Sunday, March 15, 2015
In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 10:11-18
The author of Hebrews has been explaining the superiority of Christ's sacrifice for sin in comparison to the Old Covenant, with its repeated animal sacrifices, which by their very repetition exposed their ineffectiveness to truly and justly deal with sin once and for all.
In verses 1-10 of chapter 10, the author shows how both prophecy in scripture and the Old Covenant itself, foreshadowed a New Covenant, carried out by the Messiah (or “The Christ”), that would replace the old one.
The final thought in verse 10 is that those who trust Jesus to pay for their sin are uniquely “set apart for the purposes of God” (the meaning of the word “sanctified”).
What this means is possibly explained in just a little more detail in verses 11-18.
The author contrasts again the work of the Old Covenant priests with the work of Jesus. They continually stand day after day, constantly busy at their work to provide mediation between God and humanity. Jesus did his work once... and then sat down! Done!
Not only that, but he sat down “at the right hand of God”, and has been there (physically or metaphorically we can't be sure) ever since, waiting for the time when God the Father will make all the enemies of Jesus like a foot-rest he can prop his shoes on. (This is imagery of the Messiah taken from Psalm 110.)
The sacrifice of Jesus makes all believers perfect! Obviously we still experience sin in our lives every day. But sin no longer defines believers. Instead it is only a remnant of the old self, (which the Apostle Paul calls “The Flesh”). But beneath this frustrating sticky residue, the true essence of the believer is perfection!
It should also be noted that the word “sanctified” here is used in the literal sense of “being set apart for the purposes of God”, not in the sense that modern theologians use it to describe the concept of a believer becoming increasingly like Jesus in character. In other words, this state of perfection is true of EVERY believer! And the single sacrifice of Jesus is continually “perfecting” new believers every day!
The author quotes again from Jeremiah 31:33 (which he did previously in chapter 8) but paraphrases and quotes selectively to bring out the specific aspects of that passage that he wants to emphasize here.
Under the New Covenant (which we have seen begin but that is not yet completely fulfilled), God will internalize his will for his children. As believers we have already begun to experience some of this through the continual presence of the Holy Spirit, which reminds us of the truth we are meant to live our lives by.
Also under the New Covenant, God has “forgotten” and each day “forgets” our sins. This probably doesn't refer to a literal erasing of knowledge from the mind of God, but instead to a complete forgiveness on his part, in which he doesn't even consider our sins when evaluating who we are.
Under this kind of forgiveness, there isn't any room for any other sacrifices or compensation to be made. We are not even capable of earning the smallest fraction of our forgiveness, nor do we need to.
So What's In This For Geeks?
There are some hugely important truths here for me, and I think for many geeks, to remember.
The first is that our shortcomings do not define us. Instead of living defensively in denial of our weaknesses, or entering into depression over them, we can and should remember that God “has perfected” us. Past tense. Done deal. Yes we still have this sticky substance coating our skin that constantly annoys us and causes us to stumble around. But it's not what defines us.
This isn't fluffy positive thinking. This is reality. And God's perception of reality is perfect, so we ought to trust him when he tells us, “We'll get this crap washed off you in a little while, but until then know that you are PERFECT”.
The second important truth here is that we cannot contribute in anyway to our forgiveness. We are not responsible for it in the slightest. When we've been in a season of sin or if we've just recently fallen back into an old sinful pattern or habit, it can be easy to feel like God can't use us, or that he needs us to fix ourselves before we can get involved in opportunities to serve that are available to us.
And while it's true that some sin, on obvious and practical levels, can rule us out for some types of service, anyone can be a part of what God is doing no matter what sins may be beating them down.
The more we trust and apply these reality, the more our lives will have less stress, the more we'll be able to relate well with other people, and the more we'll generally be able to engage in what God is doing. (In fact, this response from readers is one of the main goals for the author of Hebrews!)
I am the type of person who is almost daily haunted by memories of conversations I've had with others in which I don't think I came across as wise or intelligent as I want to. I'm obsessed with myself and how others perceive me. By default, I easily let my identity get wrapped up in how well I “perform” in conversations.
This way of thinking and living only brings me stress and wastes a lot of time and mental energy. But I've increasingly found freedom from this when I silently pray “Thank you, Jesus, that is not who I am”, and remind myself that God's righteousness is now placed on top of my record.
We are not defined by our shortcomings OR our successes. And the more we remember that, the more energy we'll have to engage in what God wants us to do in our local Christian communities and in the lives of people around us.