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Draw Near, Hold Fast, Consider How

Series: Better: A Study of the Christian Life in Hebrews

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on Jul 7, 2013

Hebrews 10:19-25

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If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Hebrews chapter 10.  We’re going to be looking at verses 19 to 25 this morning as we continue our way through this glorious book.  This is one of those turning point passages that you encounter in books of the New Testament.  I know you’re familiar with them in the writings of the apostle Paul, for instance, in Romans.  When you get to Romans 12 verses 1 and 2, you know you’ve turned a corner in that book.  The first eleven chapters have majored on a glorious exposition of the Gospel of God’s grace.  And then from chapters 12 to 15 especially, but even on into 16 and the final greetings, Paul begins to apply those words of truth.  So he takes the doctrine and he applies it to your life.  He takes the theology and he shows you how it works out in your practice of the Christian life.  And something like that happens here in Hebrews.  In Hebrews chapter 10 verses 1 to 18, the passage we were in last time, you have this culminating statement about how Jesus is a better mediator.  He’s the better priest; He’s a better sacrifice of a better covenant.  And that theme has run throughout this book from the very first chapters.  From the first chapter we saw that Jesus is better than Moses, He’s better than Aaron, He’s better than any of the priests of the Old Testament, He’s better than any of the high priests, and that argument culminates in Hebrews chapter 10.  

So the passage we’re looking at this morning actually summarizes and crystallizes that truth and begins to apply it to our hearts.  And there’s a real sense in which everything that comes after this passage in the book of Hebrews simply is elaborating on the truth that is found within it.  There are three particular applications of that truth in the passage.  Before we read I want to point you to four things to be on the lookout for, but just know this - my message is essentially going to focus on three of them because the three exhortations or encouragements in this passage are all based on the one grand truth about Jesus that is articulated at the beginning.  So be on the lookout for these four things.  First, look at verses 19 to 21.  There, you will see a passage in which the author of Hebrews draws a conclusion from what he is saying and what he has said and from what he will summarize in verses 19, 20, and 21 about the basis of our confidence before God.  He tells us that since we have confidence before God and since we have a great high priest then he wants us to do something.  And he’s going to tell us three things by way of encouragement that is based on the confidence that he articulates in verses 19 to 21.  

And what are those three things?  Well you can notice them by the words, “Let us.”  So I’m going to give you three heads of “let us” here, okay?  Look at verse 22, 23, and 24.  “Let us draw near.”  There’s the first one.  Verse 23 - “Let us hold fast.”  Verse 24 - “Let us consider one another.”  So he’s going to tell us something absolutely mind-blowingly glorious about Jesus in verses 19 to 21 and then he’s going to say, “If you understand that, if you believe that, if you’ve taken that in, that will change your life and it will change your life in these ways:  you’ll draw near, you’ll hold fast, you’ll consider one another.”  It’s an incredibly encouraging passage.  So be on the lookout for those things as we read God’s Word.  And before we do let’s pray and ask for His help and blessing.

Father, this is Your Word.  It’s meant for Your glory and our good.  It’s meant to show us the Savior.  It’s meant to show us the way of salvation.  It’s meant to show us the way of faith and life.  Show us all these things as we read Your Word this morning and help us not only to understand but to really believe it, to embrace it personally.  For this we ask the help of Your Holy Spirit.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

This is God’s Word.  Hear it beginning in Hebrews 10 verse 19:

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with 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 stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Amen, and thus ends this reading of God’s holy, inspired, and inerrant Word.  May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.

Jesus is better and that changes everything.  That really could be the theme of this passage.  Jesus is better than that changes everything.  The author of Hebrews has been arguing that Jesus is better for ten solid chapters and along the way he has certainly applied that truth to our hearts and lives.  He has wanted to liberate us in the glorious grace of the Gospel as he’s expounded this glorious person and work of Christ, especially in light of what Jesus has done as the mediator of a new covenant.  But here, he especially begins to take that truth and try and work it deep into our souls. And so I want us to see what it means that Jesus is better and that changes everything, especially by looking at the three encouragements that we find in this passage in verses 22, 23, and 24.  But before we get to them, don’t pass over verses 19 to 21 because those verses are the foundation for everything that follows in the book of Hebrews and there’s a culmination of everything that went before.  They’re the basis of our encouragement in the Christian life.  And so let’s luxuriate in that that truth together for just a few moments.  

