Two weeks ago I attended mandatory Combat Lifesaver skills training…I’m not going to combat…but it was interesting.
The training has been updated from years past because of lessons learned from years of war.
ABC: Airway, breathing, circulation
CAB: Compression, Airway, Breaths
Is now MARCH… This is specifically for situations where there is likelihood for bleeding wounds.
The “M” in march stands for “massive bleeding” it is the #1 priority.
A blood sweep is the first thing to be done because if there is massive bleeding the person can die very quickly.
There were a number of unfortunate circumstances, where soldiers doing first aid failed to recognize blood loss, they focused on other things, or couldn’t see it because of uniforms…some people died unnecessarily.
So, blood is the priority in lifesaving.
This may seem like a strange way to begin a sermon, but then again what about the songs we sang this morning about “blood”
Those songs would seem weird, morbid, to those who don’t understand the symbolism in the word “blood”, or the biblical use and meaning of it.
Perhaps its strange to you…let’s talk about that.
Blood, is obviously a real and a vitally important thing…but the word also has symbolic value.
It symbolizes life.
“She gave her last drop of blood” “Victory came at a great cost of blood and treasure”
Hebrews 9:22 “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness”
There is no forgiveness of sin without a death penalty.
The powerful symbol of shed blood is meant to evoke deep reflection and gratitude for what Christ has done…he died for our sin.
In addition…it ought to, ideally, motivate us to holiness…we should live differently.
Because our sin was costly…so we should not think casually about it.
But why is there no forgiveness without death?
Could not God have done things another way, a better way…a less bloody way?
Why not just “forgive and forget”…after all, we are supposed to do that right?
Forget…is not really possible, for us or God.
When the Bible says that God “remembers our sins no more”…this is figurative language…he can’t forget, he is omniscience…he can’t “not know things”
It means he treats us as if our sins are no more….we don’t have to pay with our lives for them.
But the question “could God have done things in a better or different way”…underestimates God’s wisdom, power, and his goodness.
Think about it this way:
-If you did something that had a huge impact on the lives of others…but you could have done it in a much better and more helpful way…
This would mean you either lack wisdom(you didn’t know better), ability(you couldn’t do better), or you are just a bad person(you didn’t care).
But God is all wise, all powerful and all good…what he does, is always the best that could be done…all things considered.
Without getting lost in the theological woods…let’s simply say this:
The best and only way for God to accomplish our salvation and provide forgiveness for our sins was the death of Christ on the cross…his shed blood.
Our sins require a death penalty…that is the very nature of them.
God is not petty nor arbitrary, he is not just randomly making up rules…bloody ones at that.
This is how reality works (the only kind of reality that God could have made that accomplishes all of his good purposes).
So, we will pay for our sins with our lives, or we will receive Christ’s payment for them with his life…there is no option “C”
Now, you have a choice, we all do:
Not believe it
But please don’t reject it because you don’t like it…or you don’t how it sounds or how makes you feel.
You may not like gravity, because you would prefer to fly like a bird…but to conclude because you don’t like the limits of gravity that you will choose to disbelieve in it…is foolish, and potentially deadly.
Gravity is a limit…but also a freedom…I personally, appreciate not floating off into space.
Let me return, once again to the familiar saying:
“Everyone lives by faith.”
Since we are finite creatures…we can only know so much through our own experience…that “so much” is “not much” of what can be known.
So, we know (at least we think we know) things based on what we have seen, discovered, experienced personally, or what someone we trust has told us.
Since God is there, and God has spoken…we can choose to trust or distrust what he has says.
If we distrust him, as he has spoken in the Bible and in his son, Jesus…we will have to place our trust in another source.
So you will…put your faith somewhere…everyone will.
I am convinced…beyond doubt that Scripture is true, and Christ is who he says he is…I am convinced for number of reasons…that include the use of my mind, experience, trusing others, history, and the work of God through his Spirit in me.
I therefore, choose to nurture my confidence in Scripture and Christ…rather than nurture my doubts.
Questions remain even though I am convinced…but I approach the questions from the standpoint of confidence not insecurity or skepticism.
This is not naive…this is necessary…we need to “know” not guess when the stakes are this high.
All this is to prepare us for Hebrews 9, a dense chapter, thick with theology and history and symbology.
But all pointing to a very necessary and practical reality for us as humans.
What can done, what has been to meet our greatest need?…our sin separation from God.
We have been doing chapter summaries of NT books so it’s not possible to deal with every verse in depth.
This approach has advantages and disadvantages…the advantage is that we can more easily get the main points of Scripture into our minds and then into lives…not get lost in the details.
So, you can read this chapter through this week, this morning I’ll summarize before landing on our main application.
Let’s begin by talking about a key feature of this chapter, the Tabernacle.
The Tabernacle was a portable structure, a tent that God designed and Israel carefully and skillfully constructed for use as a point of intersection between “heaven and earth” as they traveled from Egypt to Canaan.
They didn’t believe that God literally lived in that structure…but it powerfully and visibly symbolized his presence among them…he would manifest himself there, though of course the cosmos itself cannot contain God.
