Intro to the Book of Hebrews. This sermon is an encouragement for all believers to hold fast to Jesus Christ and confidence in Him.
The name of my message this morning is “A Strong Encouragement to Hold Fast to the Hope Set Before Us.” Anybody know where that comes from? “A Strong Encouragement to Hold Fast to the Hope Set Before Us.” It was read this morning. It comes out of Hebrews 6. James read that. A strong encouragement. You know, the book of Hebrews ends on this note: If you go to the last chapter of Hebrews, it ends this way, v. 22, “I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation.” You see the word “exhortation”? Paraklasis. We know the Paraclete is the Comforter. “Bear with my exhortation.” This is the same word that comes at us in Hebrews 6. “A strong encouragement.” That’s our word right there: encouragement. Paraklasis. This is really, if we were going to sum up the whole book of Hebrews – what’s it all about – it is a strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. That’s the heart, that’s the soul of this book. Now, let’s read Hebrews 1. “Long ago at many time and in many ways God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the majesty on high having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Brethren, it just occurs to me right now reading those four verses. If we could measure the weight and the value of words – how many words are there? A hundred maybe? Can you imagine if you took any hundred words from the San Antonio Express News today and you weighed it in the scales next to these hundred words? There’s nothing in the paper that can even come close to the weight. We can read across these words right here… you know, this would be a good test. Anybody that feels called to be a preacher, preach these four verses, and you immediately become aware of your inadequacy. Brethren, here is Hebrews. You know what? As I started even reading this, I’m just thinking here’s Hebrews. God, help us. How does a mortal man even speak on things like this and do justice to them? I’m just thinking, God, help us! As we enter in to this book of Hebrews, God, help us, brethren! God help us to see, to grow, to hear, to be able to feel. I mean, I just count it all failure if God doesn’t use me to somehow bring some life, some reality, something glorious out of this that changes our lives, that has affect on us, then I would just count it all – it’s no good! It’s no good. I get this sense that even touching these verses – how do you touch a verse like “Christ is the radiance of the glory of God”? As I sat at my desk yesterday and I’m just thinking about this, almost this sense of putting my hand to it. It’s almost like no matter how much fear, no matter how much trembling a person might even feel; no matter how much of a sense of reverence or respect or whatever it is, it just seems to be inadequate. God speaks through His Son. God appoints His Son as heir of all things. He creates everything through His Son. He makes purification for sin. He upholds the universe. He’s been exalted to the right hand of majesty. Brethren, do you realize here, these are some of the most weighty concepts. You can’t come across things outside of the Bible, except other things written about the Bible, that even come close to what we might have here. And here’s my difficulty. Here’s the frustration of the preacher. Just ask any preacher here. We’re so used to having everything enhanced, right? If the video doesn’t have smoke and fire and climactic background music… right? Isn’t that how everything is today? I mean, even our own videos. You go to I’ll Be Honest and you’ve got smoke shooting across the screen and fire back there and this music that’s incredible and dramatic. Right? I mean, that’s almost how everything is. We’ve just got all this stuff. We hardly know what to do with verses like these. I mean, isn’t this the reality. How do we get detonation? (bomb sound) How do four verses like this get combustion? And it’s possible, brethren. It’s possible without the music and the fire and the smoke and the fireworks. It’s possible. I mean, brethren, when the Spirit of God comes down, things like this, they come to life. But brethren, isn’t this what we have to be after? That we get such combustion out of verses like this that it produces moral conviction? (incomplete thought) Listen, you want to hear verses like this and walk out and forget it? It doesn’t even occur to you the rest of your life you ever heard them. (incomplete thought) Brethren, how do you even sum up the weightiness of the realities of four verses like this? And if they’re set before us in a way that you’re able to go off, go out on Sunday afternoon and lose it all – it doesn’t affect your life, it doesn’t impact, it’s no good! Pastorally, verses like this have to produce some kind of moral integrity; some kind of life change. That’s what we need – the combustion of moral conviction. And you know what I mean. Affected lives. You know what? Something about verses like this ought to affect our honesty. They ought to affect our tongue. They ought to affect how you speak about other people. They ought to affect pride. How do we get truth like this to burst forth with such pressure of spiritual energy that it changes how we live? That’s what this has to be about. Now, to produce this as I’m looking at this and I’m thinking, you know, I don’t even believe