Better: A Study of the Christian Life in Hebrews: More Glory Than Moses

Sermon by J. Ligon Duncan on February 17, 2013

Hebrews 3:1-6

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The Lord’s Day Morning


February 17, 2013


Better


“More Glory Than Moses”


Hebrews 3:1-6

The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III

If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to turn with me to Hebrews chapter 3.
We’re going to be looking at verses 1 to 6 as we continue in a new
chapter in our study of the book of Hebrews together.
We’ve said all along that Hebrews is a book that is focused on Jesus.
The theme for our series is “Better” and that’s drawn from the book of
Hebrews which constantly compares Jesus to all sorts of other significant people
in the providential rule of God and then proclaims Jesus to be superior to them.
Today, Moses will be affirmed as a faithful servant of the Lord but Jesus
will be proclaimed to have more glory.
And so the reason we’ve chosen the theme, “Better” is because it
adequately emphasizes that this book is about Jesus and it is about His
supremacy, His sufficiency, His superiority.

But we’ve also said that the book of Hebrews is about the Christian life, and it
is. In fact, one of the things that
I love about the book of Hebrews is how it emphasizes that the way we live the
Christian life is by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.
We’ll come to almost those exact words before this book is done, but that
message, that theme, is found long before the author of Hebrews ever utters
those words. How do you live the
Christian life? You keep your eyes
fixed on Jesus. And the passage that
we’re going to study today is one of those passages that tells us how to do
that. Another thing we love about
the book of Hebrews is how realistic the author of Hebrews is about the
Christian life. He understands that
the Christian life is fight. It
requires endurance. It’ a long race
and sometimes you want to give up.
And he comes to help you in knowing how to respond when you’re in those
circumstances.

As we read the passage today, I’d like you to be on the lookout for four things
before we read. First of all, if you
look at the very first verse, I want you to notice what the author of Hebrews
wants us to realize about ourselves.
If you’re a Christian today, if you’re trusting in Christ for salvation as He is
offered in the Gospel, the very first words of Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1 says
something about you. Do you realize
those things about yourself? I want
you to be on the lookout for that.
Secondly, if you look at the second half of that verse, immediately the author
of Hebrews turns our attention to Jesus and he wants you to realize something
about Jesus. So I want you to see
what he asks you to realize about yourself and then second I want you to see
what he says that he wants you to realize about Jesus. Then, if you look at
verses 2 all the way down to verse 6, he’s going to tell you something about
what Jesus has done and what Jesus has done for you and he wants you to realize
that. He wants you to take it in.
And then finally in the very last phrase of verse 6 he wants to tell you
something about your perseverance.
He wants you to realize something about your perseverance.
Those are the things that I want you to be on the lookout for as we read.
Before we do, let’s pray and ask for God’s help and blessing.


Our heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Word.
We need it. Speak Your Word
deep into our own hearts. Whatever
troubles we are wrestling with this morning, whatever cares and concerns and
disappointments overshadow us as we come into this place to meet with You today,
and make Your Word, by Your Spirit, to be powerful and effective and profitable
for reproof, correction, and training in righteousness because we ask this in
Jesus’ name, amen.

This is God’s Word in Hebrews chapter 3 verse 1.
Let’s hear it:

“Therefore, holy brothers,
you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest
of our confession, who was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also
was faithful in all God’s house. For
Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses — as much more glory as
the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself.
(For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is
God.) Now Moses was faithful in all
God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later,
but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son.
And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our
boasting in our hope.”

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

One of my favorite book is by a man named Thomas Brooks, and it’s a little book
called Precious Remedies Against Satan’s
Devices
. I talked about it in
Sunday School class today. I’ve read
that book so often that it has fallen apart twice.
The first time it fell apart I sent it to my father, the printer, and got
him to put it back together again.
And so he re-glued the book back together again and it fell apart again.
I’ve used it in small groups, I’ve used it in private devotion, I’ve used
it for Sunday School classes; it’s one of my favorite books.
One of the things Thomas Brooks says, this famous Puritan author, in the
introduction to that little book, is that there are four things that every
Christian must know in order to live the Christian life.
Now when a great and faithful pastor says that there are four things that
every Christian must know to live the Christian life, I don’t know how you are
but my ears perk up! I want to know
what they are. And he says in that
introduction that every Christian, in order to live the Christian life, must
know four things: Christ, the
Scriptures, ourselves, and Satan’s devices. And really that whole book is built
around the theme of knowing Christ, knowing ourselves, and knowing Satan’s
devices from Scripture. He plows
through Scripture pulling together what it teaches about those three things so
that we can live the Christian life.

