We’ve tried as a generation or two, to live a rebellious life, cutting our ties with history and tried inventing our own rules as if we are the first civilization that ever lived on Earth. It got us to a place where individuality is key and God is dead. But eventually, our godless individuality will hit a wall and then we scramble for advice. Problem is, we’ve cut our ties to our own history and we now reach to ideas that haven’t been tested and proven to work. Ideas from individuals who pose as godly people…but we can’t make an informed judgment because…God is still dead.

But every once in a while, someone gets a crazy idea and says “Why not try out some of the ideas that shaped our society?” Then God is not dead any more. In this madness of an idea, someone will pick up the Bible and look over the pages to find some guidance.

That’s what we’ve done, taking the Epistle to the Hebrews. We’ve decided to test a crazy idea, to go back to the Bible and see if it still makes sense. We seem to be finding that getting back to the roots, back to the basics, is actually a great refreshment as it shakes off tons of false perceptions and we get a clean slate with a renewed understanding of who God is, and who we are in relation to Him.

In the first 6 chapters we saw that the key to Christian living is to live actively in a community of believers who help one another to look back to Christ as the author and finisher of our faith. But there is a time when we need to move past the basics so we can grow spiritually.

Chapters 7-9 is the meaty part, the heavy stuff: Anything we do falls significantly short. But the good news is that God always planned a rescue mission for humanity. This rescue mission was done by Christ, through his sacrifice.

In Chapter 10 we’ll see a convergence of these ideas, a sort of a wrap-up with a very powerful point at the end of the chapter.

  • The shame of sin, and the liberation in Christ (vv 1-18): The Law brought shame. The time-surpassing sacrifice of Christ brings relief from the guilt of sin. Sacrifices were never sufficient, but Christ sets aside insufficient sacrifices and does a sufficient, personal sacrifice which was according to God’s will all along. After this sacrifice, there should be no shame and guilt from sin.
  • The liberation (vv 19-25): The curtain (symbolizing Christ’s body) is torn, Christ enabled access to the Holy Place forever, so:
    • Let’s all come to God because we are pleasing and acceptable thanks to Christ’s sacrifice.
    • Let’s live out the hope we have in Him.
    • Let’s push each other to good deeds.
    • Let’s not give up meeting together.
    • Don’t forget it is through such pushing each other toward perfection that reveals how close we are to God
  • The warning (vv 26-35): Those of you that aren’t close to God through communal worship, you ignore all the calls to encourage one another to godliness and as such, you are useless. Shape up! But keep in mind 6:9, this idea is not about losing salvation, it’s to get folks back in church.
  • The reassurance: Remember that you were vibrant, strong, unwavering in your faith. Get back to that mindset because you have the lasting possession of salvation through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. (vv 36-39)

In the previous chapters we saw some challenging ideas. Each one being a beautiful thought that we should keep in mind. In this chapter we get to re-visit these ideas, but in a more packed manner… similar to a making of a bouquet: you first select a few flowers, you trim and shape them neatly, and finally you put them all together and tie them up as a single bouquet, where each flower’s beauty is improved by the other. And this is what Chapter 10 is, it’s a wrapping of a bouquet of a few strong ideas we saw developed in the previous chapters. So let’s see how these ideas look like.

vv. 1-18:The shame of sin and the liberation in Christ

All your efforts are not enough to please God. The whole point of the requirements for life was to show you that you can’t achieve that level of perfection by yourself. So in a miraculous way, Christ’s perfection (that was revealed through his suffering) is transcribed to our account, which was the point all along.

But in reality God never really asked you to earn your perfection. Since we can’t be perfect, God’s demand on our perfection would be as illogical as an angry policeman’s insistence that you undo your speeding. Or for him to punish you for speeding by saying “now you have to fly home cause you sure ain’t driving!”

You could never undo what you’ve done. You can never be something you’re not. Any authority that pushes you to do the impossible is just looking for a reason to embarrass you, to make you guilty beyond reason, and to put you in such a dead-end position that you’d feel like it’s the end of the world. God is not a tyrant. He does not expect perfection as he knows we cannot achieve it alone.

It is people with a wrong understanding of how God works that put you in a dead-end. Over-zealous people are tyrannical with their ungodly teaching about sin. There are plenty of philosophies out there that depict people as utterly repulsive and how we should feel completely unworthy and that our self-esteem should be non-existant, that we aren’t people, we are worms wallowing in our sin. This is that same neo-platonic thinking that the body is utterly disgusting and a pitiful prison to the soul, so in all our days on earth we should feel sorry for ourselves that we’re locked up in a dirty body.

It’s worrisome that this is the teaching in so many churches these days. There are tons of sermons and books focused on making you miserable. I fail to see how we could call ourselves the bearers of good news, when most of our intellectual energy goes to dealing with our sins and just muddle through life. There’s nothing good about a message like “oh man, we suck so much that we’d be better off dead, but Christ saved us from death, and now we have to endure in this crap of a worm life until Christ comes again when he’ll liberate us from these bodies and we’ll be like the angels.” If only I’d get a nickel any time I’ve heard such a perspective on life from Christians…

But this isn’t Christianity. Christ didn’t come to this world and offered himself as a sacrifice so that we today would again be trampled by our sinfulness. Looking at ourselves as miserable worms ignores the fact that Christ liberates us from sin. The only reason why we’d continue feeling like worms is if we don’t believe that what Christ did is effective for our personal life. And we ought to believe it, because we have a clear statement in v. 18: “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

The core of the good news is that we don’t have to carry this weight with us anymore. It’s been taken care of. Now we can stand in God’s site as in front of a father who loves us dearly, not as in front of a tyrannical police officer itching to beat the life out of us because we are who we are.

