30 says a world without God runs after things

 

[The TV pictures of the crowds at the Boxing Day Sales – a record turn out (perhaps you were there?) in the stampede for the half price Louis Vuitton Handbags. The pursuit of personal significance, of beauty in possessions. ]

 

Of course the irony is that if you construct your worth from the possessions with which you surround yourself in the end you have no idea if people like you for you. 

 

Jesus says – v15 a person’s life does not consist in the abundance of their possessions. Jesus says lift up your eyes from your glossy catalogues, cancel your shopping trip and (while of course God loves cities) take a train into the countryside sometime and vv27 -28 "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith!”

 

There is a beauty, Jesus says that outshines the splendour of King Solomon, a worth and significance which you cannot purchase or construct because it is a gift from God. He clothes you. He adorns your life, your character. He alone satisfies completely. True beauty comes from God alone. What you do is you listen to him - start here in the Bible - the words about his love for you. He, Jesus died for you. Listen here and begin to hear him speaking to you personally ..becoming your true Father and loving King and his presence will beautify your life. 

 

V32 Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.

The kingdom is a catch all term for all the blessings of the rule of God, established and beginning to be restored through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus 

 

brings us to final antidote for greed

 

  1. A new priority … for your money 

 

V31 seek the Kingdom

Seek the establishment of God’s just and perfect reign – so - the establishment of justice, the poor fed, the downtrodden lifted up, the good news of Jesus proclaimed. 

In practice that means v33 radical generosity with our money and resources for the sake of the materially and spiritually poor Sell your possessions and give to the poor. A new priority

 

Sell your possessions and give. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that this isn’t a blanket command. Jesus doesn’t say sell all your possessions. In his culture where there were no banks or share portfolios you held your wealth in your possessions. The only way to free up some cash was to sell some possessions. So Jesus is saying liquidate some of that stored up wealth for the sake of the poor. Decide to live to a lower standard, to go without so that you might use some of what God has given to you to give to what matters to him. That is what it means in v21 to be rich towards God. 

 

Do not be afraid Jesus says, to give it away. 

Do not be afraid to give it away.

 

And then Jesus gives us two further and final motivations for fearless generous giving. 

 

1. The experience of God’s grace. 

Notice the order of vv31 and 32. Jesus doesn’t say if you sell your possessions and give to the poor then you’ll be given the kingdom. No, he says You have been given the kingdom. Therefore don’t be afraid to give away. 

This is what makes christianity to every other religion. Every religion says do good things and God will accept you, forgive you. Christianity says: you could never be good enough and so You have been gifted everything by God – all the Kingdom is yours because Jesus – though he was rich beyond all measure yet for loves sake he became poor. On the Cross he sold everything, he liquidated all his assets to give to the poor to pay for our sins by his death. He became poor that we might be rich. 

 

If you knew that, if you knew that you are that loved, that treasured by the God who made you. Then your money wouldn’t need to be your security, your possessions wouldn’t need to be your beauty.  Your money would just be money. 

Well look -if you’re a Christian here in Christ you ARE secure and approved in the beloved Jesus Christ therefore don’t be afraid to give it away. God’s grace motivates us to give… That’s why some of the greatest works of generosity and benevolence in history have been those of Christians - the establishment of the first hospitals, hospices, free schools, the reform of prisons and slavery. all the works of Christians - not trying to earn God’s favour but safe in God’s favour they were not afraid to give it away. 

And this liberating life changing relationship with the King is freely given to all. His arms are outsrtetched

 

we are motivated to give by the experience of God’s grace 

And finally – we are motivated to give because of 

2. The certain investment

not all storing up of treasure is foolish. In these troubled financial times there is one absolutely secure place to invest your money - not property, not bitcoins, not gold 

v33 Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.

Jesus says, heaven is a place now - where you can store up treasure now, to collect in an eternal future. That treasure (and i’m not entirely sure what it is but i know that it’s good - relationship with God and others, character in you. This heavenly treasure, unlike earthly treasure, is eternally secure. Nothing wears out in heaven, there are no stockmarket crashes, there are no moths (we have moths inour jumpers!) and the thieves in heaven? – they’re all changed characters – they don’t break in and steal. 

In terms of where to invest your money now it’s a no brainer. Use what God has given you, as much as you can spare to give to the things that matter to God. Be rich towards God. 

My pounds can still just about buy sony, Versace, sundrenched beaches, stella artois and steak to satisfy my soul. But equivalent pounds can also work the miracle of sight for the blind, food that will cause the starving to live, shelter for the homeless,a bible for a Chinese Christian, or bring the saving message of Jesus to people perishing without God. 

And so we pray for the help of the Holy Spirit that we would be so satisfied in Jesus Christ and so secure in his love that our money would be just money; that we wouldn’t be fools who accumulate treasure here or spend it all on ourselves. Instead we would use our money to seek the Kingdom. To Store up treasure in heaven. 

i end with this: 

In 250AD during the time of the great persecution in Rome, the Roman Prefect burst into a church service and demanded, ‘Show me your treasures.’ They had come to confiscate everything of value. A deacon of the church called Laurentius showed the Prefect to an adjoining room. “These are our Treasures” he said and opened the door to reveal a group of widows, orphans, sick and poor people being cared for by members of the church. 

These are our treasures.

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

 

 

 

 

Luke 11:36-12:12

The comedian Eddie Izzard, who has found time in between running back to back marathons to star in this new film Victorian and Abdul, said this last week in an interview with the Guardian 

 

“I have a very strong sense that we are only on this planet for a short length of time, And that is only growing. Religious people might think it goes on after death. My feeling is that if that is the case it would be nice if just one person came back and let us know it was all fine, all confirmed. Of all the billions of people who have died, if just one of them could come through the clouds and say, you know, ‘It’s me.., it’s brilliant, there’s a really good spa’, that would be great.”

 

It reminded me of the place where Jesus tells a story where people who have died tell God to send someone back from the grave to tell people it’s real and Jesus said, even if someone rose from the dead - they wouldn’t believe.. 

 

There’s something in humanity that avoids Jesus, sidesteps his authority. That’s what we’ve been seeing here in Luke 11. People see his miracles 11v? but then always keep needing more proof or it’s evidence for them that religion is dangerous! manipulative! They find a way of staying in the dark, avoiding the light. 

 

And in todays passage Jesus exposes and condemns the classic way that we avoid him - RELIGION,  and then offers an antidote - the challenge of GRACE 

 

1. The danger of religion. 

Jesus condemns the religious leaders of his day, who are the most religious (obviously) and by so doing he warns about the danger of religion 

By religion here i mean the practice of climbing your way up to God. Making yourself acceptable to him by moral goodness (keeping laws) and performing religious duties. It doesn’t work says Jesus and it’s toxic 

 

Jesus’ condemnation of religion is sparked by this critical spirit in a Pharisee who invites Jesus around for a meal. The Pharisees were not Priests they were a lay movement for spiritual piety and religiousdevotion. The holy ones. This Pharisee has Jesus round with others, see v? for a meal and Jesus doesn’t wash his hands!!

We tell kids to wash their hands before they eat because kids have invariably been playing with soil or picking their noses (like some adults for that matter) and it’s a matter of hygiene. But this handwashing was a matter of purity before God - a tradition observed by the Pharisees. Now i don’t think Jesus had just forgotten to wash his hands before he tucks in. Water had probably been brought. Jesus deliberately refuses to wash his hands. He passes the wash bowl on and starts eating and you should have seen the look on the Pharisee’s face. 

 

Jesus refuses to wash - not because he wants to be deliberately offensive but because religion as a way of getting pure before God is a toxic lie. Because , Religion v39, is always only to do with externals, the outside, appearances. It doesnt touch the inside, our internal world, the heart. 

 

Sometimes when i unload the dishwasher. Fail. Food inside the bowl dried on. Yuck!  The pharisees religious attitudes and words and actions look good on the outside but inside there’s mess, there’s stuf on the inside. And v40 doesn’t God care about the inside just as much as the out?

 

Jesus begins to pronounce woes on the religious. 3 for the Pharisees and 3 woes for the Scribes. And here’s the thing. We cannot think that we escape these warnings. We easily slip into a religious way of being an ‘I can do this’ I can be good enough for God.. I don’t need Jesus 

 

look at the woes 

1. Hypocrisy v39 you follow all the tiniest outward details of devotion but there’s no love of God within. Because you’re religious you need to think you’re good enough, that your good deeds outweigh your bad ones; that you’re acceptable to God. And part of convincing yourself is that you need everyone else to think you’re good enough, that you’re acceptable. And so life becomes an act. That’s where the word hypocrite came from the actor who puts on a mask, plays a character. The danger of hypocrisy is that we hide behind masks and our brokenness can never be healed because we keep it in the dark rathe than admitting we are broken, sharing our burdens. Bonhoeffer in his explosive little book Life together writes this “The pious fellowship (a religious church) permits no one to be a sinner. So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship. We dare not be sinners. Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners!” 

the danger of Hypocrisy. 

 

2. the danger of pride v43 

The pharisees love the front seats in the synagogues and the respect in the town square. Who of us doesn’t love to be honoured in our little sphere? It feeds our need to be acceptable before God, to be honoured by Him. If people say I’m good then i must be ok. If people honour me, God will. But what an exhausting and precarious existence - constantly living for the approval of others. When it’s there it swells my pride. When it’s absent I’m insecure and increasingky desperate. And all the time I take the best seats others are pushed down a rung or two. All th etime i get the attention, others are neglected. The toxicity of religion 

 

And if i live this way, particularly if I am a leader. Whether a Pharisee or a Vicar. A splinter group leader or the only Christian in my workplace. All of us are leaders, all of us are leading someone. But if i live this way I lead people not to life but to death. v44 “…” Under the OT law contact with a dead body, even accidental and unintended - like walking over an unmarked grave would render a person ritually unclean. They had to wait a period of time and undergo ritual washings before they could re-enter the temple or re-engage with worship. The Pharisees thought they were sharing the way of purity, leaidng the way to heaven. But Jesus says that in their religiosity they are death traps! leaders of spiritual uncleanness whose teaching and example leads people to death! 

Wow! How toxic religion is! 

 

Well now v45 one of the scribes pipes up. The scribes were part of the religious establishment. This one pipes up as if to say you’re including us in this are you? Whis is a classic line isn’t it. If we here Jesus critique someone over there.. rather than thinking i wonder if I do this, if this applies to me, if i need to repent? we think. ‘you’re not including me in this are you?’ Well the Scribe will have wished he never complained because Jesus turns both barrels on him. 