that I can hit this morning the “what” of these four verses. By that I mean the material. I feel like I have to go after the “why.” Why are they even here? Why is the writer of Hebrews giving us the “what”? We’ll look at the “what” of these verses at another time, but today, why are they here? Listen, I want Hebrews to help you. I really want you to get this. And I think we need to figure out why the writer of Hebrews would even give these verses to us. And I guarantee you this, it’s not just because they’re nice truths. They are that. They’re glorious truths. But he’s got a purpose. And I want you to see that. Now, let’s consider the whole letter. Thirteen chapters. (Incomplete thought) I’ve been trying to read, re-read, re-read. It seems like several days this week, I’d sit down in the morning and the first thing I wanted to do in preparation is read the letter from beginning to end. Yesterday, I sat down – or maybe it was Friday now – I sat down and I had a stopwatch and I hit it and I started reading. I read from Hebrews 1:1 all the way to the end of chapter 13 in about 35 minutes. You say, why is that significant? Now listen, I was reading at a good clip. If I slowed that down just a little bit to a speed that I might preach at and put pauses in appropriate places, guess how long it would be? Approximately? Maybe an hour. Maybe 45 minutes. What typically is that long? A sermon! Exactly! You know what? Hebrews is about sermon length. You know when that letter was first given, it was no doubt in many of the churches it was passed to it would be read from beginning to end, which means it would take somewhere probably between 35 minutes and possibly an hour. Maybe 40 to 50 minutes to read it through. And it would have been read through. Which means what? What does it mean if this whole thing was proclaimed? Now look, I don’t doubt that as it was passed around to the churches, they got to places where they would read it, they would re-read it; they would begin to meticulously look at parts of it, but no doubt it was a regular event that letters like this would have been read from beginning to end. And what happens when you read a letter like this from beginning to end in one setting? I’ll tell you what happens. Chapter 13 is read within the same hour that chapter one was read. Which does what? It brings a connection. Brethren, do you know what happens when you get on this 8 year plan to preach through Hebrews? Four to five months in, we’re just finishing chapter 1, right? And nobody has any clue what’s going on in chapter 13 or chapter 5 or chapter 12. And then, 8 years later when you’re in chapter 13, everybody’s so strung out, they have no concept of what happened 8 years before in chapter 1. Half the people are new to the church. Some people aren’t even here anymore. And it’s like the continuity is gone. So, we need that continuity. Look, I say all this because I’m looking, I was really challenged with this in Romans when I went through that too, but I want to try to bring Hebrews out in a way that we are getting the whole book and aspects of the whole book all at once in these sermons. Now there are going to be some places we’re going to dive in and we’re going to look meticulously at things, but as a whole, I want to try to bring a series out of Hebrews where you guys are getting the big picture. I don’t want us to get lost in the minutia because you know you can get to where, Hebrews 6, Hebrews 10 – what do we do with them? Melchizedek – who was that guy? You know you get so strung up and hung up on stuff that we begin to lose that bigger picture. So, let’s consider this whole thing. If you read these first four verses and quickly get to the rest of the book, especially places like chapter 5, chapter 12, you know what you find? You find a people in need of help. Look, think with me here. How many of you take vitamins? Vitamins. You know what? (incomplete thought) If you came along and you heard me talking to one of the brothers here, you just happen to pass by the conversation, and I’m saying, brother, I think you need to take some vitamins. You might think one thing. Now, if you went by and I’m talking to this same brother and I said, brother, you need an operation. Brother, you need radiation treatment. Brother… you know what? You get a different sense right? Vitamins basically help out our well-being. They’re basically for our health. You take medicine when something’s wrong. Hebrews is not vitamins for general Christian health and well-being. It’s spiritual medicine. Hebrews is a remedy for dangerously ill folks. Look, it’s like the difference between this: You’ve got a car. I’ve got a car. I’ve got a van. The transmission – you might say, well, you know what? It’s been 80,000 miles I’ve had this van. There’s nothing wrong with my transmission so I take it in and I say, hey, just change the fluid, change the filter in there. You do that to automatic transmissions. That’s general. That’s tune-up. But if you’ve got the problem like I have right now where when you try to accelerate, you’re van’s going (car noises). Then, all of a sudden when you take it in to the transmission guy, it’s not tune-up anymore. It’s overhaul. Because if you don’t get it fixed, the whole thing is going to destruct on you and you’re not going to go anywhere. Listen, there’s a difference between the general maintenance and when you’re getting