Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 8:31 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “The Old Rugged Cross.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Hebrews 7-10 (quoting 10:19-31, 35-39 NASB).
With Full Assurance (vv. 19-25)
Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
When Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins, the veil that hung between us and God’s Holy presence, in the temple, was torn in two. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, he opened the way for us to be restored to fellowship with God and to enter into his presence. Through God-given faith in Jesus Christ, via new birth of the Spirit, we are now his temple, and he lives within us in the person of his Holy Spirit. The Holy of Holies now dwells within our hearts, so we can enter into God’s presence at any time, day or night. And, we are encouraged to do so with sincere (cleansed) hearts, and with full assurance of faith, not to be taken lightly or regarded casually.
The purpose for which Jesus died on the cross for our sins is multi-faceted. When he died, he who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Co. 5:21). He, thus, took our punishment on himself so that we might no longer be condemned to death, but that we might be alive in him, living to his righteousness. In other words, Jesus didn’t die just to free us from condemnation (eternal punishment in hell), but he came to give us life, and to give it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10). He didn’t die just so we could go to heaven when we leave this earth, but he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness now, while still on the earth (1 Pet. 2:24). He, also, didn’t die just to forgive us of our sins, but he died to deliver us out of slavery to (the control of) sin that we might become bondservants (slaves) of Christ and of his righteousness and holiness.
Since Jesus Christ did all this for us, so that we could walk in freedom from sin and have our fellowship restored with God, we should hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering. We should not take God or his grace for granted, thinking that his grace gives freedom to continue in sin without guilt or remorse. Nor should we be lazy and slothful in our Christian walks, thinking God is satisfied by church attendance once a week or by a 5-minute devotion once a day. In view of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we should give our lives to God fully as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is our reasonable and acceptable worship of God, no longer conformed to the ways of this sinful world, but transformed of the Spirit of God in the renewing of our minds away from sin and to God and his Word.
Not only should we be walking the talk, and not just talking the walk, but we should actively be involved in encouraging, stimulating and spurring our brothers and sisters in Christ on to love and good deeds in Christ Jesus. In other words, we should care whether or not a brother or sister has fallen into sin or is living as though he or she has not been cleansed of sin. We should be concerned when our fellow believers are living just like the world and seem to be much less interested in matters of the heart (of the Spirit). And, we should be troubled in our spirits when we see professing Christians living ungodly lives, focused on entertaining and being entertained, with little to no regard for the holiness of God and walking in the fear of the Lord.
So, we need to gather together with other believers in Christ for the purpose to encourage them in their walks of faith, which may include strong encouragement, at times. Our gathering together, though, does not have to be on a Sunday morning in a building called a church. So many people have come to believe that a building or an organization or a corporation of men is the church and it is a place where we go on Sundays, and if we don’t go, then we are forsaking the assembling of ourselves, but that isn’t true. The church is the body of Christ, the believers in Christ. In the early church they met daily from house to house and in the temple courts. So, it doesn’t matter where you meet or on what day you meet, but what matters is that you meet with other Christians for mutual encouragement.
The Living God (vv. 26-31)
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
So many people today are preaching a false grace gospel absent of genuine repentance and God-given faith in Jesus Christ, which divinely persuades human hearts as to the will of God for our lives. They are teaching that all we have to do is repeat some words after someone in a prayer, or just believe Jesus died to take our punishment for sin and then say out loud, “Jesus is Lord,” and then we are saved and headed to heaven. They forget that even the demons believe and they shudder. What a mockery this makes of his death on a cross for our sins, in which he died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us; and that he might redeem us from all lawlessness and purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (See: 1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Co. 5:15; Tit. 2:14).
If we claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but we continue living sinful lifestyles, then the Bible teaches we do not have the promise of heaven, but we will die in our sins. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self) we will lose them (die in our sins). But, if we lose our lives (are crucified with Christ in death to sin), we will gain eternal life with God (Lu. 9:23-25). Paul said the same thing when he said if we walk (conduct our lives) according to our sinful flesh, we will die (in our sins), but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will have eternal life (Ro. 8:1-14). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin, wickedness), we are liars (1 Jn. 1:6).
I see two ways in which this passage in Hebrews can be applied here. One is what I just talked about above, and it has to do primarily with those who profess Christ but who have never been born of the Spirit of God, because they never died with Christ to sin and so they were not resurrected with Christ to newness of life in Him. Yet, there is another aspect to this, which Hebrews brings out loud and clear, and that is that our salvation is progressive, and our faith, which is seen in our repentance, obedience and submission to Christ and to his cross, must continue till the end if we want to have the assurance of heaven when we die (See also: Jn. 8:31-32; Ro. 11:17-24; I Co. 15:2; Col. 1:21-23; II Tim. 2:10-13; Heb. 3:6, 14-15; I Jn. 2:24-25).
If we believe in Jesus Christ, but afterwards we deliberately keep on sinning (in our daily conduct, in lifestyle) then we don’t have the promise of eternal life with God, but only a fearful expectation of judgment. For, we read, “The Lord will judge his people” (v. 30). So, please take God seriously!
Don’t Shrink Back (vv. 35-39)
Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
The Old Rugged Cross / George Bennard
On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross,
The emblem of suff’ring and shame;
And I love that old cross where the dearest and best
For a world of lost sinners was slain.
Oh, that old rugged cross, so despised by the world,
Has a wondrous attraction for me;
For the dear Lamb of God left His glory above
To bear it to dark Calvary.
In that old rugged cross, stained with blood so divine,
A wondrous beauty I see,
For ’twas on that old cross Jesus suffered and died,
To pardon and sanctify me.
To the old rugged cross I will ever be true;
Its shame and reproach gladly bear;
Then He’ll call me some day to my home far away,
Where His glory forever I’ll share.
So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.