The Temple, that was built in Canaan would eventually become the permanent (sort of, it was destroyed) replacement for the mobile “divine command post” that was the Tabernacle.
When they encamped in their large refugee city they would set up the Tabernacle in the middle of the people, God would manifest himself there, it was the focal point for their worship…indeed for their community life overall.
It contained some important furniture (that God designed for max teaching value) and some important historical artifacts from his interactions with his people.
These all had great symbolic value…they were visible reminders of the holy God and his actions among his people in history…their need, his provision.
The author mentions things like a gold lampstand, Table, gold altar, ark of the covenant, jar of manna, Aaron’s staff, tablets of the covenant…these things all symbolized real interactions between God and his people.
If you watched Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark…you saw Indiana trying to beat the Nazis to the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant.
The Nazi’s inappropriate handling of the Ark earned them some melted faces…
That’s Hollywood…but in reality God did take this very seriously…not because he is petty but because what the Tabernacle symbolized was so important.
The holy God dwelling among his sinful people…and the ongoing price to be paid for people to have relationship with God.
In the Tabernacle there was the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place…in God’s presence there is no “non-holy” place or “semi holy place.”
That is instructive in itself.
Only designated representatives (Priests) could enter the Holy Place and only the High Priest could enter the Most Holy place and then only once a year on the day of Atonement.
Clearly the Author of Hebrews sees the Tabernacle as a super cool place.
Very special, very powerful…he mentions “gold” over and over…it was amazing, expensive, great work of art…designed to impress and to move humans hearts and minds.
-If you have ever been to a place like the Lincoln Memorial, or stood and watched as veterans weep at the Vietnam Memorial…you can see some of why God set up this Tabernacle arrangement…he made us, he knows us.
I think about the solemn ceremony repeated day after day…rain or shine…
at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
To honor those who gave their lives and we don’t even know where, or how they died…
They died alone…
When the plane struck the Pentagon on 911, less than two miles away… even then the ceremony continued unaltered…powerful…speaks to the value of sacrifice.
Three years ago, I was moved to tears as the ceremony evoked powerful images, thoughts, emotions…about those who had died alone…for my freedom…I thought of their families…I thought of their last moments, far from home.
What that felt like, what that cost.
The ceremony, the imagery…symbols that pointed to greater realities…they inspired me to be grateful to want be better…to want to give my away for others.
Such is the power for humans of sacred space, and ceremony, symbols…to help us remember and value important things.
But this is not symbolism without substance…there is a lot of that out there as well.
The symbols, like a wedding ring, point to something bigger, substantive, powerful…something real not just mental constructs.
It’s why art and music and architecture and ceremonies are important to humans.
God made us…he knows how we are designed…we can fabricate mental thoughts and imaginations…but we are people who are helped and moved by tangible sight, sound, touch, smell and space.
So he is not saying “The Tabernacle, ahh…it was nothing…forget about…just a tent.
But rather…”this place was amazing…but it was not enough…as amazing as it was…it was inadequate to meet our needs.”
Verse 9 “The gifts and sacrifices offered there were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper.”
The Tabernacle, where God’s presence “touched” earth was amazing.
It was so important, that there was a way for sins to be covered by the blood of sacrifice…a death penalty that was paid, over and over, for sins committed over and over.
But, as cool as the Tabernacle was…it was a shadow, a facsimile of the real thing it represented…Jesus Christ.
John wrote, in his gospel account “The Word (Jesus) became flesh and tabernacled among us.”
He used the same word for Jesus as a “living tabernacle” as the writer of Hebrews used to describe the tent structure that Israel built in the wilderness.
Christ’s incarnation was God with us…he was the intersection of heaven and earth.
And the sacrifice he made was once for all…no repetition needed.
He was the High Priest, the Sacrifice, and the Tabernacle…all rolled up into one.
With all that in mind let’s read, starting in verse 19.
When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. 20 He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” 21 In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. 22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. 23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
24 For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did he 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 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself.
With some background that passage speaks for itself…you get his point.
As we move to conclusion and final application I want to re-visit last week’s theme…nurture your confidence…believe the answers not just the questions.
In the 19th century William Smith wrote an article for the Encyclopedia Britannica (the “google” of that century and much of the next).
“The Israelite sacrificial system was barbaric and reprehensible, certainly no worthy basis for the Christian religion.”
Never mind that Scripture says that this very system was God’s idea and pointed to Christ.
This expert didn’t like the way it sounded, or felt to him…so in essence, it was mocked.
You can go back to the second century, we have piece of Roman graffiti where a man named Alexamenos is being mocked for his faith.
The picture is of a young man worshipping a crucified, donkey headed figure, and the inscription reads “Alexamenos worships his god.”
So a young Christian, in the second century…was mocked for his faith in the Cross of Christ.
But go back farther, and see Christ himself being mocked as he dies on the cross.
Now fast forward…is it NOT unique, new, or surprising that Christ’s blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins is mocked, seen as barbaric, naive, outdated in our time.