close to catastropic failure, right? My whole point here is this very thing: Hebrews. It’s a book for desperate repairs. It’s not just a tune-up. It’s needed to prevent total failure. This portion of God’s Word is pure spiritual remedy. It’s corrective. It’s healing. This is the kind of letter you go to when you need fixing. Now, here’s the thing. You saw those first four verses. I’m addressing why are they there. Why? Well, as I’ve read and re-read, you know, one of the verses in this book that I think gives us as good a picture to start off with this morning as any is Hebrews 12:12. Why don’t you jump over there? Oh brethren, I’m telling you this because I know some of you need fixing. I know that this is going to speak to us. Brethren, isn’t it true that all of us at some point and many points in our spiritual life, we need fixing? And the assumption in Scripture is if you don’t properly and biblically get fixed, you fall out. Hebrews 12:12. “Therefore…” Just get the imagery here. “…Lift your dropping hands.” Can you see that? This book is written to the drooping. He’s not saying: if your hands are drooping. He says lift them. (incomplete thought) Listen, it’s written to the Hebrews, but nowhere in here does it say it’s written to the Hebrews. That was assigned to it somewhere historically. The letter itself doesn’t really tell us who it’s written to other than some things we can glean from what is said about who it might be. But I’m telling you this morning some things positively about who it is. You know what? There’s a lot of debate out there. Was it written to Jews (Hebrews)? Was it written possibly to Gentiles? Listen, in the end, let them argue (incomplete thought). I can tell you who it’s written to. It’s written to the drooping. That we know for certain. Listen, can anybody here relate to that? Anybody been in your spiritual life where the hands are drooping? That’s the way the ESV puts it. A drooping plant. (Incomplete thought) Scott and Jamie bought me a lemon tree. I planted it out front. If my son comes in and says, “Dad, the lemon tree is drooping.” I don’t go and say, you know what, that’s a horticultural example of health and vitality. I don’t get that thought when he tells me that. You know what that tells me? If I don’t take corrective action, it’s going to die. If you don’t take corrective action on a wilting, withering, drooping plant, it dies. That’s the kind of thing we’re dealing with here. The word “droop” is a word that carries the idea of tired, weakened, exhausted, discouraged, ready to give up, listless. In my own mind as I was thinking about this I was remembering reading the biography of Adoniram Judson. He got put in a Burmese prison. He was an American missionary. The British attacked Burma (incomplete thought). To them, Americans looked like the British. So if you were an American and you were in the country, you paid. And you paid in his case by being thrown in prison. They threw him in one prison and they were moving him to another one. Really, it was said afterwards, they were going to execute him. They were moving him there simply to put him to death. They took these prisoners and they made them walk on blistering hot roads with no shoes. The bottoms of their feet blistered, broke open, all the skin tore off. Can you imagine having to walk with no skin on the bottom of your feet? At night, they hung them up by their feet in shackles. One night, near a swamp, all the mosquitoes came in on their bare feet. And the next day, they said, “Walk.” And those guys – you talk about drooping; you talk about weary; you talk about at the end, brethren, they were at the end. They said to their captors you’re going to have to kill us. We’re not going. And they let them lay down and they let them rest. Hebrews is addressed to the weary, to the heavy-laden, to the exhausted, to the drooping. And then look what it says. “And strengthen your weak knees. You know what that literally says? Strengthen paralyzed knees. You know when they have the paralytic there that’s lowered down through the roof that Jesus heals? That you might know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins? He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Paralytic – this is our word right here. (Excuse me.) Literally, paralyzed knees. Brethren, can you picture this? We’re out on the battle field. Can you picture? The troops are coming. Christian troops. We’ve got this spiritual picture here. Out there on the battle field. The Christian lines. We’re breaking through. Coming across the field. And you see the soldiers and they’re drooping, their hands are down. Their knees are paralyzed. It’s almost comical if it wasn’t describing real people. This is the picture. These folks don’t need vitamins. They need fixing. They need operations. Rehabilitation, medicine. There’s a problem here. Can you imagine these guys? Imagine. Guys out there on that battlefield. Just a hail of gunfire. All hell’s breaking out. Shell shock. Some have fallen down. They’re out. They’re gone. And you’re looking at these guys, and their knees are weak. Weak knees. Paralyzed. Paralyzed doesn’t necessarily mean like rigor mortis set in. You can go up to a paralyzed person a lot of times and they’re flexible as anything. The problem is they just can’t move. Just such weakness and feebleness. They can’t do anything. That’s the picture we have here. Then