- Sermon Notes
Living Closer to God
In Exodus, after Israel received the Law at Mt. Sinai, God told them to depart from there and go up to the promised land, and that God would send His angel before them to drive out the inhabitants of the land. But He Himself would not go up in their midst because they were an obstinate and sinful people. Lest He destroy them along the way. He was talking about the near presence of God. He is a consuming fire!
When the people heard this, they went into mourning and removed any of the ornaments they still had from when they were in Egypt. Moses then interceded for the people.
The presence of God was clearly with Moses. He had pitched a tent a good distance away from the camp of Israel. He called it the tent of meeting. Whenever Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would stand at the entrance and God would speak to Moses there.
There at the tent of meeting, Moses interceded for the people and God responded, “I will go with you and I will give you rest.” That meant so much to Moses that he said, “If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.”
The presence of God is the key to our life as well and the book of Hebrews shows us the power of the presence of God like no other book.
Hebrews gives some of the richest, most beautiful insights into what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, we have the power of the presence of God in our lives. That is the foundation of faith.
He was writing to Hebrews, Jews, who believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. But they were struggling in their faith. They were being pressured by the other Jews to go back to the ways of the Old Testament, back to the laws of Moses, back to the shadow of the thing, of which Christ is the reality, the substance.
Line by line, he shows them that Jesus is superior in every way. Jesus is greater than Moses, He is greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, greater than even Abraham. He is greater than the angels, He is greater than all the priests of the Old Testament, He is greater than the Sabbath and he is even greater than the temple itself.
Why go back to the old life when what you have in Christ is superior to anything else? There is nothing better than Christ. There is no greater truth, there is no greater salvation.
They were being pressured to go back to the old life and the old ways that were only a shadow of what they now have in Christ. Instead of falling backward, he challenges them to press forward, to draw nearer to God with a sincere heart and in full assurance of faith.
This applies to many people today. Many are stuck in what I call the ‘miserable middle.’ They believe Jesus purchased salvation for them on the cross and received the offer of life, but the pressures of life, the worries and cares of the world and the desires for other things come in and choke their spiritual life and they find themselves in the miserable middle. He calls them to live nearer to God.
When you understand what a great salvation you have and what God has done for you through His Son, Jesus Christ, you should press forward, you should draw nearer to God; with a sincere heart and with full assurance of faith.
I. God Wants You to Draw Closer
- The writer spent the last several chapters saying that Jesus is far superior to the old law in every way.
- The law was weak and useless and could make nothing perfect and has therefore been set aside.
- We have a better hope, through which we draw near to God, that hope is an anchor for our soul. Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.
- Verse 19, however, opens the door to one of the deepest and greatest truths about the nearness of God because of what Jesus has done for us when he offered Himself as a sacrifice on the cross.
- The place nearest to God in the Temple was the Holy of Holies. We now have confidence to enter the holiest place, the place nearest to God, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh.
- God is inviting you to have the closest possible relationship to Him; you can enter the holiest place before the throne of God.
- Many are convinced that God is angry with them because of the mess they’ve made of their lives. What a tragedy for someone to believe that and miss out on the life God is offering them.
- God doesn’t require you to be holy before you can approach Him and drawn near, He forgives your sin, removing it from you and placing it on His own Son and then gives righteousness to you as a gift.
- All of this was in the Old Testament as a shadow…
Hebrews 10:1, For the Law, since it is only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never… make perfect those who draw near.
Hebrews 8:4-5, There are those who offer gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the things in heaven…
- When Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the laws and commandments for Israel, he was given a pattern from which he was to build the tabernacle.
- But the pattern Moses received was a copy of the throne room in heaven itself. In other words, the ark of the covenant, covered on all sides with gold, and above it the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat, was a shadow, a picture, of the very throne room in heaven where God sits in all His glory.
- And here’s where it gets interesting. Each year, the Jews were to observe Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day each year. It is considered the Sabbath of all Sabbaths. It’s all about Jesus!
- On Yom Kippur, the high priest selected two goats. One would give his life and its blood brought by the high priest into the holiest of holies who would sprinkle its blood on the mercy seat of the ark of the covenant.
- The high priest would then lay his hands on the head of the second goat, transferring the sins of the people on to it. That goat would then be released into the wilderness, never to be seen again, taking the sins of the people with it.
