Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pastoral Ponderings ~ The Confidence That Draws Near

          I have been enjoying a wonderful time of exploring the Bible’s teaching on the second coming of Christ. It comes up in Revelation in the seventh verse where it says: “Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.” The last few days I have explored this theme in the book of Hebrews where we get a very detailed picture of how Jesus’ first coming fulfilled the first covenant and established the second, and how his second coming will fulfill the second covenant for God’s people, and judge those who are still in their sins.

          Throughout my exploration of the teachings on Jesus’ second coming, this has become very clear: the truth about Jesus’ second coming is not to keep us preoccupied with trying to figure out when it will take place, but to keep us preoccupied with serving Jesus faithfully until he comes. This morning I was very encouraged with Hebrews 10:19-25 which summarizes how Jesus’ servants should live as we await his return.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,

          This speaks of the first coming of Christ and what he accomplished by fulfilling the first covenant and establishing the new covenant in his blood. Because of this, we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, the blood of the new covenant. And, because of Jesus’ work, we can relate to Christ and each other as brothers.

20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,

          Jesus’ first coming created a “new and living way” into God’s presence. We are to make the utmost use of this new and living way now while we wait for the complete fulfillment of the second covenant when Jesus comes the second time.

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

          Jesus satisfied the first covenant by his own sacrifice as the Lamb of God who takes away our sin, and now he lives and serves as the “great priest” over God’s people. Jesus is the great high priest of the new covenant, guaranteeing that his sacrifice for our sins justifies us in his righteousness, sanctifies us from one degree of glory to another, and secures our glorification upon his return.

22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

          Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin, and his establishing of a new covenant in his blood, and because Jesus has created this new and living way into the holy places, we are called and exhorted and commanded to “draw near” to God who fully receives us through his Son.

          We can come with a “true heart”, instead of the superficial pretense that is so common in churches. We can come with “full assurance” rather than hearts full of doubts and insecurities. We are able to come because our hearts are “sprinkled clean from an evil conscience”, leaving us pure and righteous in God’s sight. We are able to come with “our bodies washed with pure water,” even cleaner and better than the consecrated water used by the priests.

          The point is that the description of our daily relationship with God through Jesus Christ should be that we are “drawing near”. The way is opened, let’s keep using it on a daily, moment-by-moment basis.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

          All that is said here, all that has been explained in the book of Hebrews, gives us every reason we need to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering”. Our hope is in Christ, a hope that is securely anchored in the most holy place. No matter how we feel on any given day, our hope is still secure.

          What we must do in response to this solid hope is hold fast to the “confession” of our hope. While the world, the flesh and the devil will seek to convince us that we are losers in Christ, our hope promises our victory and their defeat. So, we not only hold fast to our hope, but to the glad proclamation of hope.

          By this tenth chapter of Hebrews, it is abundantly clear that “he who promised is faithful”. Our hope rests in him, so it is secure. He does not waver, so our hope in him must not waver. The mirage of the red dragon’s success will disappear when the clouds part and Jesus appears the second time. We must wait for this day without wavering.

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

          This strikes me in a simple contrast. This week I have looked through Hebrews on the theme of the two comings of Christ in reference to the two covenants. This is in conjunction with my series through Revelation that often focuses on the second coming of our Lord and Savior.

          However, with all that the Bible teaches of the first coming giving us our salvation, and the second coming giving us the fullness of our inheritance in Christ, we are not told to “consider how to understand every detail of Jesus’ second coming”. We are told to consider things to do with relating to one another as we faithfully serve Christ in this wicked world while awaiting his certain return.

          In other words, while we must be clear on the things the Bible actually does teach about Jesus’ second coming, the purpose is not to distract us from our present work with thoughts of future things. Rather, the certainty of past things assures us of the certainty of future things so that we can be confident in living the present things as Jesus’ servants. Servants serve, and we are instructed in the certainty of the two covenants fulfilled in Christ so we will not give up serving Christ and his people in love.

          Because Jesus came, and because he is coming, consider how to stir up your brothers and sisters in the Lord to greater love and good works than we have ever done before. Is there a temptation to minimize our love and good works because of the negative reaction from the world, the flesh and the devil? See what a great covenant relationship you have with the King of kings and Lord of lords and stir up a fellowship of believers who are devoted to growing to maturity in love and good works.

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some,

          People can neglect to meet together because they have not felt the impact of Jesus’ covenant work, or because they have been enticed into believing that the immediate pleasures of sin they can see are superior to the lasting pleasures of righteousness that are eternally overflowing at God’s right hand (where Jesus just happens to be sitting). People can neglect to meet together because they are so convinced Jesus could come any day that they have their lawn chair set up on some hill hoping to be first in line to the grand event. No matter what reasons we might use to justify not meeting together, it is a bad habit, and we are to be sure we do not neglect the fellowship of God’s family.

25 …but encouraging one another,

          While people neglecting to meet with us can be somewhat discouraging at times, we are to be the ones who not only meet together, but make it the most encouraging experience to do so. In other words, we come together as people who have been under attack from the evil one, under attack from the world around us that hates Jesus and those who belong to him, and under attack from our own flesh that always wants the easiest way out of everything. Simply sitting in the same room as other believers does not do anything for us. We must meet to encourage one another. We must bring our sharing from the word, our testimonies of divine appointments and answered prayers, reminders of what God’s word says about things we are experiencing, and build up the courage of the body of Christ to remain strong, firm and steadfast in our devotion to Christ.

25 …and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

          There is a finish line up ahead. The finish line is “the day drawing near”. The “Day” is the second coming, the final appearance of Christ that ends life on earth as we know it, and brings judgment on the world while bringing God’s children into the eternal rest of Heaven.

          The simple fact is that it is much easier to begin a race than to finish it. It is easier to start a fight than to fight to the finish. It is easy to come into the church without much fanfare, and difficult to discover that we have become Satan’s favorite target.

          Because it can be disheartening to press on through a fog, never quite knowing when the finish line will greet us, everything we do in Christ we must do “all the more”. Lesser things can be discarded; traditions of man can be forgotten; personal preferences can be lost, but the life of the New Covenant must grow to maturity, must be lived in an “all the more” kind of way.

          The fact is that “the Day” is drawing near. It will still come as a surprise. It will still come suddenly. But it is coming. And, when it comes, all the pleasures of sin that sought to sabotage God’s work in our lives, will be gone forever, so let them go now. When Jesus comes, the very worst of God’s enemies against us will be destroyed, so do not let them destroy you now.

          As this post falls on a Saturday, let it be a reminder to make sure your Sunday with God’s people fits this description, and all the rest of the descriptions of life in the body of Christ. Listen to the preaching of the word of God with a heart to receive the encouragement you need to be faithful to your place within the body of Christ, and then pass that encouragement on to others as you share with them in response to your fellowship together.

          The bottom line is that, if we will tell God we absolutely want to live out this paragraph from his word in the fullest possible way, he will most certainly give us the divine appointments to do it.

          From my heart, Monte

© 2012 Monte Vigh ~ Box 517, Merritt, BC, V1K 1B8 ~

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