Sermon by Rev. Daniel L. Sonnenberg | October 5, 2014
For you have not come to a mountain that may be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, 19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them. 20 For they could not bear the command, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.”
21 And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, “I am full of fear and trembling.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel. 25 See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking. For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven. 26 And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.” 27 And this expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, in order that those things which cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; 29 for our God is a consuming fire. (Heb. 12:18-29 NAS)
- Our text today is Hebrews 12:25-29, but we’ll be reading from v. 18 to help establish the context.
- Throughout the book of Hebrews we see the absolute supremacy and sufficiency of Christ as revealer and mediator of God’s grace.
- The readers are told there can be no turning back to or continuation of the old Jewish system, which has been superseded by Christ.
- They must now look only to him as the way of salvation.
- And here we find the fifth and final warning and reminder of God’s judgment that came on the rebellious generation of Israelites in the desert.
We have said in this series about the KOG such things as:
- The kingdom has already arrived in the coming of Jesus in his earthly ministry
- Jesus, the king himself brought the message of the kingdom through the preaching of the gospel.
- Living as a member of the kingdom involves a total commitment to the king and total confidence in the king
- But, we can be content in our own weakness because in the kingdom, power comes through the weakness of the crucified Lord.
- A potential disciple in the kingdom we must first count the cost.
- Obedience to the law can’t ensure entrance into the kingdom.
- A person can be very near the kingdom without actually entering into it.
- A spiritual re-birth is the only means to enter into the kingdom
And the last thing that can be said of the kingdom is both a warning and a promise. It says,
- Don’t refuse what is being offered to you in the gospel, because a day is coming when it will be too late, but for those who receive it, great rewards await you.
There are four reasons given here to persuade us to receive and not refuse the free offer of the gospel of the kingdom:
- Because God, who cannot lie, is speaking (v. 25)
- Because of the certainty of impending judgment (v. 25)
- Because this is the only way to survive the judgment, (26-27)
- Because of the glories of the kingdom which are promised in Christ. (28-29)
Because God is speaking
- The first reason we should listen and heed the good news of the kingdom is that God is speaking.
- In v. 25 we read, “Do not refuse him who is speaking…”
- The gospel is not merely a philosophy based on the thoughts and ideas of men.
- It’s based on historical facts.
- It’s a proclamation, a historical account of what GOD HAS DONE in history.
- Listen to the first words recorded in the Gospel of Luke, 3 Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you, Theophilus, 4 so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.” (Luk 1:1-4 NLT)
- Luke, a medical doctor, like others before him, interviewed eyewitnesses of the events of Jesus’ life and ministry and made a careful account of its details SO THAT Theophilus, and others like him, “could be certain of the truth.”
- Likewise, the Gospel of John concludes, “This disciple is the one who testifies to these events and has recorded them And we know that his account of these things is accurate.” (Joh 21:24 NLT)
- Each of the other Gospel writers made similar accounts intended for his particular audience based on the historical facts of Jesus birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.
- But these accounts are more than history; they are the very words of God.
- Peter himself, commenting on the writings of the apostles and prophets, wrote, “No prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.” (2 Pet. 1:20-21 NLT)
- So the words the apostles wrote were fully their own words, but also fully the words that God wanted them to write. (Grudem, p. 81)
- Therefore, to disbelieve or disobey a warning from Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey a warning from God.
- If we are warned by city, county or federal officials not to drink the water because of the danger of mycrosysitin contamination related illnesses.
- Or if we are warned by the Center for Disease Control not to go into areas infected by the Ebola virus, we are wise to heed the warnings.
- How much more if God is warning us.
- We do well to listen and heed the warning because there is no higher authority than God himself.
Because of the certainty of impending judgment
- The second reason not to refuse the good news of the kingdom is because God will certainly judge those who do not heed his word .
- Verse 25 continues, “For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven?
- Israel was judged for their refusal to go into the land that God had promised.
- Israel’s judgment was temporal, but their example is given to warn us of eternal judgment for refusing God’s offer of the gospel.
- Someone has described the Israelites’ refusal this way.