look what’s next. “And make straight paths for your feet.” People need to make straight paths for their feet only when their feet aren’t doing what? They’re not going straight. You need to make straight paths. This is getting the course of one’s life back straight towards the goal where and when that course has become crooked and twisted and wandering. It’s a picture again, we can almost see the soldier. Can you imagine the soldier that came up on Normandy’s beach invasion? I heard of some of these guys literally having men beside them and being just vaporized. And some of these guys, they were under such intense fire, their feet stopped moving straight. They stopped going towards the enemy lines. I can remember hearing tell of one guy – he just starts wandering. There were some of the guys that were just wandering around on the beach. Some of them sitting down just playing in the sand. They just lost their minds. No longer was the battle a reality. Their feet weren’t going straight anymore. They weren’t headed in the right direction. No longer alert, no longer ready. No longer advancing, no longer strategic. No longer thinking about how to take out the enemy, make it to the end, make it to the goal. They’ve wandered. They’ve strayed. Have you ever seen a marathon runner when they’re just losing it? When, I mean, they’re done? Have you ever seen one of these guys, they’re running and they hit zero? And they lose sense of balance. Their feet are no longer going straight towards the finish line. There’s a finish line, brethren! There is a race to be run. And these guys, they’re not going straight. They’re falling. And what happens if they don’t regain, get a second wind? Get help? They fall. And that’s it. Those guys that fall, they rarely ever come back. They’re done. They’re out of the race. Brethren, this is the picture. This is what we see here. Then, look what’s next. “So that what is lame… what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.” Brethren, this word “lame,” it’s the one Jesus uses when He says it’s better to gouge out an eye, cut off a hand, cut off a foot – it’s better to enter lame than being whole to perish. This is Matthew 18 terminology here. Lame. This is exactly that word. To be without an eye, without a hand, without a foot. Those being address in Hebrews are spiritually not whole. They’re wounded. They’re disfigured. Now here’s the thing – here’s what I really want you to see. Oh brethren, we’re going to look at this in the future, but if Hebrews is anything to people in this state, it’s this: it is full of warnings from beginning to end. Oh, it’s full of help, but it’s full of warning. You get in this state; you get where you’re teetering; you get where this weakness and this feebleness sets in, and I’ll tell you, you see what he’s setting before them? They’re lame. He acknowledges it. But there’s two options. What are they? That’s what he says right here. Two options. He says make straight paths for your feet (v. 13) “so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.” You need to notice that carefully. They’re lame and they can go one of two ways: totally out of joint or healed. It’s one or the other. Look, out of joint means you’re lame and it gets worse. You become out of joint. It’s twisted off. It comes apart. This is a picture of falling away. This is a picture of being done. These people are at a crossroads. They’re thinking about abandoning ship. Things are just too hard. This terminology describes professing Christians who are wavering between two options. That which is lame is ready to go to the left and be put out of joint or to the right and be healed. Being put out of joint is the issue everywhere in Hebrews. Oh, it may be said in other ways, but it’s the issue. Just listen to this. You don’t have to look at them. And there are others. Hebrews 2:1, “We must pay closer attention to what we have heard lest we drift away from it.” Drifting away. Hebrews 3:12, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart leading you to fall away from the living God.” Hebrews 4:11, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” Hebrews 10:38, “My righteous one shall live by faith and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure…” This book from beginning to end is giving warnings about falling out of this race because that’s where they’re at. They’re at a place of turning where it’s just disjointed altogether or turning in the direction of healing. That’s what we’ve got. These warnings are not empty. Drifting away, falling away from the living God. Falling by disobedience. Shrinking back. These are real dangers. It makes so much sense. Brethren, very often people love to dive into the middle of Hebrews and go to Hebrews 11. It’s the faith chapter. But a lot of times, nobody has any idea why it’s there or how it got there, and little things that the writer of Hebrews says don’t even make sense. Like think with me here. Hebrews 11:15, just let this sink in, “If they…” Abraham and his descendents – that’s who the “they” are – “If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return.” Oh, do you see why that’s there? He’s saying to them: they had opportunity to return just like you do. They have opportunity to go to the left and let the whole thing fall out of joint, shrink back, fall away. They could have. They were walking along through life and they could have gone