 

Look at Jesus’ critique of the way of religion in v46. Religion weighs down people with burdens they just cannot carry and with no-one to help them carry these burdens.. 

 

We could look further but I want us to turn from the danger of religion to its antidote - the challenge of Grace. This is here in 12vv1-12. This passage that is full of alarming words. Some of the most problematic in the NT! It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the warnings in this passage, the negatives and miss the Promises that are extraordinary here. The promises of grace. 

Grace. God knows our brokenness and weakness. he knows that we can never work our way to him, earn his righteousness, save ourselves. It’s laughable that we would ever think we can. And so He gives us salvation, gives us forgiveness and righteousness as a gift - a gift that cost the death of his Son. And here’s the challenge of grace because it leaves no room for our pride, for us thinking that we are good, that we can do it. That we can avoid Jesus. Grace requires us to no more hide behind that mask of uprightness but come into the light and admit our brokenness that it may be healed. 

 

Jesus says, why are you hiding anyway? What’s the point? Everything is known to God and will be ultimately known. vv2-3 “…”

These are scary verses aren’t they? Total exposure of all we’ve ever done at God’s judgement. Fills us with shame! Maybe our sins will be exposed at the judgement. But only so that their darkness can be swallowed up in unquenchable light; for the victory of Christ over our sins to be exalted and celebrated. And everything good that we have ever done through Jesus will also be exposed. 

It’s interesting that we fear exposure of what we’re really like before others more than we do before God who sees everything and knows everything anyway and has set his love upon us. We need to move out into the light more from hiddenness to knowness. I’ve been trying to do this more. My brokenness as i’ve approached midlife becomes more and more unmanageable and while i don’t think it’s appropriate or helpful to tell you all my inner issues. I’ve been trying to open up the real me, the broken me, more and more to some that i might come into the light and be healed. And it’s hard. 

 

Bringing the challenge of grace Jesus ends with 3 couplets here 

warnings and promises. 

vv4-7 Don’t fear men, receive the Father’s love 

vv8-9 Don’t deny Jesus, receive the Son’s honour 

vv10-12 Don’t blaspheme the Holy Spirit, receive his help 

 

let’s look at each of those 

 

Don’t fear people, receive the Father’s love 

 

Don’t fear those who can kill the body and afterwards do nothing. Don’t fear people 

Fear, fear, fear 3 times in v5 God who after death can cast into Hell. Oh wo! what is this. Well te word hell is gehenna - the rubbish dump outside the city walls of Jerusalem - a constant bonfire where you through out your old stuff that doesn’t work anymore, that no longer serves the purpose for which it was made. Your broken washing machine, your faulty tv. Human beings are made in God’s image, made to image him as we look at him. the more we push god away, turn our backs on him , the more we lose our image and the purpose for which we were made. at the end of our lives if we have continually rejected God, God will give us what we want. The rubbish heap. In our sinfulness this is what we deserve. But in his love God will have none of it. In grace, Jesus, carried our sins outside the city walls to the place of crucifixion. he took our rubbish. he died for it, doing away with it THAT w emight receive INSTEAD the Father’s love vv6-7 “…” Do you see how God loves you, says Jesus. You are known intimately, you are valued exceptionally, you are loved eternally. Don’t fear people..come into the light receive the Father’s love. 

 

Don’t deny Jesus, receive the Son’s honour

Don’t deny Jesus v9 or he’ll deny you. Oh wow.. I’m always denying him, aren’t you? 

But this is not describing an occasional failure but an attitude of life. Peter denied Jesus but he came back. That we all do. Judas betrayed jesus and hardened himself in that position. To the point that he’s rather die than turn to Christ. That, we must not do. Remember the context of these chapters - don’t side step Jesus, don;t deny him, don’t use excuses. Don’t deny your true purpose and reason for living. You deny your own humanity if you shut out the author of life. (Our hearts cry out for loved ones still denying Jesus) 

We deserve Jesus to disown us. We had denied him our lives. But in his love, Jesus would have none of it. In grace, Jesus bore our sins on the cross and he was disowned. His Father turned his back on the son. Jesus took the Father’s rejection for us so that we might receive instead the Son’s honour. 

v8 everyone who confesses me - that is calls out to me for rescue, clings to me - the son of Man will confess him before the angels of God. 

Acknowledge Jesus and Jesus will acknowledge before the Father. He will speak of you in glowing terms. He will honour YOU! Did you know you’re not disowned, unknown, you don’t need to hide. You belong. You’re known in the courts of heaven. Your company is expected. 

Don’t deny Jesus, receive the Son’s honour 

 

Finally, 

Don’t blaspheme the Spirit, receive his help

v10 “…” 

again at first glance this seems a terrifying that rocks our assurance. There’s an unforgiveable sin? I’ve been so unfaithful - i bet i’ve committed that!  But look what the verse says. Jesus’ work is to save you and so complete is his salvation of you that you can speak against him and you will still be forgiven. He will forgive all things all things! The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring us to Jesus and then help us to follow him. The holy spirit puts the spotlight on Jesus, opens our eyes to him as the source of forgiveness and salvation. And it follows that there is only one sin that cannot be forgiven and that is to reject the work of the Spirit, to reject the only one who can forgive you. 

 

That fits doesn’t it with the context of this passage. People rejecting Jesus, sidestepping him. Don’t do it. Your only saviour. 

 

Don’t blaspheme the Spirit, receive his help. 

 

 

Danger of religion, hiding 

Come into the light of grace

 

 

 

Luke 15:1-24 Mission Sunday

We've been thinking today on our Mission Sunday about reaching out with the message of God’s love. One of the main aims of our church is to be outward looking. 

 

And we need the message of Jesus’ love to be the motivation and the drive for us to love others. 

 

So we’re going to look at these 3 parables of lost things found that Jesus tells. 

 

Look at Jesus here in Luke 15 . The eternal son of God who has been sent into the world - he has crossed the great distance from heaven to earth. Fully God - his glory fills the heavens and yet he lowers himself to take to himself an additional nature, to share our humanity. He moves out towards us. And he comes to sit in the dust with broken people.

 

And then Jesus tells these 3 parables. Similarly themed. In each parable 3 things happen 1) something is lost 2) the loss leads to a search, 3) retrieval brings rejoicing 

 

  1. something is lost 

here’s the shepherd in his field caring for his sheep - how regularly do you do a head count? Must be difficult.. they keep moving..

Except perhaps this shepherd doesn’t have to count - he knows his sheep - hang on where’s fluffy? Haven’t seen him fluffy, fluffy. He’s wandered off again. 

Sheep are nototriously stupid and rebellious they get themselves into trouble, they need the Shepherd. A lost sheep

 

Then here’s the woman counting her valuable coins. My mum would always don’t count your money you’re going to lose it. One of this woman’s coins is lost! She counts again that sinking feeling of realisaton grows ….A lost coin 

 

Then a son comes to his father - says the unthinkable in that culture where you stayed with your father until he died; where you’d bury your Father and only then would you leave. He says give me my share of the inheritance now, i’m leaving now. It equates to saying ‘Dad i wish you were dead.’ He takes the money and leaves. A lost Son 

 

I guess a reason why we might not allow our faith to extend out to people outside the church might be that we don’t really think that people need Jesus. Not really. most people seem perfectly fine without him. It can be comforting to have a faith but it’s not the end of the world, is it?

 

But this is not the view of the Bible. History is moving somewhere. The future is completely God’s future - and to be outside of that story is to be lost. Our true human home is in God; to be with God our Maker, the source of our existence. Perversely we know instead of enjoying God, we ignore Him. Instead of discovering our true purpose living his way. We say with Frank Sinatra, ‘I’ll do it my way” 

Like a sheep wandering away from the Shepherd. 

Or like a Son saying to his Father -  i wish you were dead! i’d like my share of the will because i don’t want to be here a moment longer. That’s what we do - we say I’ll take the gifts thanks - life, pleasure.. but i don’t want you God. leave me alone God, you’re not God, I’m God. Ill do it my way. 

This, we know, is the bias of our hearts. You don’t have to be a so called immoral or particularly dysfunctional person for this to be the case. The remarkable, sorted person who has given their life to charitable causes but has done so completely on her own terms with no reference to God is just as rebellious and just as Lost. 

Lostness is an objective state - it is to have separated oneself from God - and left unchecked it will continue into eternity. People balk at the idea of God judging us but God’s judgement is completely fair. To the person who has said to God all their life. Leave me alone God, you’re not God, I’m God I will not have you as God over me. For that person - judgement will be to be given the very thing that they have been asking for. God will remove the light and life of his presence finally.

 

Sometimes the lostness of separation from God mercifully breaks into peoples’ experience. The constant busyness and purpose and fun - the illusion that we are in control of our lives gets rudely interrupted by feelings of emptiness, by the experience of tragedy. 

 

Nect time you’re on the tube, in the pub, in your workplace. Look at them, people who look so fine on the outside.. and they may doing ok or they may be breaking up on the inside w- we so often don’t know/ But without Jesus these people are lost, utterly lost and ultimately lost. Jesus came and he looked at the crowds and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and he sat down and he taught them about the kingdom. 

 

Because, 2nd thing in the parables is that  

Each loss results in a search. 

 

The shepherd leaves the 99 sheep and goes in search of the 1. Isn’t that extraordinary.? If I was looking after a hundred sheep and only one went missing id think - well i haven’t done too badly. But not this shepherd. He’s not a generalist. He cares about the 1. He embarks on a search and rescue expedition. 

 

The woman …turns the house upside down in search of the coin. 

 

The father - implicit in the fact that he sees his returning son from a great distance and runs to him - is the reality that this Father - was a horizon gazer. Every day this loving Father’s eyes never strayed for long from the horizon; from the road, longing for his son to come back. Whatever work he was doing regularly he’d break off to look out for his son. I bet people noticed him doing it. Perhaps some tried to dissuade him. “Give it up, do yourself a favour forget him, he’s never coming home. And anyway he did a disgraceful thing.”. He looks at you with tears in his eyes and says, ‘He’s my son - he’ll always be my son.” And his eyes return to the horizon. 

 

I think it might be a sign of getting on a bit .. but i’m always misplacing things and occasionally losing things. Where are my keys! And when you lose something you can tell the value of that thing to you by the manner of your search. If you turn over a few cushions and shrug your shoulders and turn back to watching Strictly - it obviously wasn’t valuable. But if you’re missing strictly! Urgentlyturning the house upside down because you can’t relax until you’ve found it, retracing your steps, can’t sleep for racking your brains - then the thing that is lost must be of tremendous value to you! the value of the thing to you is revealed in the manner of the search. 