Well the passage that we’re looking at this morning speaks of two of those
things in particular — Christ and ourselves.
Now very often in the Bible, when the Bible tells us something about
itself, it’s doing what we found Jeremiah doing in Jeremiah 19 and reminding us
that we are sinners and that we need to be forgiven and that we need to repent.
But isn’t it interesting that that’s not where the author of Hebrews
begins in this passage today. Look
at where he begins.


A HEAVENLY CALLING

In verse 1, the author of Hebrews says, “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share
in a heavenly calling.” Notice what
he does to begin with. He asks you
to realize and remember who you are in Jesus Christ.
If you are a believer, if you have trusted in Christ for salvation, then
he wants to realize what God has made you; who you are in Christ.
And he says three things in particular.
First of all, he calls you “holy.”
I don’t know how you react, but when I read that passage said about me
I’m very tempted to say, “Who? Me?
Are you talking to me? A holy
brother who is a partaker of a heavenly calling?
You must be talking about somebody else in the room, not me!”
But he says three things about you.
First of all that you’re holy, secondly that you are a brother and that
means not simply that you are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ but that you
are brother and sister to Jesus
Christ. He is your elder brother.
You are related to Him.
You’ve been, by grace, been brought into His family and He is your older
brother. Third, he says that you are
a partaker, a sharer in a heavenly calling.

Isn’t that incredibly encouraging?
He begins this passage on the Christian life by saying, “Believer, you need to
stop and realize who you are in Jesus Christ.”
The New Testament describes us as believers in various ways.
Sometimes it reminds us that we are sinners; other times it reminds us
that we are saints. And we need to
understand all of the things about us that the Bible teaches us or we will live
a Christian life that lacks the boldness and confidence that God intends us to
have. And isn’t this a wonderful
encouraging way of starting a passage about the Christian life?
I was talking to a dear friend about this book a couple of weeks ago and
he said, “You know what? The book of
Hebrews and I have not always been friends.”
He said, “I often get hung up by the warning passages in the book of
Hebrews and the conditional passages in the book of Hebrews and spend all of my
time thinking about the fact that I have not done things that I was supposed to
do and I have done things that I wasn’t supposed to do and I’ve felt discouraged
by the book of Hebrews.” But
understand, my friends, this book is a book filled with encouragement, even when
it’s warning. We’ve going to see
that in the sixth verse in just a few minutes.
And isn’t this an encouraging way to start a passage?
Brothers, sisters, realize who you are!
You have been made holy in Christ.
You have been made brothers.
You are fellow heirs. You are
related to the inheritor, Jesus Christ, and you have been given a heavenly
calling.

You know one thing that parents of teenagers, whether they’re in high school or
college and sometimes even a little bit after college, wrestle with is their
teenagers or their young people trying to figure out what they’re vocation is
going to be in life. “What is it
that I’m called to do? What is it
that I’m suited to do? What is it
that I’m gifted to do, that I’m inclined to do, that I would be happy and
effective and useful doing for the rest of my life?”
That’s a good question and sometimes it takes a long time for a young
person to find out that answer. But
here, the author of Hebrews says, “Let me tell you what the vocation of every
Christian is. your vocation is a
heavenly vocation. You are called to
be a sharer, a partaker, in heavenly glory.
God’s made you for that! You
are a pilgrim on the way to a city which has foundations.
Whatever else you are in this life, whether you’re called to be a nurse,
or a teacher, or an attorney, or a doctor, or whatever you’re called to do, as a
Christian, you are called, you are destined, you are a partaker, you are a
sharer in a heavenly calling that’s going to take you all the way to glory.
And that defines you.” And so
the author of Hebrews just asks you to pause for a minute and realize who you
are.