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST

The first thing the author of Hebrews wants us to see in verses 19 to 21 is this.  Your whole relationship with God, your whole Christian life, is based on the person and work of Jesus.  Everything is wrapped up in Him - who He is, what He came to do, what He in fact accomplished and finished on our behalf.  The whole of the Christian life is wrapped up and based on Jesus’ person and work.  And that is the basis of the three encouragements that are going to come in this passage.  And I want you to take this in with me for a few moments.  He begins by saying, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God,” then each of the things that follows in verses 22 to 25.  But don’t pass by what he has just said, because what he has just said has articulated a massive difference in the conscious and experience of people who lived before Jesus and those of us who live after Him.  

Think of it, my friends.  Under the old covenant, the believers who loved God and trusted Him were all required as a part of their experience of fellowship with God to offer sacrifices.  But in this passage we’re reminded that all of us who follow after Jesus, all of us who come after Jesus believing in the promises of God, trusting in Jesus, knowing the Gospel and embracing it, we do not offer sacrifices.  It’s really hard for us to even get that into our heads how different that would be.  You know, you’re an Old Testament saint, you believe in the promises of God that He gave in Genesis 3 and gave again in Genesis 12 and 15 and 17 and over and over again in the Old Testament.  You believe those promises. You know that you can’t save yourself; only God can save you.  The truth of justification by faith isn’t just a New Testament truth; that’s a Old Testament truth.  Paul says he got it from Moses in Genesis chapter 15 verse 6!  But what did you still have to do as part of your worship, as part of your fellowship with God and part of your experience of the presence of God?  You had to offer sacrifices.  

Now the author of Hebrews is saying, “Christian, it is so important for you to understand that it is your duty not to offer sacrifices.”  Think of that.  If you were an Old Testament saint it was your duty to offer sacrifices.  If you’re a new covenant believer it is your duty not to offer sacrifices.  It is your duty instead to depend upon the sacrifice that God has offered for you.  And that is beautifully expounded here in verses 19 to 21.  You have confidence to enter the holy places, you have confidence to come in and fellowship with God where He is, to experience His special presence - how?  By the blood of Jesus, by the Cross-work of Jesus, by His atoning work on your behalf, by His life, death, and resurrection for you.  You have, by His blood, by His death, by His sacrifice, been given confidence to come in and be with God, to meet with God, to know God face to face.  And verse 20 - “by the new and living way that he opened up for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh.”  In other words, you come into the presence of God not through a curtain like the high priest did once a year into the holy of holies, you come to God through the flesh of Jesus.

You know what this passage reminds me of?  It reminds me of the Upper Room.  You remember Jesus, at the end of the Passover meal, He takes bread and He breaks it and He gives thanks for it and He says to His disciples, “This bread is My body.  This is My body given for you.  Take, eat; do this in remembrance of Me.”  And then He takes the cup and He says, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood poured out for many for the remission of sins.  Drink of it, all of you.”  Body; blood - the constituent part of the Old Testament atoning sacrifices.  And the author of Hebrews is saying, “Jesus is, in Himself, in His body, in His blood, the one sacrifice that is offered to cover all your sins.  Believer, take that in and believe that.  It will change your life.  It is your job as a new covenant believer not to offer sacrifices because God has already offered one for you in Jesus.  It is your job, as a new covenant believer, to believe on the sacrifice that He has offered for you.”  

That’s big, because if you’re like me, even if you believe the Gospel, even if you believe that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes on Him will not perish but have everlasting life,” even if you believe that, still when you sin and stumble you feel like you need to do something to get back in God’s good graces.  You have to bring your little token to get back in.  And the author of Hebrews is saying, “Believer, don’t you understand?  God has offered all the sacrifice that will ever be necessary for you to enjoy communion and fellowship with Him and He’s offered it in His Son, and therefore, do not offer another sacrifice.  He has already provided all the sacrifice that you need.”  It’s so important for all of us to understand, even if you’re here this morning or listening this morning and you’ve never trusted in Jesus Christ, if you’re an unbeliever and you feel like there is a sin that separates you from God and keeps Him from accepting you - I was in a restaurant this last week and a waiter came to me and said, “Are you a pastor?”  And I don’t know what it is about me that looks like a pastor but he did!  And I said, “Yes, I am.”  And he said, “Is it true that God accepts all of us?”  Now isn’t that a wonderful opening for a Gospel conversation?  And I responded, “Well what do you mean by ‘He accepts all of us’?”  It was very clear to me, it was very clear to me very quickly that there was something in him for which he feared rejection.  He knew that God ought to reject him. And in the course of the conversation I had the opportunity to say to him, “You understand that God is more willing to forgive you of your sin than you are to repent of it, but you must have faith in Him and in the Gospel of His dear Son and you must repent of your sins.  And God is able to forgive everything, but He’s more ready to forgive you than you are willing to let go of the sin that you’re afraid that you’re going to be condemned for.”  