 

Here’s another reason why we might be restricted in our motivation to live and speak the gospel out there in the world. We don’t see people as that valuable. People - huh! Look at them running around. Surely not that valuable ultimately?

 

Oh really? The nature of the search indicates the value of the thing. 

Humanity was lost and Jesus Christ did not merely shrug his shoulders, No, he crossed the great divide from heaven to earth to come and find us. We had offended God in an obscene way and yet Jesus though perfect in his divinity humbled himself to share our broken humanity. He went from Glory to a stable floor. From the company of angels to the friendship of sinners. From the throne of Creation to the agony of the cross. To cover our offences to reconcile us to God. 

 

How do you imagine God? how do you picture him? a distant thundering figure, who prefers fear and respect to love. Who forgives yes but reluctantly and after making the penitent person squirm? That is not the picture Jesus gives. Jesus tells of a crazy caring shepherd; of a housewife jumping up and down over the rediscovery of a lost coin; of a Father humiliating himself by running to embrace a son who has squandered half the family fortune.

 

Here’s the thing you see - You and I have never clapped eyes on a human being who isn’t of absolute value to God. We might not know them, they may mean nothing to us. But God… he would die for them if they were the one person on earth. 

 

Here is the movement of the gospel. God moves out towards a lost humanity - that he values and loves. He reclaims us as his own and then enlists us to his loving mission. Jesus says to his disciples (his reclaimed ones). As the Father has sent me now I am sending you. My disciples, Go into all the world and make disciples. who will in turn makes disciples and on and on..

People so matter to God, And we pray for the enlarging of our hearts that people might matter more and more to us. 

 

The three parables end on similar notes 

Retrievals bring rejoicing. 

Classicstuff 

 

When the man finds his lost sheep, when the woman finds her lost coin, when the Father finds his lost son - the pattern is the same they call their friends and neighbours, come and celebrate with me! We’re killing the fatted calf, party of the century.  Come on!

 Why - what are we celebrating? It’s not your birthday? No. an anniversary? No. You’re getting married!!? No! You’ve got a job promotion? No!! What then? 

 

I’ve found fluffy! Fluffy? my lost sheep! - OK… what do you wear to a lost sheep party?

 

Come and celebrate with me 

I’ve found my lost sheep, my lost coin, my lost son 

 

Just as we reserve the fullest searches for the things we think are the most important so we reserve the biggest celebrations don’t we for the things that we think are most important. Depending on whatever big story is governing our lives. If I’m living for material success and career achievement then the biggest celebrations in my life will be to celebrate promotions and contracts. If it’s human relationships and families (probably a much healthier story) then it will be weddings and anniversaries. 

 

But according to Jesus - look at what gets the champagne flowing in heaven - in God’s dimension - look at what is deemed the reason for rejoicing v7, v10 rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. One lost person comes home. The Kingdom is growing. This is the story that governs all reality. What really matters. That which energises heaven. Well may it be so for us. 

 

as you go back out into the world on monday morning… 

as you look at people all around you will you consider with me the nature of lostness, the movement and strength of God’s love towards people, the joy of salvation and restoration. will you pray for holy imagination to see things as God sees them and to move towards people with compassion and hope.

 

Luke 11:29-36

 

Light and Darkness are important images in the Bible. Jesus uses them here in our passage. 

Let’s begin by thinking about darkness and light 

Think about darkness. The darkness of night or deep underground. The cold. The blackness. We cannot function in darkness for very long. It’s not just that we cannot see, darkness seems to have substance to it. It is only the absence of light but darkness feels like an oppressive presence.  Novelists speak of brooding darkness 

At different times people have tried to see how long they could live underground in total darkness - proved very bad for physical and mental health. We’re not made for darkness. 

Darkness is associated with fear. Bad things happen in the dark. There are ‘dark days’ when things turn for the worst. In the darkness we can feel hopeless and out of control. 

And darkness is not always external. Darkness can describe an internal emotional or spiritual condition. Inner darkness. The darkness of sadness, or grief, or depression. As Simon and Garfunkel sang, “hello darkness my old friend. I’ve come to talk to you again.” 

Darkness can describe a moral condition. The darkness of the heart.

Thankfully there isn’t only darkness - there is light. 

Light is the direct contrast and opposite to darkness. The light of day, of warmth of colour. And of course light and darkness are not equals. Light counters and overpowers darkness - not the other way round. Heavy as darkness can feel it is only an absemce. Light is a presence - a candle flame, a torch beam, a flood light, a lightning flash, the all pervading light of the sun. 

The sun’s light is simply extraordinary isn’t it? It’s light gets everywhere. We put up black out curtains in our kids rooms to try and ensure that they get sleep beyone sunrise but even with that attempt when the sun rises - light gets everywhere. Light is like a liquid, bathing, flooding, filling every corner - challenging every shadow, every gap - even the darkest places are no longer dark any more - not really. 

Light has a cleansing quality - especially really bright and pure light

Light adorns in an almost regal way. The golden sunlight of dawn or evening or autumn can make the dreariest place look royal 

Light of course also exposes - your dirty windows and dusty corners. Things ‘come to light’. Which might explain why we might want to hide from the light.  The judgement thing again: John chapter 3 speaks about people hating the light of Jesus and hiding from the light because they don’t want their so called “evil” deeds to be shown up. Maybe they don’t want to have to stop living as they want to live. 

One one level though, if things can be exposed, they can be dealt with. 

The mechanics light under the engine; The surgeons lamp in the operating theatre. Light enables sight to get things done. Light brings reality, clarity and truth. ‘Enlightenment’ Light brings deeper understanding ‘greater light’ 

 

Darkness and Light 

In our passage here the first thing we see is that Jesus is light that shines out x2

A familiar saying.  v33 You don’t put a lamp in a cupboard or hide it behind a sofa or under a bucket. No if you want the room lit - you let it shine. 

In Matthew chapter 5 Jesus quotes this saying applying it to his disciples; his church - not hiding away but, like a city on a hill, letting their presence be felt - letting their light shine. 

But here - the saying refers to Jesus. 

We’ve seen what’s happening around Jesus at this point when he says these words. Lots of people and especially the religious people, the people who should know - have been avoiding facing who Jesus is. We saw last week people sidestepping Jesus’ authority. Some were seeing Jesus’ miracles and saying hmmm can you do that again? can you do another? give us another sign - we need more evidence, it’s still not clear. Others were seeing Jesus miracles and ascribing them to dark forces, dark arts. Don’t trust him!

Many people today would call themselves agnostic. They’d say - there might well be a God but nobody really knows. There’s insufficient evidence to move from sitting on the fence. the truth is hidden. Others would be more hostile. Give your life to Jesus. Who? Keep my kids away from that shady business. 

But Jesus here says, No 

No-one can have the excuse ultimately either that we never knew, the truth was hidden - or o we thought you were shady 

because He has come and He is light shining out 

You don’t hide a lamp, obscure it you let it shine - illuminate. You put it in the pace where it will most and best fill a room. 

Jesus IS that shining, open, visible, public light. In his person and in his message of the kingdom. 

The stuff in vv29-32 about Jonah and the Queen of the South is a searing rebuke against the people of Jesus generation not seeing Jesus’ light!  

 

The Queen of Sheba from Southern Arabia she a foreigner puts to shame this generation of Israel because she travelled to and marvelled at the wisdom of King Solomon, while this generation are failing to receive Jesus who’s wisdom is far greater than Solomon’s 

The people of Nineveh, Israel’s greatest enemy - they put to shame this generation because they repented when they heard the preaching of Jonah while this generation is failing to respond to Jesus who is greater than Jonah. 

Jesus is light shining out. There are no excuses. 

 

2. Let Jesus’ light in. vv 34-35

I regularly have eye check ups because my vision is not great. I’m often grateful with my poor eyesight that i wasn’t born in the stoneage where i would have been completely useless and dependant on others for hunter gathering! 

I also have eye checkups because there’s a history of glaucoma in my family and they want to keep my eyes healthy. The eye is after all ‘the lamp of the body’. Just as lamps guide us in darkness so our eyesight guides us through life. But Jesus is not giving us advice about caring for our physical eyes here is he. The eyes ares ometimes called ‘windows to the soul’ and it’s true that sometimes you feel you can see in someones eyes the health or ill health of their soul. (Though it’s not a strict science - some people are naturally dour - others are natually sparkly but might have pretty murky inner world.)

But Jesus is saying here that our eyes are windows to our bodies/our inner world not just in the sense that they might reflect out the state of our hearts but also that they reflect inwardly. That is, our eyes let light into our bodies. v34 “if your eye is focussed, your whole body is full of light. But if it is evil your whole body is in darkness” 

So is Jesus here warning us about the spiritual dangers of focussing your eyes on the wrong things - letting darkness in - and what might those things be? I’m sure we could make a list but actually it’s a lot simpler than that. The passage makes most sense, especially where Luke has placed it as a warning to this generation, his contemporaries to watch out in case they fail to see the light that is standing in their midst - the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Some eastern cultures speak about - the evil eye - as a kind of curse. Maybe we have an equivalent in the playground or the office where we might say of someone who is somewhat hostile towards us: “ she was well giving me the evils, man” 

There really is such a thing as the evil eye. The evil eye is tocinsciously close your eyes to, look away from, reject Jesus - THE light. 

If you do, your whole body is full of darkness. Because Jesus is the light of the world and there is no other light. Just as the sun is the light of the earth and there is no other sun. Switch off the sun and there is no light. Close your eyes to Jesus and there is only darkness. 

This is telling us that there is no such thing as a natural, inherent, spiritual light in human beings. Any light we find in the world, in philosophy and other religions and such - and there is light to be found there but it is light that is derived ultimately from Jesus. It also means that we are not spiritually alight because of anything in us, good genes, or good thoughts, or good deeds or eating the right food or spending hours in meditation.

Jesus is THE light of the world and there is no other light. The only way we get light within us is to look at him, focus on him, turn your eyes upon him, receive him and his light will fill you - as a gift of grace. 

It’s worth reminding ourselves that there is a challenge to that. We naturally prefer darkness to light. Like woodlice scurrying away when you lift up a rock. We don’t want to be exposed - we fear that. But we also have a bias away from the light. We perversely prefer our solutions are better than Jesus. We believe the lie that the glorious free creator of all things is actually a controlling killjoy who wants to spoil our fun. So we convince ourselves that life away from Jesus’ authority is the life of light! We quickly discover that it is not. If the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness. Come to your senses. Why choose darkness over light? Coming into the light there may be humbling shame for a moment but God is grace and forgiveness and light. Step into the light. 