back. Brethren, you can put your hand to the plow and turn back. Jesus says don’t do it, but you can do it. You can. You know why they didn’t? They were seeking a better place than that. That’s the hope in all of it. But, there’s more problems. Look at Hebrews 10:32. I want you to see really who’s being addressed. What are the problems? What’s behind this? Hebrews 10:32, “Recall the former days when after you were enlightened…” They came to a knowledge of the truth. That’s what enlightened means. They had light. “Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet.” It’s the Word that gives light. They were exposed to the truth – Gospel truth. “Recall the former days when after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction; sometimes being partners with those so treated.” But notice those words especially at the end of v. 32. “Hard struggle with sufferings.” Any of you been there with that? Any of you had a hard struggle with sufferings? Whatever they might look like. You can tell he’s thrown out a number of things here. You just get in the Christian life where you never thought it was going to cost as much. Jesus said at the beginning: count the cost. But you know, sometimes it’s difficult to count the cost at a point in your life when you don’t really see what the cost is going to be. Oh, you can be told. Doesn’t it become kind of another thing sometimes when you actually get there and Jesus says: I want to take this away from you. Lord, not that. Not that. That’s where He touches us. A hard struggle. But there’s more. Hebrews 5:11. Look there. These folks are facing hard struggles, but they’re not responding well to them. It’s not just the external temptations. These guys are messing up themselves. These guys are guilty. It’s not just what’s coming upon them. They’re reacting in a way that is not good. Hebrews 5:11, “About this, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you’ve become…” you’ve become “dull of hearing.” How about the next verse? Hebrews 5:12, “You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness since he’s a child. Solid food is for the mature.” Okay, solid food’s for the mature. So who is milk for? The immature. They’re dull. They’ve got drooping hands. They’ve got these weak, paralyzed knees. Their feet are wandering. They’ve endured hard struggles. They’ve not come out so well. They’re dull of hearing. They’re immature. But there’s more. How about Hebrews 4:15? They’re being tempted from within, from without… When the writer says what he says in Hebrews 4:15, maybe we’d get a better idea about what’s really being said here. “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” You see, when he says, “tempted as we are,” he’s not speaking in a vacuum. He knows exactly who he’s talking to. He knows these people are tempted from within, from without. And they’re not just tempted by their struggles. They’re not just dull. They’re not just immature. They’re not just feeble. They’re not just weak. They’re not just wandering. Hebrews 12:1, look what it says there. Very descriptive verses come at us repeatedly through Hebrews to show us the condition of these people who are being dealt with. Which, brethren, this is preserved for us to this age because God knows there are some of you, many of us, and at different times in our lives, all of us Christians that need this. Hebrews 12:1, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.” So you have this too. Things get hard. You know what happens? Things get hard. They get rough. And it takes the edge off. They become dull. Isn’t that what dull is? It takes the edge off. So you begin to let little bits of sin in. And some things that aren’t just out-and-out sin, but things that are weights. No, they’re not dogmatically sin, but what does a weight do to you? It slows you down. I remember John MacArthur – I believe it was this text he was preaching through – talked about running a sprint in combat boots. That’s what it becomes like. It’s like running through molasses. It’s just weight. And you begin to allow these to come in. You become dull. You don’t respond to suffering right. There’s immaturity there. And you begin to let these weights, you begin to let this sin – it’s tolerated; it’s allowed. Slows us, entangles us. How about Hebrews 12:4? “In your struggle against sin…” So they not only have this struggle that we saw against these outward sufferings – a hard struggle with sufferings back in Hebrews 10 – but Hebrews 12 says there’s a struggle against sin. But in their struggle against sin, they have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood so that there’s a struggle. It’s getting hard. The flesh is fierce. The battle rages. The enemy comes on like a flood. The hands grow weary, knees weaken. Feet wander. Hearing becomes dull. Sin creeps in that ought to be laid aside. And look, if something radical doesn’t happen, falling away from the living God is all too real. And notice what needs to be said to them. Hebrews 10:25. Brethren, please, see this. Hebrews 10:25. We’re getting a big picture of the spiritual condition of these people and why verses like Hebrews 1:1-4 need to be said. What are they meant to deal with? What are they meant to be medicine for? You’re getting a picture. But there’s more. Hebrews 10:25. We’re not to neglect to meet together as is the habit of some. This isn’t just what might happen. He