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A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken
Hebrews Chapter 12 Vs 18-29
Being a Christian means being part of a community. Being part of a Christian community is both a privilege and a responsibility. There are things we can do as a community that either promote the name of the Lord Jesus and help others or there are things we could do as a community that defame the name of Jesus and hinder others.
You only have to think about the abuses in some Catholic and Anglican churches or institutions to know how damaging it can be to the name of Jesus when those who claim to be acting in his name get it so badly wrong.
V14, Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
The writer is not saying you need to reach a certain level of holiness before you can get to heaven.
How many chapters now has he spent saying you’re right standing with God is based entirely on what Jesus has done, his once for all sacrifice. There’s nothing you can do to add to it. There’s nothing you can do to take away from it. It’s done. No sacrifice you make could improve it. No sin you commit could undo it.
You can live in such a way that will show the attractiveness of Jesus, to the benefit of others or you can live in such a way that conceals the attractiveness of Jesus, and benefits nobody. It’s true for you as an individual, and it’s true for us corporately as a church. There are things we can do to display the grace and goodness and greatness of God or there are things we could do to obscure the grace and goodness and greatness of God.
What sort of community should we be?
Two Do’s and two Do Not’s.
Do be optimistic overall
Keep strong and keep straight. How can you do that when there’s so much suffering and adversity? When things are tough it’s easy to become insular and introspective. Therefore he says in v12, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
Discouragement and despair.
We use the same sort of language. Someone was doing well in the golf, quite a considerable number of holes under par. Then, in one hole, they made a hash of it and took a triple bogey, and now the commentator says, ‘His chin has dropped.’ As a result of that whole his whole posture changes.
He was walking very upright with confidence down the fairway. Now he begins to slouch. Now his arms lose something of their vigour. Now his legs begin to droop a little more in the middle. The writer is using this language.
One of the challenges for these people was to ‘keep their chins up’ (be optimistic).
(Peterson, 12 rules for life)
Despondency is one of the great avenues of attack from Satan – simply to discourage God’s people. And he can use it in our lives to great effect.
The people who have begun to limp don’t want to be in the company of a bunch of limpers. They want to be in the company of people who are strong. They don’t want to be all limping and stumbling down the road. There needs to be a few strong people to lean on, to pull one another up.
The people who are wandering from the path, the last people they should hang with are people who are also wandering from the path. What they need are people who are staying strong and staying straight.
Do not ignore reality by pretending. Check your attitude when things don’t go the way you hoped they would.
Complaining or compassion?
Do you need to be stronger, do you need to remember again the great and life giving promises of God and lift your drooping hands so you can help others? Or, do you need to be with others who are currently strong and straight? It’s been said you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
Do pursue harmony and holiness
The word “strive” does not mean why don’t you have a go at it; give it a try; take a chance. He is saying, ‘I want you to pursue this with the same kind of passion that hounds pursue a fox’. It’s the same verb used as when horses’ muscles and sinews strain when running. There’s something reassuring about this isn’t it? In other words, it’s not straight forward to live in peace with everyone. It takes effort and the Bible is very realistic.
The danger is we abandon the quest for harmony. We are happy when we come to road blocks on the way to holiness and harmonious living, and we just throw it away. He says, ‘I don’t want you to do that’. The harmony you seek with one another is not at the expense of holiness. Indeed, it is holiness which provides the frame work for the harmony we enjoy.
Do not give up on biblical doctrine
They’d ditched the truth for other more appealing, more convenient, more generally acceptable things. Don’t give up on biblical doctrine. It’s interesting he talks about roots, because you can’t see roots the majority of the time.
People say, ‘Well we don’t have any of that around here. We haven’t ditched anything.’
Apparently not, but what about the roots? No, I don’t have that in my life. You can check. Look at me. Yes, but what about the roots? The bitter roots, that defile, that cause trouble.
Make sure you don’t allow the root structure of bitterness to become embedded in your life. When we have to go in and do surgery on them, the stuff that comes out with it makes it very painful. The time to deal with sin is when the root is small, not when it is big.
Left untended roots produce weeds. The more established the weeds are, the more painful they are to pull out.
We have some roots in our yard that come from the trees, and it would be next to impossible to remove them. They’ve been there so long and they’ve gone so many places. They’ve gone under paths, they’re embedded in concrete, and they’re wrapped around and in and through brickwork. You’d have to bring half your house down to take up these roots.
You can’t just assume, ‘Yep, we’ll always be Bible-based, Jesus-focussed’. You have to see to it.
See to it … that no root of bitterness springs up.
At our elders’ meetings someone will often pray that God does not allow us to lose our doctrinal convictions, that roots of bad doctrine won’t spring up to become embedded here are Trinity Church.
How many nice church buildings are there around the world where the church there is in total darkness? They didn’t set out to be dark, lonely, empty places. What happened? Over time they lost confidence in the scriptures, they lost confidence in the sufficiency of Christ, and they began to do things just out of routine, and then other things became more important. The root structure became so embedded that it has actually begun to rot the very core of the building and now if you look there, you think where’s Jesus? Isn’t this meant to be about Jesus? Well, where is he? They are gatherings of people where no one is seeing the Lord, where no one is hearing about the grace and goodness and greatness of God.