And my friends, you may be in that kind of a position today.  There may be something that you fear rejection from God.  And the author of Hebrews is saying, “There need not be if you will turn to Jesus because even that sin that you fear rejection for, if you turn to Jesus, Jesus has provided all the forgiveness that you will ever need in His atoning sacrifice.  Nothing need separate you from the love of God which is in Christ.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”  And the author of Hebrews is saying understanding this completely changes our lives and in particular he gives three encouragements that flow out of this.  And I’d like to look very briefly at those three encouragements today.

GOD WANTS US TO DRAW NEAR TO HIM IN GOSPEL-BASED CONFIDENCE

The first one is this.  Because of Jesus, God wants us to draw near to Him in Gospel-based confidence.  Look at verse 22.  “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.”  Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.  Do you realize how radical that is?  If you took a peek right now at Exodus chapter 19 you might immediately remember the context of that passage.  It’s when the children of Israel have gotten to Mount Sinai.  They’re out of Egypt, they’re across the Red Sea, they’re out into the wilderness, they’re at Mount Sinai and they’re there at Mount Sinai to meet with God, to receive the Ten Commandments, but especially to worship Him.  You remember over and over Moses had said to Pharaoh, “My people must go into the wilderness, a three days journey, to serve Me, to worship Me, to meet with Me.”  And so that’s what they’re there to do in Exodus 19.  But do you notice what God tells Moses to tell the people?  “Tell them, ‘Don’t get too close.  Do not touch the mountain.  Do not break through to Me or I will break out on them.  Do not let them come up the mountain.’”  In other words, God says, “Come worship Me but do not draw near.”  Now notice what the author of Hebrews says verse 22.  Because of the finished work of Christ, God wants you to draw near in full assurance.  This is mind-blowing. 

Why?  Because the blood of bulls and goats cannot forgive sin, but Jesus’ blood has.  You know when we sing John Newton’s wonderful hymn, “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder,” one of the phrases that we sing is, “He who washed us with His blood soon shall bring us home to God.”  And I think we could even change that in light of Hebrews chapter 10 verses 19 to 22 - “He who washed us with His blood has brought us home to God.”  God is calling you to draw near to Him in full assurance.  And I know that many of you struggle with that assurance.  You struggle with really believing that God loves you, really believing that God has forgiven you, really believing that God has poured out His blessings and His grace on you.  And here the author of Hebrews is saying, “Because of what Jesus has done, God wants you to draw near to Him.  You get to do what Israel could not do!  You get to draw near to God in the body and blood of Jesus Christ, in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, in the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, you are to draw near to God.”

GOD WANTS US TO HOLD ON TO THE HOPE HE HAS GIVEN 

AND TO TRUST IN HIS PROMISES

But there’s a second thing.  Look at verse 23.  Because of Jesus, God not only wants you to draw near, He wants you to “hold fast.”  He wants you to hold on to the hope that He has given you and to trust in His promises.  The second encouragement that flows out of what Jesus has done here is - hold on.  Draw near; hold on, hold fast.  The idea is to hold on to God and to believe His promises with constancy, with consistency.  Don’t stop believing.  Continue to trust God.  That is not an easy thing in the Christian life.  I was reading a Christian author just two days ago who’s one of my favorite Christian authors.  He’s living right now and he teaches in Pennsylvania.  And he has helped me marvelously in the area of sanctification, just teaching me what the Bible means by that.  In the article that I was reading by him - he is around sixty years old looking back on his life, talking about four particular points in his life where the Lord has really dealt with him through some hard things - some physical struggles; all sorts of things.  He talks about the ages - he says, “The ages between fifty and fifty-six were some of the hardest years of my life and all I could do was just hold on.”  That’s a lot of the Christian life my friends, just digging your fingernails in and just holding on.  And the author of Hebrews is saying, “In light of what Jesus has done, in light of the fact that Jesus has brought you to God - hold on.  Don’t give up.  Don’t stop believing.  Don’t stop believing those promises.”