- “When they arrived at the border of Promised Land of Canaan, they sent out twelve spies to survey the land and its people” (Numbers 13:18-25).
- They returned after forty days.
- Ten of the spies brought a bad report: “We can’t attack those people; they’re stronger than we are…All the people we saw were like giants.
- We seemed like grasshoppers in comparison to them” (Numbers 13:31-33).
- Only Joshua and Caleb disagreed (Numbers 14:6-7).
- But because the people believed the report of the ten doubters, they lost heart and rebelled.
- They grumbled against Moses and Aaron saying “If only we had died in Egypt! Or in this desert! Why is the LORD bringing us to this land only to let us fall by the sword” (Numbers 14:1-2).
- Then the Lord said to Moses, “How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them? I will strike them down with a plague and destroy them” (Numbers 14:11).
- However, Moses again prayed for his people and turned away the wrath of God (Numbers 14:13-20).
- Although God forgave them, He decided that “not one of them will ever see the land I promised to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it” (Numbers 14:23). I
- Instead, they would suffer by wandering in the wilderness for forty years, one year for each of the forty days they explored the land (Numbers 14:34).
- And for good measure, God gave them what they asked for: “I will do the very things I heard you say: In this desert your bodies will fall, every one of you twenty years old or more” (Numbers 14:28-29).
- Also, the ten men who had given the bad report died of a plague before the Lord (Numbers 14:37).
- Only Joshua and Caleb survived, the two faithful spies who believed God’s promise to give them the land.”*
- God’s judgment against the Israelites is a temporal illustration of the final judgment in which all will stand before the Lord.
- The author of Hebrews says, “For if those did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape who turn away from Him who warns from heaven?”
- In other words, final judgment in heaven for those who refuse the free offer of the gospel of Christ will be even more certain than the judgment of the Israelites in the desert.
- As Paul wrote to the Roman church, “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” ( 2:5-8 ESV)
Because this is the only way to survive the judgment
- The third reason to listen to and heed the good news of the kingdom is because this is the only way to survive in the judgment.
- It’s only to those who listen, obey, believe and act on what God says who enter in the KOG.
- Verse 26 says, “…yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also heaven.”
- And verse 27 explains, “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.” ( 12:27 ESV)
- The coming of the kingdom – the rule and reign of Christ – accomplished by his life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit – have shaken everything that can be shaken, so that only those things that can’t be shaken may remain.
- Even the ceremonial Law of Moses has been shaken, has been set aside.
- The temple, the sacrifices, the priests – are all “things that were made.”
- Their purpose was temporary.
- They were given to point forward to
- the true and permanent Temple,
- the once for all Paschal Lamb of Sacrifice,
- the true and permanent Great High Priest,
- every one of which is Christ.
- After all has been shaken of things created, only one thing remains and that is Christ and his kingdom, the gospel of Christ.
- Only by believing the gospel can we be prepared for the judgment of God and made safe.
- The good news is found in the previous verses beginning with v. 22.
- “22 “You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to countless thousands of angels in a joyful gathering.23 You have come to the assembly of God’s firstborn children, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God himself, who is the judge over all things… 24 You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.” ( 12:22-24 NLT)
- God is offering to the human race a new opportunity, a new covenant, the last covenant, the last offer.
- And he has sent it in his Son from heaven, not a human, prophet or priest or king, but the final prophet, priest and king.
- In the old covenant, it said, do this and live, but no one could do it.
- So Paul reminds the Galatian church, “24 the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” ( 3:24-26 ESV)
- He is the mediator of a new covenant that says “believe in The Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
- Why? Because of verse 24, “because of the sprinkled blood (of Christ) which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel.” ( 12:24)
- The gospel is bad news and good news.
- We are all lost sinners in Adam appointed to stand before God in judgment.
- But here is a new covenant, mediated by the SOG who has shed his died – shed his blood – in our place.
- Whatever your sins are, X died for them, so that everyone who repents and believes in him will avoid God’s wrath and fury, his eternal condemnation.
