Summary: We are called to hold on to hope

“Holding on to Hope” - Hebrews 10:19-25 - October 7, 2012

Join with me this morning in turning to Hebrews 10:19-25. We’ve been going through this book that is written to Jewish Christians, teaching them what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ. We no longer need to hold on to the old Jewish sacrificial system and dietary laws. Hundred and hundreds of OT laws are no longer held over our head. We have no obligation to worry about keeping them. Instead, the writer tells us that Christ has provided a far better arrangement for us. Christ has fulfilled the law and gives us complete salvation and forgiveness.

Hebrews 10 calls us to live boldly. Far too often we live apologetically, almost ashamed and embarrassed that we are Christians. We go through the day almost hoping no one finds out we are Christians. Instead, we SHOULD live boldly, being a very visible witness that we belong to Jesus Christ and that we are his servants. When we remember we are called to live out a bold witness, it changes everything we do. When we get cut off on the interstate, we don’t respond with obscene hand gestures. When we get too much change back or were only charged for one item when you bought two, we tell the cashier. When someone needs a helping hand, we make ourselves available, even though we already had plans to do something else. We live out our faith before the world so they can see what it means to follow Jesus.

Last week we saw that we looked at the first of five commands here in chapter 10, all beginning with “Let us” - if you haven’t already done so, I would encourage to you underline or circle these five commands. Remember that while this book is the word of God in printed form, the printing and paper is only a tool. It is not a sin to write in your bible! In fact, for thousands of years, Jews have written on their copies of the word of God with notes to help them as they read and studied God’s word. So highlight these five commands, so whenever you read this passage you are reminded to focus on these commands. The first we saw, in verse 22: we are called to have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place, to come into the very presence of God himself, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He has created a “freshly slain” way for us, by dying in our place on the cross. We have celebrated that sacrifice this morning as we took communion. As a result, we are encouraged to boldly Draw Near to God. God invites us into his very presence. We come confidently, with sincerity, with faith, with our sins cleansed. And we saw last week in James 4, when we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.

Today, we want to go on to look at the second call. Let’s read the passage responsively. I have the verses on the screen. I’ll read the first verse, you read the next.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus,

by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body,

and since we have a great priest over the house of God,

let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Let’s pray!****

Today, we see the second call given to us in this passage - to Hold on to hope!

The first question we want to answer this morning is this:

What is our hope? It says we are to hold on to the hope we “profess.” The word literally is to hold on to the hope we “confess.” To confess is to “say the same thing.” So God tells us “have hope” and we confess, we say the same thing, we say “Yes, I have hope.” As Christians, HOPE is something we are to have. But what IS hope?

Far too often we think of hope as the idea of a “blind desire”, wishing for something to come true. I hope I win a million dollars. But that is not the biblical idea of hope. Rather it is just the opposite. Hope is the confident expectation that what God has promised surely will come to pass. It is as good as a cashiers check, guaranteeing us that the money is in the bank. It is like signing the deed on a property, knowing that we have full rights to inherit and inhabit the property. It is a sure thing. Having hope means that we live today like we are confidently assured that EVERYTHING God has promised us will come to pass.

In Hebrews 11:1 it tells us, Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. How do we live in hope? By having faith in God. In fact this next chapter, Hebrews 11, is FILLED with example after example of OT saints who lived believing God would keep His word. And the very first example of faith comes in verse 3 with the question of creation vs. evolution. Sometimes it can be easy for us to say, Well, that’s not really important. But it is! If we can’t believe God when He says He created the world, how can we believe Him when He says He will forgive our sins??

The chapter goes on to list saints who believed God:

Abel believed God’s instructions about sacrifice, and he was accepted by God

Enoch believed in living to please God, and he never died

Noah believed God’s warning that a flood was coming, and he built an ark

Abraham believed God’s promise of a homeland, and so he left his home and traveled following God.

He also believe God’s promise of a son, and although he was 100 years old, he fathered Isaac.

Joseph believed God’s promise to bring the Jews out of Egypt & he left orders to bring his bones back to Israel

Moses believed God’s warning of the death of the firstborn, and the Jews put blood on their doorposts to spare the lives of their children.

Example after example after example of those who had faith that God would do what He said He was going to do. That’s HOPE!

But notice what 11:32 says -

I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

But then the text continues and the tone changes -

Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawn in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and ill-treated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Do you see what that is telling us? Even when God doesn’t work the way we want, we can still keep our faith and hope in Him. These saints were tortured and killed, and yet they kept hoping in the promises of God! Many times our Christianity is so shallow - if God gives us what we ask for, we worship Him. If He doesn’t come through then we turn from Him. It’s really a form of spiritual prostitution - we will give our worship to whoever gives us the most!

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Let’s look at a few things Hebrews tells us we hope for.

3 - Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.

What is our hope? We are confident that WE ARE the house of God - his very place of dwelling. Paul writes in Ephesians 3:16-17 - I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

What is our hope? We are confident that Jesus has provided salvation for us. Hebrews 6:9-12

We are confident of better things in your case--things that accompany salvation. . . We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure.

God gives his word that he would provide salvation, then as if we were questioning him, the passage goes on stating that He swears an oath. We’ve all done that before: someone tells us something, then they say, “I swear it’s true.” We have a certain hope of salvation.