says it’s already the habit of some. The writer of Hebrews is saying this is already happening. Oh, brethren, this is so obvious, we really shouldn’t have to have it brought up. Can I tell you something? I have never in my life seen a Christian fall out who didn’t begin to miss meetings first. And you know it’s true. Brethren, 9 times out of 10, when folks are not faithfully attending the meetings it’s a big red flag. Spiritually something is happening. And the writer of Hebrews knows it. He knows it. Attendance to the meetings of the church are almost always proof positive of a person’s spiritual well-being. And I’m telling you this, if you have this view of God’s sovereignty that says people are just going to be saved if they’re saved and that’s it, I’m telling you if anything kills improper views of God’s sovereignty, it’s the book of Hebrews. What this writer of Hebrews knows is church attendance is one of the mechanisms God uses in people’s lives to get them to the end. And where that is foregone, thrown away, avoided, it affects a person. This is real, brethren. He is sovereign. He is, but we need to put away these silly notions about God’s sovereignty that because He’s sovereign, I’m going to make it as a Christian whether I attend the church meetings or not. That just simply isn’t true. They’re falling out, brethren. They’re falling out. And then, you know what else is said here? There’s two verses: Hebrews 13:7 and Hebrews 13:17. The first one says, “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the Word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.” Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders, submit to them, for they’re keeping watch over your souls.” You know another problem that happens when people begin to spiritually fall out? Obedience to the eldership and to the leadership goes out the window. Suddenly, the people that are crippled, they suddenly are pointing fingers and saying it’s your fault. It’s your fault. Charles Leiter was telling me how the folks in their church when they’ve had them fall out or when they’ve had to discipline them, how often suddenly they go and they meet with the people, and the people point the fingers at both the elders and say, “It’s your fault.” “You didn’t pastor me close enough.” “You weren’t faithful to me.” (incomplete thought) It’s amazing, brethren. The writer of Hebrews sees this. Imitate them, obey them. How about this? Hebrews 13:9. “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.” So often, the spiritually lame, the dull, the immature – they not only want to blame the leaders, you know what they want to do? They begin to want to change their doctrine. Suddenly, where one time, the way God was presented in the church was glorious to them. Now all of a sudden, they don’t like it. You’re presenting God too harsh, too judgmental. You talk about hell too much. You talk about condemnation too much. When the truth is it hadn’t really been brought up lately at all. It’s not like any kind of sermon’s been coming forth on that. (incomplete thought) Brethren, I’ll tell you this, I have seen just recently in the last year-and-a-half or so, people come along and suddenly their life is becoming dull. They’re beginning to teeter. They’re ready to go down and suddenly, their doctrine’s changing. Suddenly they’re beginning to question things like whether you really have to submit to Jesus as Lord to be saved. Suddenly, tolerating sin in your life isn’t that big of a deal and they’ve recreated God to accept them that way. Have you ever seen this? This is no strange thing that the writer should say, “Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings.” Brethren, let me tell you, there are ten thousand strange doctrines that will lead you right out of here. Guarantee it. And he’s warning them: Beware. And then these people are told this – Hebrews 13:16, “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Why? Why that? Because it’s really plain, when people are staggering, possibly ready to fall, spiritually unhealthy, guess what? Doing good in sharing? They’re not even thinking that. They’re out there trying to justify themselves. They’re finding fault with others rather than strategizing: how can I give more to help that brother or sister in need? Isn’t that true? When people have spiritual problems, they’re not thinking about how to give. They’re not thinking about good. They’re not thinking about ministering to the needs of others. They’re all selfish. They’re hung up on themselves. They’re hung up on protecting themselves. They’re hung up on defending the sin that they’re allowing into their lives, that’s clinging to them that they need to put away. They’re there defending their coldness. They’re defending why they haven’t been coming to church. Oh, the little one had sniffles. This happened. That happened. Brethren, that’s what happens. They’re no longer strategizing about how to live the Christian life and to give and to give and to be like Christ and imitate Him and go about speaking truth and doing good. Jesus said, “Follow Me,” but they’re not following anymore. Their feet are wandering. This is the picture. My brothers and sisters, do you see the condition of these people? This is the backdrop to Hebrews 1:1-4. If we don’t see this, then we miss the importance of what’s happening here. So what do these people need? You know what? Amidst