And this is the first flower in our bouquet: You’ve been liberated by Christ. Stand up, dust off. Get close to God, he won’t bite.

Vv 19-25 The Liberation: Thanks to Christ, we can grow in union with God

We now get into the second flower of the bouquet. After 3 chapters of meaty stuff, we get to a stage of saying: Ok, since we’re reconciled to God without sacrifices but through faith, how are we supposed to live as the people of God?

That’s a wonderful question, and the answer is quite liberating: Now that you have clear passage to God… get close to God. Move into the Holy of Holies, and worship God throughout your life.

This is why we say we have the good news of salvation. Because once we hear what Christ has achieved on the cross, we can’t react in any other way than sheer joy. We’re not tyrannized by an angry policeman. Someone has came along the way and paid the fine for our speeding. We’re not forced to become something we’d never be able to achieve. Instead we’ve been set free from any accusations so that we can finally get close to God.

That’s the good news! That’s the proper teaching/theology of Christian faith. So with proper theology, we have no other option but to worship our God properly: with all our hearts, minds and souls, without any feeling of guilt, and with all desire to get closer to God and live out our lives as people who have peace with God.

So how does this liberated life of worshiping God look like? Well, we have clear instructions:

  • Let’s all come to God because we are pleasing and acceptable thanks to Christ’s sacrifice.
  • Let’s push each other to love and good deeds.
  • Let’s not give up meeting together.
  • It is through such pushing each other that reveals how close we are to God

Let’s chew through a few other important ideas from this passage:

  1. Christian worship is a worship of a community. The Western world is heavy-laden with the idea of Augustine that Christianity is a personal thing, and a believer by him/herself can survive as a believer. But Christ didn’t die to save a group of individuals. He died to save His Church, a spiritual family. The Eastern Christianity understood this a lot better. When we enter the Holy of Holies, we do so as a family. The people standing next to us are our brothers and sisters, not just people we have to tolerate on Sundays.
  2. Christians worship God as guilt-free people: Again, in the West, thanks to Augustine’s pre-Christian life, people focus too much attention on the sinful past rather than on our redeemed present and future. Our conscious is cleansed thanks to Christ. When worshiping together, we shouldn’t shrink back from God’s presence over thoughts like “I’ve sinned, I can’t stand in front of God, He won’t accept me”. These are satanic lies. While we do need to avoid sin, we should not allow our moral imperfections to stop us from coming to God with a joyful heart, knowing clearly that we are accepted by God, not because of our morality but because of our faith in Christ.
  3. Christian worship is practical: The call to “encourage” is more of a pushing/spurring others toward love and good deeds. The point is that during this communal worship of guilt-free believers, we are not left to be passive in life. In fact, we are called to push others toward love and good deeds. This may mean pushing others to finish school, or get a job, or leave a bad habbit, or reconcile with others etc. Being a redeemed person is no reason to be lazy and careless of the needs of others around us. On the contrary. If we take church discipline with this in mind, we’ll be more engaged at pushing people on the right path rather than disciplining those that took a wrong turn.

This second flower in our bouquet for today in a summary says: Thanks to Christ we can finally focus on worshiping God by sticking together, by pushing each other to growth in all areas of life, but not forgetting all along that no matter how dismal things may look, we are not an isolated group stranded somewhere. We are a part of a family of believers that stretches from here into eternity.

Vv 26-39 The Warning: Keep it together, you are a family and you know that

In this last flower from our bouquet we see two intertwined ideas: A warning and a reassurance.

  • The warning: You’ve been redeemed by Christ and called to be a spiritual family. So stick together. Turning your back, abandoning the meetings is you slapping the face of Christ. Deliberately turning your back to Christ is the sin that has eternal consequence. We’re not talking here about sin from a moral perspective. This isn’t to discourage you that IF you’ve stopped worshiping with your community that you have no way of returning, as if you’ve “lost your salvation”. It is an encouragement that if you have stopped, you need to get back because as an individual you can’t really live a good spiritually rich life.
  • The reassurance: Remember that you were vibrant, strong, unwavering in your faith. Get back to that mindset because you have the lasting possession of salvation through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. No matter how hard things may be, don’t despair. That’s just life. Keep your focus on Christ.

This third and last flower in our bouquet states one simple truth to hold onto: Whatever the circumstances, whatever the suffering, it is not a reason to give up the faith. Endure. You’ve done it before, you can do it again and again.

And finally, let’s sum up this bouquet of ideas we’ve been looking at over the past 3 chapters, as they’re tied together in Chapter 10:

You’ve been liberated by Christ. Stand up, dust off. Get close to God, together, as a community. Don’t give up on one another. Keep pushing each other to growth in all areas of life no matter how dismal things may look. We are a part of a family of believers that stretches from here into eternity. Whatever the circumstances, whatever the suffering, we must keep on keeping on.

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