How do you look at Jesus? Where do you see him?

In the pages of the bible - that’s where we see Jesus. We read Jesus and because he is alive he steps out of the pages of the Bible and meets. the Holy spirit opens our eyes and Jesus’ glory and radiance changes us. 

In teh Exodus, when Moses came down from MT Sinai after talking with God and receiving the 10 Cs he had to veil his face because his face was glowing with God’s reflected brightness and the people were not in a position with God at that time to cope with that. The NT says of Christians. “We, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord (Jesus’) glory are being transformed into his image with every increasing glory

When you spend a lot of time with a friend their character ‘rubs off on you”. You might start talking, thinking acting like them. For good or ill. It might improve you or diminish you as a person. So choose your friends wisely and realise the influence you have on others 

But you see… Spend time with Jesus and his character will rub off on you. Let his light in 

 

3. Shine Jesus light out. 

Read v36 “…” 

Let jesus’ light in and you can shine his light to others 

This happens in the Christian community. “If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship with one another” Fellowship is an oddly Christian word chiefly because it is a uniquely christian phenomenon. A church is not a club or an interest group. A group of friends are friends because they naturally, easily have become friends. But God’s gifted to the church is fellowship rooted in the light of Christ. A profound loving unity between people who are very different. A standing together as ONE. And it is as each one of us walks in the light of Jesus ,reflecting his light towardseach other that we have fellowship with one another. Let’s pursue that gift. 

But you also have a radiant light for others beyond the church.  I love Hannah’ sister’s contemplative prayer day that she was leading for contemplative activists or active contemplatives. Because you can’t be an activist you can’t shine for Jesus without contemplating, looking to Jesus light. But equally you can’t bathe in Jesus’ light without then being sent out to shine! 

You might not think much of yourself. You might not think you have a lot to offer. Perhaps you’re a parent frazzled with kids. Perhaps you’re frazzled with work. Perhaps you feel a broken person frazzled with yourself but if you’re one who looks at Jesus then his light is in you for others. You have so much to offer people. The light of God. So get out more. get close to people for their sake! 

You don’t have to put on a happy face if things are hard. You don’t have to awkwardly try and crowbar Jesus into every conversation or force tracts or worship music on people. Please don’t! Just be yourself. Follow your interests, join people, like people and follow the nudges of the Spirit. Talk about Jesus when the Spirit opens up opportunities which he will more than you imagine. Be yourself with Jesus and Shine on!  

And of course jsut as Jesus had a mixed response to his light. Some came to him but many more turned on him, ran for cover; were hostile. So it will be for us. Sometimes people are drawn to the light, interested … and then reject you wholesale… they might even betray you. There’s a spiritual battle going on. The challenge of the light to the darkness. Don’t lose heart when that happens.. upsetting as it is. Pray. Persevere. Shine on. 

 

Jesus is the light who shines out 

Let his light 

Shine his light to others.. 

 

 

 

Luke 11:14-28

It’s either seen as something very old fashioned: Victorian children all prim and proper; or something rather stupid - a happy dog looking up at it’s owner. The idea of Obedience 

On holiday in France looking after an enthusiastic french sheep dog. Java. ‘Au Pied’ come straight to your heel! Obedient dogs are great. Obedient childen are great - as long as you don’t crush their spirit. 

But in our culture and day which puts so much emphasis on personal freedom, to be an obedient adult is seen as a very weak thing. Yes you can be a good employee but the idea of being obedient to your faith or your church or your god - that’s seen as seriously suspect. abusive. you’re not thinking for yourself. No, every individual should have the right, within a few limited constraints, to do whatever he or she likes. No-one has the right to tell you what to do. How often do you hear that? 

So the very idea of obedience is disparaged and called into question.. 

 

Yet, into our culture and into our lives speaks the eternal word of Jesus Christ. The living God come among us as a man says ‘Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.” 

The greatest blessing, joy, privilege, happiness, peace is found in a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. 

 

[because - obedience is not just some optional lifestyle for the devout. We are not contrary to popular opinion FREE to do our own thing. We are not masters of our own lives. All of us are controlled by something external to ourselves. It’s part of our human nature that we constantly search and we give our time, our money, our energy our gifts to things that we believe will give us the security, significance and satisfaction we need. Humans are dependent and religious - we pour out our worship (our time, energy, money) to the god we believe will deliver - the god of Career, or Family, or romance, or pleasure. 

We either give our obedience to Jesus or we’re controlled by something else - something dark - our idols, our demons ]

 

 

Here in this encounter we are told that Jesus has exorcised a demon that has caused a man to be mute. When the demon is gone, the mute man, to the amazement of the crowd who presumably knew him, speaks!

 

But many in the crowd do what most people in our culture do - they find a way of sidestepping Jesus’ authority. 

 

v15 some of them said, By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons. Others tested him by asking for a sign from a heaven. 

 

Some said - we need more proof. Do another miracle.. and just one more… Hmmm i do believe in God but I’m not convinced about Jesus. I’d still need more proof. He’s still just a good teacher to me. 

Others acknowledge Jesus’ powers but ascribe them to malignant forces. He’s in league with the devil! It’s dangerous that Jesus stuff. Deception. Don’t be stupid enough to get sucked in to that. 

 

These objections allow Jesus to tell us something about Satan and demons and himself - as i am sure we are anxious to know what we should believe about these things 

I mean, was ‘demon’ that culture’s shorthand for mental illness or some kind of spiritual affliction? Well, Jesus here speaks about Satan, a powerful spiritual being and demons exerting an evil and destructive influence on human lives. It all sounds a bit Lord of the Rings doesn’t it but most people believe in Spiritual reality, believe in a God and here Jesus affirms the sobering truth of the existence also of evil spiritual forces as do the grim realities of the world we live in affirm their existence. 

Satan is a spiritual ruler, a king, we are told here. He has a kingdom. Actually it’s a rogue state. self appointed. something like ISIS. But he ‘rules’ this present evil age, says the NT, keeping people captive to their sin and away from God. 

 

But Jesus, we see here, has come to challenge Satan’s kingdom. Driving out demons doesn’t mean he is on satan’s side! vv17-19 - what a ridiculous idea. On the contrary, v20 “If i drive out demons by the finger of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.” 

That phrase ‘by the finger of God’ is important. It evokes memories of the Exodus from Egypt. The ten plagues of Moses that the Egyptian magicians sould not imitate and discredit because they were clearly ‘the finger of God’ bringing freedom to those held captive to the evil power of Pharoah. 

here again. the true King, God himself has intervened to challenge Satan head on and bring freedom to captives. 

 

Jesus speaks a parable to illustrate what it is that he has come to do. vv21-22 “When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up his plunder.…”

Jesus is not condoning breaking and entering and robbery here. It’s an illustration of his work. The strong man is Satan – his possessions are people under his control – kept away from God by their sin which Satan can always hold up and use to say we are his and not God’s, but soon Jesus knows he will die on a cross, paying the price for our sins, taking them away, disarming Satan, defeating him. Overpowering the strong man so he can rob his house. Plundering Satan’s Kingdom. Setting people free! 

 

CS Lewis said that there are two equal and opposite errors when it comes to ‘devils”. The first is fascination and fear. To ascribe too much power to Satan. To see demons in everything and everyone. We have to be very careful. Human beings are complex - our emotional, mental, spiritual lives intertwine. 

But the second equal and opposite error is to ascribe too little power to these spiritual realities. To be materialists. To be prayerless. To walk through a battlefield unguarded against the ways Satan seeks to control people through lies and temptations. 

 

Perhaps we have to demystify 

We all have our demons don’t we? 

things that control or afflict; memories that haunt; addictions we can’t shift; insecurities that belittle us. Demons can feel like curses and sometimes like curses, they can pass from generation to generation. 

The tattooed stand-up pastor Nadia Bolz Webber decided to give her demon a name; Francis (after the child of Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain, themselves no strangers to demons) 

This is her story 

‘Francis first stopped by in my teens and early 20s which was easily written off by my family as me being “moody” Francis liked: booze, emotionally unstable boyfriends, and self- destruction, she finally just moved in, turning my studio apartment into a Wilderness. 

She was a terrible roommate. She kept the place filthy and always told me really devastaing things about myself... She distracted me so much I would forget to eat and then my parents started to worry. One day my mother Peggy realized that Francis not ever moving out was my problem and suggested I go talk to a nice lady about evicting her. 

She’s a bit of a dope fiend, Francis, but it ends up there is one drug that she doesn’t like. It’s called Wellbutrin. Two weeks after I started taking it, the bitch was gone. 

But not for good. Now, 20 years later it still seems like she knows how to find me and sometimes she’ll show up, unannounced and stay a couple days even though I’m now into so many things she hates: sobriety, exercise, community, eating well – and of course, Jesus’. 

Nadia goes on to talk about how our demons really, really have a problem with Jesus. 

‘Maybe the demon of anger knows to steer clear of the Gospel, lest you end up forgiving some jack ass who you really want to punch in the throat. Maybe your demon of inertia knows to avoid of Jesus lest it be cast off a cliff and you have to start showing up in life. Maybe your demon of compulsive eating knows to not listen to Jesus lest it find itself in a lake and you clothed and fully in your body and sitting at Jesus feet. Maybe your demon of always, always, always having to prove yourself fears Jesus since if you listen to Jesus and not that demon you may start really believing that you are already good enough and then you’ll have to stop over-functioning’ 

Our demons are experts in colluding with us in that old practice of Jesus avoidance. Our demons will do anything to keep us from Jesus. Because he has the power and he has come to drive them out.  To establish his Kingdom. 

I don’t really know what demons are? Whatever they are whether addictions or evil spirits.. one thing i do know is that they are not what Jesus wants for us. Because every time he encounters one he tells it to piss off. He drives it out.  You, in Christ have the authority to do that too. Face your demons in Jesus’ name. Call on his name. 

 

But maybe really you’re still sidestepping Jesus’ authority 

Yeah - i could use more proof 

Nah - I don’t trust him 

We all do it. It’s what all our friends are doing. Sidestepping God’s authority. 

Does that matter?

v23 23 “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Sometimes we’ll even take the good things from Jesus. Allow him to save us but we’ll be sidestepping his authority. [Come in Giles, stay out Fouhy! .. Ridiculous. I’m both.] We do it to Jesus - Come in Saviour, stay out Lord. 

BUT,…Jesus can’t be divided. He is Saviour and Lord  

here’s the thing: Jesus’ lordship IS his salvation. You NEED HIM on the throne of your life.  