Do not give in to sexual immorality
There are two sides to holiness. The positive side, in which we are set apart for God. The negative side, we are set apart from sin. The society in which these readers lived was pagan and immorality was given a place of pride. Much like it is today. So the writer says it’s very important, if you’re going to live in this world, that you make sure that you don’t allow this root structure to get in and at the same time you don’t tolerate sexual immorality.
See to it that no one is sexually immoral or unholy.
Which of course makes us all immediately think of Esau. What is that all about? Where did he pop up from all of a sudden? How does that fit? In this way; physical appetite meant more to Esau in the heat of the moment than the birthright that was due him as a heritage in his home. So he sold out in a moment, for something that he could have got anywhere, anytime, and in abundance.
How many people have sold out in a moment in the area of sexual immorality? Are you going to build your life for 30 years and then throw it all away in 5mins, because you won’t see to it?
You don’t need to go to conferences about this. You don’t need to have a big discussion group. You just need to see to it.
It what we say to our children all the time. I don’t want to have a big discussion about this, just take the bins out, and just see to it, why do we have to have a discussion? There is no discussion. They’re in, they’re supposed to be out, get them out. Now it’s the same thing. This rubbish bin of immorality is right here, it stinks, see to it that it’s out of here.
Every inroad that sexual immorality would make into our hearts and mind is to be resisted. Not in order that God would accept us, but because we’re aware that God in his grace had already accepted us.
So we’re not doing the see to it list in the hope that we might get to heaven. We’re doing the see to it list because God has said he’s going to take us to heaven on the basis of his Son, and we’re seeing to it because that’s what sons and daughters do.
V17, look at the sadness afterwards.
Interestingly, the reason that he wept was because of the blessing he’d lost, not on account of the sin he’d committed. There were terrible consequences that couldn’t be undone.
This is the sort of community we are to be.
How are we going to do all this?
The writer gives us three motivations.
1. We have a great covenant
Look at v18.
The writer contrasts Christian reality on this side of the cross of Christ with Old Testament reality at Mount Sinai (verses 18-21).
For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”
In other words, the experience there was one of fearful, divine holiness without a mediator and with a voice so terrible that the people begged that the voice would stop.
Then he goes on and contrasts the Christian reality since the cross (verse 22-24):
22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Christians, at conversion, do not come to an earthly mountain to meet God. Christianity has no geographic centre! We come to a heavenly city, a heavenly assembly (the great cloud of witnesses (v1), a heavenly Judge. Most importantly to a Mediator (v24) whose blood shed for our sins is the main voice we hear. All invisible, all spiritual, and therefore accessible anywhere.
The most explicit contrast between these two experiences is that at Mount Sinai (vv19-20) the speaking of God was such that they said, “No more. No more” (v19). But in the Christian experience the voice we hear (v24) is the voice of the sprinkled blood of a Mediator. We come to Jesus, “the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks . . .”
And what does it say? “I love. I forgive you. I purchase you. I cleanse you. I protect you. I keep you. I will always be there for you.”
The blood of Abel called for revenge. God placed a curse on Cain for killing his brother. The blood of Jesus removed the curse placed on sinners. The blood of Abel evoked God’s wrath. The blood of Jesus satisfied God’s wrath.
Maybe you have been like Esau and sold out, maybe sold out big time, and you’re thinking to yourself, why shouldn’t I just despair and be discouraged and droop my hands and limp along?
Remember who you’ve come to. You’ve come to Jesus who speaks, and what has he said? Loved. Forgiven. Purchased. Cleansed. Protected. Kept. Always.
If that doesn’t lift drooping hands and strengthen weak knees, I’m not sure anything will. From our perspective
2. There are great consequences
Don’t tell us about the exclusivity of Jesus, give us something we want to hear. Don’t tell us that those who reject Jesus will go to hell, give us something we want to hear.
If you reject Jesus, what’s left?
Life would be so much easier if we just dropped the Jesus bit.
3. There will be a great kingdom
We have a great king to promote. A king who has a great kingdom.
At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more”, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken
The motivation is that one day everything that is unstable and precarious and dangerously volatile - anything that makes us feel insecure - will be removed. And all that will be left will be the rock-solid unshakable kingdom of God.
How fragile we are in this life! We are fragile against disease, fragile against drought, fragile against flood, fragile against violence, fragile against mental failure, fragile against Satan, fragile against economic collapse. Life is very fragile.
God promises that all that will be gone. All that shakes will be removed and what will remain is the great unshakable kingdom of God.
Strive for peace with everyone? How can I do that? I might have to give up my reputation. I might have to give up my rights. Yes, you might. That’s ok. When you’re grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, they’re small things to have to give up for the sake of promoting the king of this kingdom.
We’ve got Jesus, therefore we can make the sacrifices.