I can remember as a boy, when I had done something that was inconsistent with
the family code that my father had pronounced and I pulled out the ever trusty,
“But dad, all the other kids are doing it!” I would be met with the word, “Son,
you’re a Duncan and Duncans don’t do that.”
And that trumped whatever I had said that all the other kids were doing.
Well the author of Hebrews is pulling a family identity motivation on you
right now. He’s saying, “I want you
to pause, Christian, and realize who you are.”
Now if you’re a Christian here today you may be saying to me, “But Ligon,
I don’t feel very holy and I surely don’t feel like a brother of Jesus.
In fact, I don’t feel sometimes like a distant relative!
And I don’t feel like I have a vocation of a heavenly calling.”
And I want to say to you I understand that.
I feel like that too sometimes.
And so when the author of Hebrews says this to us, one thing that he’s
telling us is that the Christian life must be lived by faith.
You must live by faith.
Sometimes you do not feel like any of those three things are true about you but
if you are a believer, if you are trusting in Christ, all three of those things
are true of you and even when you don’t feel it, you must walk by faith.
The Christian life begins by faith and it continues by faith.
And the author of Hebrews is asking you, by faith, to believe those
things.

Now if you’re not a believer here this morning, let me just say that you cannot
live the Christian life unless you’re a Christian. You can’t live the Christian
life by faith unless you’ve come to faith in Christ.
You must trust in Christ in order to live the Christian life.
One of the problems that attends people that come to church but who are
not trusting in Jesus Christ is that they try to live the Christian life without
ever having trusted in Christ in the first place.
But you can’t live the Christian life that way because the whole of the
Christian life not only begins but continues and is brought to an ultimate
conclusion by faith. It’s the only
way you can live. And the Bible asks
you to believe things that sometimes you just don’t feel.
And the author of Hebrews begins saying to us today, “If you want to live
the Christian life you need to realize who you are, who God has made you in
Jesus Christ.”


FOCUS ON JESUS CHRIST

But then immediately he turns our attention to Jesus.
Even after saying encouraging things to us about ourselves, he says, “I
not only want you to realize and remember something about who you are, I want
you especially to recognize and focus on Jesus Christ.
I want you to consider and focus on Jesus.”
Look at what he says in verse 1.
“Consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.”
The author of Hebrews is telling you, “Fix your thoughts on Jesus. Turn
your eyes upon Jesus. Consider Him.
Dwell on Him. Meditate on
Him. Reflect on Him.
Focus on Him. Ponder your
Mediator.” And notice he brings two
things particularly to your attention.
He says the Jesus, who is the object of your faith – because Christians
don’t just believe in believing, we’ve not taking a leap of faith, our faith is
in a person and in God’s promises — and so he says, “Here’s the object of your
faith , Jesus, now consider Him. He
is an apostle and high priest of your confession.”

Now what does that mean? An apostle
is someone who is sent from someone to someone else in order to be the
representative of that person to someone else.
And in John 17, Jesus says, “God has sent Jesus to us.”
He is God’s apostle to us. He
is God’s representative to us. And a
high priest represents, by God’s appointment, his people to Him.
And the author of Hebrews says Jesus is both the apostle sent from God to
you and He is your representative from you to me.
In other words, He is the Mediator that you need.
He is the go-between that you need in order to have communion with God.
He is the one who represents God to you and you to God.
And how does Jesus do that?
He does that not by sending a video to us from heaven.
He doesn’t text us from the halls of glory.
You know, “Seven Tips on How to Live Life.”
What He does, as we saw last week, is He gets in our skin, He takes on
our flesh, our human nature, our life, and He lives among us, fully human, fully
divine to be sure, but fully human.
And as our apostle and mediator and high priest, Jesus, in our flesh and blood,
is the object of our faith.

Now what does that mean? It means
that the Savior that we trust in is the Savior who was humbled in our flesh.
Charles Simeon, a century ago, said this, “It is by the knowledge of
Christ as humbled that we attain salvation.”
At First Presbyterian Church, I have no doubt that the members of this
congregation are completely and fully committed to and believe in the deity of
Jesus Christ. And that’s good
because the Bible teaches it and Jesus Himself teaches it.
But that fully divine Jesus Christ was fully human, and not only fully
human, but humiliated on our behalf.
And it is the fully divine Jesus, who was fully human and humiliated, who is the
object of our faith and the hope of our salvation.

A friend of mine was recently reflecting on the fact that so many of the psalms
are interrogative. “Why God?
What God? How God?”
From the midst of our troubles we cry out, “God, what are You doing?”
We ask Him questions; they’re interrogative.
And when we pray to God, the one who is at the right hand of God knows
and understands those questions from the inside because He cried them out
Himself. In the Garden of Gethsemane
He prayed, “If possible, could You take this away from Me?”
On the cross He prays, “My God, My God!
Why are You forsaking Me?”
All those interrogatives you cry out He doesn’t just understand because He knew
that you did them once, He’s cried them out too.
And that embodied, that fully human, that humiliated Savior is the Savior
by which you attain salvation. And
so the author of Hebrews not only wants you to reflect on what God has made you,
who you are, he wants you to reflect on who Jesus is.