This has always been the case…but once again…the question is…where will you place your confidence…your faith?
*You don’t live in a smarter, more enlightened, wiser time…where we all just know better than the dummies of the past.
There is more information available…but not more wisdom, people are not smarter…we don’t know better.
People are just, like they always have been…putting their faith, their confidence somewhere.
Everyone is nurturing that confidence through various kinds of training and repetition
Whether intentional or unintentionally…we are all, all the time…training our hearts, minds, and actions.
The impact of what we decide to believe(minds), is shaping what we value (hearts) and determines behavior(actions).
Everyone is training all the time…everyone is nurturing their confidence…even if it is a strong confidence that no one can be confident.
Since 2020 a large number of teens, primarily girls, are developing neurological tics and disorders…thought to be most likely from prolonged use of, ironically…TikTok (in conjuction with social isolation)
If you haven’t read the news story or seen the videos…it is tragic.
But the takeaway is that everything we do, think, believe is shaping us in more ways that we can even imagine.
Social media use is a form of training…but then again everything we think, see, do, and say is training.
You need confidence in your faith…you can have confidence, God is all for it…it’s why he has given us his word.
1 John 5:13 “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Verses 14, 15 in context has to do with verse 13…if you ask God, he will save you…”If you figure out what is on God’s mind, you can have it.”
It is that you can live with certainty regarding your relationship with God now and your eternal destiny when you die.
One thing that I hope has stood out as we have surveyed some NT books is that we have reason for confidence.
And that this confidence must be continually nurtured…looked after…like a young plant.
The letters written to Churches and to individual Christians were written to help them remember to nurture their confidence…to move them to get back on track and stay on track in their faith.
Reading the letters should remind us, and encourage us to not be surprised that the living thing that is your faith/confidence takes care and nurture
Let’s read the final two verses of this chapter…and apply.
27 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Three main points of faith (belief) in those two verses:
Three statements of faith facts:
- We will die, judgment follows.
- Christ died to take on our sin death penalty.
- He will return, finishing his saving work for those who have trusted him.
If it is true…what are the implications?
If it is not true…what are the implications?
Let’s start with “it’s not true.”
If it is not true, then something else is?
What is that something?
You say, “The options are endless.”
Actually they are not, for the sake of brevity…here they are.
The physical cosmos is eternally existing or self-creating, matter is all there is.
There is a non-personal god of some kind.
There is a personal God of some kind.
Those are the three main options for ultimate reality (there are others but they tend to be subsets of those)
The first two, are in my mind, easy to eliminate…evidence and reason rule them out.
The Third leaves you with limited choices…if there is a personal God you would assume he would interact with us, communicate.
In history what evidence do you see that is most conclusive regarding a personal God communicating?
Around 110 billion people have ever existed.
There has been one person in history who was exceptionally good and wise, and who claimed to be God…and who backed up that claim with action (miracles, resurrection)
I said I would be brief…there are books written on most of these points.
So…if what the writer of Hebrews is saying is not true…you are left with trying to figure out what is…though in my mind the evidence points to Christ.
You can say…”I don’t have to figure anything out…I’m just going to live.”
That is choice you can make…but that is a choice…
…and if you have decided that is true, that it doesn’t matter what you believe…that is your statement of faith.
You will have to live and die with that choice.
What is true without doubt is that …you will live for a little while…10, 20, 50 more years…then you will die.
There are no do overs for what you give your life to.
What if you decide this is all true?
What is that supposed to look like? Faithfulness…getting back on track…then faithfulness.
A non-believing son of a famous Christian said something like this … “You Christians don’t really believe this is true or you would do nothing but tell people about Jesus.”
“The fact that you say you believe in eternal judgment and yet go on vacations, buy cars, watch TV means you really don’t believe.”
Life is much more complex than that.
I could ask him, “You say you love your children, but if you did you would not sleep or go to work or exercise…you would do nothing but try to make sure your kids are loved to the fullest.”
Of course, “loving your children” involves all sort of balancing (going to work is loving your children, as is exercise)…it is not one-dimensional because life is not.
My reading of scripture is that God has not called us to live in a state of panic, or to live as if life is nothing except the life to come, and all warfare all the time.
We are called to be faithful.
We are to do what God has called us to do next…if it is to wash dishes…rest…eat…play tennis…we are to be faithful.
As we are being faithful…we are to make Christ known.
Perhaps things do need to change in your life so that it will better align with what you believe…but what most needs change in most people is at the heart level.
Nurture your faith…everything we do is training us, shaping us.
What we believe, what we value, what we will do with our lives.
The preacher writing this sermon we call Hebrews is painting this great picture of God’s work past, present, future.
He is saying over and over… “Decide and then go live decided…quit living the perpetually deciding life.”
If you are deciding…that is okay…but to never decide for or against Christ, is, in the end, a decision.
And if you have decided…and I have…then we need to nurture our faith…in order to empower our long term faithfulness.
This is how we are changed, and this is how the world is changed.
1 COR. 11:23 or I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.