all the warnings, what you have is the writer of Hebrews describing what the people are like. He’s giving them warnings. But literally everywhere, this book is about the supremacy of Christ. Everywhere. That’s why chapter 1:1 starts with our eyes getting focused immediately on Christ. You know, it has never hit me like it has since I started studying this book. We’re going to look at these in the days ahead. Right there in verse 1. Christ is superior to the prophets. V. 1 and 2. That’s what it says. “Long ago at many times in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son.” When you get over to chapter 2:1, he’s saying because of all this, you need to pay special attention. He’s saying it’s greater. God speaking through His Son is superior. When you go through the book of Hebrews, do you know how many times the words “greater,” “better,” “more glorious,” I mean, it just comes out. Christ is set above the prophets. Right there in v. 4. Superior to angels. Hebrews 3:3. Worthy of more glory than Moses. Hebrews 4:8, “If Joshua had given them rest…” but he didn’t! Christ is the rest. Christ is superior to Joshua. Hebrews 7:7 It’s beyond dispute. The inferior is blessed by the superior. Who’s superior? Melchizedek to Abraham, and Christ is of the Melchizedek rank of priest. He is superior to Abraham, which makes Him superior to Levi who came forth from his loins to whom tithes were paid to Melchizedek by Abraham and therefore by Levi being yet in his loins. Christ is superior to Aaron. Hebrews 7:11 tells us. Christ is superior to the law. Hebrews 7:19. Christ and His covenant, superior to the Old Covenant. Hebrews 7:22 – we’re going to get to all this. It says Christ is superior to all the high priests. Christ’s blood is superior to the blood of goats and calves. Christ’s sacrifice – superior to all other sacrifices. How about this? Hebrews 10:34. “You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession.” Christ is superior to all other possessions. He’s better. Hebrews 12:24, “Jesus, the Mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled bloods that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” He’s superior to Abel. Christ’s country is superior to every other country. Hebrews 11:16, “But as it is, they desire a better country.” Christ’s reproach superior to the treasures of Egypt. Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures. Christ’s life is superior. The eternal life Christ gives is superior to release and freedom from torture. Hebrews 11:35, “Some were tortured, refusing to accept release so that they might rise again to a better life.” It’s better. The writer is constantly saying I’m going to give you a strong encouragement to hold fast. Everything you have in Christ is better. Don’t turn back. Yes, you can go back. Just like they could go back, you could go back. But he exalts Christ. Superior. Superior. Superior. Brethren, the heart and soul of this letter is found in Hebrews 3:1. “Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.” Or again, Hebrews 12:1. “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” All these people that we find there in Hebrews 11. “…Let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” what? “Looking to Jesus.” That’s what this whole book is about. The writer says I am going to put Christ before their eyes as superior again and again and again and again. No less than seventeen times he shows us Christ as superior to something else. It’s just amazing! Brethren, you’ve got to get this. We’ve got to get this because this is the reality that we virtually find in every epistle of the New Testament. Whatever problem you have, whatever sickness spiritually you might have, whatever weakness, whatever feebleness, whatever strain, whatever moving away from the goal, the finish line, the swerving, the possibility of drifting away… And brethren, you know what, what happens? This isn’t all proactive defection. Yes, it can be that. Yes, it can be just disobedience. But you know what? It says you need to be careful, lest you drift. You know what drifting is? Just stop. You’re in a river. You’ve got your feet planted on the ground. Or you’re out fighting the waves out in the tidal surge out in the ocean. And what happens if you just fall down? You don’t use any effort to stabilize yourself on the bottom; you don’t hold on? You just fall down. You’re just going to get carried away. It’s not always proactive defection. Sometimes it’s just slowing down and quitting. It’s just stopping. Okay, I want to end with this. We are in a day of information overload. So somehow, I go back to these guys. I love Charles Simeon. Anglican preacher, late 1700/early 1800’s. Jonathan Edwards. You well know him. Pastor – 1700’s. These guys – I go back and I look at their lives. I see things like this. Simeon: “Absorbed in the contemplation of the Son of God was incapable of pronouncing a single word till at length, he exclaimed, ‘Glory, glory.'” Or Jonathan Edwards, he says, “I had a view that was for me extraordinary of the glory of the Son of God as Mediator between God and man.” He said about an hour he was in a state where he was in a flood of tears and weeping aloud, swallowed up in an excellency. “The Person of Christ appeared ineffably excellent with an excellency great enough to swallow up all thoughts and conceptions.” Thomas Charles, Welsh non-conformist. “I had such a