- The only way man could come near to God was through the blood of the sacrifice, the payment of death for the sins of the people and then those sins would be removed from them and placed onto the scapegoat.
- This was just a shadow, a picture of Christ. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin.
- Jesus offered Himself as the sacrifice once for all, and as our high priest, He did not offer His blood on the mercy seat of the temple, He offered His blood on the mercy seat in heaven and became the scapegoat that removed our sins far from us, never to be seen again.
Hebrews 9:24, For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us.
- Therefore… let us draw near to God, through a new and living way, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and let us draw near with confidence.
- You can have confidence because He has taken away your sin and He has taken away your shame!
Illus - When we were kids, our parents made us pick strawberries every summer. Not every kid was required to pick berries, but it was easy to tell that I was; all you had to do was look at my fingers. All my fingers were deeply stained red, and no amount of washing would remove the stains. I was ashamed of my poverty and I was ashamed of my stains.
Jeremiah 2:22, “Although you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your iniquity is before Me,” declares the Lord God.
Psalm 103:10, 12, He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities… For as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Illus- You can meditate and empty your mind and repeat the sound of the universe and try to become one with the universe, or you can draw near to God through Christ. Do you want to become one with the universe or the one who made the universe?
You can climb mountains and shout holy phrases, you can memorize all the holy writings ever written, you can pray until your knees become hard and calloused, but without the precious blood of Christ applied to your life, you cannot draw near to God.
B. Draw near with a sincere heart
- Verse 19, 22 – Since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus… let us draw near with a sincere heart.
- What does it mean to have a sincere heart? It means to have a heart that is true, that is genuine.
Illus – Chuck Smith told about a guy in Texas that used to advertise on TV that he had genuine simulated diamonds. Many people sent in real money to buy a true, genuine, simulated diamond.
Illus - The English word sincere is rooted in the Latin words ‘sin cere,’ which mean, ‘no wax.’ In Greek and Roman cultures artisans would sell a sculpture with the certification that it was ‘sincere,’ it was made of pure marble, there was no wax.
- When it comes to our relationship to others, it’s common for people to want to hide their flaws, to conceal those flaws with wax, wanting to sell a better version of ourselves than is real.
- Therefore, many people think they can do the same with God, wanting to sell a better version of themselves to God. But this is a great mistake because it keeps them farther away from the very One who can help them in their brokenness.
- First of all, it’s ridiculous to deceive ourselves into thinking that He doesn’t know those flaws already.
Hebrews 4:12-13, For the word of God is living and active… able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
- People hide their flaws because they are ashamed and embarrassed. They either want to hide it forever, like skeletons in the closet, or they think they can fix it on their own.
Illus - If you were in deep trouble, wouldn’t you want a friend to come alongside to help, to be an advocate, someone who won’t cast you out, but will come to your aid? That’s what God will do.
- Come to God with a sincere heart, knowing that He is for you, that He is your advocate, and that in Him you will find help in time of need.
Hebrews 4:16, Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.
II. Have Full Assurance of Faith
- Verse 22 – let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, he wrote.
- This goes along with having a sincere heart. Come to God with a heart that’s true, in other words, your love is authentic and genuine. You truly are thankful to God for what He has purchased for you through Jesus, His Son.
- You have a genuine, thankful heart that truly loves, because you are fully assured in your faith.
A. Have faith with full conviction
- The Hebrew believers in Christ were wavering in their faith; they had become unsure because of the pressure of the other Jews around them.
- He is writing to strengthen their faith; to open their eyes to see how great is the salvation God gave them, to show them Jesus, the Son of God in all His glory.
- Truth resonates in the soul and strengthens the conviction of faith.
John 18:37, Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”
- To have faith with full conviction means that you are fully convinced, you have full assurance.
Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
B .Because He who promised is faithful
- Verse 23 – Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful, he wrote.
- He is faithful to His promises, and His promises are for you. This hope we have as an anchor for our soul.
Hebrews 6:19, This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast.
- You draw near to God with full assurance of faith because you believe that His promises are sure; even in the midst of the storm.
2 Timothy 1:12, I know whom I have believed and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him until that day.
- This world is messed up. The world order is changing before our eyes and getting more dangerous by the day.
- It’s times like these we need an anchor for our soul. We need to draw nearer to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith that our God is able, that He is faithful to His promises.
Hebrew 10:11-25 NASB