Look at the story he tells us from vv24-26 

24 “When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ 25 When it arrives, it finds the house swept clean and put in order. 26 Then it goes and takes seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.”

 

There’s no neutrality in life. 

All of us are controlled by something external to us. It’s our nature to worship.  We’re never FREE to rule ourselves - the only freedom we have is the freedom to choose who rules us. Our idols, our demons, or will it be Jesus. 

If you take Jesus’ salvation - his clear out and clean up job - but you sidestep his authority, you resist him as Lord … You leave yourself more vulnerable than ever to the demons, the idols 

 

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”

28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

 

True blessing. True Freedom, True life is filling your life with Jesus’ obeyed word. 

 

Psalm 45

We’re looking at some Psalms in these late summer weeks.  Last time we met it was Psalm 46 - an encounter with the God who casts out fear. This week it’s Psalm 45 

A wedding psalm - see the title. Very appropriate for this time of year. It’s actually a psalm for a royal wedding. The bridegroom is the King v1 glorious in his magnificence. The bride is a princess - v13 - within her chamber, her wedding dress is interwoven with gold. In embroidered garments she is led to the king. 

there’s much debate among scholars about which particular King and Queen within the history of Israel this Psalms was written for.  Solomon’s marriage to the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Kings 3) could be in view; another possibility is the marriage described in 2 Kings 8 between Jehoram King of Judah andPrincess Athaliah of Israel whose mother was from Tyre (mentioned in v13 of the Psalm).  In light of the common near eastern practice of treating any bridal couple as royalty, it’s suggested by some that the Psalm describes any conventional wedding ceremony, with a comparison between the characteristics of a bridegroom and the qualities of a king.  All couples are royalty on their wedding day. 

 

Weddings are great occasions aren’t they? Well, they are If you are involved. If it’s your wedding day it should be good shouldn’t it!? or perhaps if you’re a bridesmaid or best man or close relative or friend of the bride or groom. 

 

But let’s be honest, if you’re not that closely involved weddings can be tiresome affairs. When it’s a distant relative that’s getting married and you know absolutely no-one there. All that standing around. Missing lunch. The Champagne headache. And then you’re seated at the reception with Uncle Peter and Aunt Cynthia both of whom had their funny bones removed at birth… and you’re definitely planning to get away and home for match of the day after you’ve wolfed down the free nosebag.

 

Surely that’s what this wedding in Psalm 45 is like isn’t it? We’re just distant onlookers. Actually we’re almost certainly not even invited to this if it is a royal wedding.  At best we get to watch it on TV. It’s nice to gawp at the brides dress and see the opulence of the occasion but you’re about ready to switch channels and watch bargain hunt on ITV. 

 

But wait.   Actually… There’s a suprise here. You are far far more involved in this wedding than you realise. You’re not just invited. You are centrally involved. 

You really are. 

 

Well let’s have a look then at the suprising identity of the groom and the bride

 

First.  The groom who must be praised. 

 

The psalmist praises the king on his wedding day. But this is no humorous best man's speech. There are no skeletons in the cupboard. The psalmist’s heart is strirred he can do another than praise this bridegroom with the most high and exalted language. 

1st in v2 he praises him for the sheer attractiveness of his person and the graciousness of his speech. 

You are the most excellent of men

 and your lips have been anointed with grace,

since God has blessed you forever.

This king on his wedding day is the finest person you’ll ever meet, his words always build up and bless. He’s blessed, eternally blessed by God. 

 

2nd in vv3-7 the psalmist praises the king on his wedding day for the excellence of his rule 

This monarch is not some glorified administrator pushing papers. Nor is he some puppet king. No, he is a military leader who rides out to victory. And yet, crucially, he is no tyrant. Plenty of leaders of the ancient world were. As they are today. Plenty believe Might is right. That you throw weight around to get your own way. But this king, mighty as he is, is not on some kind of power trip. 

V4 tells us his cause is the true ethical foreign policy. Truth, humility, righteousness. his sceptre, v6,- the symbol of his rule is a 

sceptre of justice. 

“You love righteousness and hate wickedness” proclaims the psalmist. 

What a king he is! 

 

But the language to describe him gets more extravagant still. Those qualities in v4 - truth humility righteousness, doer of awesome deeds They are qualities and actions normally ascribed in Scripture to God himself. 

And in vv 6-7 -look - the psalmist gets explicit with the divine language 

Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;

    a sceptre of justice will be the sceptre of your kingdom.

 

You love righteousness and hate wickedness;

    therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions

    by anointing you with the oil of joy.

 

What is the psalmist doing here? Is this shameless sycophancy. It's been known. Many kings have set themselves up as gods. But not the Kings of Israel! No Israel’s king must have blushed. No mere man could ever fulfil the kind of divine rule described here. No king. 

 

What is going on here? 

Well here we see one among many examples of OT language bursting it's banks to demand a more than human fulfillment. 

 

The psalmist, even though he addresses the King, can hardly be speaking about a real person can he? Well he is. because several hundred years later a man appears in Israel who takes upon himself both the titles king and bridegroom.

Jesus Christ 

 

The New Testament book of Hebrews, we were looking at it recently, affirms (Hebrews 1:8) that Jesus fulfills all these words. They are best used to describe him. So the psalmist praises the King but somehow the King is a foreshadow of a better King, a Divine King, the Messiah. It’s him that the psalmist perceives. 

 

And we, we have seen his glory (John chapter 1) the glory of the one and only son, full of grace and truth

 

When we look at Jesus in the gospels he truly is the most excellent of men. There's never been anyone like him. There never will be anyone like him 

 

We often focus on Jesus’ actions. His healings, his miracles. But what often amazed and astonished the crowds were his words. His teachings, the way he spoke to people. 

Your lips have been anointed with grace 

since God has blessed you forever. 

What about his rule? The book of revelation does show us Jesus the Warrior king on a war horse with sword strapped to his thigh riding out for the cause of truth humility, justice, righteousness. 

But it is not with sword or arrow that God pierces the hearts of his enemies but with his word. 

 

Jesus defeats his enemies by turning them into his friends. 

Jesus makes the nations fall before his feet ...In grateful worship. 

Jesus Christ loved righteousness and hated wickedness and that cause shaped him to the cross. 

 

The illustration from Bernardo Bertolucci’s epic film The Last emperor, helps here. The boy emperor lives surrounded by luxury as the last emperor of China. He is a boy. In one scene he is asked what happens when he does wrong. When i do wrong he answers somebody else is beaten. And to demonstrate he wilfully breaks a vase, one of his servants is brought in an whipped. Such is the prerogative of Kings. But JC reverses the ancient pattern. It was the servants who had sinned and the King gave himself up to be punished for them. 

 

Loving righteousness, hating wickedness, the king dies for his servants to win their forgiveness. 

 

Therefore God has crowned Jesus with glory and honour; sets Jesus above his companions anointing him with the oil of joy. Raised from the dead and exalted, His throne and rule will last forever and ever. 

 

The bridegroom who must be praised 

Wonder at Jesus 

Look at him

His speech, His Justice, His love, His rule 

His bride?? This is after all his wedding day. 

 

Who could be the bride of God? this God? Who? Who is worthy?In the mythology of the gods the consort of a great God would be a goddess - equally supernatural. 

 

Jesus’s name is on the order of service. But a bit like when, in 4 weddings and a funeral, Hugh Grant’s Charles finally marries (or tries to) the brides name is covered up. 

Who can be this Divine King's Queen? 

 

 Who’s the bride?  Beautifully dressed and attended 

 

The bride - is you..

You 

You're the bride. All the men in here…slightly taken aback!  

Read the Bible and you know that God’s chosen people - throughout the bible - are called the bride of God.  

In the NT - the church - is called the bride of Christ 

 

You if you are a Christian - you are the bride 

It’s not a gender thing. It’s a relational thing 

jesus the bridegroom came for US

 

Why do we love weddings? 

This royal wedding, every wedding - because every wedding is foretaste, a glimmer of the ultimate marriage - Jesus and his church 

 

Wedding vows of commitment - “all that I am I give to you all that I have I share with you” wonderful as they are, they are a foretaste, a glimmer overshadowed by Jesus' ultimate wedding vows. 

His Arms outstretched upon the cross. Crying, Father forgive 

He says All that I am I give to you. All that I have I share with you 

All my righteousness, and I'll take all your sin 

 

 

The brides dress. Beautiful Pure white and Woven with regal gold. Wonderful as they are, they are Just a foretaste a glimmer of the moral purity and beauty of the church in the eyes of God 

It’s what the bible means when it's saying that when you're a christian you are beautiful to God. You are, in Jesus morally clean and beautiful in his eyes.whiter than white. Of course you still stuff up but your status is secure.  

Did you know that? Sometimes the problem is our behaviour is less than we are, because we forget who we are. We forget to rest in Christ. Our status before God is one of purity and so seek to live out your beautiful cleanness. A s it says in the psalm. Let the King be enthralled with your beauty.

 

The wedding feast. The food, the wine, the joy, the dodgy dancing.  

Wonderful as that is, it is just a foreshadow a glimmer of the true, ultimate wedding feast. The marriage supper of the lamb where the church takes pride of place. 

Incredible don’t you think - we all know that the real centre of attention at a wedding is the bride and God gives that role, that place not to himself but to us, to you such is his humility and love. 

 

Marriage. This is how God describes his rel with you. 

Not a distant creator to creature relationship 

not a simply functional relationship between a god and a mortal 

Not merely a dutiful relationship of a master and slave 

Not even just the dependent relationship of a child to a father.

No, the love, unity, commitment, faithfulness and intimacy of a husband and wife - that is how God describes his relationship with us. 

 

We are made for this kind of close relationship with God. That’s what it means to know God. Not just know about him. Not just trust in him. But the of intimacy, of knowing and being known. Of loving and being loved. 

 

Some of us, myself included, find intimacy difficult. We perhaps push God away. It’s too much - to be loved, to be known. 

But this is what we were made for. We need to discover why we reject that real intimacy and learn to love and be loved. 

Perhaps we need to talk to each other about that. Pray for each other that we might each enjoy our relationship with God. 

 

Forget your people and your father’s house.

 honor him, for he is your lord.

Leave the world behind and worship your King. 

 

 

 

 

 

Hebrews 11:1-12:3

[Running the Marathon. To be truly human means to be in a race in this life.]