view of Christ as our High Priest…” And I’ll tell you this, this is the book – Hebrews – that deals with Him as a high priest. He was undoubtedly meditating on Hebrews. He said, “I had such a view of Christ as our High Priest, of His love, compassion, power, and all-sufficiency as filled my soul with astonishment, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, my mind was overwhelmed and overpowered with amazement. The truths exhibited to my view appeared too wonderfully gracious to be believed.” Okay, here it is. We live in a day of overload. You know what? You know what’s apparent to me? I can’t preach Hebrews 1:1-4 probably to help you the way you really need to be helped. You taking these verses, seeking to memorize them, or taking a Bible in hand and devoting yourself to avoiding the information that bombards us in this world. Think with me here. If this writer is so consumed with setting Christ forth, he realizes this is the Balm of Gilead. This is where healing comes. Brethren, we need to be in a state where we are keeping Christ before our hearts, our minds, our sight all the time. You need to be thinking, what comes into my life that challenges that? You need to be thinking about dedicated seasons. Guess what? You don’t have what happens to Charles Simeon or Jonathan Edwards or Thomas Charles unless you’re doing what they do which is meditation. We live in a day where meditation is almost impossible. We’ve got so many toys, so much noise, so many distractions. Which ones of us here don’t have a cell phone in our pocket? There was a day when Jonathan Edwards could ride his horse in the woods to meditate on Christ and the phone wouldn’t ring. It’s not a positive thing that you have a cell phone and you can be reached at any time, and that no matter when somebody calls you, you answer. You ought to have seasons in your life when you turn that thing off. You need to have times in your life – brethren, look at a week of your life with me. (incomplete thought) Which ones of you are taking an hour where you say I’m going to go for a walk and I am going to seek to meditate on the first four verses of Hebrews? And I want to chew on those and I want to begin to ask questions. And I want to be able to compare Scripture with Scripture in my mind, and I want to think on Christ, and I want to think on His Person, and I want to think what that means. Brethren, when you become filled with a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory over the glories of Christ, that’s where health comes from. Right? The joy of the Lord is what? It’s your strength. Don’t tell me that people that become unable to speak because of an exhilarating glory of Christ, and then the only words that can come out amid tears and deep heart movement of the truth of the reality of the Person of Christ, and all they can say is, “Glory! Glory!” People like that, they don’t go out and let sin and weight cling to them. They don’t go out and have to be told to obey those that have leadership or attend meetings or be fruitful in their life or to be careful lest they fall away. People are not headed back to the old country when they’ve experienced Christ like that. But listen, this book of Hebrews makes it abundantly clear, you live lives like this and you win this race by things you do. That’s the reality. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Brethren, people fall out of this race all the time. They fall out all the time. Don’t fall out. There are strong encouragements to hold fast, brethren. You’ve got to give yourself to filling your mind, your heart, your faith, your knowledge with Christ. It has to be a priority. If you’ve got time to play video games and to be on your computer and to be on Facebook and to be writing emails and to be text messaging and to be searching and sifting every conceivable thing… brethren, weight. Remember what weight is. You say, but I’m looking at sermons. Brethren, a sermon on the Internet can become weight if you’re not taking time to be with Christ alone, meditating on His glories, not having somebody else regurgitate the whole thing for you all the time. You need to be there in the Word for yourself. You need to be praying and walking with Christ for yourself. Not being spoon-fed everything. It doesn’t matter. You say, well, I watched three Paul Washer sermons last night. Brethren, that cannot make up for this. These men found glory by themselves with Christ, meditating in the Word. Yes, those things may be good, but they can become weight. You say, but I’ve got friends. I’m wanting to communicate with them. It can become weight. You’ve got to make sacrifices to be seeing the glories of Christ and that and that alone are healing, brethren. There is no other healing mechanism in the Christian life but Christ, and intimacy and glory and beholding and laying hold and being swept away and filled with joy. There is no substitute at all. Brethren, this is the heart and soul of this book of Hebrews. A strong encouragement. Hold fast. And it’s Him, brethren! It’s Him! The hope we have. Doesn’t it say: “Jesus Christ, our hope”? . He is the hope. You have no hope outside of Him. And you need to hold fast. Holding fast doesn’t mean letting go for all this stuff and weight in your life. And it clings so easily. And all you have to do is not make an effort. And you’ll just drift. It’s a fight, brethren! God help us.