- “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” ( 8:1-4 ESV)
- God has condemned Christ in our place by his death on the cross.
- So that instead of final condemnation when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, there will be commendation, rewards for the deeds done in this life.
Because of the glories of the kingdom into which Christ has brought us
- The fourth reason to listen and heed this gospel is because of the glories of the kingdom into which Christ brings us by his shed blood.
- What are the blessings of the kingdom?
- They include forgiveness of sins. By “the sprinkled blood” Christ has borne your sins when you believe in him.
- You are no longer held responsible for your sins on the Day of judgment.
- They include being a child of God. “…you have come to the church of the firstborn”
- You are born again as God’s child.
- And all children of God are considered to be the firstborn, as an heir with particular privileges.
- All are joint heirs with Jesus Christ.
- They include the safety and security of the kingdom. “…we are receiving a kingdom that can’t be shaken.”
- Jesus said of the church of which the kingdom is only a part, “…the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16.18).
- Though the devil and his workers have tried to destroy it, in Rev. 20:10 we read into the future, “…the devil that deceived then was cast into the lake of fire with the beast and the false prophet forever and ever.”
- Christ has been and will be victorious over every foe and so will we with him.
How we can receive and not refuse the kingdom
- Finally, the proper response to the God’s offer in the gospel is not to refuse it but to receive it in gratitude.
- 28 and 29 say, “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
- How can we receive it?
- We receive it first by repentance and faith.
- In repentance we acknowledge our sin, our failure, our inability to keep the law that God has given, our separation from God, our inability to stand before God in the judgment.
- In faith we believe that Jesus is the SOG, the mediator of the new covenant, who came to die to save us from judgment, and to offer us free pardon and forgiveness, a new life as fellow heirs with Christ of the glories of the everlasting kingdom.
- We receive it also in gratitude.
- In gratitude, we offer to God our acceptable service.
- As Paul writes in Rom 12:1-2, “offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your reasonable service.”
- In gratitude, we intentionally make our entire lives available for God’s service as he wills, when he wills, how he wills.
- In gratitude for what he has done for us in Christ, we offer our heart, soul, mind and strength to love him and to love others as Christ first loved us.
- And in gratitude our service is given with reverence and awe.
- In contrast to the rebellion of the Israelites, in grateful reverence for his holiness, we avoid sin, we refuse to grumble against God and his agents in the world.
- We trust that God is using the trials and temptations of this life for our sanctification, to help us to grow more and more like Christ.
- In grateful awe of his majesty and power, we go forth like Abraham to receive the promised “land” that God will show us.
- In grateful awe, like Joshua, we willingly embrace the opportunities – as well as the battles – that God places before us.
- We embrace the opportunities and battles in spite of the size of the challenge or the enemies that threaten us.
- We trust that God will provide, will protect, and will accomplish his purpose through us.
- Have you been born-again into the kingdom?
- Or will you suffer in the final judgment?
- The king has come and announced the presence of his kingdom – his personal rule and reign in the world.
- Merely obeying the commandments of the law are not enough.
- Being near to the kingdom is not enough.
- We can enter into the kingdom only by being born again, born by the working of the Spirit, born by responding to the Spirit through repentance and faith.
- Have you done that? Will you do that right now?
- So that you might one day enjoy the glories of heaven,
- and until then, so that you might, with us, serve Christ to the end of our days in grateful reverence and awe.
- For our God is a consuming fire.
Vital 180s. What makes a church a vital, life-filled and life-giving church?
NOT God’s plan for my life BUT my life for God’s plan.
NOT God’s vision for our church BUT our church for God’s vision.
NOT once our ministry is fully committed to discipleship,
then outreach and evangelism will naturally result,
BUT once our ministry is fully committed to outreach and evangelism, then discipleship will naturally result.
NOT solve internal church issues by looking inward toward the “found” congregation, BUT solve internal issues by looking outward toward the “lost” community.
NOT how do we minister TO our congregation, BUT how do we minister THROUGH our congregation?
NOT once the congregation is on board we’ll begin to reach the community, BUT once we begin to reach the community the congregation will get on board.