And I love what he says at the end of verse 23.  “For he who promised is faithful.”  There’s your motivation!  Why should I keep on?  Why should I hold on?  Why should I not stop believing?  Why should I continue to trust?  Because the one who made the promises to you is faithful.  It’s the Heavenly Father and He made those promises to you in Christ before this world began.  More than fourteen billion years ago He made a promise to His Son to you in the covenant of redemption that if you trust Him He will never leave you or forsake you, He will not fail you, He will forgive you, He will accept you, He will bring you home. Do not stop believing that promise.  

GOD WANTS US TO SHOW CONSIDERATION FOR ONE ANOTHER 

And then third, look at verses 24 and 25.  This encouragement then flows - and it’s interesting.  The first two encouragements have to do with drawing near to God and continuing to trust in Him and His promises.  Now the third encouragement has to do with how we relate to one another.  Consider one another.  “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” - there’s the first thing - “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some” - there’s the second thing - “but encouraging one another” - there’s the third thing.  So we have three encouragements - draw near, hold fast, and consider one another.  And the third encouragement itself has three parts.  How do we consider one another?  How do we take in the truth about what Jesus has done and deploy that in the way that we relate to one another?  Well here it is.  Because of Jesus, God wants us to show consideration for one another in three ways.  The first thing that he tells us to do is we are to provoke one another.  Now you say, “We already do that!”  Well I know; I understand, but he means it in a little different way.  Instead of provoking one another the way we normally provoke one another, he wants us to provoke one another to love and good deeds. 

Now at that point I’ve got to stop and mention - have you noticed already in this passage how faith, hope, and love have shown up?  Verse 22 - what does he say?  “Let us draw near with a truth heart in full assurance of…faith.”  And then verse 23 - “Let us hold fast the confession of our…hope.”  And then verse 24 he wants us to “provoke one another to…love.”  Faith, hope, love.  You see it in Paul’s writing but here it is in the author of Hebrews, which is another reason why I think that this guy must have studied under Paul.  You know the earlier church fathers thought that Hebrews was written by Paul and this is probably one of the reasons that they thought that.  There’s so many wonderful Pauline themes in it.  But whoever it is, he certainly knows that beautiful triad of faith, hope, and love.

But the first thing he said, “If because of what Jesus has done, because of who He is and what He’s done for you, I want you to deliberately provoke one another to love and good deeds.”  You know it always strikes me that the apostle John, last exhortation before he died was, “Children, love one another,” because that is so much at the essence of what it is to live the Christian life.  How did Jesus sum up the Law?  “Love God; love one another.”  And here’s the author of Hebrew saying, “Because of what Jesus has done for you, consider how you can provoke one another, stimulate one another, spur one another on, not to irritation, not to frustration, but to love and good deeds.”

Second, look at what he says - “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some.”  So if I could turn this around and make it positive, we’re not only to provoke one another to love and good deeds we are to commit ourselves to the congregational assembly of worship.  Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day we’re going to be committed to gathering with the saints because we need to be with one another in our Father’s presence and where two or three of us are gathered together in Jesus’ name, there we enjoy the special presence of God.  Jesus Himself says that.  And the author of Hebrews is saying, “Make that commitment.  Don’t neglect gathering together with one another.  You need that.”

And then third, he goes on to say - look again at verse 25 - “encouraging one another.”  You know, deliberately seeking to give one another encouragement.  And he closes with the most interesting phrase, “And all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”  Have you ever seen in pictures or in the movies a guy wearing a sandwich board saying, “The end is near!”  You know, that guy is always around.  That’s sort of how the world thinks of us as Christians - weird people that walk around with sandwich boards with funny signs on -  “The end is near!”  And then usually on the back of the sandwich board is says something like, “Repent!  Believe!  The end is near!”  Well it’s interesting that the author of Hebrews says, “The end is near…so encourage one another.  You’re closer today than you were yesterday to the end.  So how should you respond to that?  By encouraging one another.

All three of these things - drawing near, holding fast, considering one another - flow out of what Jesus has done for you in the Gospel because what Jesus has done for you in the Gospel is absolutely life changing.  And the author of Hebrews wants you to believe that and he wants you to understand that and he wants it to impact the way that you life.  May God do His work of grace in us and make it so.  Let’s pray.

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word.  Grant that it would not simply be spoken but lived and experienced in our midst.  We ask this in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now let’s respond to God’s Word taking our hymnals in hand and turning to number 677, “Praise the Savior, Ye Who Know Him.”

Receive God’s blessing.  Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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