What is our hope? We are confident that Jesus has given us a better covenant, a better agreement than the OT sacrificial system. Hebrews 7:18-25

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God. 22- Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. 24- but because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

A far better arrangement is given to us than the Jews. Hebrews 10:3-4 tells us about the OT sacrifices, But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. The OT sacrifices never took away sins, they merely covered over them. Every year they would be covered over for one more year. It’s sort of like credit cards. Some people max out their credit cards with thousands upon thousands of dollars of interest, and never pay off the debt, they merely keep paying the interest each month, never paying off any of the money due.

But Jesus offers us a better plan: free forgiveness to any who come and receive him as Savior.

Heb. 8:10, 12 - This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. . . For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.

What is our hope? We are confident we have complete forgiveness through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is our hope? Our hope is all that God had promised to the patriarchs, Noah, Abraham, Jacob - all of his promises of an eternal home, an eternal rest, of enjoying his presence forever - all of that can NEVER come about for them without also including US as well.

Heb. 11:39-40 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

So this morning, our HOPE is the CONFIDENT EXPECTATION that God will freely give us EVERYTHING He has PROMISED! We can count on it. It is as good as if we already received it. That is WHAT our hope is. But the next question is

2. WHY can we hope? And the answer to that is in 10:23 as well.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Why can we hope? Because God is faithful! The term “faithful” literally means He is worthy of our trust. The term means he can be counted on to fully discharge all the duties assigned to him. There is no question at all that he will come through. Verse 22 says we have “full assurance of faith”. God gives us every reason to believe. Hebrews 6:18 reminds us it is impossible for God to lie. So our hope is based on the very character of God himself! Our confident expectation of all that the future holds is based on what we know to be true of our God. There is NO WAY that our God would lie to us and tell us to hope for something that was not true!

So what really happens when we give up hope and turn to fear and worry and anxiety is that we stop believing in our God. We end up denying by our actions the faithfulness and power of our God. In the gospels we find recorded the story of Jesus telling his disciples as they got into a boat at the lake that they would go to the other side. The waves grow fierce, and they wake Jesus, saying “don’t you care that we drown? Jesus rebukes the wind and waves and everything grows calm, and then Jesus asks them, “Where is your faith?” He had already told them they were going to the other side, but they failed to believe in the power of his word.

Now I’ll be the first to admit, that it is easy to hope when everything is going good. When you lose your job and your spouse develops cancer and your car is being repossessed, it’s much easier to turn to despair and feel like your prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. But we need to make a choice. Faith is a matter of the will and the heart. It is not an issue of FEELING. Rather faith is a choice. We choose to keep on believing, even when circumstances drive us to doubt. I love the verses from Habakkuk 3:17-18 Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. Hope is a CHOICE - our choice to firmly believe in God, no matter what the circumstances look like.

That’s why verse 23 tells us Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess - our hope is to be “unswerving” - to not be inclined - to not veer off to the right or to the left. We continue on a straight path. Many times our faith is filled with high points and low - we believe faithfully for a while, then turn to periods of doubt and despair. But we are to hope will full assurance of faith - not wavering at all. James 1 tells us, he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does. Double-minded - one the one hand we say we believe what God says, but by our actions we are saying we really don’t. God wants us to be “unswerving” in our hope. We profess it - we say we have hope - so let’s live like we do!

The final question to ask is this:

3. What does hope do for us? If we have this unswerving faith, what will it look like, what will it do for us? Let’s consider some things the scripture tells us:

•Hope gives us security: Heb. 6:19 tells us We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. Our commitment to hope gives us something to keep us grounded, something to hold on to. When the storms of life come our way, when Satan lashes out against us, our hope keeps us secure.

•Hope gives us encouragement: Heb. 6:17-18: Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. When we have hope, we have encouragement. It helps us to face the future. I’ve shared with you before the story of scientists who studied how long it took rats to drown. They put them in a tank of water and found it took an average of 17 minutes for the rats to give up and die. However, when they put the rats in the water, and rescued them before they drowned, they found the next time the rats went from swimming 17 minutes to swimming 36 hours! Now, I’m not endorsing cruelty to rats. I only mention that to say, when we have hope, it keeps us encouraged. We do not give up. Paul writes about death, Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. What happens to a person who has no hope? The fall to pieces - they grieve and wail and fret and become filled with anxiety. But we who have hope, we who believe our God will keep his word, face every day encouraged, looking for the hand of God at work. If you have hope today, if you believe God and take Him at His word, it will encourage you and bring joy to your heart.

•Hope gives us an inheritance:

6:11-12 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. We are heirs to an inheritance far beyond belief. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him” [1 Cor 2:9]

1 Peter 1:3-9 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power . . . and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Today are you living like a pauper or a prince? Do you live like you are the very heir of all things, like one who will rule and reign with Christ? Or do you live timidly, fearfully, filled with worry and anxiety, and cares. Are you bold or bashful in sharing your faith with others? Do you live in faith or fear?

Let’s determine today that we will hold on to our hope, and start living like we really believe everything the bible says is true. We have no reason to be ashamed or to try to excuse away the words of scripture. Let’s be committed to living for Christ, believing in the forgiveness he offers, believing that in Christ Jesus we are a new creation, believing we no longer are under the penalty of sin, believing God sets us free from the power of sin over us, and live looking forward to the day we will one day be set free from the very presence of sin itself as God gives us the inheritance he has prepared for us, a home in heaven with him. Let’s pray.