Empty Pictures or Living Reality

Hebrews 9:11-15

Spoke last week of worship as conducted in ancient Israel – tabernacle with all its rich symbolism, earthly tangible representation of spiritual heavenly perfection. Each item present was significant in number of ways. Materials used – wood, metals (gold, silver, bronze), fabric. Colors and patterns. Placement and use. Regulations and rituals. Everything related to God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, how chasm between God and man would be bridged. Focus of activity within worship space centered on atonement, not entertainment.

Something everyone knew about, priests saw regularly… from one side – the veil. Massive barrier between immediate presence of God and worshipers. Floor to ceiling, wall to wall, woven tapestry, kept Holy of Holies hidden from view. Note carefully – was a curtain, not a wall; even though greatly limited, there was access. Hinted at truth that separation only temporary – v.8

The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the holy of holies had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing. HCSB

Those were good old days; had their place and use by God’s good design. We live in better days now – Jesus has come, has accomplished his work of redemption, is our Priest and Mediator, present by his Spirit among us. Best days stll to come, we will be present with him in that heavenly sanctuary, experiencing him and enjoying full fellowship with God forever. We live between better and best, enjoying the better, anticipating the best. So what makes now better, how does that matter to us and others?

A. Christ has come v.11a

train of thought: Christ, having come, entered the most holy place and secured eternal redemption

vital and most significant point for Jewish friends: the Messiah has made his public appearance – is unquestionably clear

the one for whom every believer waited from Adam to John the Baptist – Promised One – has come, Jews need wait no longer for their Messiah

perhaps hard to think of Christmas week after 4th of July; is what comes to mind when think of Jesus’ first coming

we make far bigger deal of babe in manger than Bible does; inspired writer here declares he came in his priestly office

not as high priest of old worship system, not priest of good things present on earth: daily sacrifice, repeated washings, limited fellowship

but as high priest of things promised to the church: God with us, clean conscience, eternal redemption, heavenly inheritance

B. the best place v.11-12

more perfect tabernacle

Christ presently serving as High Priest in original tabernacle – the one that supplied pattern for wilderness copy

no veil, no curtain in that tent – nothing that separates high priest from presence of God, nothing that keeps him hidden from view

not like old tent – pillar of cloud or fire, like sign on the door that said “God is here”; God is present in heavenly tent in fullness of glory

Ex. 40:33-35 “So Moses finished the work.Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.And Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”

same glory that illuminates that space now – will give light to all the heavenly city: Rev. 21:23 “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”

is not, will not be gold box with cloth roof and door hiding God and his glory from his people; by faith, even now, we can enter that tabernacle with Lord Jesus

more perfect offering

now we know the way – v.12, cp. v.8 – not clear from OT record all that veil symbolized: separation, obviously; but is they any way for average or even above average believer to safely pass thru?

only High Priest, once a year, in fear for his life, allowed in – no peeking, most worshipers only glimpse of veil at far end of Holy Place, then only if inside the courtyard

even for High Priest, something had to die for him, something had to die for those he represented – if he went in without blood, would have forfeited his own

nothing has changed – God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, God’s requirement for wages of sin to be paid – must have blood to enter God’s presence; don’t talk about that as much as we should

Lord Jesus only one without exception whose own blood, own life, has sufficient merit to satisfy God

can give dogs or dolphins non-human person status all you want; in God’s view, human life is far more precious

for blood sacrifice to have enduring effect, life given must have equal or greater value than one redeemed

only Lord Jesus has perfect righteousness – could take credit for sins of all his people without injury to his own righteousness

more perfect redemption

never any question Moses’ day – sin not permanently addressed; would be back again, another lamb, repeat ritual

same for High priest – always came out of Most Holy Place before shift was over; not so Lord Jesus – he entered once for all

his work of redemption needs no repetition, is effectual for all his people for all time and eternity without limit/exception

C. the best promises v.13-15

clean conscience

American way (at least in theory): innocent until proven guilty; God’s way: guilty until proven innocent

default way we think – proclaim innocence, get defensive if anyone suggests guilt, yet… #1 issue psychiatrists deal with, yep you guessed it, guilt; true for all mankind

Rom. 2:15 “They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.”

Jesus only one who can legitimately assume another’s guilt, clean their conscience – blood of Christ only cleaning solution that works on guilt: erases not only guilt, also any stains left behind

also important: applying blood of Christ to conscience re-sensitizes it – with repeated sin and attempts to justify it, conscience is seared; no animal sacrifice can ever repair that, Christ’s work of redemption applied does repair

full redemption – purchase out of bondage

ransom not paid on installment plan; full ransom must be paid in exchange for full release – once ransom is paid, captors have no further claim / hold

ours not a redemption we have to contribute to – not a work-release program, time off for good behavior; nothing we can contribute, nothing we need to contribute

ransom paid by Christ releases from captivity to sin, Satan, and guilt including guilty conscience – “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17), deliverance “from the bondage of corruption into glorious liberty” (Rom. 8:21)

not just what we are released from, is what we are delivered to: freedom to serve God, love God, worship God with all heart, soul, mind, strength

eternal inheritance

too many focused on earthly inheritance: working endlessly to produce it, hang on to it, get hold of it if think it is yours

Christian’s hope should be fixed on eternal inheritance – is beyond wildest imagination, treasures of “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ”

if God is pleased to grant earthly inheritance, invest all you can in eternal inheritance – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

D. the choice

OT rituals had value, but limited in scope and time; in their day, pointed to a greater reality – now, by God’s design, empty of power

not many of us at risk of chasing those empty pictures; yet too many, saved and lost alike, settle for empty pictures instead of living reality

empty pictures

external ritual

pick your religion – one of ones associated with UPG; a cult with endless list of rules; one down the street with closely regulated ceremonies

maybe religion of non-religion – worship of self, ritual of indulging desires, when physical fitness or sports or something similar take center stage

could be ritual of worship in true church with real Christians – singing good hymns, praying good prayers, hearing good sermons, yet just going through motions

Satan – master of the mirage

mirage is real image, just not where real thing is or distorted in some way; Satan tries, often successfully, to convince that mirage is the real thing

image of water is one of real water, but image can never satisfy; image has no power, has no substance

Satan’s lies: stuff will satisfy; substances will heal the pain; success will remove guilt; sitting in a worship service equals worship – each one an empty picture that will never deliver

living reality

union with Christ

only way will have freedom from guilt, fullness of joy, peace that passes understanding, share in eternal inheritance, contentment, a future and a hope that brings full satisfaction

worship in spirit and truth

if Christ by his Spirit is living reality in our hearts, then can be kind of worshiper the Father is seeking – worship will be far more than simply ritual, comforting as that may be

will be high point of week – gather with God’s people in God’s presence, receiving portion of those spiritual blessings Christ has for us to nourish and equip for what lies ahead


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