REFLECT ON WHAT JESUS HAS
DONE

And third, he wants you to reflect on what Jesus has done.
Look at verses 2 to 6. The
especial thing that Jesus has done here, of course, you’ll see in verse 3.
He is the builder of the house.
He is the builder of the house.
Jesus is the builder of the household of God.
And don’t just think of the structure; think of the people.
This is telling us that Jesus is the builder of the family of God.
Moses was faithful to minister in the household of God, Moses was
faithful to minister to the family of God, but Jesus created the family of God!
Jesus built the household of God.
In His life and death and resurrection, He created a people for Himself.
Do you remember what He said to the disciples on the night that He was
betrayed in the Upper Room? “I go to
prepare a place for you, that where I am, you may be also.”
He’s speaking of building the household of God, building a people for
God, building the family of God.
Jesus did that, and the author of Hebrews wants us to reckon with that.

Do you realize what Jesus is doing?
He’s making you to be part of the family of God forever.
You can see some beautiful homes in our area and inside those homes,
beautiful houses, are broken families.
You can put a beautiful façade on a building and it can house something
that’s not a home, but Jesus is building a home.
That’s what He’s doing. And
the author of Hebrews just holds that up before your eyes and says, “I want you
to think about that. You’re living
the Christian life and it looks hard.
I want you to think about what Jesus is doing.”


DON’T GIVE UP YOUR
CONFIDENCE


DON’T GIVE UP YOUR HOPE

Fourth and finally, notice what he says in verse 6.
Again, whose house we are, “if we hold fast our confidence and boast of
our hope firm to the end.” Here’s
one of those conditional passages.
We are His house if we do this and you may be that person who feels like, “Oh
no, maybe I haven’t done that!” and it discourages you.
But you understand, these words are here for an encouragement not a
discouragement. These words are
designed to motivate you not de-motivate you.
These words are designed to encourage you not discourage you.
The author of Hebrews is saying, “Don’t give up.
Don’t quit. Don’t stop.
Keep on going in the Christian life.” He’s urging you to pursue
perseverance to the very end because he’s so realistic about the Christian life.
He’s not Pollyannaish. He’s
not like Scarlett O’Hara thinking about tomorrow.
He’s not encouraging you to put all the hard things out of your mind, but
he is saying this. “Don’t give up.
Don’t quit. Don’t stop.
As hard as it is, as hard as it seems, set your eyes on” — what?
“Your confidence and your hope.”

Do you do that often? In the midst
of troubles that overwhelm you, do you deliberately set your eyes on your
confidence and your hope? C.S. Lewis
once said, “Reality, looked at long enough, is unbearable.”
Reality, looked at long enough, is unbearable.
You stare at the way things are for long enough and it will depress the
most sanguine of us. The most
cheerful and buoyant of us will be depressed if we look at the way things are
long enough. Well I don’t deny that
the Lord’s mercy and grace have followed me all the days of my life and yet I
don’t want to live forever. There
are troubles here that could break the heart of the strongest person, and if you
look at those things long enough you’ll give up.
The author of Hebrews says, “Look at where your confidence is; look at
where your hope is.” He’s asking you
in the midst of those troubles to lift your eyes up and look at the hope that is
set before you.

You know, Jonathan Edwards made it a habit of meditating on heaven twenty
minutes every morning. Why?
So that he could check out from reality?
No, so that he could face reality remembering where his hope was.
Maybe some of you need to do that today; you need to be reminded of your
hope so that you have energy to persevere because there are sometimes where you
can’t find the strength to pick up one foot and put it down again.
The author of Hebrews is saying, “Do you want to live the Christian life?
Realize who you are, focus on Jesus, recognize what He’s done and what
He’s doing — He’s building you a home, and then don’t forget your hope.”
And he’s so encouraging and so practical.
May God grant that we would heed his words to us today.
Let’s pray.


Heavenly Father, we thank You for Jesus and for the
hope that He gives us and we pray that You would, by the grace of the Holy
Spirit, work that hope in us, in Jesus’ name, amen.

Now let’s sing of the love of Jesus for us in number 708, “O Love That Will Not
Let Me Go.”

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

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