Chapter 12, verses 1-3 tells us we are in a race.  Everyone in chapter 11 has run the race before us (we’ll come to them). And in chapter 12 verse 2 we learn that Jesus also ran and completed the race So now, 12:1

since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

 

We’re in a race.  The Christian life is not a cup of tea and a nice sit down, it’s not a kickabout with mates or an aimless ramble or a gentle stroll or even a jog in the park.  It’s a race.  

 

And it’s a long race. an ultra marathon. v1 says run with perseverance.  Verse 2 says that when Jesus ran it, it was all about endurance.  Verse 3 says the same thing,   The Christian is in a LONG distance, seemingly unending marathon.  And the great danger is, chapter 12:3, that we hit the wall: that we grow weary and lose heart.

 

That was the danger for the Hebrews.  Look back to the end of chapter 10.

v35 do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.

 

They had started with confidence but they were in danger of throwing in the towel. The writer says keep going. Hang in there for the long haul. Endure. Cos this is a marathon.

 

And so in these closing chapters the writer to the Hebrews is seeking to inspire perseverance in these Christians.

Are you flagging in your zeal?  In danger of losing heart and growing weary?  These chapters are for you.

 

And what the writer does in chapter 11 is to show how the believers of old ran the race.  You’re not the first to run this race – many before you have run it.  

And how did they run it?  They ran it By faith.

 

That’s the phrase repeated 24 times in chapter 11 – by faith Abel, by faith Enoch, by faith Noah, by faith Abraham, by faith every other hero of the OT you could care to mention – they all ran the race by faith.  By trusting the Lord.

The Christian life is not a race for great performers, for great doers, for great workers.  The Christian life is a race for the trusters, the believers, the people of faith.

And that’s the way it’s got to be if we remember what Hebrews is all about.  Remember it’s all about how “God has said everything that needs to be said and done everything that needs to be done, through His Son, to bring us to himself.”  God has done it through Jesus.  He has DONE it.

So Jesus doesn’t say “It’s up to you. You do it.”  He says “I’ve done it all. You, Trust me.”  Jesus has been the perfect sacrifice for sins, the perfect priest representing us before God – He’s done everything to bring us to God and sat down on the throne of heaven, job done.  So He’s not looking for our work.  He’s simply looking for our trust.

 

And so when we read through Hebrews 11 we don’t see Heroes of morality.   We see Heroes of faith.  There are all sorts in this list. There are the famously good – v5 Enoch, who walked with God and never faced death.  But there’s also the famously bad, v31 – Rahab the prostitute! And Enoch’s a hero not because he was famously good and Rahab is a hero in spite of the fact she was famously bad.  They’re both only considered heroes because “by faith” – because “they trusted the Lord.”  And in between the very good and the very bad, there’s a real mixed bag in this list of OT fore-runners. (Mostly bad)

From v8 we read about Abraham, who did some good stuff, he also sold his wife into a foreign king’s harem…. Twice.  As did his son Isaac (v20).  Jacob, his son was a slime-ball deceiver, but he makes the list – v21, Moses (v23) was a murderer as was David (v32) who is listed there among an assortment of fools, cowards and bullies.

The race is run by faith.  Now this faith does inspire some incredible action in these guys.  And faith if it’s genuine faith, always does translate into action.  But the emphasis here is faith because God does not look for our works (Christ has given Him all the works He needs).  He looks for our trust.

 

 

What does this faith look like?  What does it mean to live by it? A few things 

V1 – it’s certain. 

faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Last week my kids were on pathfinder camp - High ropes. Jump and catch rope. Leap of Faith. Of course they were harnessed in. 

Faith is never presented as a blind leap in the dark in the bible. On the contrary It’s stepping into the light.  You see Jesus in the Scriptures and you KNOW that He is the ultimate Sacrifice and the ultimate Priest. You know he is the strong harness who will hold you up and so you trust Him.  

 

V6 – Faith draws near joyfully

6 without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Faith is not simply believing THAT God exists, Faith believes God is a Giver, a Rewarder, Someone it’s GREAT to be around.Faith is a joyful drawing near to God because you know being in His presence is BRILLIANT.

 

 

v10 - looks forward. it doesn’t possess now

Abraham and his family lived in tents because v10 He was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Look at v13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

and v39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better

faith does not possess things now, it is a delayed gratification. It acts on the basis now that it looks forward to a future joy. The New Creation, the City that is to come. 

 

V26 – sides with Christ in suffering

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be ill-treated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

Think of all the privileges Moses had and could have kept if he’d remained with the Egyptians.  He might have become Pharaoh himself – the most powerful man on earth.  But no, Moses trusted in Christ, He trusted in the LORD Messiah.  But in every age trusting in Christ means siding with the Suffering Servant and being rejected by the world.

 

Finally faith experiences triumph and tragedy in this life:

Read with me verses 32-39 and watch out for the triumphs and then the tragedies:

32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again.  Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated– 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. 39 These were all commended for their faith

In triumph they were commended for their faith, in tragedy they were commended for their faith.  That’s the thing about living by faith – there are no guarantees in this life.  there are triumphs that we don’t deserve and there are tragedies that we don’t deserve.  And it’s not because we’ve DONE anything right or wrong.  It’s just the nature of the race, and the Lord throughout says TRUST ME.  Even in tragedy the OT believers finished the race.  It’s long distance, there’s all sorts of hardship and all sorts of endurance required.  But there is a finishing line and it can be run.

 

And now as we come into chapter 12 the writer says “It’s our turn.”

We’re following in the footsteps of Noah and Abraham and Moses and David.  And he calls these guys a cloud of witnesses.  We’re not running alone.  The greats of the faith surround us.

 

When he says they’re a cloud of witnesses, he doesn’t mean that they are merely spectators of our race.  They’re not cheerleaders.  We’re not meant to get the idea of Moses and Noah in heaven with pom-poms singing “Giles, Giles he’s our man, if he can’t do it, no-one can! Giles!”  No! they are witnesses because they demonstrate to us that the race is runable.  We look to them, not by looking up into heaven to see their placards and messages of encouragement.  We look to them by reading the Scriptures and calling to mind how they ran and how they endured.

 

So as we run our race today, we might face losing out financially, or as these Hebrews had happen, our property is confiscated for following Jesus.  And we ask, how can I run the race when I lose out in possessions? – well, Abraham knows.  He shows me how to run in those circumstances.  Or we ask, how can I run the race when I get frozen out from friends and family?  – Moses knows.  He can show me.  Or how can I run the race when it means trouble from the authorities?  Daniel and his friends know – they were cast into the flames and the lion’s den.  And all these heroes of faith witness to us – And they say “the race is runable”.

 

And so the writer says, 12:1, let US run.  They’ve run with endurance.  Let usrun this race ourselves.  Now is our turn.  This isn’t King David’s time any more.  It’s our time.  This is our turn.  Let’s run.

 

And if we’re going to run, v1, for goodness sakes, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

Every year in the London marathon there are those who wear fancy dress.  Why on earth would you want to run dressed as a womble or a giant peperami when it’s hard enough to run anyway?? Or what about the guy who “ran” the marathon in a 120lb deep sea diving suit complete with lead boots?? It took him 6 days!!

 

 

The writer says there’s stuff that’s tangling us up and we are in an ultra marathon here not just a 6 day clomp. Some of the stuff entangling us is out-and-out sinful.  Some of it is just a hindrance, not necessarily sinful but it’s a weight that doesn’t help you run the race.

What’s hindering you?  What sins are entangling?  throw it off and run. 

 

And look straight ahead.  Because, v2, there you’ll see Jesus.

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

 

Here’s the incredible thing about our race.  The One who Authored the race – entered the race. The one who marked out the race for us ran it first. God the eternal Son. Jesus our saviour. he entered our world, he entered his race.  

 

And Do you know how Jesus ran His race? Exactly the same way that we do:  by faith! God the Son ran the race by trusting God the Father by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

do you see in v2 how He ran?  For the joy set before Him He endured the cross. that’s faith. Jesus believed something he didn’t yet have and it got Him through. Jesus looked forward to a future joy and so He trusted His Father even though He didn’t possess that future yet but instead He had to suffer and go through tragedy before the triumph.  Do you see?  Jesus had that faith that joy wins in the end.

 

What was that joy?  Well the joy set before Jesus was that through ENDURING THE CROSS He would save and cleanse and perfect you and me and One day He would enjoy our company with Him and His Father – face-to-face forever.  That was the joy set before Him and he calculated thatHis cross was worth it.  

 

What about us? Our cross will be worth it.  Because one day we will be IN on this joy.  One day Jesus will say

`Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.’  (Matt 25:34)  ‘Well done, good and faithful servant…  Enter into the joy of your Lord.’  (Matt :25:21)

That’s the joy set before you.  There is nothing that this joy won’t make up for.  Tortured?  This resurrection hope is worth it.  Sawn in two?  This joy is worth it?  Suffering hell on the cross – this joy is worth it.  There is nothing this joy won’t make up for.  And so the writer says “Fix your eyes on Jesus.”

and RUN by Faith. 

 

 

Let’s say verses 1-3 together as a prayer as we close:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

.

Hebrews 10:19-end

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God.

 

Let us draw near to God 

 

Here’s the picture that Hebrews has been building up for us for at least the past 6 chapters.  The Most Holy Place was the dwelling of God Himself.  It was the centre of the OT tabernacle and in it was the ark of the covenant – the LORD’s very throne.

 

But of course the whole Old Covenant system kept the people away from God’s presence.  the great thick curtain, mentioned in v20 – it had guardian cherubim embroidered into it to remind people of the sword bearing angelic guards protecting the way back to Eden. Do you remember when Adam and Eve sinned they were expelled from God’s holy presence and God put cherubim with flashing swords - like throwing sword martial artsists to bar the way back in.  You are a sinner and God is holy, holy, holy.  There’s no entry through here.  Not unless you’ve got a great sacrifice and a great priest.

 

And that’s the thing that Hebrews is celebrating. v19 this whole system has been resolved. a once and for all and forever effective sacrifice - the blood of jesus, a new and living way opened for us - A new covenant. a great high priest over the house of God - jesus in Go’s presence eternally FOR US and the result is “Come on in!”  COME ON IN! 

It’s extraordinary.  Hebrews says, walk with CONFIDENCE into the presence of the Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord Almighty.  You could imagine the Old Testament priests appalled, running along behind us in their robes saying “You can’t go in there!  Are you even Jewish?”  “Nope” we say.

“And where’s your sacrifice, I don’t see a sacrifice.  And where’s your priest, you need a priest.”  And we say the blood of the LORD Jesus has been shed, is that a good enough sacrifice?  And He is our great High Priest, appearing for us in heaven right now, is that a good enough priest?  Yes it is and so we DRAW NEAR to God.

 

This command to draw near is repeated seven times in Hebrews.  It’s a major theme.  Christ’s sacrifice is the perfect sacrifice, His priesthood is the perfect priesthood, draw near with confidence.

And you think, well I can’t, can I?  I get tongue tied in the presence of earthly authorities.  I make a fool of myself in the presence of minor celebrities.  I feel small and awkward and ashamed in the presence of human greatness.  Can I really draw near?

Yes, v22 goes on:

draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

There is a FULL assurance that comes from faith.  When we see Jesus, arms open on the cross, we see just how approachable He really is.  He assures we can draw near and we trust Him.  Not only that He sprinkles our hearts with His blood.  The blood of the OT sacrifices were sprinkled on external things to say “This sacrifice has outwardly cleansed these things.”  Christ’s sacrifice goes deep – it cleanses even our wayward and sinful hearts.  No more guilt – it’s all been laid on Jesus:  He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities.  The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.  And by His wounds we are healed.  No need for guilt.  Christ has paid for it all, cleansed it all, removed it all.

And our bodies are washed with pure water.  In between the altar and the holy place of the tabernacle there was a massive basin where the priests washed before entering the holy places.  Jesus has taken us through that washing into God’s presence.  And for our part, baptism is the symbol of this deeper washing.  But as we stand before God no need to feel out of place, no need to feel uncertain, no need to feel guilty, no need to feel impure – Christ has cleansed us.  Draw near.

 

But what does that actually mean?  What does it look like to ‘draw near to God’?

In Hebrews 10 there are three important contexts we need to bear in mind as we draw near:

The holiness of God

The suffering of the Christian life, and

The need for community

 

 

  1. the holiness of God 

it is simply breathtaking that we are welcomed into the presence of God because God is so holy. so holy. We must have been made so clean. God is like this and that impresses upon the nature of our relationship with him. In Fatherly love he has poured out himself to make us clean, to make us his children. We may be confidently in his presence now but nothing has change about who he is. he doesn’t suddenly become God All Matey. No our Father is God Almighty

 

Those fearful verses in vv26-31 

v26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 

v29 speaks of punishent 

v30 of vengeance 

v31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

scary verses made even scarier if you think you are the person who can only expect judgement 

 

i’ve spoken with christians who have been crippled by the fear that they are damned because of ongoing sin.  Whenever I held out the grace of Jesus they would always come back to these verses and say “I’m keeping on sinning, therefore I’m trampling on the Son of God therefore I will be punished.”

Is that what these verses are saying?  Are they saying that too much sin will eventually mean you trample the Son of God and get judged.

 

Well look, it would be very strange if Hebrews was teaching that true Christians could lose their salvation.  Just look back a dozen verses to verse 14:

by one sacrifice Christ has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.

Those being made holy are the Christians and Christ by His death has made them perfect FOREVER.  So unless this writer has completely changed his theology in the space of a dozen verses, this is not about true Christians who sin too much and end up in hell.

 

No v26 is not about any old perpetual sin. The context and the use of sinning as a verb in hebrews suggests that this must be the sin of rejecting Christ who is the one and only sacrifice for sins. v29 seems so make that clear - it’s a rejection of Christ and his saving death and the spirit who makes that available to us. 

The person who deliberately walks away from Jesus Christ and says of the cross and the Holy Spirit - what a load of nonsense 

As someone said to me at a wedding on Friday where i preached the gospel, ‘God and me we have an agreement, I don’t bother him and he doesn’t bother me’ 

That’s the sin that tramples on the cross and the Spirit. It’s the only unforgiveable sin - blasphemy against the holy spirit - because it is the rejection of the only means of forgiveness. 

 

It’s like a drowning man rejecting the one lifeguard who has swum out to save him - pushing him away, trying to drag him under with them. 

 

More than that it is the spurning of a lover isn’t it? God in love pours out his life to save the people he has made, the people who belong to him. He Gives his own son. Because he loves. and to have that love rejected, thrown back in your, I’ll stay with other lovers - it’s Deeply wounding, deeply angering. 

 

If anyone ends up in hell. They will do so having trampled hell bent over the crucified Jesus - his arms open but spurned.

But notice who God is. the lover of our souls is Holy Holy Holy - a furnace of burning purity. And you can draw near and be refined, be made holy, be made like him in love. 

 

So the first thing is Let us draw near to God - the holy God 

 

 

the second is 

Let us hold unswervingly to hope 

The context of the suffering of the christian life vv32-end 

 

the orignial recipients of the book of Hebrews have v32 been through a great conflict and suffering 

v33 they’ve experienced insult and perscutoin 

v34 some of them have beem imprisoned or had property confiscated 

 

have you ever experienced any of this in your christian life. 

the christian life brings troubles, persecutions. we are strangers in the world. if the world hated me, says Jesus, it will hate you also 

 

direct insult, persecution, imprisonment and violence is the experience of millions of christians today around the world. Nigeria, India, Iraq, Indonesia. churches and homes burned, lives lost..

 

how does anyone keep going as a christian in those sorts of circumstances?

how do you keep drawing near?

 

in the west we may not encounter violence and gross mistreatment as Christians but there is a kind of persecution - a withering derision and active sidelining of christian belief which has a deeply suffocating effect on our faith and perseverance. 

 

how do you keep going as a christian in those sort of circumstances? 

how do you keep drawing near when everyone is telling us that our faith is our silly hobby. 

 

and then there are the sufferings of encountering and fighting our sin which afflicts all Christians 

 

how do you keep drawing near 

 

2 things in the passage 

 

community and the future 

 

  1. community 

v33 they stood side by side with each other in suffering 

v34 they sympathised with those who were suffering 

= to co-suffer. suffer with 

they did suffering and struggle together as a community 

 

and 

2. they did it looking forward to the future 

v34 better and lasting possessions 

a remarkably tangible view of the future 

 

they could persevere when their possessions were confiscated or their homes burned down because they were looking foreward to a concrete future hope. The new creation. An inheritance kept for you. 

 

imagine if you have your books, your computer, your car confiscated, your home, church damaged, your reputation stripped away 

 

such a concrete view of a physical tangible perfect future hope. 

i have better possessions coming to me 

 

of this they were convinced v36 we will receive what he has promised

 

Jesus didn’t just promise persecution. he promised a new creation hope. lasting possessions and relationship with him 

v36 in just a little while …will come 

 

 

lovely name for Jesus ‘he who is coming’

who is Christ? he is he who is coming 

 

he is on his way, we will see him face to face  

our faith is not some laughable hobby. 

the future is Christ’s and we will inherit a whole universe with him 

 

 

3. context for drawing near 

let us not give up meeting together 

let us consider how we might spur one another on to love and good deeds 

 

the context of cimmunity 

drawing near to God happens in community 

 

i need to be thinking about you 

and about how i can spur you on to love Jesus and others and to good deeds 

and you need to be thinkiong about me and about how you can encourage me 

 

bevcaise i can’t draw near to God without you and you can’t draw near to God without me

we need each other 

we need to spur each other on and we need to be deliberate about it 

 

 

v25 we need to meet together and keep on meeting together 

 

because NOT meeting together is habit forming 

interesting. You might have imagined he’s say that meeting together can becoem a habit which it can 

but not meeting together can become a habit v v quickly 

 

haven’t you had that?

you miss splinter group or church because something comes up you can’t make it. it makes it easier not to make it the following week. 

 

these verses say please watch out. if you want to draw nearto God you must draw near to each other. we need each other 

don’t give up meeting together. 

it’s crucial ..because staying away can slide into drifting away which can slide into falling away

Don’t give up meeting together. 

 

let us 

let us 

let us 

 

who is the lord laying on my heart that i can encourage today?

 

 

 

as we come now to the service of the Lord’s supper 

where we celebrate that in jesus we have a perfect sacrifice 

a wonderful high priest 

 

let us draw near to the god who is holy holy holy 

let us hold firmly to the hope we profess in all the sufferings of this life 

let us encourage one another daily 

 

 

don’t stay away. with confidence draw near with sincere hearts. 

 

Hebrews 9

 

How do you deal with a guilty conscience? Some of the greatest works of art deal with the controlling power of guilt and shame, We think of Lady Macbeth in Shakespeare’s Scottish play. Or Raskolinikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and punishment. 

 

Guilt is very complex. 

There is such a thing as false guilt – we feel guilty but the shame is not our own – it’s been imposed upon us by others’ deeds. 

But there is also such a thing as real guilt – whether we listen to our consciences or not. It’s not just that we owe others when we wrong them. But when we offend others we also offend God.  We owe him. Guilt weighs upon us. How do you deal with a guilty conscience?

 

If you’re a Christian you are told that you are forgiven and yet shame and guilt can still consume and control. They can shape ongoing behaviours. They can make us doubt that we’re gonna make it. 

 

How do you deal with a guilty conscience. 

 

That’s the concern of our writer in chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews. 

We are guilty and we alone can never shift that human stain. But we are to take to heart that Jesus deals with our guilty conscience once and for all and forever by his blood.   

 

Our writer starts in vv1-5 by again, as he often does speaking about the first and original terms of relationship, or covenant, between God and his people.  

 

and the key thing was the tabernacle - this elaborate tent made to God’s instructions when Israel were in the wilderness and that later became the temple in Jerusalem. built to the same layout which was, v2,  

a curtain from the outside - that brought you into an outer room - the holy place and then a second curtain behind which was an inner room - the most holy place. God’s throne - the ark of the covenant - was in this most holy place. And God’s glory dwelt between the cherubim overshadowing the atonement cover. 

 

and v6 … priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But v7 only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

 

only the high priest, only once a year, never without blood.

The worship of Israel was awash with blood. Every day animal sacrifices were made so that the people to continue in their relationship with God and the high point was this annual ‘day of atonement’ when the High Priest, representing the people, actually went into the presence of God carrying the blood of the sacrifice which he poured out on the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant. 

Graphically teaching that Guilty, sinful people cannot be in relationship with a holy God. The wages of sin is death. But the sacrifice dies in my place meaning that i can be cleansed and draw near - that i can be in ‘relationship..’

 

But of course it wasn’t really much of a relationship was it? 

Because of the offerings of all that animal blood, Once a year, one man could go in for a few minutes???  

The chasm between God and people remains enormous doesn’t it? 

 

Look at what Our writer says in v8: The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. 9 This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. 10 They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.

 

The old tabernacle didn’t actually work because the sacrifices of animals didn’t actually clear the guilt of the worshipper. And the severe restrictions of any access into God’s presence made that abundantly clear. 

 

But 

 

But 

 

v11. It’s a huge But 

 

when Christ came …. everything changed. 

 

Jesus’s sacrifice of himself on the cross was the fulfilment of everything of which the worship of the tabernacle was only a picture, an illustration, a model..

 

look at the second half of v12 

and see that Jesus, our great High Priest, Jesus, doesn’t enter a room in a temple, year after year, with the blood of countless animals, only to stay for a couple of minutes 

 

no look end of v12 

 

he entered THE Most Holy Place

ONCE for all 

by HIS OWN blood, 

thus obtaining ETERNAL redemption.

 

he entered THE Most Holy Place

ONCE for all - 

by HIS OWN blood, 

obtaining ETERNAL redemption. 

 

4 incredible realities. Let’s look at each of them in turn..

 

  1. Jesus entered THE most holy place for us.

the writer to the Hebrews has been telling us that the tabernacle worship was only a model, a picture to look forward to the reality which is Christ. 

For a start God didn’t really fully dwell in the holy of holies in the tabernacle or the temple in Jerusalem. As if a building could contain the presence of God! If God had really fully been there in all his glory then the High Priest entering the holy of holies, carrying the blood offered for his own sins and the peoples, would have been blown away because the animal sacrifices being offered didn’t actually work, they didn’t remove guilt! The way into God’s presence was not yet open (v8) 

 

BUT Jesus’ sacrifice of himself on the cross for us really does work. Really does open the way for sinful human beings to be cleansed and to draw near, into the very presence of God!

 

v11 tells us that Jesus, having died and risen again went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 

or v24 Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence.

 

Jesus opens the way into the true heavenly thone room. 

The Lord God wants you in his presence. Do you know that about God?

 

Do you consider this that if you are a Christian you literally live your life in the presence of this holy God because Jesus has brought you there. 

 

we might be tempted to take this for granted. Or not realise it and fail to enjoy its privilege. The way is open. Jesus entered the most Holy place for us 

 

2. He did so ONCE FOR ALL 

We’ve just moved into a new home and a new bathroom had been put in prior to us moving in and …there are some teething problems. A tiny leak from the shower that drips down into the sitting room. Not great!  A lovely man called Lance has come to fix the leak. He comes and does some stuff and we rejoice on that day. But then the leak comes back. It’s happened about 3 times now and Lance will be back on Monday. 

 

The Jewish day of atonement was a bit like that! On that day the Israelites rejoiced because their sins were dealt with and the way into the Most Holy placed was opened! But it was just for a day, just for a moment. The very next day ..the leak was back. The sacrifices had to be repeated. Blood shed every day. The day of atonement year after year after year.. 

 

But Jesus’ sacrifice is different. It is once for all. v25

[Christ did not] enter heaven to offer himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But he has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

 

Jesus’ death does away with sin completely, finally, once for all. 

Oh that our leak could be fixed once for all. 

But Oh that our sin could be forgiven, covered. It has been once for all! 

 

Which means there is nothing more to be done. There’s nothing that you or I contribute to our salvation. It was completed once for all before you were even born! There is nothing for you to do. 

 

Ill. imagine a painter gives you one of her paintings, framed and ready to hang in your house. And before you do so you precede to break open the frame and get a biro to add a bit of shading to the sky! 

 

Or imagine if you’re invited to a dinner party and the meal is served to you and you take it back to the kitchen to do a bit more work on the sauce

 

No - when you are given something that is finished, completed - The creator has laid down her paint brush, has removed his apron and said this cannot be improved on – it is not only needless but offensive to attempt your own contribution. 

 

we often do think that our contribution matters that God favours us when we are good and frowns upon us when we’re bad. But no, the gospel is not about us. It is all about God and his free grace towards needy undeserving sinners. 

 

We must humble our proud selves. And joyfully accept that No contribution is required.  

 

[Jesus] has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.

 

3. third thing to say. third part of v12 Jesus entered the most holy place once for all by his own blood

I’m a bit squeamish about blood. A few times i’ve gone for blood tests or given blood and i have to look away. Blood is meant to stay in the body! Blood coming out means life ebbing away. 

The book of Hebrews is full of blood. The worship of Israel was all about blood. The writer says in vv15-22 that some some contracts only become legal when there is a death - a will for example.  And all establishing of relationship between people and God, all God’s covenants required blood vv18-20 and all ceremonies in Judaism required blood to cleanse v21 because, end of the verse without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 

 

our sins in the face of a holy God deserve death. the sacrifice of an unblemished animal provided a picture that another could die in my stead so that i could draw near, forgiven. The blood of a perfect substitute could cleanse me. 

Of course it’s only a picture, a ceremony: 

the death of animal - no matter how perfect - could never really take away human sin. It’s an animal.  

Neither could the death of another human truly take my place - we are all flawed, we all have our own sin to pay for. 

 

but what about the blood of a perfect human being?

 

 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

 

we all in our, selfishness, greed, lust, pride engage in acts that load our consciences with guilt - acts that lead to death. But the unblemished man, Jesus stands in our place and takes our death for us. the perfect substitute. he pays for our sin. his blood cleanses our consciences that, no longer separated, we may serve the living God. 

 

guilt and shame can control us 

Our enemy the devil – yes he is real – though defeated he still seeks to destroy faith and hope and joy and keep us in our sin.  He’s a master shame specialist. He loves to dig up all the stuff that we might feel ashamed of. He lies about God and his favourite words are ‘You are not..’ What are you doing in church? You are not good enough. Call yourself a Christian? Think God is gonna persevere with you? You are not gonna make it.  We believe his lies and guilt and condemnation can control us. If I think that I am a worm – I’ll behave like one. 

 

But Jesus speaks a different word to us. He says to us yes you have done wrong but I’ve paid. Yes you have failed, yes you’ve been a hyprocite. But I’ve paid. I have paid for all your sin - past, present and future. The Devil says ‘You are not…’ Jesus says ‘You are MINE.’ 

 

Jesus’ blood forces us to refocus our concept of God. Do we imagine God constantly wagging a reproachful finger at us? Is he constantly demanding that we strive to be better, do more, live perfectly? Does he fill us with anxiety and despair? This is not the God of the Bible. The God of the cross knows our weakness and frailty – why else did he die for us? The true God anticipates out inability to keep his standards by taking the consequences of our failure on himself. All of them – past present future.

 

Every one of us now must not be controlled by guilt because Jesus’ blood never fails us. 

 

Final thing from v12 

Jesus entered the most holy place once for all by his blood thus obtaining eternal redemption. 

 

Remember the High Priest on the day of atonement tip-toeing into the most holy place - never without blood. pleading the blood. ‘the substitute has died, please don’t kill me!’ pouring the blood on the atonement cover, the mercy seat and then getting out of there as quickly as possible. Only for a different priest, a year later to do the very same thing. Not exactly what you’d call access to God! it wasn’t. 

 

By contrast look at Jesus. v24 

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, NOW to appear for us in God’s presence. 

 

Jesus, after his death and resurrection enters heaven itself to appear in for us in God’s presence AND HE NEVER LEAVES. He’s there now. 

 

7v25 says that Jesus is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

 

Jesus constantly pleads his blood before the Father. Showing his nail marked hands. When I sin, jesus says I died for him.  When Ioffend God, Jesus says I bled for him.  When I am lost Jesus says, He is mine. 

 

He is our ETERNAL High Priest. 

There is never an end to his grace. 

 

How do you deal with a guilty conscience?

 

Hebrews 8 Nigel Beynon

What are we to think about our relationship with God?  if we’re Christians – how do we feel about knowing God?

Guilt - we say we’re forgiven but can have a sense God is disappointed in me – thinks less of me because of what I did last week. 

Expected change – well we know he wants us to live in a certain way - but can feel that means not being really me. He’s forcing into a mould that doesn’t fit. 

Insecurity - we can certainly feel God likes others more than me. That’s an easy one – some people are really in with him – whereas I’m on the edge.

Do you ever feel those sorts of things? Should we feel those things? What sort of relationship does a Christian have with God? 

I ask that because here our writer describes the relationship with God we’ve been given in Jesus – and we’re going to see it’s very very different to what I’ve just said. 

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Hebrews 5:11-6:20

What do we make of friends who belong to church, serve in remarkable way, who can speak of great Christian experiences, maybe they’ve even helped you in Christian life and been a real example to you – and NOW, they are nowhere spiritually.  They don’t call themselves Christians anymore.  They feel like they’ve out-grown it.  They’ve consigned it to the past.  

What do we make of that? What about Christians who fall away?

Read More

Hebrews 4:14-5:10 

Do you think that we still need to go through a priest inorder to get to God? Do we need a human being to mediate for us our relationship with God? 

 

The Bible’s remarkable answer is yes! 

We need a priest. The question is which Priest. The Priest we need is the man - Jesus Christ - our great High Priest. He brings us to God and he is God towards us! 

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Prayer Luke 11.5-8  

Statistics show that all of us pray at some time. Some of us only pray occasionally when we are in a crisis. Others of us pray a little more frequently. But none of us would say we pray a lot. We are slow to pray. But why? If God is your father and you are his child why wouldn’t you come to God in prayer? There’s only one answer.

It’s the oldest lie in the world. The one that the serpent used in the garden of eden. A lie that runs deep. The lie that God is not good; that he’s mean and doesn’t answer our prayers. Our trials and sufferings and seeming unanswered prayers seem to back up the lie and so we feel that God says, 'No' alot.. And so we don’t pray. 

Jesus realizes this might be an objection to us praying and so in v5-8 he gives us a parable to motivate us to pray by seeing that God will answer when we pray because He must! 

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Prayer Luke 11:2-4

Prayer is a struggle – sometimes we don’t desire to pray, or our prayers seem to go unanswered so long that we lose heart. We don’t know how to pray. We don’t know what to pray.

Jesus gives us a framework for prayer. More crucially there are deep reasons to pray within the framework. Thousands of books written on prayer to help us pray. One of the most prominent recently was spiritual writer, Anne Lamott’s book on prayer entitled. Help, Thanks, Wow: The three essential prayers. 

Jesus’ pattern of prayer is a little different. And, good as Lamott’s writing is, Jesus’ is the pattern worth following. 

Jesus’ pattern is WOW, sorry, please  

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Prayer Luke 11:1-2

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ [Jesus] said to them, ‘When you pray, say: “Father..."

Father

this is the foundation of all prayer. Father

Jesus doesn’t begin with whats or hows but with who.  If we are ever to truly pray it is not subjects or methods that we need. We need to know who it is that we are invited to pray to.. 

Father 

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